You’ve been programmed to believe that more is better. You’re told that you must buy the newest iPhone, have the most Instagram followers, and live in the biggest house in the nicest neighbourhood.
And for what? To keep up with the Joneses? To impress your friends, family, and everyone who has ever doubted you?
Striving for more to dazzle others may give your ego a temporary boost but won’t ultimately make you feel content. It usually has the opposite effect. When you’re constantly chasing the next milestone, you fail to appreciate what you have.
You miss out on the beauty, no, the miracle of everyday moments, and you end up feeling anxious and stressed.
Not only that, but wanting and having more adds complexity to your life. You have more responsibilities and decisions, which takes an emotional toll.
So how can you break free from this cycle? How can you develop a minimalist mindset? Below are 7 principles to help you shift the way you think about desiring more.
1. Question your assumptions
In a capitalistic society, happiness is defined by more. More things, sure. But this extends to everything. Our appetites are getting larger as we want to overconsume in every area of our lives.
This is a societal infrastructure driven by consumerism and materialism. It’s a hold that’s incredibly hard to break. And it starts with challenging the status quo of more.
The first step to developing a minimalist mindset is to unplug from this consumerist cycle and see it for what it is. This perspective will send your mind for a loop. You’ll question consumption.
Why do we use so much water? Waste so much food. Has gift-giving gone too far? Why do we make houses so big? How did we get here?
It’s a lot to process, and it can be overwhelming. So take it one step at a time.
Start with your assumptions around work, productivity, and success. Why do you believe that working more hours will make you happier? Is there another way to measure success?
Next time you’re about to make a purchase, ask yourself: do I need this? Will this add value to my life? Is there a more straightforward way to do this?
You don’t have to go full minimalist right away. But by questioning your assumptions, you start to see that there is more than one way to live.
2. Relentlessly pursue the feeling of gratitude
Your endless desire for more usually comes from the need to fill a void. For instance, when I’m stressed, I throw myself into work as a distraction. Others find comfort in shopping or overeating (I’ve also been there).
When you’re feeling empty or unhappy, gratitude is nowhere to be seen.
You hear it all the time. You have to be grateful. You only have one life. Every breath is a gift.
You can intellectualise and learn about these principles all you want, but your mindset won’t shift until you put them into practice. Make gratitude part of your behaviour.
The thing about gratitude is that we constantly forget about it. It’s why Buddhist monks ring the bell throughout each day as a reminder to be present.
It’s not necessarily about being grateful for the significant moments in your life, like getting a promotion or going on vacation. It’s about being thankful for the little things, like having a bed to sleep in or clean water to drink.
Gratitude is a muscle that needs to be exercised. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. And soon enough, it’ll become second nature.
A minimalist mindset is one of gratitude because you don’t want more when you’re grateful for what you have.
You probably don’t have time to meditate 5 hours a day. So you need to create daily prompts to practice gratitude. This could be a short meditation, prayer, journaling, or going for a silent walk in nature.
Whatever works for you, make sure it’s something that will become part of your routine. And be relentless about it. If there’s one thing to not be a minimalist about, it’s gratitude. We can’t get enough of it.
It won’t happen overnight, but if you’re consistent, your mindset will start to shift. You’ll find yourself wanting less and appreciating more.
3. Declutter your life
It’s tough to develop a minimalist mindset when you’re drowning and things and commitments. By decluttering your physical space, you’re also decluttering your mental space.
Start with the easy stuff and work your way up. Get rid of clothes you don’t wear, books you haven’t read, and knick-knacks that hold no sentimental value.
The goal is to create more breathing room in your life. Less stuff means less worrying and more time and energy to focus on what’s important.
Some people recommend decluttering for 15 minutes a day. Others do it in one fell swoop. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you get it done.
When you have fewer things, you start to see them as valuable. You take better care of them and are more selective about what you bring into your life.
After you’ve decluttered your space, what’s left reflects your values. And when your physical environment aligns with your values, it’s much easier to live a minimalist lifestyle.
4. Slow down
When was the last time you lost track of time? Or were you so engrossed in an activity that the rest of the world faded away?
Perhaps you have the identity of a doer. You’re always hustling, grinding, and chasing after your next goal. But what happens when you finally reach it?
You celebrate for a day (likely 5 minutes), and then it’s back to the grind. You’re always chasing after something and never take the time just to be.
Slowing down is essential for developing a minimalist mindset. It allows you to appreciate the present moment.
It might sound counterintuitive, but slowing down is one of the best ways to be productive. You’re more likely to make mistakes and burn out when you’re always on the go.
When you take the time to slow down, you can focus on what’s important and get rid of anything that’s holding you back.
I get it. Life is hectic, and you’re doing your best. But I challenge you to have at least one slow day a week, like pottering around the house at a snail’s pace, slow. Nothing scheduled, and leave things open for spontaneity. See where it takes you.
5. Replace comparison with appreciation
Comparing yourself with others guarantees your unhappiness. However, comparing yourself with yourself also has challenges.
It’s tempting to get caught up in the idea that you should be further along than you are. That you’re not doing enough, or that you’re not good enough. Ironically, this even applies to minimalism. You think, “I’m not minimalist enough.”
Comparison steals your joy and creates feelings of inadequacy. It’s a never-ending cycle of unhappiness, and hard to break free.
The solution is to focus on appreciation. Instead of comparing yourself to others or even to your past self, appreciate all you are and all you’ve accomplished.
Take a step back and look at your life with gratitude (back to point #2). Be proud of how far you’ve come and the person you’ve become.
And when you start to appreciate yourself, it’s much easier to appreciate others. You see them for who they are instead of comparing them to you.
So, whenever you sense the feeling of comparison, immediately replace it with what you can appreciate about that person or situation.
For example, if you’re trying to beat your running time, and don’t hit your goal today, instead of getting down on yourself, celebrate your efforts to show up and learn from the experience.
It’s a simple shift, but it makes a world of difference.
6. Add things and experiences to your life that light you up
It may seem paradoxical that I’m talking about adding items when cultivating a minimalist mindset. But by using minimalism, you can invest more in what you want in life.
This could lead to monumental changes, like downsizing your home, ending your marriage, or changing your career. It could also be minor, like adding a plant to your home or exploring a new hobby.
The key is to focus on things that light you up. Things that energise you, not de-energise you.
If you’re not careful, you’ll get complacent. Minimalism gives you the power and tools to hit the reset button on life, so you can design it the way you want.
Read more: Design For White Space In Your Life
It’s not necessarily about getting rid of everything you have and starting from scratch. It’s about making room for what matters.
So ask yourself, what lights you up? Really lights you up? What are you prepared to let go of to make it happen?
7. Remember, it’s just stuff
In the grand scheme of things, your stuff doesn’t matter. It’s sometimes hard to believe. When you’re attached to your items—it becomes part of your identity. But you are not your things.
I always like to do the deathbed test. Let’s get dark for a moment.
Say you have 24 hours left to live, and you’re reflecting on your life. What will you remember?
Every item in your home? Probably not.
You’ll remember the people you loved and who loved you. The experiences you had. The moments that mattered.
So if your stuff doesn’t matter, why do we place so much importance on it? It’s because we live in a society that tells us we need the stuff to be happy.
But here’s the truth: you don’t need any of it.
You can live a rich, full life with minimal belongings. Many would argue that you’ll live a happier life with less. Because when you have less, you appreciate what you do have more.
Minimalist mindset: final thoughts
Developing a minimalist mindset is more than just getting rid of your stuff. It’s a way of thinking that can help you live a more fulfilling life.
You can create more space for curiosity, laughter, and love by decluttering your mind. So what are you waiting for?