A Checklist to Mindful Minimalism (It’s More than Throwing Away an Old Pair of Jeans)
I like to think I was Marie Kondo before Mario Kondo was Marie Kondo, but lucky for her she wrote that damn book first, so good for her. But! Thanks in part to Marie, minimalism has become the lifestyle du jour, streamlining our closets and junk drawers and knick knacks in an effort to keep only the things that make us happy.
Living with one spoon and two shirts isn’t for everyone, and though I appreciate a clean home filled with loved objects, I’m more interested in a minimalistic mindset – a kinder way to treat our overstimulated selves so we have a better understanding of what’s important and what’s not, what’s worth the brain space and what isn’t. So here’s a far-from-comprehensive list of how you can inch towards mindful minimalism, not only in your closet (though there is that), but more importantly by hacking away at addictive patterns, unhealthy relationships and the digital garbage pile we’ve all been ignoring.
Happy minimizing, friends.
Take an axe to your phone contacts. Anyone with the last name “Sarah’s Wedding” or “Coachella” or “The Frenchman” has got to go. As does Carly, who you had a biology project with in undergrad 12 years ago and haven’t talked to since. And James, who you got a round of gimlets with once, but pretty sure he’s married now. I’m sure they’re all fine people, but we can’t have them clogging up our contacts.
Say no to something. Anything! Revel in the immediate relief you feel, then spend that time on the floor with your children or in the bath with a book or doing whatever the hell you want because you didn’t overcommit yourself for once.
Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. No [insert tempting retail store], I really don’t need another pair of mules that are 25% off. You really don’t need another newsletter you never read either. Or 1-800-Contacts harassing you via email four times a day. Clicking “These emails are no longer relevant to me” feels so satisfying, as does an organized inbox.
Spend an entire day (and then the next day, and then the next day and how about the day after that?) single-tasking. Eff this multitasking, women can do it all, with a book balancing on their head and a baby on their hip mindset. Doing one thing at a time – send this email, then write that report, then defrost tonight’s dinner – will allow you to get t h i s m u c h more done, since you’re not a scatterbrain hopping from one task to the next and then back to the first one, all without getting raw chicken juice on your phone because you’re not trying to respond to that email from your manager while roasting dinner.
Knock one thing off your to-do list that you’ve been meaning to do for too long. Say you’re sorry to her. Return that online order that doesn’t fit. Schedule a pap smear. Pay that outstanding bill.
Let go of an irrelevant goal, like the goal weight you’d like to see on the scale or the number of social media followers you want. Then take stock of what’s really at the heart of those goals – good health, meaningful relationships – and redirect your attention to those aspects.
Unfollow. That Parisian model who makes you feel this short and this poor. (Trust me, she’s not as interesting as she makes her life seem.) That brand whose style doesn’t align with yours anymore. Your ex! That friend-of-a-friend who went camping with you two summers ago so you got tagged in a photo together and followed her. She is super nice but you haven’t seen her since and will probably never see again, so is it really necessary for you to follow the ins and outs of Catherine’s life? (No.)
Turn off notifications. Do you need to see every single email the millisecond it comes in? Maybe you do. You definitely don’t need to see every single Instagram like though. Or every news notification, because lemme tell you – they’re all bad. So turn them off. Even better: just turn off your whole phone once in a while.
Vow to quit saying a crutch phrase. “Sure, I can help” or “I’m so busy” or “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” All of those phrases have their time/place, of course, but oftentimes it’s out of poor or pushover habit that we say them. Sometimes we shouldn’t help; sometimes it’s not fine. Check yourself and replace it with a phrase that really reflects how you’re feeling.
Clean out your food pantry. Those sea salt and vinegar chips you keep as just in case stress food? Get rid of them. That salsa jar you opened…umm…you can’t remember when and has probably molded over? Gone. The tea that you tried and tried again, but just don’t like? Gift it to a friend.
Let go of a relationship that’s no longer serving you. It could be a codependent ex who inappropriately texts you when he’s lonely or a friend who brings out the mean girl in you or a doctor who makes you feel uncomfortable and rushed. No matter who it is, remind yourself our time on this tiny earth is limited and there’s no need to waste it with anyone who isn’t a good fit for you anymore.
Donate books you’ll never read again. Check locally for programs that will give them to shelters, prisons or schools. Books (and literacy! and escapism!) are the gift that keeps giving, so don’t let them die on your bookshelf.
Identify your stress triggers. A tinge of social awkwardness at a work party leads you to retreat in the public bathroom. Criticism from your boss leads you to immediately want to quit. Recognize your not-so-healthy reactions, take a deep breath, then actively work on another, chin up coping mechanism.
Jot down five things you need to do every day. Mine: take my vitamins, write in my journal, an exercise of some variety, do something nice for someone else, do something nice for myself. Sarah Von Bargen of Yes and Yes calls it her Every Damn Day list and she’s one of the kindest people I know, so I take every syllable she says to heart.
Comb through your camera roll. Delete duplicates, latte art, screenshots of maps when you were abroad and didn’t have WiFi and unflattering photos you’d rather never escape the cloud. To start.
Catch yourself thinking bad thoughts and write down the opposite. Every time you scoff at your thighs or assume he’s more qualified for the job simply because he thinks he’s more qualified for the job (*eye roll*), open up a page of your notebook and write down the opposite, positive thought. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, whoever you are, for my legs. They get me from here to there and I’m so grateful for that.” “Ryan is very smart and qualified for the promotion. You know who also is? Me.” (Ahem, these Wit & Delight notebooks work perfectly for such a job…)
Do nothing. For five minutes, an hour, a whole day, whatever you need. Lie back and remind yourself you don’t have to be somewhere, doing something, all the time.
Megan McCarty is a writer, editor, etc.-er who has written about life, travel and – shh, don’t tell her mother – s-e-x for Garance Doré, Apartment 34, Rue and more. She’s a firm believer in the zipper merge. Follow along with her adventures (and, well, misadventures) on Instagram.