Minimalist living negates our culture. It is contrary to every advertisement we have seen because we live in a society that prides itself on the accumulation of material possessions. Everyday we see thousands of ads telling us to buy more, to snag the newest version, and that we ultimately need more in our lives. But do we?

Some argue that there is more joy in owning less – and pursuing more. Beyond the obvious financial benefits of spending and owning less, getting rid of clutter and things around the house you have not used in months can have both physical, mental and even academic benefits. Ultimately, less clutter – and fewer distractions – can help you focus more on your studies and hobbies, giving you a chance to focus on you and your mental health. Ever hear that a clean work space is an optimal one?

But let’s hold on here – starting a minimalist lifestyle can be one heck of a daunting task. The first thing to remember is that minimalism lies on a spectrum. To experience the physical and mental benefits, you do not have to live in an empty box. There are lots of easy first steps you can take on the road to minimalism.

Purge, don’t organize. Organizing your clutter means revisiting it six months from now. If you have not used it in six months, recycle it or re-home it.

Duplicate items will not be missed. Do you really need 15 towels? What about all those Tupperware containers? That pile of sweaters? Pro tip: if you truly think you will miss these items, put them in a box for a little while and see if you really do need them in your life.

Buy what you need – and only what you need. Stay away from mindless bargain hunting and semi-annual sales. If you can’t stay away from a good deal, replace rather than increase.

Start small, but start now. One of the biggest mistakes is procrastinating (believe me, I would know). If you are feeling overwhelmed at cluttered counters and piles of stuff, start anywhere. The junk drawer? Your closet! Under your bed!! Just start evaluating.

With these tools, you can start to experience the benefits of living with fewer possessions. From a financial perspective, buying less will save you money, and so will owning less. When your time is as valuable as yours is, why waste it by cleaning and organizing clutter that you do not need?

While physically creating room for what is important, you may also feel like you are mentally and emotionally creating room for what is important. This is one of the most fulfilling outcomes of starting to lead a minimalist lifestyle. When you rid your life of material items, they do not seem to matter as much on the other side.

With less stress, more savings and more freedom, it is easy to see how minimalism can influence your mental health for the better. Just think about the environmental advantages: the less we consume, the less damage we do to the environment. And upcycling and recycling is a total plus.

Now that you have some of the tools to get started, remember that minimalism, like life, is a process. Be mindful and feel good!

By Bianca Chan

For more articles, see CUOL’s story archive.

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