Start Your Minimalist Journey on the First Day of Spring

Spring is a time for new beginnings.

This spring consider turning over a new leaf by choosing to become a minimalist living happily with less stuff.

As spring approaches I realize that I do not need to declutter this year. Plus I may never need to declutter again. “Really, how so?” you ask. The short answer is that I am now reaping the benefits of deciding to become a minimalist in November 2016.

If you are interested, you can read about decluttering vs. minimizing and why you might want to become a minimalist in the posts Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing Your Stuff – Part 1 and Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing Your Stuff – Part 2.

During the first three years of my lifelong quest to live happily with fewer belongings, I divested myself of stuff I do not need, use, or want, changed my shopping and buying habits, and organized the stuff that I still own.

“Minimalism is about intentionality, not deprivation.”

Dejan Stojanović

You can choose to begin your minimalist journey this spring. If you do, next year you will have less to declutter and perhaps you can give up decluttering forever. More importantly, Mother Nature smiles every time you, me, or anyone else chooses to live more lightly on Earth with less stuff.

Photo credit – Dreamstime/Sashahaltam.

There is no one-size-fits-all or “right” approach to minimalism so go about it in a way that works for you. If you are looking for ideas to help you get started, continue reading this post.

Three Years of Minimalism

Initially, my spouse was not enthusiastic when I announced my intention to become a minimalist. I was probably too pushy in the beginning, however, eventually, my spouse decided to participate.

In the first two years, we focused on divesting ourselves of excess stuff including items that we owned individually and as a couple. Last year was more about reinforcing our new not shopping and not buying habits.

As you will see, that does not mean I did not buy anything.

Below are some of the challenges we faced during the first three years of our minimalist journey and how we addressed them.

Your Stuff vs. Our Stuff

If you live with at least one other person, your desire to minimize your possessions will likely affect the other person or persons sharing your home. A good way to begin the process is by talking with your spouse, partner, or family. Explain why you want to be a minimalist and ask them if they want to participate or not. Listen to them and respect their ideas and concerns.

Do not be deterred by a lack of support from others. You probably have plenty of stuff that belongs to only you so start with that. Your spouse or family may get on board at some point or maybe not.

Orange and Green Apple
Photo credit – iStock/Simone Capozzi.

I began by divesting myself of stuff that I owned. The first joint divestment project my spouse and I tackled together was the kitchen which is more my spouse’s domain than mine because my spouse is the family chef. I recounted this experience in Minimalism for Couples – Getting Rid of Stuff.

Depending on how much stuff you have amassed, who else is involved, and how much time you are willing to devote to the process, the divestment phase could last a couple of months, several years, or indefinitely.

One benefit of owning less stuff is that space opens up in your home allowing you to organize your things so that they are easy to find and access. Your spouse or other family members may notice this and be encouraged to join the effort.

To Buy or Not to Buy

While you are divesting yourself of stuff, you will also need to figure out how to plug the acquisition pipeline or you will end up back where you started.

When I decided to become a minimalist, I did not magically morph into a different person and you probably will not either. Consumerism is heavily ingrained in our society. Removing yourself from its gravitational force may prove to be more difficult than you anticipate but once you do it you will be free.

Early on, I realized that being a careful and mindful shopper was not enough. I would need to radically change my shopping and buying habits. But before I could do that I needed to understand what they were.

Photo credit – iStock/cybrain.

I decided to track what I bought for myself and my family and why I bought it for a year using a simple spreadsheet as my journal.

In the post entitled, Living Happily with Less Stuff – To Buy or Not to Buy, I shared what I learned during my yearlong assessment and provided some ideas to help spreadsheet averse readers evaluate their habits. Minimalism for Couples – Buying Less Stuff and Minimalism – Living More Lightly on the Planet cover repairing things and deciding when to buy or not buy new items.

I know I said I was not going to tell you what you should do but I do want to mention one thing. If you find yourself justifying buying new things by getting rid of older things, you may be keeping the number of your possessions in check but do not kid yourself that you are living more lightly on the planet.

Letting Go of Gifts

Initially, I felt guilty and stressed out about divesting myself of things that people had given me as gifts.

For me, learning to live happily with the less stuff means divesting myself of things that I do not need, want, or use regardless of whether I bought the item myself, someone gave it to me, or I inherited it.

I got over the guilt and wrote about it in Minimalism – Letting Go of Gifts.

My philosophy is that a gift is something freely given with no strings attached. The receiver may choose to keep it or not. It is their choice. I have shared my feelings about exchanging gifts with my family and friends. Occasionally I give gifts and sometimes I receive them. When someone gives me a gift, I thank them and then decide if the gift fits in my life or not. If it does not, I donate it or give it away.

Is this talk about letting go of gifts making you feel anxious? If so, take a breath. You are the guide of your minimalist journey so if you do not want to deal with gifts or inherited items, then don’t.

Annual Assessment

Each year, I do a review of the previous year determining what went well and deciding if I want and/or need to do anything differently going forward.

This year I am sharing my evaluation with you to demonstrate that minimalism (at least for me) is not a game and does not require specific or perfect behavior. I am doing the best that I can to live happily and more lightly on Earth with less stuff and you can, too.

Earth Shaped like a Heart - Original
Photo credit – iStock/pearleye.

Back in 2017, I wrote Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing – Clothes and Shoes describing the agonizing and cathartic process of minimizing your wardrobe. In that post, I admitted that as an inspiration to lose weight I was keeping two pairs of jeans that did not fit my heavier post-breast cancer body. Last year, I decided to donate the jeans so someone else can enjoy wearing them while I attempt to return to my more slender self.

We have not sorted through our eight boxes of photos residing in the master bedroom closet or the several plastic tubs filled with our kid’s artwork and toys that are stored in the garage. There does not seem to be a compelling reason to tackle this stuff so it may be a while before we get to it.

The only item I regret buying last year is a pair of dress shoes that I do not currently need. I bought them for insurance when the only store in our area that carried shoes for my narrow feet was holding a going-out-of-business sale.

Christmas 2019 came and went without me buying any new decorations. I am proud of this accomplishment because I used to be a decoration churner meaning I would give away decorations to justify buying new ones.

Two big-ticket items joined my belongings last year. A mini iPad and an electric bicycle. I could write several paragraphs defending these items but I won’t. Let’s just leave it at I believe these things enhance my life.

I feel satisfied with what my spouse and I have accomplished during the first three years of our minimalist journey. And the cool thing is that I have zero decluttering to do this spring.

Minimalist Spring Challenge

Now that you have had a chance to read part of my story, are you considering starting a minimalist journey yourself?

Coffee Cup, Pen, Piece of Paper with Begin Saying on Wood Table Top
Photo credit – iStock/marekuliasz.

If you are, here is a 15-minute challenge to help you decide. You can easily accomplish this in the morning while drinking a cup of coffee, during a break at work, or in the evening after the dinner dishes are done.

If you like jotting down your thoughts, grab something to take notes or doodle on. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Spend the next fifteen minutes contemplating how you could benefit from owning less stuff. 

When the timer goes off, ask yourself this question “Do I want to try living happily with less stuff?” If the answer is yes, then pick one of the tasks below (or come up with your own) and make an appointment with yourself to do it in the next seven days.

  • Talk with your spouse, partner, or family about why you want to become a minimalist and ask for their support.
  • Click on the links within this post or the “Related Posts” section below for information, ideas, and perhaps a little inspiration.
  • Clear a staging space in your home and obtain some boxes.
  • Call a friend and tell them you are going to become a minimalist and why.
  • Minimize or eliminate your kitchen junk drawer.

If you start now, on the first day of spring next year, you will be able to look back and admire how far you have come on your minimalist journey.

Featured Image at Top

A strip of blue paper is rolled back revealing the words “A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.” – photo credit iStock/IvelinRadkov.

Related Posts

Why You Should Ditch Your Cable Company

Liberate yourself.

Do yourself and the planet a favor by breaking up with your cable TV provider. This simple action could impact your life in unexpected yet positive ways.

Calling the cable company to cancel your service is an easy task. However, if you are a long-term television aficionado, like me, it may be surprisingly difficult to actually do it.

When I signed up for cable TV many years ago, I thought it was a good value. I had the basic package, which did not include movie or sports channels. After several years, my cable company began continually raising prices without providing any additional features or services that appealed to me.

This ticked me off.

Periodically, I called the customer service department threatening to cancel my cable subscription. The company usually responded by giving me a promotional rate for six months or a year, but later my bill would go up again.

The cable box irritated me, too. It was an energy vampire sucking electricity even when I was not watching television.

Double Plug with Switch - Entertainment Center

At one point, I began turning the cable box off at night. The cable company shut off my service. When I called to complain, they told me that cable boxes need to be on standby power all the time to receive system updates.

The poor quality cable boxes required replacement every year or so resulting in excessive e-waste. This could have been avoided if the company had chosen to provide good quality equipment. Televisions and remote controls will become e-waste, too.

I canceled my cable TV service in February 2018.

It took me a few months to realize that ditching cable was having a positive impact on me that went far beyond saving money and reducing e-waste. I hope that after you read this post, you will consider giving your own cable company the boot.

Breaking Up with My Cable Company

I admire people that do not watch television or streaming media but I knew I was not ready to go cold turkey. That meant finding an alternative to cable.

My two parameters were that I wanted to keep the cost low and I did not want to buy any equipment that would later become e-waste. Fortunately, we already had an Internet connection in our living room and a cable that connects my laptop computer with the television.

After researching streaming services online, I opted to sign up for Netflix. This was in September 2016.

I got used to carrying my laptop downstairs, plugging it into the television in our living room, and then taking it back upstairs to my home office.

A year later, I was still paying for cable and Netflix and using both services.

Finally, late in 2017, I decided it was time to get rid of cable.

But I delayed doing it because I wanted to be able to watch Super Bowl LII on cable in February 2018. I cannot explain my fascination with football but I have been a Raiders fan since I was a kid.

My Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Raiders Baseball Hat and Black Coffee Mug
This is my well worn Breast Cancer Awareness Raiders hat and game day coffee mug.

A week or two after the game, I called the cable company and canceled my service.

In the back of my mind, I knew I needed to work on a solution for streaming football games but that was months away so I felt certain I would have it resolved before the 2018-2019 season.

You know where this is going, right? I did nothing.

My Cable-Free Plan Hits a Snag

On Monday, September 10, 2018, I was looking forward to watching the Raiders and Rams on Monday Night Football. I mentioned this to my spouse who replied, “You know you don’t have cable TV anymore, right.”

Oh, no!

I figured it would be easy to find an NFL streaming service. I was wrong.

The NFL channel would allow me to watch all the games—hours after they had been played. Other services offered some games but couldn’t guarantee they would not be blacked out. Plus, I would have to purchase a new electronic device to mediate between the Internet and my television.

Then I discovered that CBS offered an online subscription that would enable me to stream live TV (including football games) and watch previously aired TV show episodes using my laptop and Internet connection.

The CBS service would limit me to games on CBS but I supposed I would get at least one or two Raiders games and probably some good matchups between other teams. The clincher was that Super Bowl LIII would be on CBS in February 2019. I signed up.

I did get to watch the Raiders and some other good games, especially during the playoffs. My sister invited me up to her house for the weekend to watch the Super Bowl, where I consumed my annual batch of onion dip and a bag of Ruffles potato chips.

Unexpected Cable-Free Benefits

It took me several months to realize that not having cable gave me a surprising sense of freedom.

Of course, I could watch Netflix or CBS anytime I wanted, but I only like to sit at my desk to work, read the news, or do research. Even though it takes just a few minutes to hook my laptop up to the television, I found that I did not do it every evening. Somehow, adding that minuscule amount of inconvenience broke my automatic turn on the TV habit.

I was liberated from the constant barrage of television advertising. During football games, I reinstituted my policy of getting up and walking around or doing quick chores during commercial breaks.

iStock/GoodLifeStudio

No more ads telling me what I should look like, what I should eat and drink, or what products I need to buy. I am elated that I am no longer assailed by messages trying to convince me that I need to buy whatever is being advertised to be happy, beautiful, or a good mother. I do not miss the contrived commercial settings that try to make us believe that these are regular people living their everyday lives. I am relieved that I do not know what model of iPhone is currently for sale. I have no idea what products I am missing and I like it that way.

Now that I have the perspective of over a year without cable TV, I have a deeper appreciation of how commercials infiltrate every aspect of our lives and our relationships with other people. The force field of advertising is hard to overcome, especially after decades of indoctrination. However, it is worth the effort.

In addition to the feeling of freedom to be myself, getting rid of cable has given me a boost on my journey to be a minimalist living happily with less stuff. Everything you and I buy, own, and use in our daily lives has an environmental impact so curtailing our possessions helps us each live more lightly on Earth. I think this is a good thing.

It is Your Turn to Go Cable-Free

I do realize that my current streaming services could add commercials in the future. That is what happened with cable TV. If and when advertising starts showing up then I will look for other alternatives. I am also cognizant that things could get out of hand if I decided to add a lot of other streaming services, which would add complexity and cost.

I hope you will at least consider how you might benefit from a life without cable TV and the commercials that come with it.

Who knows, maybe someday I will completely give up television in all its forms.

Featured Image at Top: Birdlike links flying away to freedom through a hole in a chain link fence – photo credit iStock/Eoneren.

Related Posts