3 Guidelines for a Minimalist Lifestyle

Minimalism is like a kaleidoscope and it looks different for everyone. One minimalist may wear the same outfit every day while others have an entire room in their house dedicated to shoes. There are infinite theories on how to organize yourself, your stuff and your life, but there are a few rules I follow to live and maintain a minimalist mindset at home:

  • Love and use everything you own
  • Decorate with purpose
  • Saying no to gifts

Love and use everything you own. Everything from clothing to kitchen utensils should serve a purpose in your life. There’s no need to hold onto pieces of clothing you’ll “fit in one day” or own 5 spatulas when you only really use one. If you ever open your closet and find nothing that you want to wear, then this rule is for you. I share a small closet with my husband and although I do not own a ton of clothes, I love every single piece I own. You should love and, more importantly, use every pair of pants, shirt, and shoes in your wardrobe for years to come! A good rule of thumb for clothes is to donate anything you haven’t used in the past month except for seasonal clothing. The same rule applies to furniture, books, kitchen appliances, and anything around the house that doesn’t serve a purpose in your life.

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Fill your home with purpose instead of things

The kitchen was the hardest space to minimize for me. I’m still working on it. Plates, bowls, and cups can easily break so it’s a good idea to invest in a classic line of dishware that allows you to purchase one-off items when a plate inevitably cracks. I mix and match white bowls and plates from different thrift stores to create an eclectic set of dishware. The best part is I never worry when anything breaks because there’s always white plates available in thrift stores! My cups are CB2 classics that I can reorder online anytime. One of my greatest life hacks for the kitchen was purchasing an upcycled, refurbished Vitamix to serve as a blender, food processor, juicer, and chopper. I donated four appliances and saved space with the Vitamix, plus it works better than all of them combined! The plan is to want better, not more.

Another minimalist home hack is to donate those “just in case” items you find in a junk drawer. We call these the “under $10 items” in my home such as extra nails, electrical cords, old chargers, sticky tack, batteries, and other items you can easily find at the drug store or borrow from a friend when you need it. Let’s be real, no one truly loves or uses these items! Donation centers, shelters, and thrift stores rarely receive these things so don’t be afraid to donate.

Decorate with purpose. Create a space that inspires you, reminds you of your values, and maintains an atmosphere that sets the tone for your life. There are a few questions to ask yourself when looking at house decorations: How will this item make me feel when I see it in my home? Am I buying something to fill an empty space or does the item serve a bigger purpose? Would I want to wake up to this every day for the rest of my life? Before buying a new decoration for my house I ask myself what value and purpose it will provide. Minimalist decorating isn’t about filling every space in your home but making sure every space in your home is purposeful.

My 400-square-foot studio in a chaotic New York City is an oasis. It allows me to escape from the lively concrete jungle and unwind with a calming, bohemian, and minimalist vibe. All the art in my home is handmade by me or local artisans when traveling. Every decoration, plant, and pillow sets the tone for my day and instills my core values of mindfulness, creativity, and travel.

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Our small, but purposeful oasis in the big city

I get it, decorating can be overwhelming, and you may love that HomeGoods purchase, but if it’s not adding to your life then it’s taking up your valuable time. Time spent shopping, finding a spot in your home, cleaning it, fixing it, rearranging, and eventually donating it. Whether you think about it or not, everything in your house (including clothes) takes energy to maintain. This is the premise of a have less, do more lifestyle. Your decorations should contribute to your lifestyle and be worth your time.

Say no to gifts. This is one of the hardest rules to maintain because it takes a lifestyle change for loved ones to understand that you don’t want material gifts. It’s hard to say no to gifts without coming off as rude, but there are a few techniques I’ve learned over the years.

The first option is to tell your close friends and family what you need before they go shopping for a special occasion or holiday. Remind them you are trying to minimize, but that a local experience from Groupon would be fun. One of my favorite gifts was a ticket to visit the Top of the Rockefeller Center (thank you Haleigh and Sam!). If you value quality time, then ask them to take you to dinner or host a game night in place of buying you a gift.

Don’t be afraid to return or exchange items for something you will use! Thoughtful regifting is always an option, albeit a faux pas in some cases. I received a Christmas ornament from a family member last year. I don’t decorate for the holidays, another minimalist tactic, but my mom loves holiday decorations. I regifted the ornament to my mom so it stayed in the family and I’m still able to enjoy it every year when I visit. There are ways to thoughtfully regift without offending. The best response to an offended gifter is the truth; let them know you are minimizing, and that you still appreciate them. It’s always a good idea to give them gift ideas for the future that you will use.

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In place of birthday gifts, you can ask friends to contribute to a group experience, like this vineyard tour in Long Island

If you have a friend who’s love language is gifts then it’s best to buy them a gift, but minimal gifting goes both ways! Ask what someone wants as a gift if you don’t know what to get them. Most people will tell you exactly what they want or give you options. When you receive “nothing” as an answer you can explore local activities on Groupon. Some of my favorite gifting experiences are cooking classes, go-cart racing, ghost tours, pottery classes, and wine tastings. I also purchase gifts from our travels in the form of experiences. Herbs, salts, spices, reusable bags, and candles are a great place to start.

There’s never been a better time to start minimizing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once and your journey to minimizing is going to look different from mine. The most important point to remember is that minimalism is about valuing experiences and your time over things. I hope these guidelines will change your life, help you stop the cycle of endless consumerism, and give you an opportunity to enjoy the experiences you love most instead of the things you love most.

Kay sitting infront of a canyon with a river shaped like a horseshoe
Travel is the experience I love most

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