Our journey toward minimalism wasn’t caused by one huge eye-opening event that made us evaluate every aspect of our lives. It began when we realized that we’d slowly become too comfortable with the norms of society and how easy it had become to accumulate more stuff, take on more tasks, and spend more money.
We became attached to convenience and easily bored. We would turn to spending money as a way to alleviate that boredom. As a way of entertaining myself, retail therapy became a go-to activity. Hello aimlessly perusing the home decor aisles of Target.
Most of our other “problems” had a “solution” that involved spending money.
We became a bit more stressed and less patient with each other, because the amount of things we tried to do were overwhelming, even if they were inherently good.
We had come a long way from the very frugal, minimal ways we established during our first year of marriage (10 years ago), where we paid off over $30,000 of student debt in one year. This society and life’s daily circumstances have a way of steadily increasing our desire for more, sometimes without us even noticing.
Realizing that our yearly spending had just about surpassed our annual income level, we knew our habitual consumerism had to change. We wanted to spend less and have more time for the things we enjoyed and valued most. We wanted fewer items to maintain, and less of the stressors that led to a hurried, less peaceful pace of living.
We wanted to be free from the path we were headed down. That meant new habits. But as anyone who has tried to establish healthy new habits knows, making them stick and seeing obvious changes is often difficult. We desired a transformation, but one where the pendulum didn’t swing back to frustration when the habits got challenging. We wanted to find the sweet spot between control and chaos.
This is when our minimalism journey began, and below is the process we used to explain in detail for anyone who might also be looking to make a change in their own life.
6 Steps to Meaningful Change
Step 1: Get inspired.
What areas of your life are you most wanting to make a meaningful change? This could be the number of items you own, your stress level, how you use your time, your health, or your relationships, for example. The first step here is to become inspired. Read blogs. Talk to people you admire. Set a vision for how you desire change to look.
Step 2: Make a goal.
After you’ve identified the areas of your life that you most want to change, make a goal toward what that will look like. For us, we want to live life intentionally and make more time for the things we value most. Steps to get here involved being more frugal with our spending, minimizing what we own, developing rich relationships with those around us, and the daily practice of our faith.
It’s important to set your own goals and not go after someone else’s. Each of us have our own lives to live. Seeking after someone else’s life will only lead you to comparison and steal your joy.
Step 3: Begin with small changes.
Commit to making small changes on a consistent basis. Don’t try to begin a dozen new habits and think they will magically transform your life from overwhelmed to tranquil. Start small. Focus on one area of change and commit to making that habit too easy not to do. After you’ve mastered that one change, use the motivation to begin another.
For me, this began with making sure my kitchen sink was free from dirty dishes. The rest of the kitchen could be untidy, but having that one “clutter-free space” was a simple task I could do each day. It was a small change that motivated me toward new habits once it was learned.
Step 4: Plan for larger goals.
As you commit to making small changes on a daily basis, start thinking about your long-term goals. For us, one goal is we hope to be financially independent at some point so that we can increase our giving (a huge source of happiness that we’ll write about someday) and have even greater flexibility to pursue a life that aligns with our values. We realize that this goal is still a long way off, so instead of setting our sights on this, we strive to focus on the day to day habits we can control, which will lead us toward meeting this long-term goal one day.
Step 5: Find a support system.
Having a friend, spouse, or family member to talk about your habits and life changes with is a powerful way to stay committed. Change is always easier when you have someone to change with you.
Fortunately, Mike and I have entered this minimalist journey together. When one of us has a desire to impulse buy or seek convenience rather than creativity, usually the other one is able to remind us of our goal and the small ways we’ve committed to live.
I’ve made several friends on Instagram who focus on minimalism and natural living, where they’ve begun their accounts primarily for the community of support they need to stay accountable. Find what works for you to maintain these changes.
Step 6: Don’t expect perfection.
When making small changes, don’t expect perfection. Your journey will have dips. Let the benefits from your small changes remind you of why you’re on this path. There have been many evenings where the kitchen counter remains cluttered from a busy day at home. Life happens, and I have choices to make.
I can choose to leave the clutter for another day, or I can take an extra few minutes to address the issue, knowing how much less stressful my morning will feel tomorrow if I commit to this simple habit now.
The process of making changes goes through cycles. Some will be too easy not to do, and others you’ll find aren’t as realistic and helpful as originally thought. Start small and reevaluate frequently to see what changes you want to make next.
Self-improvement and making goals is good, but it’s important to remember not to get stuck on the destination if it causes you to lose joy in the journey of getting there.
Be realistic with your goals. Set your expectations appropriately. And remember to enjoy the journey with your daily small changes.
This article was originally published on ThisEvergreenHome.com