New Year Minimalism – A few ideas.

A lot of people set themselves New Years resolutions. The New Year marks a fresh start for a lot of people & resolutions help to set goals for the coming year. Some are very simple, such as dieting after the festive period or signing up to a gym. I’m not really one for resolutions but a lot of people I know like to do this, so I thought I would lay out a few tips & ideas for anyone interested in simple living & minimalism.

One of the first things I do after the Christmas period is to address my belongings. My family & friends have really got into a rhythm with what to buy me each year, so I don’t tend to get anything which throws me off my minimalist lifestyle, but I do get some really handy gifts. I tend to get new underwear, toiletries, a new aftershave and a couple of books to read.

I’ve asked my family to buy me the same kind of things each year, generally consumables. By getting a few sets of underwear each year I can go through my drawers and get rid of the tired looking items. I have a strict one in one out system now, which I find helps me to keep on top of my belongings. I also find that I personally feel better because I’m only replacing something that is worn out & due for a refresh.

With the toiletries, I tend to get enough deodorant, razor blades & aftershave to last me the entire year, until next christmas. So I start off the year with a few extra items than absolutely necessary, but they do get used up before I receive a fresh batch & I can live with storing a couple of essentials in the bathroom cabinet.

Christmas time used to be really hard for me as an aspiring minimalist. I’m super appreciative of all the gifts I receive & they are by no means bad gifts, but when you are trying to reduce the amount of stuff you hang on to, it can prove challenging. I used to get a lot of novelty items, fun presents which made you laugh & smile on the day, but then went into a drawer never to be seen again. After speaking with friends & family I have managed to save them money  by asking not to buy those items & requested only items I really need. I have a small Amazon wish list to which I add specific things I need & each family member also has set things they now tend to buy me. I find this works best & it makes their life easier if they do decide to give me a gift.

January is also a great time to address your wardrobe. For a few years now my wife and I have shared a single clothes rail. It wasnt always like that, we used to have a walk in wardrobe back in 2012 (walk in closet) and we had hundreds of different items of clothes collected over two lifetimes.

When we first started getting onto minimalism, sorting out the clothes was really hard. Many items had sentimental value, even though we knew we would never wear them again. Since minimising our wardrobe to a single rail, we have found it really easy to stay on top of clothing. Again we have a one in one out rule & with limited space we find we stick to it. If an item wears out we can replace it without feeling guilty & all the remaining items of clothing we have are the ones we wear daily.

I would recommend starting with your wardrobe if you are new to minimalism. It’s a good way to get used to letting things go & it is one of the best examples of how minimalism can make life easier. Just by selecting a daily outfit, you will feel lighter & less burdened by choice.

This year I also decided to address my smartphone & social media accounts. I had far too many time-consuming apps & so many twitter accounts which I followed that it was becoming less useful to me. I wrote about that earlier this week, but the general gist is that by reducing apps & information consumption on your smart phone, you can save a crazy amount of time & regain a lot of focus. With the time I’ve regained I intend to learn Dutch & play more guitar.

Another thing I like to do each new year is to address my finances. I am still paying down student debt on credit cards & I always shift my remaining debt to a 0% card in January. That way I’m always only paying off the debt & not the interest payments. I’m not sure how the banks feel about that, essentially giving me a free loan, but I find minimalism can be applied easily to finances if you treat the digital pounds just the same way you would treat physical clutter. To me, debt is clutter, it’s a burden & it has the ability to cripple you with worry & also to trap you in a situation. I intend to move to Amsterdam & debt is one thing I will not be taking with me.

You can also take this time to check all of your current bills, direct debits & subscriptions. See if you can reduce bills such as your phone or internet, cancel any subscriptions you no longer need & give all of your finances a health check. It’s surprising what a £5 a month subscription costs each year if you no longer read that magazine or watch Netflix.

Moving on to books. I no longer have many physical books. I used to have a massive collection of books in paperback and hardback format however I bought an eReader last year (kindle) and started to get most of my books in a digital format. I still buy the odd second-hand book or text-book, I don’t tend to buy new books as there are an abundance of used books out there for a fraction of the cost. I found moving to ebooks freed up a lot of my belongings. I’ve moved house before with perhaps 30 boxes of books. They are heavy & cumbersome. I now have most of my books on the kindle which can fit in my coat pocket. My kindle library is around 140 books strong. This is all part of a lifestyle I’m crafting to make it easier for me to pick up & go when I like. To a new house, to a new country. I’m no stranger to putting things in storage and moving around for a while. I like the freedom & it’s one of the things that attracted me to Minimalism in the first place.

If you have books, sort through them & give to charity any you have read & won’t reference, or those you have no intention of reading. If you do this every few months you can regain a lot of space, shed a lot of weight & if you give them to a charity shop you can help a good cause in the process (not to mention people can get great books for a fraction of retail & it saves them from landfill).

January is always a quiet month for me work wise. My business customers are coming to terms with a new year & the serious overspend of the previous months. I used to get quite low in January, but I’ve now come to terms with the fact that it is quiet & treat it more as a holiday. It’s the perfect time for me to sort and organise. I normally take a drawer at a time & sort it out. I do this often, but it’s surprising what you find in them. Old bank statements which should have been filed, batteries long since flat, packaging & junk. Minimalism for most is an ongoing process, and I’m still finding things I missed the first, second or tenth time I sorted out a drawer.

If you are new, start small. Choose a drawer a day and sort into three piles, keep, donate/sell & rubbish. Then organise your keep things back into a home, somewhere you know where they will be when you need them. The donate/sell pile should be dealt with ASAP to make sure you don’t start taking things back out, as should the rubbish pile. It’s a great way to start out organising by taking small steps. Decluttering takes time & patience.

I no longer buy CD’s or DVD’s as I tend to rent, stream or buy digital versions. I used to have a large collection of media but I donated and sold the whole lot when I started minimising. I do buy the odd Xbox game on a disc, but I buy these second-hand from shops in the UK like CEX and Game. This way I make a huge saving & I’m reusing media. Once I’ve finished I pass them on to friends or put them up on ebay for a nominal amount. I’d rather someone else benefit from them when I finished, just as I have. It’s a nice process to be involved with.

There are loads of things you can do to get started on your decluttering & simplifying journey. These are just a few to get you started. Please do let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions or personal preferences for starting a minimalists new year.

John Signature

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