If you want to live a minimalist life, stop doing these 10 things

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One of the most common themes I encounter in my quest to live a meaningful life is minimalism. 

For me, it makes sense to do away with all the clutter in my life so I could hone in on what really matters. 

And by clutter, I’m not just talking about those physical possessions we don’t really need. I’m also talking about the intangibles – our mental, emotional, and social clutter. 

I’ll be blunt – we’ve amassed all that clutter because of certain habits, most of which we do unconsciously. 

So, in this article, I’ll share what those things are. If you want to live a minimalist life, here are ten things to stop doing. 

1) Over-accumulating material possessions

I’ll start with the obvious – physical clutter. 

I used to be a collector of stuff. I wasn’t hoarder-level, but I did have too many things I didn’t need. 

For example, whenever there was a sale, I’d buy kitchen gadgets, most of which would just end up unused in my cabinets or kitchen counter. 

In the end, it just became too hard to constantly tidy up. The thought of cleaning would leave me feeling overwhelmed and I’d put it off like crazy. 

That’s actually how my journey toward minimalism began. I had to reflect on what was making me buy all of these material things I didn’t need. 

More importantly, I had to reflect on what I truly wanted to spend my resources on, including money, time, and energy. 

If you want to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, it’s time to stop the accumulation of unnecessary things. 

It’s time to get functional about it. Which leads me to my next point…

2) Mindless spending

As I mentioned earlier, I’d be all ready to go and make a purchase whenever there was a sale. But aside from that, I’d also buy things on a whim. 

I’d be standing in line at the grocery and spot those tempting candies and chocolate bars. Before I knew it, the cashier was racking those up, too. 

How often have you bought something on a whim, only to regret it later? 

I’ll put it simply: impulsive buying is the enemy of minimalism.

To stop doing it, you’ll need to be more mindful. Before making a purchase, take a moment to consider: 

Do you really need it? 

What would you use if you didn’t have it?

Will this purchase bring lasting value or joy to your life? 

These questions about an item’s functionality can help prevent you from buying items you don’t really need.

3) Comparing yourself to others

Now let’s go beyond the physical and get into the things that sap our energy and time. To begin with, let’s talk about comparison. 

It’s only natural for us to compare ourselves to others. To some extent, it’s a good way to get inspired and motivated. 

The problem begins when we do it to the point that it leads to feelings of inadequacy. 

The result? We buy more or do more just to raise ourselves to a standard comparable to others. 

In this case, “more” definitely takes away from the minimalist lifestyle we want to aim for. 

Obviously, minimalism means “less is more”. To be more specific, the less money, energy, and time we spend on unnecessary things, the more we’ll get out of life. 

Not only that, it’s about making our own path that’s free of societal pressures or expectations – which are, by the way, another example of intangible clutter. 

To live a minimalist life, say goodbye to the habit of comparing yourself to others. According to Fumio Sasaki, Japan’s most famous minimalist, “Minimalism is built around the idea that there’s nothing that you’re lacking.”

4) Responding to notifications on your phone

Another energy-zapper is allowing yourself to get distracted by your phone every time it pings. 

This used to be a real problem for me. And even today, I have to be really mindful about it. 

I’d sit at my desk with the best of intentions, aiming to finish my tasks at a scheduled time. But the minute my phone screen lit up, I’d pick it up to see what it was. 

And oftentimes, it was something absolutely unimportant. Like my cousin dishing out the latest family gossip. Or a shopping app reminding me I’d left something in my cart. Or a friend in Canada liking my post about my dog.

Once I started being more minimalist, I made more of an effort to stop this habit. 

Why? 

Because every time I responded to those notifications, I was sacrificing precious time and energy for something meaningless.

That’s not minimalist at all. 

Here are some things you can do to break this habit: 

  • Turn off non-essential notifications.
  • Use the “Do not disturb” or “Silent” features on your phone. 
  • Use app timers and other digital tools to manage screen time.
  • Designate specific times to check your phone.
  • Put your phone in a different room.

Remember, it’s your phone. You control it, not the other way around. 

5) Overcommitting your time

Another thing you should be in control of is your time. 

It’s no secret that society glorifies busyness. The more rushed you are, the more productive you seem. 

Keyword: SEEM. 

That’s not always the truth, is it? In fact, if you look at your commitments, I’m pretty sure you’ll find a few you could’ve said no to. A few that would not have added value or joy to your life. 

Just as we should keep our physical spaces uncluttered, our schedules should look that way, too. 

Every single thing on it should count for something. It should be meaningful to you. 

So, learn to say “no” to things that don’t do that for you. Look at time as a valuable resource you should spend only on what truly matters. 

6) Living on autopilot

While we’re on the topic of time, let’s think about how we spend it. 

How often do you go through your day on autopilot? I’ve done this more times than I can count. 

Let’s face it, if we’re not careful, life does have a way of turning us into robots who merely check off tasks on their to-do lists day after day. 

But living a minimalist life means being mindful in our actions and choices. Again, it’s all about intentionality. 

Try to be present in each moment. Cherish your experiences, not your things. This shift in mindset can create a more fulfilling, minimalist life.

7) Ignoring your values

This is perhaps where minimalism makes the most impact in terms of living a meaningful life. 

You see, unless we’re clear about what matters most to us, the way we manage our time, money, and energy will be unproductive.

In fact, even within a minimalist lifestyle, we could be ignoring our values. Which means we’re not being the minimalist we think we are. 

For instance, let’s say one of your core values is connection with family. But then, you’re spending all your time decluttering and organizing your home to the point where it’s interfering with your family time. 

A better approach would be to think about what you want to create space for. If it helps, make a list of these things so you see on paper what to devote time and energy to. 

That list is going to look different for each one of us. The point is to make a life that works for you and makes the best use of your resources.

To that end, it would be wise to stop doing this next thing… 

8) Chasing perfection

A minimalist life has room for excellence, sure. But not for perfection. Because the minimalist understands that perfection is an illusion

And chasing it is just exhausting. Not exactly the best use of our time and energy, right? 

I think that the more worthy goal is contentment, not perfection. 

As I mentioned earlier, when you appreciate what you already have, you’ll find you already have enough. You don’t need the excessiveness of perfection. 

9) Holding onto the past

What else don’t you need? The baggage of the past – physical and mental. 

I’m currently having to deal with this as we’re packing up to move to a new house. 

You see, I’m a sentimental person. And probably the hardest part of being minimalist for me is having to let go of boxes full of keepsakes and mementos. 

I’m the type who keeps ticket stubs to concerts, my kids’ kindergarten artwork…you know what I mean. 

Of course, you don’t have to let go of everything. But equally, you don’t have to keep them all. Sift through them and keep only those that are truly, truly memorable. 

Aside from physical evidence of the past, you might also need to do a heart check. Is there any grudge you’re still holding? A person you haven’t forgiven? 

If you want to live a minimalist life, you’ll have to let the past go

10) Neglecting self-care

Finally, a minimalist lifestyle calls for constant filtering of what goes on in your head. 

Because it’s about decluttering your mind, too. 

Take time to relax, meditate, or engage in activities you love. Doing this regularly is akin to house-cleaning. You’ll feel so much fresher and lighter afterwards! 

Final word

So, does minimalism make life more meaningful? I believe so. 

As Zen Master Wu Men once said, “If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.”

Here’s to letting go of what doesn’t serve you so you can live your best life!

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