Minimalism tips

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

After you finally finish that first big declutter and you’ve gone on a no spend challenge of whatever length, you can be kind of scared to ever buy anything again. What if I make a bad purchase? What if, even after all your careful thought and research, you end up buying something that just doesn’t work in your home or your wardrobe? What I’ve recently realized is that in minimalist living, there has to be freedom to make mistakes. For instance, I recently went through another phase of awkward pregnancy and postpartum body. As a result, I needed to give away a lot of maternity clothes and other items that just didn’t fit properly anymore, or were completely worn out after years of use. I knew I needed to buy new clothes because with baby messes (hello, spit up and breast milk central), I was going through my wardrobe faster than I could wash them. I love having a minimal, capsule wardrobe, but in five days, I was out of clean clothes. The alternative to not buying new clothes was walking around naked – not an option. But still I hesitated. After some soul searching, I realized I was scared to death of buying the wrong thing, something that didn’t fit properly or that I didn’t love. Something I would eventually need to declutter. Fear was holding me back from buying something I actually needed. Not good. I needed to accept that part of building a new wardrobe would be shopping with care and intention, yes, but part of it is also trying different things. If a certain piece of clothing didn’t work, it didn’t work. I could always gift it to a friend, return it, or donate it to the thrift store. When you’re first starting out, you may need to lean hard to the side of not buying anything new. You’re recalibrating your buying habits. But eventually, you will need to find a healthy balance and overcome your fear of making a bad purchase. It’s how we learn what we love and what we don’t, what works for our needs, and what doesn’t.

“There are no mistakes, only lessons.” -Ruth Soukup

Figure out your values.

I read this book a few months ago, and I was simultaneously overjoyed and appalled. Why couldn’t this book have been around at the beginning of my minimalist journey?! In the book, author Erica Layne explained minimalist living better in the first few chapters than I have ever heard anyone explain it before. What was so different about this book and this author? She unpacked the importance of values and how you can use them to make decisions about pretty much anything in your life, from what physical stuff you keep in your house, to what job you should have, to what should be on your calendar. It’s not an understatement to stay her book was life-changing (you can find it HERE). Since determining my top three values (simplicity, freedom, and meaningful work, if you’re curious), I’ve changed things in my business and in our homeschool to better align with those values. I’m starting to consider our finances and if how we spend our money aligns with those values. They also help me determine what’s clutter and what’s not clutter. You can find a list of values to choose from in her book.

Buy quality (quality doesn’t need to be expensive).

Many prominent minimalists talk about buying quality things, and often, the way that message comes across is that quality is always expensive. But that’s not necessarily true. For instance, I’ve owned this pair of dressy-ish Crocs flats (as dressy as I’m going to get in this season of life, anyway) for more than two years now and they are still going strong. They were under $15. They can be washed off easily. They are comfortable and perfect for life with kids. The same is true for furniture. We have a few thrifted items, along with mainly IKEA chairs and couches because they are pretty durable and the covers can be replaced if necessary. With little kids, that last feature is pretty essential. So much depends on the wear and tear the item will take, along with judging whether or not the more expensive item will wear out just as quickly as the less expensive item. Take the couch, for example. I could spend 2-3 times on a couch but it wouldn’t necessarily last any longer (my boys are ROUGH on these things – there is jumping off couch arms every day all day). I figure I might as well save a thousand dollars and buy a “quality to me” IKEA Ektorp. We’ve also found it easy to find second-hand Ektorp couches and replaced covers, too. Bottom line? Do your research. Read reviews. Buy used quality items, if possible. Then, just make a decision (and remember to not be afraid to make mistakes).

Stop comparing.

I meant what I said about reading minimalist books and listening to minimalist podcasts for inspiration, but with all that reading and listening, the line between inspiration and comparison can be very thin. One day, I’ll read a blog post about having a minimalist kitchen and be inspired to declutter even more. The next, I’ll see one family’s spacious and sparsely furnished living room – with far newer décor and furniture than mine, I might add – and despair of ever achieving that level of clutter-free living. I forget that we are squeezing five kids into under 1200 square feet (by choice and for good reason). I forget that we homeschool, so we will naturally have more school supplies and games than the family that doesn’t homeschool. Your home and your life shouldn’t look like anyone else’s. No one else is you, living your unique life with your unique circumstances. What is clutter to you might not be clutter to someone else. Minimalist living is an awesome thing, but it can, if we’re not careful, turn into a competition of who can own the least. Ironic, since its original purpose is to steer us away from the competition to own the most.

Learn contentment.

I became a minimalist because of Marie Kondo, but her now well-known question, “Does it spark joy?” didn’t serve me well. Because I became a minimalist during a season of living paycheck to paycheck, what was left over after decluttering, I didn’t love. We had mostly hand-me-down, crappy furniture and odds and ends accessories and décor. I saw the minimalist homes of people who had expensive furniture and everything that goes with it, things I wanted, and I was honestly discontented with our life. I blamed minimalism. Really, it was my own heart issues. I needed to practice contentment with what we had and the season of life we were in. Keeping a gratitude journal can also help you develop contentment. Related: The Downside to Minimalism (that no one likes to talk about)

Find like-minded community.

One of the most challenging things about minimalist living is finding people who “get” you. Personally, I don’t have many in person friends or family who are living a minimalist lifestyle or even interested in minimalism at all. I’ve also realized the hard way that minimalist living is a sticky subject to talk about in real life because if someone isn’t ready to declutter, talking about decluttering can make the other person feel judged – and that’s NOT what we’re going for here. It’s also been a challenging path to walk with kids, as they tend to be the recipients of most of things that can quickly become clutter. Learning how to navigate Christmas and birthdays is particularly difficult at first. That’s why you need community. You need people who love talking about minimalism as much as you do! People to cheer you on as you declutter (instead of scratching their heads at your giddiness about getting rid of stuff). Thank goodness for the internet and blogging, because it’s where I’ve found and built so many friendships with like-minded minimalists. Ironically, Instagram – possibly the most anti-minimalist social media platform – is the place I often go to connect with other minimalists and to be inspired. I love following their journeys and sharing my own. If you’re looking for an account to follow with not all white, marble, granite, drool-worthy home photos, come follow my Instagram account: This Simple Balance. I keep it pretty real over there for those of us trying to practice realistic minimalism.

Let minimalist living transform every area of your life.

If I could leave you with one thing, it would be this one. Minimalist living is about so much more than just your physical stuff. Minimalist living is about intentional living in every way: your relationships, your calendar, your thoughts. Every area of your life can benefit from minimalism. To be honest, it’s pretty impossible to pursue a minimalist lifestyle and NOT let it change your whole life. The longer I live a minimalist lifestyle, the more I’m drawn to parallel, intentional living movements, like the debt-free, F.I.R.E., and zero waste movements. Intentionality with your physical stuff will inspire intentionality in every single area of your life. Just wait and see.

Minimalist Camping Tips Any Camper Can Use

The definition of “minimalist camping” can vary wildly. One person’s idea of minimal could look like ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ to someone else. There’s not a right or wrong way to do it, only what’s right for you. There’s one thing most campers can agree on: minimal means less. To some, it means as little as possible. Whether you’re looking to reduce your gear, simplify your packing process, or get by with the bare minimum, these tips can be scaled to your style.

Try camping in your car (or a campervan)

This is a quick way to cut down on gear, because it eliminates the need for a tent. By camping in your car, all you really need is a sleeping bag. Of course, this is only feasible with the right kind of camping car or van. Some frequent car campers will buy a car specifically for the stretch-out space in back. (The Subaru Outback is a popular option for this purpose.) To stick to the minimalist camping concept while camping in your car, resist the urge to throw things in the car at random! An extra pair of shoes might fit on your way to the campground, but once you’re trying to turn the trunk into a bed, you’ll wish you had more space.

Find a campsite with tents already set up

If it’s not logical to camp out of your car, try finding a campsite that already has tents set up and ready to go. More campgrounds offer this as an option, and it’s a pretty great feature. You can even go with cabins or yurts if tents aren’t available. This may cost a bit more than a basic tent site, but weigh that against the cost of gear and you could still come out in front.