A Checklist to Mindful Minimalism (It’s More Than Throwing Away an Old Pair of Jeans)

Health & Wellness

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.

Images – 1 / 2 / 3

BY Megan McCarty - May 21, 2018

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May 21, 2018 1:08 pm

Oh, thanks so much for including me, Megan! Such kind words!

May 21, 2018 1:15 pm

Hello, this was a great posting. I have done many of these things but not all. Will save it for future reference. And loved how you did take another view of the minimalism!!
Do you mind if I use some of the points in a blog post on my blog? Of course referring back / linking back to you. Thanks! Catharina

May 21, 2018 3:04 pm

I am ALL about all this. Mindful minimalism is brilliant. I try to do all of these things fairly regularly, but a reminder like this is always welcome.

And it’s good, because I was going to go through my phone and delete photos this week, so now that’s at the forefront of my min and I’ll actually get it done!

May 21, 2018 3:35 pm

I love so many points in this article. An Every Damn Day list? Love it. I used to do this with chores and called it “My Daylies.” Every Damn Day sounds much more badass. And I can’t agree more about writing down negative thoughts and then reframing them. It’s basic CBT (or now CPT), and it works wonders. Minimalism is about what matters not just getting rid of stuff. The only reason we get rid of one thing is to make space for something we value more. Great post.

May 21, 2018 6:18 pm

Great post. I’ve definitely done most of these already but got to try the others. I love the opener because I thought the same thing, “I was Marie Kondo but didn’t write a book.” 🙂

May 21, 2018 10:39 pm

This is an awesome post, I loved reading it and will bookmark it when I feel cluttered and disorganized!

May 22, 2018 8:35 am

I really wish we would eliminate the word “busy” from our vocabulary – it’s almost become a status-symbol or a badge of honor.

Sabrina Kondelis
May 23, 2018 2:15 am

This is an excellent list.

May 25, 2018 9:02 am

Letting go of irrelevant goals is at the top of my list lately!

May 26, 2018 7:30 am

This is AWESOME! I definitely need to clean out my contacts. Anyone with the last name “Bumble” or “Tinder” can go bye. And letting go of irrelevant goals…goodbye dream weight!

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