What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the words extreme minimalism? If your answer is something along the lines of plain furniture, glossy black and white surfaces, and lots of empty space, you’re probably not alone. Many people associate minimalism with interior decor — and they’re not wrong to do so.
However, minimalism extends beyond mere trends in home design — for many, it’s a way of life. But what exactly does the minimalist movement entail, and how can it be taken to the extreme? For the answer to that question and more, keep reading.
What Is Minimalism?
Before I can go more in depth about extreme minimalism, I need to talk about plain old minimalism first. As I mentioned, most people probably associate it with the simplistic decorating style that has gained popularity in recent years. For the uninitiated, the style in question revolves around eliminating clutter and unnecessary items, while keeping everything as simple as possible (visually).
That means no fancy trinkets lying around, no magnets from your last trip on the fridge, and no throw blankets draped over every piece of furniture. Of course, some may call that just keeping your home tidy, but you can’t simply shove all clutter in the closet and call yourself a minimalist.
No, if you want to truly embrace the minimalist lifestyle, you need to do away with everything that doesn’t serve a practical purpose in your home.
Taking Minimalism to the Extreme
That brings me to my next point, and the subject of this article — namely, extreme minimalism. Something many beginner minimalists often struggle with is figuring out exactly what they need and what they don’t.
For example, most would agree that they could do without that random trinket they bought because it was on sale. After all, who doesn’t have one or two (or a hundred) of those? Throwing away clothes you’ve never worn or mugs you’ve never used (and never will) is hardly extreme. In fact, it’s something everyone should do, regardless of their interest in minimalism.
However, some items may prove challenging. What about your grandma’s fancy china set, for example — is that something you should throw away? It certainly has no practical use, but it holds sentimental value.
Or, what about your couch? Sure, it’s comfy, but you don’t technically need it to survive, right? And what about all the lights in your house? You could certainly throw away a couple of them; you can get by with a single light, and you’d be saving electricity! In fact, you could probably live with no lights at all.
How Extreme Is Too Extreme?
If those last examples sound a bit extreme to you, you’re definitely not alone. Of course, some minimalists would argue that you should throw away anything you can survive without.
However, most agree that you should draw the line at things you need to live comfortably. While you can survive without furniture, lighting, or even a home, you shouldn’t have to — and that’s not what minimalism is about, anyway.
So then, what is extreme minimalism about, and why would anyone want such a lifestyle? In short, going minimalist is a way for people to let go of the things they don’t need so they can appreciate what matters most. For example, many take all their clothes and belongings for granted.
But if you only have, say, 10 clothing items and only the essential pieces of furniture, you’ll value them that much more.
Some extend the same philosophy to their diet and only use products they make or grow themselves. Of course, that’s not a viable option for most people, but even if you can’t grow your own food, you can look into low-waste living.
Another great thing about extreme minimalism is that it allows you to be more in touch with your spiritual side and free yourself from material desires — not unlike Buddhism. A minimalist lifestyle will let you examine your feelings more closely and declutter your mind as well as your home.
If all of that sounds interesting to you, you might want to try a minimalist lifestyle for yourself. However, getting into it can be quite overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. To make your journey toward a simple and rewarding lifestyle easier, I’ve compiled a list of the basic rules of minimalism.
Getting Started on Your Journey to Extreme Minimalism
As I mentioned, extreme minimalism (and minimalism in general) extends beyond the material. That’s why I’ll cover the best ways to declutter your home and mind/body, starting from the easiest ones. However, keep in mind that minimalism is different for everyone — what may seem extreme to you may be trivial to someone else, and vice versa.
So, don’t think of this as a list you need to work your way through, but rather a compilation of ideas to help you get started. Minimalism is all about letting go of whatever is dragging you down and focusing on what truly matters — and only you know what’s important to you.
Declutter Your Home…
1. Identify the Essentials
The first step toward a minimalist lifestyle is recognizing what you need and what you don’t. That task may seem daunting at first, but once you break it down, it becomes quite manageable.
Start by examining the objects in your house. Pick out 15 things you absolutely can’t live without — those are your “essentials.” For example, you may not want to part with your bed just yet (or ever) — and that’s okay. Mark it down as an essential item, and move on to the rest of your belongings.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to move on to the next step:
2. Get Rid of the Clutter
Now, just because you only have 15 “essential” items, that doesn’t mean you have to throw away everything else. That’s a huge step and not something you should do rashly. Instead, examine all the non-essential items, and group them up.
There will be some items you can get rid of right away — just throw those in the trash and move on. There will also be some things that aren’t essential but are still important to you (like your grandma’s china set). Those, you can (and should) keep.
Finally, there will be some items you’re not sure about — you can put them away or entrust them to a friend. That way, you’ll experience life without them, but without the commitment of throwing them away. Once you’ve made up your mind, you can move those to your essentials or get rid of them.
3. Rinse and Repeat
Minimalism is not a state, it’s a process. As you get more used to the minimalist lifestyle, you may find that you don’t really need some items that were previously “essential.” So, get rid of them — as you grow and change, so does your perception of minimalism. That’s why it’s important to stop and re-examine your surroundings every now and then and adjust your “essentials” accordingly.
…and Your Mind
4. Eating Clean and Going Zero-Waste
Having a clean home is important, but a clean mind and body — even more so. Minimalism is all about maximizing value and minimizing waste, and those principles can be applied to your diet as well.
For example, instead of eating out every weekday, try going for a home-cooked meal. By making your own food, you get to decide exactly what nutrients you’re getting, and can eliminate those you don’t need (like excess sugar and sodium).
If you’d like to minimize the damage processed food does to the environment, you could also look into a zero-waste lifestyle.
5. Practice Mindfulness and Clear Your Thoughts
You can extend the minimalist philosophy not only to your body but to your mind as well. It might sound complicated at first, but it’s actually quite simple — just apply the same tricks you used for decluttering your home.
So, how do I go about that, you might wonder. First things first, start by identifying the “essential” things in your life. Those are the things you care deeply about and hold close to your heart. Then, whenever you find yourself worrying about something, ask yourself, is this important to me?
If the answer is “no” (as is usually the case with mundane everyday worries), discard that thought. Before you know it, you’ll make a habit out of it, and you’ll enjoy a simpler life — after all, that’s what extreme minimalism is about!
And there you have it; that’s everything you need to know to start your extreme minimalist journey. While the first part of the name may sound intimidating, don’t let it scare you! Extreme looks different to everyone, and there is no right or wrong way to practice minimalism.
Remember, this movement is all about leaving the clutter behind so you can focus on what truly matters in your life. And who could know what that is better than you?
Extreme minimalism can help you improve your living space, your diet, and even your mental health — on your own terms. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a trash bag and start jotting down those essentials!