When I was in high school I always thought that, when I reached adulthood, I’d have it all figured out. I’d have a job I love, a group of close-knit friends, and a cool place in some eclectic neighborhood with a corner grocery store. I’d know exactly what style of clothes I preferred to wear and what type of furniture I wanted in my house. I’d have a plan and a dream; I’d be happy.
I’m in my late twenties now; I don’t live with my parents, I have a full-time job, and I own a car. For the first time in my life, I’m starting to feel like an adult.
But, when I look back at my teenage dreams of what adulthood would look like, I see a lot of holes. And it’s not just that I don’t live in a hip neighborhood or frequent the most Instagram-worthy coffee shops. When I look at the life I lead now, I feel like it doesn’t quite match up with who I now dream of being.
I read minimalism blogs and dream of ridding my home of clutter; however, my house is in shambles — we have piles of laundry in our bedroom, stacks of dishes in the sink, and papers scattered on the kitchen table.
During the day I make plans to get away from all the screens after work, but at night I sprawl in front of the television and scroll mindlessly through social media feeds until bedtime.
I want to be content with the possessions that I have, but last weekend I wandered aimlessly through the mall and obsessed over what style I should wear as a twenty-something (am I still a wannabe hippie or an 8-to-5 professional?)
This has been a wake-up call for me to live more intentionally, and I believe minimalism is an important way for me to become the person I want to be. How can I do a better job of having my dreams or intentions match up with my actions?
Perhaps you’re like me; you think that a minimalist lifestyle will help you to be the person you’ve always wanted to be, but you find it difficult and scary to take that first step and make a change. But, what if we looked at it as tiny steps instead of as giant leaps?
If you’re struggling to become your best minimalist self, here are some ideas that have worked for me as I’ve moved toward putting my dreams into practice:
1. Envision your future.
When I was a teenager, I had a clear vision for what I wanted my life to look like. As an adult, that dream has changed and is a lot murkier than it once was; I’ve realized that it takes a lot more effort to be the person I want to be. Now that I’m engaging in a minimalist lifestyle, I want to be more like my teenager self and envision what my life will look like in the future; I know that this will help me to match my insides to my actions.
I’ve started asking myself: What type of a person do I want to be? How do I express my interests and values? Am I living a life that’s true to myself and not the life others expect of me? By spending more time dreaming about what I want for the future, I’ve started to form a better idea of who I want to be and where I want to go.
2. Pick a priority, and stick with it.
What’s the first thing you want to accomplish through minimalism? Sure, there are plenty of things we should work on that relate to the minimalist lifestyle — from decluttering the email inbox to ridding our homes of unnecessary items — but what one thing do you want to make a priority? Once you choose that priority, focus on it. Ignore all the “shoulds” that distract.
3. Start with one drawer.
Once you’ve picked your priority, start small. I started with a single drawer of clothes, sorting out the shirts and pants that I hadn’t worn in years and putting them in a bag to take to Goodwill. It took me less than 10 minutes to accomplish this task, and afterward I felt much better. It may have been a small change, but I felt like I was aligning my actions with my values. If I take small steps like this every night, I’ll slowly get closer to the minimalist lifestyle I envision for myself.
4. Make appreciation a practice.
In The Soul of Money, author Lynne Twist says, “The seeds that grow are the seeds we tend with our attention. Our attention is like water and sunshine, and the seeds we cultivate will grow and fill our garden.” Society calls our attention to what we don’t have; it tells us that if we buy more, do more, are more, we’ll be happier.
Instead of focusing our attention on what we don’t have, let’s spend time appreciating what we already have. You and I have the opportunity to make changes. We can dream up new dreams, discard what no longer works for us, and live lives filled with intention. Let’s practice growing the seeds of appreciation for what we have instead of what’s lacking in our lives.
5. Give yourself some grace.
It takes time to pare down your belongings, eliminate unnecessary social media feeds, and refocus on what matters to you. I have dishes in the sink and a pile of laundry to sort through, but I know I’m doing a better job of living an intentional life than I was a couple months ago. Cut yourself some slack, and just take the first step.
It’s tough to take action and go after our dreams. However, no one will do it for us; we have to be intentional about it. I’ve learned this the hard way, but I’m slowly finding my way to the person I want to be.