Becoming a Minimalist: 10 Essential steps to get started

Want to become a minimalist but don’t know where to start? Here are our top 10 tips for getting started with minimalism.


I did not become a minimalist overnight. In fact, it took me two years to fully understand the concept, and another two years to finally have the courage to let go more than half of what I own.

I honestly had no idea that my one burning desire to change my life would actually lead me to embracing a minimalist lifestyle.

Over the course of four years, I simplified my life – I stopped going to the malls, sold some of my stuff, donated most of them, paid my debts and changed my spending habits. But I wasn’t just getting rid of stuff – I also wanted to know what meant most to me and what made (and would make) my soul happy. 🙂

That day when I decided to declutter my life, I was overwhelmed by the difficulty and complexity of the tasks I made for myself (ugh!). There were just so much stuff I have accumulated over the years that I didn’t even know where to begin with. It was such a daunting task, but I knew I had to do it.

If you are a beginner or somewhere in your journey to simplify your life and become a minimalist and are looking for help, you’ve come to the right place! (*wink*)

Here are the 10 essential steps I did to get started:

1. IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS AND PRIORITIES.

Write down all the reasons why you want to start a minimalist lifestyle. What made you decide to simplify your life? What are the things that matter to you most? What makes you happy? Your list of goals and priorities should inspire you to keep going and make that big change in your life.

2. EVALUATE YOUR POSSESSIONS.

Now that you’ve set your priorities, it’s time to address your material possessions. Think about everything you own and make a list. Now ask yourself: do these things make your life any better? Do these things help you reach your goals and priorities, or do they just weigh you down? Do they make you happy, or do they cause you unnecessary financial burden? Ask yourself if your material possessions truly add any significant meaning or purpose to your life. If not, then let them go and make room for things or people that truly matter to you.

Have you heard about the 10/10 Material Possession Theory? According to The Minimalists, our ten most expensive material possessions from the last decade and ten things that add the most value to our life “likely share zero things in common”.

I did this exercise myself and I had a rude awakening that I spent so much time, money and energy on some less important things at the expense of the things and people that I truly care about. (sniff*)

3. CLASSIFY YOUR BELONGINGS.

Your next step is to identify the things that you need on a regular basis.

Start by emptying that one area of your house that you want to declutter (for example, your kitchen pantry). Then start taking only the basic items that you will actually use back into that place. The rest can be categorized and tossed into four different boxes labeled as the following:

  • to donate
  • to sell
  • to recycle
  • to throw away

Place these boxes in an area where you can always see them (say, living room). This is a good visual reminder to declutter your space regularly and toss unwanted items into your boxes (For bulky items, you can use sticky notes to mark them). Make sure that you place at least 2-3 items in each box at least once a week. Do this for 30 days. You will be surprised by how much stuff you don’t need and are able to let go.

4. DECLUTTER ONE SPACE AT A TIME. 

Start clearing out clutter one place at a time. The best way to do this is to start with the smallest area of your house.

You can begin with a small drawer in your bedroom, the bookshelf in the living room or the kitchen pantry. Then in the next few weeks, you can start working on your closet, your shoes and accessories collection, the bedroom, the kitchen, the garage, and other areas of your home.

Avoid decluttering multiple spaces at the same time. It can be very overwhelming and stressful and may discourage you from doing it again. Start small and take your time.

5. EMPTY THOSE SPECIAL BOXES CONSISTENTLY.

Remember those four large boxes where you put your unwanted stuff? Empty those out every week or at the end of the month. Keeping the boxes at home for more than a month will ruin your momentum and may tempt you to change your mind about giving your stuff up.

Take all items for donation to the nearest charity shops, such as The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Value Village and MCC Thrift Shop. You can also donate your big household items to Hands of Hope Mission, a charitable organization that provides furniture and household items to people in need.

As for items for sale, take a photo of each item and post an ad to kijiji, Craiglist or eBay. I personally have sold a bunch of stuff through kijiji and 204 Filipino marketplace in Facebook.

Did you know that more than half of your household waste can be recycled? Be sure to follow local rules and guidelines in recycling. If you live in Canada, check out www.simplyrecycle.ca to get a few helpful hints and tips to make recycling more effective in your home.

6. JUST LET GO.

Like most people, we feel that there’s always something in our life that’s holding us back – the old toys we had kept since we were kids; a basement full of old, broken items we refuse to recycle; a big shelf of sentimental items collecting dusts; a crappy friendship that we can’t seem to get rid of; or a nasty spending habit that we can’t shake off. (sigh…)

Why are we holding on to these things? What if letting go of these things means having a cleaner home, a clearer mind, a less stressful life?

There is no better time to let go than now. Just. Let. Go.

7. LIVE SIMPLY.

We tend to buy more of less important stuff than of things that we truly need. We tend to spend more than what we actually have. We tend to have more clothes than space to accommodate them. We tend to have more time browsing Facebook than spending quality time with our kids.

We always tend to complicate our lives rather than simplify it.

One way of simplifying your life is to live with less.

I’d rather have 33 quality clothes that I enjoy wearing everyday than get stuck with a closetful of clothing that broke my wallet.

I’d rather prepare a few simple healthy meals to repeat for the next several days than waste too much time and energy trying to think of different meals to prepare every single day of the week.

I’d rather spend my time having fun with my husband than work overtime to pay for things I didn’t need in the first place.

I’d rather have a smaller and calm-looking space than own a big house brimming with stuff I don’t enjoy.

I’d rather live with less than live with regrets.

8. STOP BUYING UNNECESSARY THINGS.

Minimalism was a key component in my own journey towards financial freedom. One of the things that I have gained through this journey is finally being able to improve my spending habit.

I used to go to the shopping malls every weekend just “to stroll”, but I always end up buying a couple of items from different shops. I also used to bike around my neighborhood to “stay fit” but it was just my excuse to check out a few garage sales in the area. I also used to browse the flyers and websites for items “on sale” even though I really didn’t need them.

Minimalism is not about depriving yourself of owning things – it is more about appreciating what you already have and get only what you need. By clearing the clutter from our lives, we are able to eliminate debt and spend your hard-earned money on things that truly add value to your life.

9. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS.

Most of the people I know who own big houses, several cars, expensive clothing and jewelries unfortunately live paycheck to paycheck.

According to Ipsos’ recent poll, the average Canadian owes $8,539.50 in consumer debt. This amount does not include mortgage debt. The report also states that “the generation that appears to have the most consumer debt is that of the Gen Xers, or people aged 35-54, who report an average debt above $10,000”.

This is a very sad reality of the world we live in and unfortunately, this is very common in the Filipino communities across Canada. If you are in a big financial trouble, seek help. There are several credit and debt counselling services available in your city – all you need to do is pick up your phone and book your appointment.

Living within your means is one of the most important steps in achieving financial freedom. Know how much you make and spend less money than you bring in. Find ways to boost your income and stop relying on your credit cards. Limit your spending, save up and enjoy a modest lifestyle.

10. STAY MOTIVATED. 

If you have done steps 1 to 9, congratulations! (Yay!) 🙂

Take a break and celebrate your victory! Embracing a minimalist lifestyle is definitely not an easy road to take, but I assure you it is a worthwhile adventure.

Now that you have come this far, it is important to stay motivated. Remember, a lot of people have done all sorts of declutter and minimalism challenge, however, most of them fell right back into their old bad habits because of lack of determination and discipline. Be consistent and focus on your goals. Then repeat steps 1 to 9. Do not stop until you’re satisfied with all the changes in your life.



What I have learned from the past four years is that change will come only if you want it so bad. Your “why” should be greater than your excuses, not the other way around.

Minimalism is a journey. Take the first steps, enjoy each moment and learn from it. Be happy knowing that your journey to living with less lets you do more.

What have you learned from your own journey towards a minimalist lifestyle?

I want to learn from you. Please share in the comment box below. 

Sincerely,

Jomay