It’s safe to say that minimalism is having a major moment! Curated design, simple food, minimal art, and swoon-worthy aesthetic grace magazine covers, insta feeds, and real estate listings, and I can’t get enough of it.
While my home design is on the more maximal side, I have deep admiration for the minimal approach. And although my home may never be a minimal oasis, my experience definitely can be. Minimalism has some basic tenants that you can adopt in your day to day life, with no tidying involved!
A keen minimalist eye will look at a space and tidy out everything unessential, then rearrange what’s left so that it can be used in the most optimal and pleasing way. This is how beautiful minimalist spaces are edited down to the essentials: enough content to inspire, but never enough to cause stress. I’m a big advocate for taking this discriminating editing eye to other elements of your life, even if you’re not so keen on taking it to your home. Even editing with one of the strategies below can give you a little taste of the purpose and breathing room that minimalist design is appreciated for.
Three Minimalist Edits for your Life
Edit your Time
Walking in to a minimalist space is like breathing in a whole bunch of time: there is no feeling of urgency, just a feeling of space and possibility. Minimalism works because it creates negative space: the dining room table that is simply adorned allows you to see the scope of the table; the couch is inviting because of the lack of fussy throw pillows; the kitchen counters seem to go on forever because appliances are tucked away.
You can have that same negative space in your schedule, you just need to edit it! Imagine the feeling of Saturday afternoon stretching out in front of you: no obligations, commitments, or errands. Or imagine the possibility of having a schedule full of events that fire you up and free from events that tire you.
Yeah, it’s possible.
Edit your Need
One of the beautiful things about living minimally is that the bare wall in your bedroom is perfectly okay being a bare wall. The empty corner in your living room is purposely empty. The amount of margin and negative space in a minimal home is so intentional that the minimalist can step off the train of “my house needs that – I need that – I must have that – Go get that.”
We perceive we need more than we do. That afternoon cup of coffee. An upgraded smartphone. A new pair of sandals. More attentive friends. Family who cleans up after themselves from time to time. The world to treat us well. More money. More time.
The truth is, what we legitimately need is very basic. What we think we need can become a rather big list, and I bet if you paid attention to your thought patterns, you’d realize that you spend a significant chunk of time thinking about what you need and pursuing that thing.
I encourage you to edit this for two reasons: the first is because the cycle of need takes up mental energy, and the space you create when you minimize the need is substantial. The second reason I encourage you to edit need is because the consistent cycle of “I need this” relies on you picking out what’s currently missing or not good enough in your life. While a critical eye to your experience is necessary for change, habitually seeking deficiencies in your life establishes a mentality of “not good enough.” It trains us out of being okay and content in each moment.
There is a sense of deep peace when you step off the need train and start living your life, and not only because this strategy is way better for your wallet 😉
Edit your Should
What I love about the minimal aesthetic is that it is unapologetically minimal. It is not trying to be anything else, it is not trying to do anything else… it is simply being minimal. People, however, are very skilled at trying and failing to be much more than they are, and it all comes down to the word Should.
One of my personal goals is to eradicate the feeling of should from my clients. Similar to the idea of editing our Need (above), editing our Should allows us to release the burden of self-imposed obligation and live a more simple, minimal life.
I end up in frequent conversations with clients and friends about their Should. The Shoulds are spoken with this heavy, resigned breath that suggests to me that they’ve been staggering under the weight of the Should for a long while. Check out a few:
“I know I should be eating better, but I just don’t.”
“I should be working a lot harder on my relationship with my parents; I just don’t.”
“I know that journaling is important and all, and I should be doing it more. But at the end of the day, I don’t have any energy left.”
“I want to be a better leader for my team. I should be reading more books on it, and I should be doing the work, but who has the time?”
Here’s the deal: your should is a story you’re telling yourself: It’s a story about how you’re not good enough, and about your inability to be better than you are. And the human brain is very good at creating a story, latching on to it, and getting stuck there for ages (sort of like your most recent Netflix binge). As long as you’re stuck in that story of should, you won’t be making meaningful change.
Editing the should requires two approaches: if a should is rooted in something that isn’t currently a priority for you, then let it go. If a should is rooted in something that you really do want to work for, then make a plan and do the plan. Either way, the should is eradicated and you can go back to living unapologetically!
A minimalist is not free from the trappings of clutter, whether that be physical clutter in his space or mental clutter in his experience. To maintain the beauty and freedom in a minimalist space, the minimalist will edit thoroughly and frequently!
So… how do you edit? The process is the same, no matter which facet of your life you’re editing:
1. Identify the current state.
Like, really identify the current state. We have a habit of conflating our perception of time and thought patterns, and this habit can be detrimental to progress. If you’re editing your schedule, track how you spend every minute for three days, not just what you write down in your calendar. If you’re editing your needs or shoulds, pay attention to your self talk for a week and keep a written log of as many of these as you can.
2. Ask: does this serve me?
For each item on your tracked time, for each need, and for each should, ask “does this serve me?” If it doesn’t, let it go. Like a minimalist KonMaris their stuff, you can KonMari your experience.
3. Make a plan. Do the plan.
It’s easy to say, “I’m letting this should go.” But let’s be real: you’re going to need a plan to let it go and keep it let go. Check out my article on creating strategies for personal accountability – it might be helpful in creating a plan that works for you!
While the minimalism trend will likely fade in time, I hope that some of the basic tenants stay fresh and accessible for awhile. The margin created by a minimal house is inspiring, but the margin created by a minimal life is empowering and transformative.
Remember: you’ve got this!