I am not a minimalist by nature. But, I’ve transformed my life and the life of my family over the past four years by maintaining essential minimalist habits. We’re not perfect minimalists – minimalism is a personal journey and everyone’s will look different. So I call our lifestyle minimal-ish: Mostly minimal, really frugal, and pretty simple. We’ve found what really matters the most to us through these habits and they can do the same for you.
When trying something new (if you’re new to minimalism, let’s say) it can be hard to stick with. That’s why forming new habits is so important. Some of the actions I list out below are things you do once a year, month, or week. Others are a daily habit that you’ll need to build up to.
We’re not aesthetic minimalists with the empty looking house that’s all shades of white and gray. We are the kind of functional minimalists that know what we like, what we value, and what we want to focus our time and money on. That’s really what these minimalist habits are all about.
Why maintain minimalist habits?
If you’re like me, you might be searching the internet or Pinterest for ideas on how to simplify your life. Minimalism is a great, I mean seriously great, place to start!
Minimalism reaches far beyond just decluttering your space and keeping a tidy home. Although decluttering is a key factor, maintaining minimalist habits will help you achieve the lifestyle you want and live more simply.
These minimalist habits were formed by my husband and myself over the past four years. Minimalism is a journey worth taking the scenic route for.
- Home and Schedule
- Shopping Habits
- and Values
There are so many different habits that you can form to live a more minimalist life. These are just a few! They work for us as a family, but some of these minimalist habits may not work for you. Remember, minimalism is different for everyone.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
I put finances first because I’m a budget-oriented person. Within your budget and your overall finances, you will truly see where your money is going. Whether it is spent on stuff and things, or eating out and experiences, every last penny will be looked at.
1. Assess Your Spending
A spending audit should be done first thing. If you’re going to move towards a more minimalist lifestyle and adopting more minimalist habits, you need to know where your hard work is being spent. If a particular retailer stands out among your transactions (and it isn’t groceries or gas), put them on a list labeled “frequent stores”. You’ll need it for a no spend month (if you choose to do one).
For more details on how to complete a spending audit, visit my post >>> How to Complete Your Very First Spending Audit
2. Stop the Money Leaks
Sometimes, our money has a mind of its own! Meaning it leaks out of our bank accounts and racks up our credit cards almost unknowingly. But this money leakage has got to end.
It isn’t to say that all minimalists have precise budget and can name every transaction from memory. But we have a really good idea where our money went.
Mindless shopping, emotional shopping, subscription services, and other things on auto pay (other than bills) can suck the life out of your wallet. Often times, those items purchased end up as unwanted clutter – both physical and digital.
After your spending audit, ask yourself if you really need those subscription services that you’re charged for every month. Are there lots of transactions in the “shopping” or “misc spending” categories? Are you shopping out of boredom or another emotion? Or just picking up a few too many things every time you’re at the store?
Good minimalist habits to keep are asking yourself why you spend money before it’s spent then tracking your spending.
3. Set Financial Goals
Financial goals will be drastically different family to family. Here are a few general examples of goals:
- Build an emergency fund with 3 months worth of living expenses
- Save $500 every month for a child’s education fund
- Pay an extra $250 per month towards a loan (car, mortgage, personal, etc)
- Pay down credit card debit by making extra payments each month
- Save $20,000 for down payment on a house or a new car
- Complete the $1000 Savings Challenge
There are so many different financial situations out there that no two families are alike. Setting firm goals within your finances will often times help curb needless spending. With firm financial goals in place you’ll find that the rest of these money related minimalist habits are easier to maintain.
For more on setting goals and other finance tips, read >>>
- How to get your budget back on track after overspending
- How to Lower Your Cost of Living
- How we never fight about money
- What’s a budget date?
4. No Spend Month
My favorite way to shock my finances back into shape is with a no spend month. A no spend month is a period of time where you refrain from purchasing an unnecessary goods. Of course, bills get paid, groceries get bought. But that random Target trip with your girlfriend? Not so much…
No spend months are not really minimalist habits, since you can’t be on a “forever no spend”. But they are a really great tool to have if you feel too much excess is entering your life.
5. 72 Hour List
You go to the grocery store with a list, why not put all your wants onto a list?
With a 72 Hour List, you delay gratification and give yourself time to really think over a purchase. Instead of impulse purchasing a new Rae Dunn mug from TJ Maxx, put it on your 72 Hour List. Wait three days and then see if you still want it. Chances are, you won’t have that same level of wanting.
As a minimalist, this is a highly utilized habit that we’ve formed. I have my regular 72 Hour List (which you can find the FREE printable for right here) and I also have a wardrobe wish list. The wardrobe wish list is kept in my to-do notebook and is highly specific. I find that there are certain gaps in my wardrobe since I’ve decluttered. Have that list helps me fill in the gaps without over-buying clothing.
Extra credit reading >>> What to Do Instead of Shopping
Home + Schedule
6. Declutter your home + maintenance declutter
For guidance on how to declutter your whole home, visit my Simple Guide to Decluttering Your Entire House.
After you’ve done a whole home declutter (or you’ve Kon Mari’d your home), you’ll feel really amazing. It’s like there is far more room to breath and you have time back into your life. Eventually, clutter will creep back in. Whether that’s in your pantry, your cars, or your entire home again, you will need to perform some maintenance decluttering.
Even though we did a deep, whole home declutter in 2017, about once a year I find a few boxes of things to donate right around Christmas time. Last year, I did some maintenance decluttering while self-quarantining and continue to do so in 2021. Most of these items were out grown or simply not used during this last season (Christmas and other holiday decorations, baby clothes, maternity clothes I won’t wear next pregnancy *not pregnant*, gifts that I felt guilty about getting rid of, etc.).
7. Sell your stuff
For the love, please don’t let your stuff sit around after you’ve decluttered.
If you want to sell your decluttered possessions, a good minimalist habit to get into is letting the item go right away. Generally, we have a box of things to list on Facebook Market Place or on eBay. We snap some good pictures of the item the same day it’s decluttered and list it on the website.
If you’re decluttering your or your children’s wardrobe, I highly recommend taking those items to a consignment store or resale shop like Plato’s Closet, Daisy Exchange, Once Upon a Child, or Children’s Orchard. What they don’t take can be donated if it’s in good shape. Google what’s near you and will be convenient to your schedule.
If schlepping stuff around town isn’t your style, give a good ol’ garage sale a try! This is especially good if you did a full-home declutter and have a lot to get rid of. We made over $1000 the first time we decluttered!
8. Donate items and give back
Instead of dropping your items at Goodwill (which is almost too easy), try to find other places to give your unwanted item. Women and children’s shelters, animal shelters, charity shops run by organizations such as churches are just a few of the places you can take appropriate donations to. Just check their website or give them a call first.
Another way to give away your items is through your local Buy Nothing Group. It’s a little bit of work to post items, choose a person it will go to, and arrange a meetup. But you’re directly impacting your closest community.
For more information on when you should sell, donate, or toss – see my post HERE.
9. Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean you need it
This is a hard habit to break for me. I love free things (because of our love for frugality). But sometimes, just because it’s free or a “great deal” doesn’t mean that it needs to be in your life.
We are part of our local Buy Nothing Group and regularly gift our decluttered items through the group. Often I see the same people claiming or wanting all the things that people post for free. Yes, some people truly need these items… others, well, just like free stuff.
Before you take something that’s free, whether it’s a swag bag, chip clips with your bank’s name on it, or something from your Buy Nothing Group, ask yourself what role it will play in your life. Free things are only super awesome if they will make your life better or easier in some way. A good minimalist habit to form is to think twice about bringing in that free item.
For a little inspiration, you can read my story of how I went from extreme couponer to frugal minimalist.
10. Clear your schedule
After decluttering, I found that I have more time to do more of the things I liked. Fewer possessions remained in our home (and even fewer still) and I had space to do more activities! But even as our stuff went away, my schedule started to fill up.
Overtime at work, yes. Yes to hemming and sewing up pants for co-workers. Yes to driving to our parents’ houses every weekend. And yes to so many hobbies and things I didn’t even know if I liked or not.
When you get into the minimalist habits of keeping a less busy schedule – taking on only one thing at a time – you’ll find that you’re happier and less stressed. My to-do list might be full between my blog, different at-home activities with my son, working out, cooking three meals and a snack a day, spending time with my husband, and finally spending some much needed time on myself… but my obligations are few, appointments even fewer.
This leads me to our next minimalist habits…
11. Say “no” more often
Saying “no” is powerful minimalist habit. Especially when you mean it.
Say no to too many play dates (virtual or in person). No to being room mom. No to your parents even though you love them dearly, but you just saw them, like, five days ago (love you mom!). Say no to over-spending on things you don’t need. No to free items that are almost too good to pass up.
When you say “no”, you’re giving yourself the freedom to say “yes” to things you really value. You un-busy yourself and your life by saying “no” to the things that bring you stress and aren’t at all necessary.
Courtney Carver posed the art of saying “no” so wonderfully in her book, “Soulful Simplicity“. I completely recommend it if you are looking to deepen the meaning of less in your life.
12. Create a routine for your family
After you create the minimalist habits of un-busying yourself by saying “no” more often and clearing your schedule for what matters, create a solid routine for your family.
For example, our weeks (pre-pandemic) had three different parts:
– Monday, Wednesday, Friday
– Tuesday, Thursday
– Saturday, Sunday
That’s what worked for us! Monday, Wednesday and Friday, my son and I were home by ourselves. My husband works the same hours everyday. My son and I went the gym the same time these days, the same park at the same time, same lunch time, same nap time… you get the picture.
Tuesday and Thursdays our son went to school the majority of the day while I worked from home on my blog or sewing for my Etsy shop. School pick up was always the same, dinner time was the same, and the gym in the evening was always at the same time.
Consistency is key when starting a new routine with your family.
13. Every item needs a home
The one thing that lets clutter spiral out of control in our home is items that do not have homes. I’m referring to the bills that need to be paid but lay on the counter, paper from school, muddy shoes by the front door, new decor that I thought looked cute but isn’t hung up yet, excess craft supplies that were purchased because they were a good deal… These are the things that seemingly flood our home.
But why? Why do these excess items that come and go so quickly cause anxiety and clutter? Because they don’t have homes.
By finding homes for everything in your home, you create a tidy and more organized space. A space where every member of your family can easily find things they need and know where to put them back. It’s a magical thing, really.
To get in the habit of finding homes for things, start labeling bins, shelves and cabinets with what goes inside. When you reorganize your home, things will be chaotic at first, but you’ll get the hang of it! Once you find permanent homes for your items the labels can go away and anything new can find a place amongst the others with ease.
Extra credit reading >>> You don’t need more bins, you need less stuff.
14. Create a command center
Before we created our command center, I thought it was just a place in a home that junk mail piled up and school things were shoved. But when I organized our own minimalist command center, we became better at remembering appointments, meal planning, and putting together a grocery list.
While some people love to have a clear fridge, I think the opposite is true. A fridge front with strategic items on the front can become a minimalist command center without any extra space. Yes, you can opt to do this on your phone, but I’m very much a visual (and easily distracted) person.
Our fridge door holds a calendar, habit tracker, meal plan, shopping list, and a few restaurant gift cards. Customize your fridge with whatever you’d like, but make it a simple system that you’ll actually keep up with.
Revamp Your Shopping Habits
15. Shop with a list … for everything
One of the most revolutionary minimalist habits for me was starting shopping lists for everything. Groceries, clothing, baby items, travel accessories, hobby items, you name it – I probably have a list for it. This limits my impulse purchases while I’m at any store or shopping online.
Here’s how using a list for everything works:
- Create a note on your phone, document on your computer, or in a notebook
- Write down big categories of things that you would like to purchase (exclude groceries and household essentials, that should be a weekly grocery list).
- Examples include – clothing, gifts for others, gift ideas for me, tech, home décor/home, vacation items, clothing for kids, school supplies, etc.
- When you think of or find something you’d like to purchase, add it to the list and wait at least 72 hours (this is mostly to avoid impulse purchases).
- Revisit the list and purchase the item you wanted if you still actually want the item.
- The opposite of the impulsive shopping list works too – make lists of thing you’d like to buy. If you’re out shopping and find something on your list, that’s your permission to purchase the item (as long as it is in your budget). This is particularly helpful when creating a capsule wardrobe you love.
16. Buy higher quality
Buying higher quality items is a really hard minimalist habit for us to get into. I am so used to buying very inexpensive things – either thrifted or couponed for – and having lots of it.
Very slowly, I have come to realize that not even thrifting is that sustainable when I purchase loads of clothing only to wear it out within a few months’ time. Purchasing higher quality items, like my Wool& dress or Darn Tough socks, will cost more up front but will last far longer than a dress or socks from the big box store.
And because of the cost, I am less likely to purchase something similar at the same time meaning I’m bringing less into our home.
17. Ask yourself a few questions
Ask yourself a few questions before you purchase anything new. Not only will you avoid spending money you don’t need to, but you’ll bring less into your home. Shopping with intention like this is one of the key minimalist habits to maintain.
- How are you going to pay for this?
- Is this item on my list?
- Is this useful to me right now?
- How long am I actually going to use this/like this?
- Does it have a place in my home?
- How much is this really costing me?
- Do I already own something that serves this same purpose?
- What am I going to do with this item once I am done with it?
- Am I shopping out of an emotion I’m surpressing?
Because you’ve asked yourself these questions, you can choose to purchase the item, wait to purchase the item, or completely avoid the purchase altogether.
18. One in, one out method
When we first started our minimalist journey right after our big declutter, we decided that we should try the “one in, one out” method. Meaning that when you bring something new into your home, you remove one item from your home the same day. Generally, that item would be from the same category – sweater for a sweater, a bowl for a bowl, etc.
What we did not know about starting this minimalist habit was that we weren’t actually changing our shopping habits. Sure, this one in, one out habit is pretty great at controlling clutter build up, but it wasn’t changing how much stuff we actually brought in.
During a time when you’re learning to shop with more intention, try getting rid of two or three things for every one item you bring in. You might even find that bringing in a new shirt encourages you to let go of many more that don’t serve you any more.
19. Clear your internet browser cache (credit card info)
There was a point in time that my husband and I tried to “out gift” each other. We almost knew our delivery drivers one Christmas we had that many packages show up! I look back and cringe at how much online shopping we did. That’s not to say that we don’t order anything online, but it’s pretty limited these days.
One big factor in reducing how much I spent online was removing my credit card information. Some websites let you check out as a “guest”. But now with shopping apps, Google/Apple/Android pay, credit card info is more readily available than ever. So what can you do to combat impulse purchasing online?
Clear your browser cache (under history), remove payment information from apps like Amazon, and remove any credit card information from Google/Apple/Android pay. This way you have to get up and walk to find your wallet and fish out your card. It just makes it slightly less convenient to purchase what’s in your cart.
20. Turn off the lights and water
Because you’re a minimalist doesn’t necessarily mean that your an environmentalist. But with minimalism comes with a desire to consume less – this includes resources!
One great minimalist habit to get familiar with is turning off lights, reducing water consumption, and unplugging things when they’re not in use. When you mindfully use resources in your home, you’ll find you use less of them! Here are some ideas to help:
- Start a timer when you take a shower – start with 8 minutes and work your way down to see how fast you can get your shower time to
- Set a reminder on your phone in the morning to turn off lights around the house and at night to unplug unused electronics.
- Wash a full load of laundry instead of doing separate tiny loads – spot treat beforehand for any stains.
- Run your dishwasher instead of handwashing dishes
- Turn the thermostat one degree lower in the winter and one higher in the summer to give your AC/Heater a break
For more ideas on reducing waste – check out my post on low waste living or my list of sustainable swaps that will save you money.
21. Meal plan
Meal planning isn’t strictly a minimalist habit. I think it’s a great way to be frugal, organized, and save you stress at dinner time! While there are many different strategies to meal planning, here is what we do:
- Take pantry inventory
- Consult our favorite meals list
- Brainstorm all the meals we can make exclusively from what we have on hand
- Fill in our meal planning sheet for the week
- Make a grocery list for anything we might need for the week
- Stick to the meal plan but make adjustments as necessary if anything unexpected happens
22. Shop in bulk
To minimize the amount of packaging I brought home from the grocery store, I used to shop in the bulk section of my local health foods store. Now that they no longer allow the use of reusable bags to hold bulk foods (wrapped in plastic bags or in plastic containers), I have a different approach to buying in bulk and reducing my waste.
To get the least packaging possible, I buy the largest size of the product I can afford and have space for. This allows me to decant the product from the original packing into jars and containers that more easily fit in my pantry. While this doesn’t appear to be “minimal”, I have found that it’s reduced our the amount of trash we produce and the food we waste.
23. Use up what you already have
Using a product to it’s fullest sounds super simple, but in reality is quite difficult. To maintain this minimalist habit, shutting your eyes to advertisements and avoiding impulse purchases is necessary. So many advertisements tell us we need the newest best thing because our current thing isn’t good enough, it isn’t making us better… but this new thing, it’s the bee’s knees! Buy it!
Instead of buying more before you actually need it or purchasing something new “just to try it”, use up what you already have. This principle can be used for food, beauty and personal care products, clothes, furniture, cars, and practically anything else.
There is such a joy in using something up. You can definitively say you got your money’s worth and didn’t waste any of it.
24. Shop secondhand first
Shopping secondhand isn’t an exclusively minimalist habit to fall into. It’s quite frugal and environmentally friendly, too. By shopping secondhand first, you reduce the demand for new goods to be manufactured. That in turn reduces the amount of resources harvested from the earth.
Secondhand shopping can be done in a variety of ways (online or in person), but should always be done with a list. If you don’t have a list you are likely to fall into the blackhole of all the cute things you can score for a rock bottom price that you may or may not actually need.
If you need pointers on how to even start shopping secondhand, you can hop over to my post HERE.
And #25, Assess Your Values
One of the most important things to do as you start your minimalist journey is to assess your values and revisit them often.
Over the last four years of our minimalist journey, my husband and I have found that we value doing things and having experiences over collecting and owning stuff.
We value spending time outdoors on camping trips every other month rather than taking expensive, glitzy beach vacations once every three years. Having a small home with ample outdoor space is more important than a big home with lots of storage space. I’d rather spend time with my husband and son than shopping and keeping up with the women I see on social media.
I value family time and family experiences over collecting material possessions. I appreciate the items I own, yes. But there are people and experiences far more valuable than anything I have. When I do buy things, I value high quality items that will last years to come rather than trendier things that I’ll toss in a matter of weeks or months.
When you venture into minimalism, you’ll find a life filled with more intention, simpler days, and less to keep up with. It’s here that you can focus on what you value you most in life.