Minimalism is so much more than just getting rid of your excess stuff. Minimalism is a whole mindset and lifestyle change. For so many of us, living with less isn’t natural. We’ve been told we need more – more stuff in our house, more commitments in our day, more things to remember – almost relentlessly. Minimalism has taught me to say “no” to more than just clutter! Which has given me the best benefit of minimalism – space.
While you hurry around your house every morning to get to work, to get the kids to school… have you ever noticed how full your space is?
No, not just your house (although that’s important). Space can generally take two forms:
- Physical space
- Mental space
We’ll go over both of these individually! Each part of the space in your life is important. Not only how to get more space back, but what to do when you feel stuck or discontent. Realizing you’re discontent is actually another benefit of minimalism.
The biggest difference you’ll notice right away when you start delcuttering is the difference in your physical space. Once you discard what you no longer want or need you might think to yourself “How did I ever function with this much in my home?!”
It’s all too true that we accumulate items over time. We get better at organizing to shove more into tighter and tighter spaces. Yet, we don’t realize how much we actually have.
There was a study completed that observed that the average American family had over 300,000 items in their home. That number includes furniture, utensils, clothing, toys, tools, and literally anything you keep in your house. Three hundred thousand items.
Even after minimizing, I bet we still have several thousand (probably more?) items if we count each fork and each sock individually. But getting your “stuff number” low isn’t a benefit of minimalism. The earliest benefit of minimalism is seeing your space free up. Having room to walk further into your closet, parking both cars in the garage, canceling the lease on your storage unit – these are the physical space benefits.
Soon you’ll have space to make permanent homes for your belongings. Everything will comfortably fit in your home after you declutter. You might even get the urge to downsize your square footage! Or you may just enjoy the blank space as we have done.
Roadblocks to finding more physical space with minimalism
1 – I can only have X amount of stuff!
You’ll find extreme minimalists all over the internet (they especially like to show off how little they have on YouTube). But having a certain number of items isn’t a big benefit of minimalism. If counting or taking inventory of your stuff is your jam – then do it! BUT, don’t make decluttering all about getting down to a certain number of items.
Instead of getting down to a certain number, think of how you want your belongings to look and feel in a space. A great example is clothing. I see questions all the time asking how many tops or shoes belong in a capsule wardrobe! Forget the number – how do you want to store your clothes? Do you want them all on hangers spaced evenly apart in your closet with ample room to get dressed in the morning? How do you want your clothes to make you feel? Then do that, don’t count your clothes.
Could I be an extreme minimalist? Perhaps with my wardrobe (I do love wearing the same dress). But extreme number counting and putting number limits isn’t realistic. Freeing up space so we’re comfortable is always my goal.
2 – I have to replace/upgrade my old stuff
When you declutter and start your minimalist journey, you may find that some of your favorites are pretty worn. That’s because you wear them or use them all the time! Another big benefit of minimalism is finding what you really love – even as materialistic as that sounds – and taking care of that item for its lifetime. That often means mending, repairing, and repurposing before buying anything new.
But is our society as a whole keen on repairing or repurposing our old worn – but still our favorite – things? Nope!
While your old stuff might look a little worn, use it until it completely gives out. Using something up can bring you greater satisfaction than replacing it with a newer version.
Stay away from social media if “influencers” and ads trigger you to shop online. Stay out of stores like Target, Walmart, and TJ Maxx that carry a variety of goods at prices “too good to miss out on!”.
Related >>> How to Shop Your Own Home
3 – I hate blank space
Your physical space is going to feel like two things almost simultaneously:
1 – Freeing and open in a sense that you don’t have to constantly move around objects to get other things to fit or to have company over.
2 – Empty. Blank.
Here’s my “my house is empty and I love it” story – I very much enjoy artwork. Not so much cutesy stuff from the store, but handmade works or artists prints. I used to have about twice as much as I do now and they were everywhere. Almost every wall had some sort of decoration on it. I didn’t realize how much visual clutter I had until I took it down. Now with less stuff on bookcases (or at this point, no bookcases) and shelving, vases and other smaller objects gone from display, we could see our white walls.
It felt empty sitting down the weekend after our big purge. And I let it feel empty for a while. I mentally sat with that feeling of emptiness for a while before I rearranged and hung up my most favorite art and pictures. The extra space I quickly got used to. But the blank space on walls and tables? It took time. I still come back from vacations and time away from my home and realize how bare my space may look to others. I love it now – the blank space on my wall allow my eyes and mind to rest from the constant stimulation they receive throughout the day.
So if your space feels empty or blank – don’t rush to redecorate or rearrange furniture. Let yourself settle in to blank space. See it as a way to let your eyes and mind rest after a busy day. After all, your home should be your sanctuary.
After you declutter, you may find that you spend less time picking up and cleaning. And when you do have to pick up and clean, it takes significantly less time.
When this happened to us I immediately tried to fill the time in my day and the space in my brain with everything else I could be doing. Somehow, my to-do lists got longer when the amount of stuff in my home got smaller. But why?
My space felt more complete than it ever had. That meant that I didn’t need to shop for anything (my favorite past time) and my time was freer but I wasn’t allowing myself to rest. Mentally, I was taking on things I didn’t need to. Invisible tasks that didn’t need to be done, blog posts that would never come to fruition, YouTube content I planned but never made. I added so much to my mental work load that I was emotionally and mentally exhausted. It didn’t help that I was pregnant at the time this all started, too!
Claiming your mental space back looks like:
- Saying “no” to invitations
- Making a to-do list that also has “it can wait” section
- Being intentional with your time
Roadblocks to finding more mental space with minimalism
1 – Not feeling comfortable with downtime
You may be like me and my struggle with constantly putting too much on my plate now that household cleaning, chores, and general stuff-managing is at a minimum.
Repeat after me: Not everyone does it all. Life isn’t about seeing who can do the most and out-exhausting one another.
Life is about enjoying the slow moments in between our busier seasons.
It can seem so busy at times especially when you see that others are busier than you! Remember that you started to embrace minimalism to have less stuff – less stuff to take care of and less stuff you generally had to do.
Embrace a slower lifestyle, if only for a season.
I very much enjoyed being a stay at home mom for nearly three years before returning to work. My only regret is that I didn’t embrace slowing down right from the start. Because now that chapter of our lives is closed, I wish I could go back in time with my six month old babe and just squeeze him for longer and not think that I constantly had to do all the things. *Hold please while I grab a tissue and go squish his still little face*
All of my emotional mom-ness to say that downtime and slowing down allows us to better feel our emotions and actually prioritize what we do.
2 – Just not knowing what to do so you do nothing *scrolls through Facebook* instead
When you have a major life change, such as embracing minimalism, you may feel lost. As with most life transitions, you have to find a new way forward.
Start by writing down these things:
- Three things you’re grateful for
- What makes you happy
- What your goals are personally, financially, career-wise, and as a family
- Simple, reasonable actions that you can take to start heading towards those goals
Not all actions need to be goal driven! That can be very mentally draining. There is plenty of time in your 24/7/365 to have time to do what you enjoy (see your list of what makes you happy and what you’re grateful for).
If you feel like you’re short on time throughout the day, I highly encourage keeping a time log for a few days to a week. This creates a way for you to actually see how you spent your time!
Space – both physically and mentally – is for me, the best benefit of minimalism! If you’re on your minimalist journey, what benefits have you seen come into your life?