What comes to you when you think of a minimalist lifestyle? If you are thinking that it means you have to wear all white, shave your head, and meditate all day, you are not alone. I first stumbled across minimalism a few years ago when I saw a Pinterest post raving about it. Those were my exact thoughts. It did not take long at all for me to realize that is not at all what a minimalist lifestyle is. Rather, minimalism just means de-cluttering various areas of your life to be liberated from the sea of chaos and stress that so easily consumes an unorganized life. Since college and stress go hand in hand, my interest was immediately sparked.

After researching more about how to get started, I made the decision to start living minimally and I have not looked back since. You can minimize virtually any area of your life including your wardrobe, food, music, friends, and social media accounts. Minimalism can free you from stress, guilt, and overwhelm, and that is exactly what it has done in my life. Here are six ways minimalism has changed my life, and how it will change yours too.

1) You will be in a better mood

As part of my minimalist lifestyle, I made the choice to limit the people I surround myself with. When you channel all your energy into maintaining flourishing relationships with the people in your life that truly matter, you will feel better about them. An easy place to start is online. Who you follow on social media affects you more than you may realize, which is why it is important to be intentional in who you follow. Katherine Rosman of New York Times showcased Maggie Cassidy, an employee at a nonprofit in Chicago, who articulated the importance of unfollowing. Cassidy said, “Unfollowing is the best. I think that social media is so pervasive in our everyday life that it can be easy to forget that it is entirely optional. You can get into a cycle of being irritated and not remember that you don’t have to participate.”

2) Getting ready in the morning becomes a breeze

By purging my closet of clutter to make picking outfits easier and reducing my morning makeup routine to only the products I actually need, I have saved so much time in the morning. If you are not convinced you would enjoy paring down your precious belongings, maybe this will spark your interest: more sleep. That’s right, cutting down to only essentials in the morning means you can indulge yourself and hit snooze a few extra times without any added guilt.

3) Grades improve

In 2001, The Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published a study revealing that clutter restricts the ability to focus. Clutter distracts your brain and makes it harder to process new information. This explains the common phenomenon of why it is easier to fall asleep in a clean room. Your brain operates best when there are no distractions present, so if your grades are struggling and you cannot figure out why, the problem could be a cluttered work space. An easy starting place is on your computer, phone, and desk: delete or throw away all unnecessary documents, apps, and papers. By organizing your school work and getting rid of unnecessary clutter, you will find it much easier to stay focused on school work. Your grades will thank you. 

4) Stress will vanish

The stress in your life that once might have seemed all-consuming and unavoidable will start to disappear before your eyes. In my life, I have noticed that when I am well-organized and have my priorities in check, I am in a better mood and noticeably less stressed. It is liberating to de-clutter your life physically and socially. If you put in the work, you will most definitely reap the benefits.

5) Saving money

An important aspect of a minimalist lifestyle is not only de-cluttering your current belongings, but reducing your intake of new belongings. If you completely clear out your closet and then go out and buy a new wardrobe the next day, you are missing the point of minimalism. The idea is the get the clutter out and keep it out. By resisting the temptation to buy more and more material possessions, which could further clutter your life, you will save a ton of money. I had no idea how much money I spent on clothes until I made the conscious effort not to buy any. If you are prone to excessive spending, make yourself a budget that will help keep you on track.

6) It is easier to achieve your goals

My Achilles heel is that I hate saying “no” to people, which too often has meant that I’ve taken on way too many responsibilities. Because I am not Superman, some of those responsibilities have been neglected. Minimalism can help with this, too. Take a close look at what is consuming your time every day. If you streamline where you spend your time and focus solely on positive activities that will help you get closer to your goals, you will find it much easier to reach those goals.

Something to remember when considering minimalism is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Minimalist lifestyles look completely different for different people. That is totally okay. There is no need to dive head first into living minimally. It is better to start small and learn what you are comfortable with. By starting with small projects, like donating clothes you no longer wear, throwing out expired food products from your pantry, and unsubscribing from unnecessary email lists, you can get a taste of the liberating stress relief a minimalist lifestyle can provide. Minimalism has truly changed myself for the better and if you let it, it can do the same for you.

Miranda C