The Minimalist Mindset Shift – 9 Ways Minimalism Changes The Way You Think

The Minimalist Mindset Shift: 9 ways minimalism changes the way you think

Minimalism is more than decluttering and simplifying alone. While those are important parts of the minimalist journey, truly embracing minimalism involves shifting the way you think to a minimalist mindset.

Minimalism is about committing to owning less, rather than decluttering more often. It is about changing your view of what you own and why you own it. This minimalist mindset shift happens gradually and subtly, in small ways, until one day you look around and realize your relationship with “stuff” has changed. You have a different viewpoint. Your journey towards and through minimalism has changed your mindset, in what I like to call the minimalist mindset shift.

My Own Minimalist Mindset Shift

The Minimalist Mindset Shift: 9 ways minimalism changes the way you think
Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash

Recently our family took a weekend trip. My husband was going to a hockey game with some friends and I had an appointment the following day, so we decided to make a mini-getaway out of it. We live in a small town with limited shopping options, so in the past when we went to the city, we usually had a long shopping list of things we “needed” and spent the whole time running from store to store. By the end of it, we were all tired and cranky and came home with a bunch of new stuff.

Activities rather than shopping

This trip was different. While we did do a little shopping, without even realizing it or fully intending it, experiences and activities together became the focus of our weekend.

We went to a large mall, that has a hotel, water park, amusement park, other entertainment options along with hundreds of stores. I had a couple of things I was planning to buy, a new pair of shoes for me and some summer clothes for the kids. We went to a few stores, but the kids quickly spotted the amusement park rides. We told them they could ride a few rides, but we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon there.

The kids had a blast and it was such a fun and spontaneous way to spend the afternoon. There was nothing we really needed to buy and we had nowhere we had to be. When we got back to our hotel for supper, we were all tired, but happy. It was a nice change.

It’s the little things

That night we ordered room service for supper and had a picnic in our room. We did this mainly because we were tired and didn’t feel like going out again. But the kids thought it was the biggest treat ever. It reminded me simple things can be so much fun for kids. They don’t need the biggest and best of everything. They were delighted to be eating a picnic of take-out food together around a hotel side table.

After supper, we went swimming in the hotel pool. It was such a fun, simple day. Nothing fancy or elaborate. But we all had fun together.

Our mindset had changed

On the way home, my husband and I reflected on the fact that we spent the whole time DOING things rather than BUYING things, and what a difference it made. We both noticed how much nicer this trip was and how much fun it was. As I thought about it, I realized our mindset has changed and shifted. We were now living with a minimalist mindset.

Owning Less, Not Purging More

Changing your mindset can often be the biggest hurdle towards minimalism for many of us. We declutter and purge our homes and are excited to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle. But then a few months later we’ve acquired a bunch of new stuff to take the place of the old. So we declutter and purge, and the cycle continues. Without changing the way we think about “stuff” and adopting a minimalist mindset, it’s difficult to make a big shift to minimalism.

Of course, even people who fully embrace minimalism need to purge and declutter occasionally. Stuff accumulates, priorities change, seasons of life change and we no longer need things we used to. But once you have fully embraced the idea of minimalism, the way you think changes. You think differently about what you have in your home, how you spend your time, what your priorities are and what you value.

Noticing this change to a minimalist mindset we’d experienced during our weekend getaway, got me thinking of the ways minimalism changes the way you think as you adopt a minimalist mindset.

The Minimalist Mindset Shift – 9 Ways Minimalism Changes The Way You Think

The Minimalist Mindset Shift: 9 ways minimalism changes the way you think
Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

Here are 9 minimalist mindset shifts I’ve experienced since embracing a life with less:

1. Value experiences over physical things

Once you’ve committed to living with less, you begin looking for ways to spend your time, not just what you can buy next. You’d rather spend your time and money doing something to create memories, not add clutter to your life. Experiences, activities and adventures become more important than acquiring more things.

2. Stop buying things you don’t need

As you embrace minimalism, you become more intentional about what you bring into your space. You stop (or at least slow down, because learning to embrace living with less is a process and won’t happen overnight) buying things just to satisfy your need for something new.

Instead, you only buy things you have carefully thought about and decided will add value to your life. You start buying less and being more intentional about what you do buy.

Your spending habits in general change after the minimalist mindset shift. You prioritize spending money on activities and experiences rather than buying more “stuff”.

You stop seeing shopping as a hobby or a past time. And begin to look for new hobbies or past times that add value to your life, make you happy and aren’t focused on consumerism or acquiring more.

3. Become a fierce and intentional gatekeeper about what you allow into your home and your life

After all of your hard work decluttering, purging and minimizing your home, the last thing you want to do is fill it right back up with stuff. Knowing how much work it was to get rid of your excess stuff is excellent motivation to stop unnecessary items from coming into your home again in the first place.

You begin to pay more attention to what “stuff” is entering your home and take on the role of a gatekeeper. Stopping unnecessary, unwanted or unneeded items from coming into your home in the first place. Instead of letting them come into your home, being forced to deal with them and ultimately decluttering them later. Your focus shifts so you are able to be more careful and intentional about what you let in your space in the first place.

4. Focus on owning less rather than decluttering more often

After the minimalist mindset shift, you stop the cycle of decluttering, then buying more, then decluttering again. Again, after all the time and effort you put into decluttering your home, you don’t want to end up right back where you started.

After the minimalist mindset shift, you realize that owning less is much easier and more beneficial than decluttering more often. Your focus changes and you actually WANT to own less because of the value it brings to your life.

5. Become more intentional with your time

Minimalism is not just about your “stuff”. It goes beyond physical items and changes the way you spend your time as well.

You begin saying no to commitments that don’t align with what you value. As well as saying no to commitments that take too much time away from what you DO value. You recognize that your time is your most valuable resource and become more intentional with how you spend it.

The minimalist mindset shift changes what you allow to take up both your space and your time. You become more intentional with both your time and space.

The Minimalist Mindset Shift: 9 ways minimalism changes the way you think
Photo by Josh Adamski on Unsplash

6. Realize happiness does not come from “things”

After you embrace the minimalist mindset, you no longer feel like you always need more. You no longer tie your happiness to what you own, thinking if once you get the latest and greatest “thing” you’ll feel happy. You stop believing you’ll be happy as soon as you make your next purchase.

Your happiness and self-worth are no longer dependent on what you own. You realize the things you own are here to serve you, either by being useful or bringing you joy. What you own does not define you as a person or determine your happiness.

7. Stop comparing yourself to others based on what you own

As you embrace the minimalist mindset, you let go of the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses”. You become content with what you have. Not only does what you own not define you as a person. But you also make the intentional choice to only keep what you use and love.

You feel content with your belongings, knowing they bring value to your life rather than burdening you. With that, you no longer compare what you own to what other people own. Because it doesn’t matter. Your belongings do not define your life or your worth. You are content with less because owning less makes your life better. Comparison based on what people own becomes pointless.

8. Stop letting fear or a scarcity mindset rule what stays in your home

You stop keeping things “just in case” or because you might need it someday. You realize how rarely those “just in case” times actually happen. And on the odd occasion you do find yourself without something you could use, you know there are many different potential solutions.

Rather than hanging on to a whole bunch of stuff just in case, you look for alternatives for the thing you need. Maybe you have another item you can use in its place. Or perhaps you could borrow the item from a friend. Sometimes you can actually do without the item altogether and realize you didn’t need it after all. And sometimes if you can find no other alternative, you may have to buy something you previously got rid of.

But those times really are rare. And if you ask me, the space and freedom you gain from getting rid of so much unnecessary clutter are definitely worth the price of having to potentially re-buy the odd item if you ever really need it.

9. Realize organizing is not the answer

I think a lot of us are guilty of thinking we need to organize when really we just have too much stuff, to begin with!

As the minimalist mindset shift happens you begin to see that organizing will never give you the freedom and peace you are looking for. The stuff is all still there and will eventually make it’s way out of your organized system and cause the same stress in your life. The only way to really fix the problem is to get rid of anything you don’t use or love. Only then will you free up both time and space in your home and your life.

Gradual Shift

Remember that embracing minimalism is a process, these shifts to a minimalist mindset don’t happen overnight. Most of us have spent most of our lives being told more is better and being bombarded with consumerism. It takes time and effort to shift the way we think. And some of these shifts will come more easily for you than others. But over time, the more you embrace minimalism as a lifestyle, the more your mindset shifts to embrace a minimalist mindset.

Now to you, what would you add to this list? What is the biggest minimalist mindset shift you’ve experienced or are beginning to see? What mindset shift is or will be the most difficult for you? I struggle with being a good gatekeeper in our home and stopping clutter from sneaking back in! I’d love to hear your successes and struggles as you adopt a minimalist mindset. Leave me a comment below to join the conversation!

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  1. Great suggestions, I especially like #8. I see a lot of scarcity mindset when working with clients. Being aware of it and overcoming it creates a huge shift. Thanks for posting these.

    1. I always have trouble getting rid of sentimental things. I now just keep one item that each person gave to me. I find I have less clutter that way.

  2. Hey Melissa,

    I agree with every single word of your post.

    It’s really considering how much of our society and lifestyles are driven by consumerism and stuff. Personally, I just avoid the mall. I think so many people just hang there and it’s part of their socialization.

    It’s all a process. Every year I go a bit farther with letting go and buying less. I’m really looking forward to my great purge of 2017 and embracing a capsule lifestyle, not just a wardrobe.

    Love everything you create,

    Nadalie, It’s All You Boo
    NEW POST: 7 Quick Ways to Sleep Better + Increase Productivity

    1. Thanks so much Nadalie! I’m the same, I avoid malls and shopping centers a lot too. I find it’s easy to get sucked in to a buying mentality when you are surrounded by so many stores and things to buy. But yes, I think shopping and hanging out at the mall is a past time and way to socialize for many people.

      It’s definitely a process to declutter and minimize. It seems like the more you let go of, the easier it becomes to let go of even more. I love the idea of a capsule lifestyle, that’s brilliant!

      Thanks for reading and sharing your experience!

  3. Well said, Melissa! I struggle a lot with number 6. I have a long history of retail therapy. Buying stuff does make me happy, but having more stuff not so much. I wind up in the cycle of number 4 all the time!

    1. My daughter works in Retail for an Opulent Home store, in the U.K. She does the merchandising and selling the furniture, drapes etc. My daughter was always telling me when the next sale was on and what was selling off. I got caught in the trap. Pressurised by my daughter to keep buying and changing the home. The pressure was so high and changes taking place too much that when the drapes arrived I was talked in to buying I decided that my daughter was going to pay for the drapes since it was her idea. Problem solved. She has never mentioned again what is going in to sale and I don’t go in to the Store. I don’t shop in the online store either. The clutter is decreasing and I should be able to now save.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I particularly like #4 Focus on owning less…. So much can be learned from this one statement on bringing thing into your home that you can truly appreciate and serves a necessary purpose so you won’t have the need to keep throwing out.

    1. Yes, Angela that’s a big one. It’s an important shift to be content with owning less. Otherwise you end up in an endless cycle of decluttering, then buying more, then decluttering again, and you don’t experience the long term benefits of a minimalist lifestyle. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  5. Great post. I’m moving toward a minimalist lifestyle and I am having these realizations. It’s almost like you typed everything that I’ve been thinking lately.

  6. This is a new way of thinking. I constantly hear people talking about decluttering. You are right; it is not about decluttering more, it is about living more simply. I will try to read more of your articles and remember that it is a process, not an overnight solution. Thank you.

    1. Yes, you really begin to experience the benefits of minimalism once you become content with owning less and living more simply, rather than decluttering more regularly. And it is very much a process, we didn’t acquire all of our stuff overnight, so we can’t expect to get rid of it all overnight either. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Love your suggestions! I too have been working on transitioning into a more minimalist lifestyle. I used to be a shopaholic and spent a lot of time at the mall, going on shopping trips (yes traveling just to go shopping), and of course shopping online. Once I started doing activities INSTEAD of shopping, my whole mindset changed. I even went almost two years without shopping. It’s amazing how much better I feel by adopting a minimalist approach. Great post! 🙂

  8. Being a minimalist was so much easier before I had kids. I am not a “stuff” person. I don’t like have to spend time taking care of things in my house…but now I have kids who love to have stuff. So hard to balance.

    1. Kids definitely make minimizing and simplifying the “stuff” that accumulates in our homes more difficult. It is hard to balance, because as moms we end up dealing with a lot of the stuff our kids accumulate. But, I have found modeling a minimalist mindset myself to be the most helpful with getting my kids more on board. My daughter loves “stuff”. She’s a collector and everything is special to her. But I’ve noticed more and more that she is noticing all on her own how much easier life gets when you have less clutter. But I completely understand where you are coming from! Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  9. Oh this is so true. I am encouraged by your post. I am on a journey to a more and more minimalist life and I can tell you that every step I take makes me a happier person! My motto is less stuff=less stress!

    1. That’s awesome Lisa! I’m so glad you found the post encouraging. I love hearing what an impact embracing minimalism is having on your life, that’s amazing! There really is so much freedom and happiness to be found when we get rid of the excess in our lives. I love your motto, it’s perfect! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your story, I love it!

  10. Love this, I’ve been an empty nester for several years now and have gone through lots of stages of decluttering, It’s great feeling to just let go. Also, your kids dont want your stuff so stop saving for them…

  11. After a year of living with less stuff, I noticed how it makes you aware of other things; for me it was how much waste we produce, so I am cutting down on my use of plastics. It also led me to “real food” and we are growing a garden, and I cook from scratch now as much as I can. It also led me on a job search to leave behind a too-demanding position and find something less stressful and more in line with this idea of actually enjoying life people. I no longer feel compelled to have a “career” but instead to have a job I enjoy. With less stuff and that consumerist lifestyle, I really don’t need to work as much. At 50+, I came to this kinda late, but consider it a true blessing that will allow us to be so much happier!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story Cori! I love how choosing to live more minimally has impacted so many different areas of your life. This is a great example of how minimalism is about so much more than simply decluttering. It sounds like you are on a very exciting journey as you are finding more intention and freedom with less! Thanks for reading and for sharing your experience!

  12. I agree with everything you said. For me, shifting to minimalism has made me take a hard look at if where I spend my time aligns with the things I say I value most. It didn’t align for the most part and I have since made big changes in what I do so my priorities actually lined up with how I spend my time. Minimalism has been an amazing tool in my life that has given transparency to a lot of things.

    1. Wow, thank you so much for sharing! This is amazing! It is true that minimalism is so much more than just decluttering. I love that you say minimalism is a tool to create an intentional life for yourself. That’s a perfect way to describe it. Thanks for reading and thank you so much for sharing your insights. What you’ve shared is very powerful!

    1. That’s awesome Ashley, I’m glad you found me too! There are so many benefits to living a minimalist lifestyle, I’m excited for you to start your journey into minimalism. If there is anything you are struggling with or need help with, be sure to let me know. I’d love to help if I’m able. Thanks for reading!

  13. I am now coming round to your way of thinking. As the children leave the next I am slowly getting rid of stuff and working more towards doing things like travelling, rather than accumulating things that in the end are probably meaningless. One thing I find difficult to let go of though is my books! Kindle is not the same.

    1. I think it’s definitely a process and not something that happens all at once. Just like you said, one change leads to another and before you know it, your mindset and priorities have shifted! The great thing about simplifying and minimalism is that you can make your own rules! If books are something you aren’t ready or don’t want to let go of, you don’t have to! You can declutter other areas of your life and keep the books that make you happy. Your version of minimalism doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s! Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences.

  14. I would love to move to be with family across the country. My problem is paperwork and books and photos. Starting filing and purging makes me cry cuz life has been complicated and difficult, example do I throw away my divorce case transcript? I love so many of my too many books and can’t afford to replace them. Will any one want to see 77 years of family photos and those I inherited? Looking at them also makes me weep.

    1. Emotional and sentimental items can definitely be hard to declutter. I’m planning a whole post on dealing with sentimental clutter soon, so watch for that! As far as paperwork goes, scanning and digitally filing anything you don’t need a paper copy of can be a great way to let go of the physical paperwork. I have donated almost all of my books to the library, knowing if I ever want to read them again I can easily borrow them. I kept a few references books I use often and a few novels I like to reread. But the rest went to the library. Family photos are another tough one. Just remember that minimizing doesn’t mean getting rid of things you love and mean a lot to you. It means getting rid of the things you don’t love or value so you can enjoy those things you do love and value more. Do keep an eye out for my post about decluttering sentimental items, I hope you’ll find it helpful! Thanks for reading!

  15. This article is great. It really shows how minimalism is a lifestyle rather than a single action or set of rules. I have been gradually adopting the minimalist lifestyle for several months now but something I am struggling with immensely is that as I own less stuff and but less stuff and am much more intentional in what I do buy, I feel like I am losing my identity and like somehow I have to curate my belongings to have them reflect a cohesive sense of self. With what I have left I feel like a patchwork person and like I don’t really know who I am. Is this a part of the process, or am I missing something here??

    1. This is an interesting issue. I think for me, the more I have embraced minimalism and decluttered, the less I rely on “stuff” to shape or be a reflection of my identity. I feel less like my stuff defines who I am or provides me with my identity now. I think my words, my thoughts, my actions, my interests, my deeds, those things all define my identity. What I own is just the things I use or love, but not a full reflection of who I am. I think the more I embrace minimalism, the less attachment I feel to the things I own. I hope this makes sense! Thanks for reading and thank you for your insightful comment. That’s an interesting concept about decluttering and minimalism. Let me know if this helps!

  16. Hey, Melissa!

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insight. I 100% agree it’s about owning less, not purging more and part of our problem is that we keep buying things.

    Be the fierce gatekeeper in your home, I love that. One of my favorite tips to live by is “be a ruthless editor of what you allow into your home” and this resonates with me in the same way.

    Thanks again!


    1. Thanks Hanna! Yes, sometimes the hardest part about changing our lifestyle (not just to minimalism, but any change really) is getting out of our own way! Your post sounds great, I’m heading over to read it now. Thanks for reading and for sharing your link!

  17. I’m a recent adopter of minimalism and I can completely see how the mindset shift can be helpful as a long term approach. I hope to get there soon. Thank you for sharing your story. I will be following your blog and reading more.

    1. I’m so happy to hear you’ve recently found minimalism! That’s great. I’m sure you will start to notice your mindset shifting the longer you practice minimalism. Thanks for reading and for following my blog. I’m happy to have you here!

  18. Excellent list. Seems to cover it all. I guess I’ve become known for #3 because people who know me know to ask if I want something rather than just bringing it into my house. I’m very strict about the One In/One Out rule, so I never need “more storage.”

    1. Thanks Jean! I’m sure it has really paid off in your house to be very intentional about what you allow into your home, and limit the amount of stuff you own in general. That’s great! Thanks for reading and sharing your experience!

  19. Thank you Melissa for sharing this. I agree that I begin to see gradual changes taking place, especially #5: Being more intentional with my time. #8 needs more working for me too; constant reminders helps. Your phase, “…Stuff accumulates, priorities change, seasons of life change and we no longer need things we used to. But once you have fully embraced the idea of minimalism, the way you think changes. You think differently about what you have in your home, how you spend your time, what your priorities are and what you value.”, truly hits home with me. I realised my relationships with people, situations & things changes slowly with the inner transformation evolving over time.
    “Change is the only Constant thing in Life.” is the phase that I use to remind myself to not grasp onto an idea, someone, an item, my physical abilities, expectations, an outcome… and to release them gradually daily.
    Do continue to share via this platform; hope more people will get touched on various levels by your intentions.

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment, Esther. I’m so happy to hear this post resonated with you. I love the quote you shared about change – it’s so true! And as you’re undergoing a big lifestyle change like decluttering and simplifying your life, it makes sense that the way you view everything in your life – people, activities and things – will change as well. Thank you again for your kind comment and encouragement. And thank you for reading and sharing your insights and experience with us!

  20. Hi, I usually read things and don’t comment, however since I agree 100% with all of this, I felt the need, LOL I have been working on this for a few years now and couldn’t be more happy, married 35 yrs and I also see my husband benefiting, coming home to a happy Zen home, not full of “stuff”. The only thing that is annoying is having people (family) not comprehend this living style, I honestly tell them I don’t want “stuff” to please donate, but no one believes it..So I find myself no longer on same page as everyone, oh well.

    1. I’m so happy you commented Monika, and I love that this post resonated with you! That’s wonderful that you’ve been loving the benefits of a minimalist mindset! It makes me so happy to hear that! It can be difficult when your family aren’t on the same page, but I think because you are loving the benefits it brings to your life, that can help give you encouragement and motivation to continue on! Thank you for reading and for sharing your experience, it was great to read!

  21. It was a well written piece!

    I am in the process of decluttering and the only thing I have a mental and emotional problem with, is boxes of family pictures that are taking up way too much space although no one (adult children) wants to go through them! Only me it seems. I am 70. Those pictures represent my life as a mother…..the best years from 20 to 55…..before I retired. Not sure what to do
    with the boxes of memories? Thx Melissa.

    1. Thank you! I appreciate that! Going through pictures can be a big job for sure. I would recommend taking some time to decide what you really want to do with the pictures. Do you want them organized in albums you can look through? Or do you want to scan and digitize them? Or maybe you want to weed through them and get rid of any that aren’t important and keep them as they are? Or maybe you want to get rid of all except a few? There is no right or wrong answer, it’s truly up to you. But once you know exactly what you want to do with them and what your goals for the photos are, it will make the process of sorting through them easier.

      I often find when you have a large number of photos, once you start sorting through them there may be quite a few that are no longer important (i.e. duplicates or photos of people who don’t play a significant role in your life anymore, etc.). Getting rid of those will help. It may also help to decide ahead of time how much space you want to devote to photo storage in your home. Giving yourself a space limit can help you be a little more ruthless when deciding what to keep or get rid of. Thanks for reading, I hope that helps!

  22. Often times when I watch home makeover shows and the homeowners complain they need more room, it usually looks like they need less STUFF! I am more of a minimal person, but the rest of my household is not, which makes it a little difficult.

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