Becoming a minimalist is more than getting rid of your stuff, it's reshaping your priorities in life for what's important to you.

Most apartment dwellers would prefer to live in a tidy space than a cluttered one. But impulse purchases, sentimental attachment, and the chance you’ll need or want to use an item after discarding it keep many of us living with more than we need. If you’d like to simplify your life, take these steps toward a more minimalist lifestyle.

Brush up on minimalist philosophy

One definition for minimalism is the removal of material possessions that distract you from focusing on the handful of things you value most in life. To better familiarize yourself with the concept of minimalism and how to approach it, pore over some of this material. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Joshua Becker’s Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life, and Francine Jay’s The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide are popular handbooks for aspiring minimalists. There are also several blogs and recent news articles on the subject.

Motivate yourself

Research suggests a link exists between happiness and minimalist living. If you feel possessed by your possessions or otherwise dissatisfied with the number of belongings in your apartment, let your dissatisfaction motivate you to consolidate. It will take time to scale back your possessions and adopt minimalist habits. But once you have less junk in your apartment, it should be quicker and easier to clean. You’ll also be less likely to misplace things and spend less time looking for anything you misplace because you’ll have less to look through. An essential element of minimalism is to designate a home or storage place for every item in your apartment.

Make a plan

Some minimalists aim to keep their total number of possessions to 100. For most people aspiring to live more minimalist lives, this is not a realistic goal. Even if you don’t limit the total number of possessions in your apartment, set decluttering goals and draft plans to meet them. Schedule blocks of time during which you’ll sort through your belongings, donating and discarding many of them. If you’re feeling stuck, start with an easy task. Clean your refrigerator or clear all counters and table space of anything but decor you truly like. Work a little at a time so the process doesn’t overwhelm you.

Discard duplicates

With a few exceptions, like socks and silverware, it doesn’t make sense for you to own two of the same item. If you have two irons, vacuums, or printers, give away or donate one of them. Duplicates are a great starting point, as discarding them is easy. It shouldn’t take long, and you should feel you’ve made progress after you’ve eliminated duplicates from your apartment.

Don’t get trapped by sentimental value

It’s natural to feel attached to things gifted by, inherited from, or associated with loved ones. Mementos and memorabilia from your school days, travel, and extracurricular activities are also common to want to keep around. Don’t force yourself to get rid of something you’ll truly miss, but make an effort to discern between degrees of sentimentality. If you haven’t looked at or viewed a book you were gifted or worn an article of clothing you once cherished in over a year, do you really value it? Here’s an easy test to determine your attachment to possessions you don’t want to part with. Bin and store sentimental items you rarely use for six months. Any time you wish you could use something in the bin or reflect on it fondly, make a note. Donate or give away everything in the bin you haven’t thought of after the six months.

Understand that minimalism is about more than things

Parting with most of your belongings makes you a material minimalist. But if you wish to experience the full joy of minimalism, you need to drop habits, relationships, and modes of thinking that do not serve your priorities. A thoughtful reassessment of your priorities and commitment to keeping them is a great way to find out what changes you need to make to live a more minimalist life.

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About Jason Ernst


Jason received degrees in International Studies, Economics, and German Literature from the University of Arizona in 2011, and has worked as a freelance writer ever since. His research and writing interests include interior decoration and design, home entertainment, history, art, architecture, and travel. He is currently a regular contributor to the AMLI Residential lifestyle blog. Circle Jason on Google+