Where to Start before You Start

It seems that in the first few months of every year since I embarked on a minimalist path that I pick up a book or two on minimalism that got or kept me going. I give the books another read-through and reflect on how far I've come.

So far this year, I've only picked up one to re-read, and I found that it was much more geared toward me as a budding minimalist and not as an established minimalist. All the same, it still proved to have some value in getting me to reflect on why I became a minimalist in the first place. It reminded me of how I felt before I committed to minimalism--I knew I had too much stuff. I had unclear visions for myself except for one: I wanted to be a less stressed person, and to become that person I would need space to relax. That space at the time was filled with clutterful stuff.

My time spent reflecting, and talking to friends about minimalism, gave me the motivation to come back here and put together a loose guided prompt for people new to minimalism who don't know where to start... or how to start. And by answering the questions that follow, you'll start your journey with a much clearer vision than I did when I started on my own years ago.


Basic though they may be for a line of questions to answer, they're important. One can't master advanced techniques if they never give the basics the time of day. Grab a piece of scrap paper or a well-loved journal and answer the following questions. Introspection will lead to the best results of anyone's minimalist journey.

WHO: Who do you want to be? Is that person different from who you are now? Describe in a few sentences who you want to be once your space is decluttered. Maybe at the end of decluttering, you're the party host and entertainer you always wanted to be; or maybe you're a tidy bookworm finally living for yourself in a happier space.

WHAT: What is getting in the way of your ideal you? Is there a space or a category of thing that makes you feel drained or unhappy? What kinds of things do you need to prosper and feel successful for yourself? Think of your material world, and write about what you find joyful and what you find stressful.

WHEN: When did your interest in minimalism start? Was there an event, something in popular media, or just a moment of introspection that made you realize your surroundings aren't making you happy?  Consider times when living with fewer things would be to your advantage.

WHY: Why do you want to change your lifestyle? This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the who questions, but abstract your thinking a bit. Are there other people motivating you to live with less? Do you want to develop new habits that make the planet healthier? Think outside of yourself and consider the people, places, and things around you, and why you want to change because of them.

HOW: How do you want to approach minimalism? Perhaps you want to just declutter, to give each room in your house or apartment more space to breathe. Or maybe you want to be true to yourself and pursue only the hobbies and interests that speak to you as a person, and get rid of everything else. Or even more to the extreme, you want to get rid of everything and start over with a much more ascetic approach to life, living only with the bare minimum.

Answer all of these questions to figure out what kind of minimalism is right for you. There are infinite varieties of minimalism, from ascetic minimalists who have few, if any possessions, to cozy minimalists who have "just enough" and then a wee bit more that makes them get the warm fuzzies every time they walk into their homes from outside. There are also infinite reasons to want to become a minimalist, from needing to downsize from a large home to a small one, to just wanting to have a simpler and cleaner space to maintain. There are no wrong answers to the questions above. And once you've answered all of them, you can start to embark on a path toward whichever version of minimalism is right for you. Happy writing!