When I first started decluttering and simplifying our home, it was very much about our stuff. What we were keeping, what we were getting rid of, how much was enough, how much was too much, etc. But what I didn’t realize was that my journey into minimalist living would become about so much more than just our stuff.
Simplifying went from an action I was taking to make life easier and became a lifestyle and a mindset that guides the way we live instead.
Minimalist living usually starts with your “stuff”
Many people’s journey towards minimalist living starts with a focus on their “stuff” and wanting to declutter and get rid of the excess.
Maybe you feel overwhelmed with clutter, frustrated how much time the things you own take to manage, are looking for an easier way to maintain your home, etc.
Whether decluttering is what introduced you to the idea of minimalist living or not, clearing the clutter and distractions from your life is certainly an important part of minimalist living.
Decluttering and minimalism often go hand in hand in a lot of ways. But decluttering your stuff is only one piece of the minimalist process.
Eventually, minimalist living becomes more about your mindset
Eventually, embracing a simpler life starts to move away from just decluttering your “stuff” and starts to shift your mindset as a whole.
It starts changing the way you think about stuff. And ultimately minimalist living becomes a tool that allows you to think about “stuff” a lot less in general.
Minimalist living is about creating a more intentional life. Becoming more aware of what is currently taking up your time, energy, money and attention, so you can become more intentional. Making sure what is taking up your time, space, money and attention align with your values and priorities.
Minimalist living is about making time and space for what matters most to you and creating a life centered around what you value most.
Decluttering is a tool, minimalism is a lifestyle
Decluttering is an action you can take to remove the distractions and clutter from your life so you can move towards a life focused on what matters most to you.
Minimalism is about embracing a lifestyle focused less on what you own, and more on how you live.
Choosing to live more simply or minimally is not about your stuff. It’s not about how much you own, and it’s not about how little you own either. It’s certainly not about owning less for the sake of owning less.
And even embracing minimalism as a lifestyle itself is not the end goal or final destination.
Instead, it’s about making time and space for what matters most to you so you can live a life centered around your values and priorities. Minimalism is a lifestyle you can use to lead you in the direction of an intentional life. A life focused on what matters most to you.
Why I hesitate to use the word “minimalism”
Sometimes the word “minimalism” isn’t even a word I like to use. It seems to be a polarizing word, with a lot of misconceptions and assumptions that surround it.
People often hear the word minimalism and think it’s a harsh, cold, stark or an extreme way of living. Where there are rules and restrictions that force you to live with so little life feels difficult or deprived.
You might envision an empty, all-white room with one chair and nothing else when you think of minimalism. Or maybe you think of someone who carries everything they own in a backpack and travels the world.
Of course, those ideas can be how some people choose to live a minimalist lifestyle. But they’re not the only way minimalist living can look.
In fact, minimalism doesn’t have to look a certain way at all. And it certainly doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s version of minimalism.
Instead, minimalism is simply a lifestyle choice you make where you choose to get rid of the clutter, the excess and the distractions from your home and your life, so you have more time, space and attention for what matters most to you.
It can (and most likely will) look different for each person who embraces minimalism. We all have different values and priorities, so of course, the lives we create to focus on our values and priorities will look different too.
Minimalist living is not about your stuff
And that brings me back to the point of today’s post. The one big difference between minimalism and decluttering is that at its core minimalism is not about your stuff.
Instead, it’s a lifestyle you choose to live that involves several mindset shifts. And in today’s post, I’m sharing 4 of these mindset shifts that have been most significant in my minimalism journey.
1. Knowing your values and priorities & centering your life around them
If one of the goals of minimalist living is to allow you to create an intentional life centered around what you value most, it only stands to reason that in order to do so, you must get really clear about what your values and priorities are.
This may seem obvious at first. For example, it’s easy to say spending time with your family is something you value. But it’s a whole other thing to keep that value a priority on a daily basis, in the midst of work, school, activities, housework, errands, social media, etc.
You may know what your values and priorities are, but feel like life gets in the way sometimes! Making it hard to keep those values and priorities actually prioritized in your life.
Or maybe you get so caught up in the daily grind of life that you lose sight of what your values and priorities even are! If asked, you may not even really know what your priorities are anymore.
The good news is, the more you clear the clutter, excess and distractions from your home and your life, the easier it becomes to identify and prioritize your values again.
Less stuff gives you time and space to identify and focus on your values
Decluttering is the action you take to give yourself some time and space, some breathing room, to be able to remember, identify and focus on your priorities again.
Minimalist living is the lifestyle that allows you to live in a way, on a daily basis, that keeps your values and priorities at the forefront of your life. Instead of getting brushed aside while you’re busy managing all the “stuff” in your home and in your schedule.
It’s about embracing less so you can have more. More time, more space, more energy, more money, more love, etc.! It’s about creating the life you want to live, not being stuck in a life that just happens to you because you’re always so busy.
2. Appreciating what you already have
Gratitude is often one of the big lessons of minimalist living.
When you clear the clutter, the excess and the distractions from your life, not only does it allow you to see how much less you need to be happy. But it also allows you to start appreciating everything that fills your life – both tangible and intangible – a lot more.
In terms of tangible items, when you only own the things you use, love and value (rather than a bunch of random clutter you neither use nor love), it’s easy to start appreciating and feeling grateful for those things more. They add value to your life. And that value isn’t diluted by clutter and distractions.
And when you choose to own less, you also give yourself the time and space to find more gratitude for the intangible things in your life as well.
You have more time and energy for the people you love and your relationships with them. You have more freedom to choose how you spend your time rather than being a slave to your “stuff” and the time and effort it takes to manage it all. Life feels freer, and gratitude often follows that feeling of freedom.
3. Finding contentment
Another awesome mindset shift that often comes with minimalist living is the ability to find contentment. Contentment with your stuff, your home, your life, and ultimately yourself.
So often we hide behind “stuff”. Using it to project who we want to be seen as to the world. Using it to distract us from uncomfortable or difficult emotions. And more.
When you embrace a minimalist lifestyle and shift your focus away from “stuff” in general, a couple of things happen.
First, you are forced to acknowledge all the ways you used “stuff” to hide behind. And this in itself can involve some deep inner work, self-reflection and mindset shifts.
But once you realize that who you are has nothing to do with what you own, you have the opportunity to find a wonderful sense of contentment with your stuff, and even your life!
For example, you may realize that you don’t need the trendiest clothes, the latest technology, a new car or a bigger house to prove your success or worth. You can find contentment with what you already own and have, simply because it is useful, functional or something you love and appreciate.
You learn (through the sometimes painful process of clearing all the clutter, excess and distractions from your life) that more isn’t always better. Instead, finding true contentment with what you have is a really lovely mindset shift that can often come along with minimalist living.
4. Embracing enough
Another mindset shift of minimalist living, closely related to finding contentment, is embracing the idea of enough.
We live in a consumer-driven society. One that tells us we need more, newer, better, faster, trendier, etc. things all the time.
Marketers and advertisers are experts at making us feel like we don’t have enough. Or that once we buy the latest product they’re selling, then we’ll finally feel like we have or are enough. Until the cycle starts all over again with the next product.
In truth, if you are waiting to feel like you have enough, you’ll probably never get there. Enough is not an amount you can reach – some imaginary point where suddenly you’ll be satisfied and content with what you have.
Instead, enough is something you have to decide. It’s making the conscious choice to find contentment with what you already have. Recognizing that it is enough.
It’s finding the delicate balance where you have what you need to make your life comfortable and enjoyable. But not so much stuff that life starts to become too complicated, cluttered and distracting.
Embracing enough isn’t about having absolutely everything you need or the best of everything. Sometimes it’s about making do with what you have or doing without something. But not out of deprivation, or less for the sake of less. But because you recognize that more “stuff” doesn’t help you reach your goal of living a life focused on what you value most.
The goal is to have what you use and love so you can live your life more and manage stuff less. Getting to a point where you can think about “stuff” less, and think about living your life more.
Minimalist living mindset shifts
Minimalism is a lifestyle that can impact your mindset in so many ways. These are some of the ways that have impacted me the most.
But the biggest mindset shift for me was learning that minimalist living is not about the “stuff”. Even if decluttering and focusing on “stuff” was what led me down the path to minimalism.
Decluttering was the action that put me on the path towards minimalist living. Minimalism is the lifestyle that has allowed me to create a life centered around what I value most.
Can you relate to the idea that decluttering is an action you take and minimalism is a lifestyle you choose to live? Leave a comment and let me know!
Sunday 15th of March 2020
Thank you, Melissa. All stated are very true, so very helpful. Truly thankful.
Simple Lionheart Life
Sunday 15th of March 2020
You're so welcome, Succor! I'm glad to hear you found it helpful. Thank you for reading :)
Monday 2nd of March 2020
Melissa, I am so thankful I came upon your site. Thank you for your writings, they really make me think deeply about my own life. I have started putting some of these things into practice ... baby steps first and I have to tell you it is really helping me. I've already cleaned out my craft closet. Donated a lot of things and I feel so much happier and actually feeling more creative now. That is just one example, I'm going to keep it going now. Thank you again, you are very much appreciated.
Simple Lionheart Life
Monday 2nd of March 2020
This makes me so happy to hear! Good for you! I love that you are enjoying the results of your decluttering work. That's so great! Thank you for sharing, I appreciate your kind words and happy decluttering :)