3 Truths About Minimalism + The 30-Day Challenge to Get Started

On Saturday, I crossed the 8-month mark of my yearlong shopping ban. How I’m already two-thirds of the way through this thing is a little crazy to think about – mostly because, truth be told, I’ve almost forgotten about it entirely. I still get the odd pang to buy a magazine or pick up a nail polish, usually when I’m in line to buy groceries or toothpaste or something. For the most part, though, I never think about shopping, because I know there’s nothing I could buy that would make my life better than it is right now.

That has been the most incredible part of this journey, so far: realizing how rich and full my life is, in its current state. When you’re not thinking about all the new stuff you could be accumulating, you have so much more time to just enjoy what you already have and all that life offers you. What started as a decision to declutter my home, and embrace a simpler lifestyle, has turned into what I believe will be a lifelong journey as a minimalist. Here are 3 life-changing truths I’ve discovered in the early stages:

1. It gives you more time (to do whatever you want). This might sound obvious, at first. When you have less stuff in your home, you can spend less time cleaning. Makes sense, right? And that’s certainly been true, for me. I wipe down surfaces all the time, but there’s literally nothing in my condo that needs to be organized/tidied up. As a result, I never have to spend my weekends cleaning. But it’s gone further than that. Everything we own requires a little bit of our attention. Now that I have less physical clutter, my brain also seems to have less mental clutter. I don’t have a laundry list of things that need to be done constantly nagging at me anymore. Instead, I get to wake up and do whatever I want. So, I workout, go for hikes, see friends, read, write… and sometimes I just nap or sleep more, guilt-free. It’s incredibly freeing.

2. It helps you become more resourceful. A few weeks ago, I found myself with two pairs of pants that had rips in them. When you can’t shop, your only other option is to fix the things you own. And when I decided to up the ante on my shopping ban, one of my goals was to learn how to mend my own clothes. So, rather than throw the pants out, I finally asked the women in my family for a sewing lesson. With my aunt’s help, last week, I patched up the hole in my pyjama pants. She also let me take her sewing machine home for a couple months, so I can play around with it and see what else I can do. It’s not uncommon for those who decide to live with less to build up a community of like-minded individuals, who can all share their talents and swap stuff for free. I just never would’ve guessed I’d be one of them. (Next up, gardening… and I will need help with this, too!)

3. It reveals what matters most. Coupled with the shopping ban, minimalism has shown me that I don’t need to consume and spend money, in order to feel better about myself or my life. Beyond that, though, I feel like it has adjusted my entire moral compass to face a new north. Minimalism is both the path I’m taking and the destination I want to end up at, and it turns over a new leaf everywhere I look. It takes self-awareness to a new level, as it constantly forces you to ask yourself: does this contribute to my life or take away from it? I’m finally choosing to only work on projects I get really excited about, spend time with the family and friends who also give time to me, and take care of myself first, by working out more, sleeping more, eating better, etc. And the list goes on and on. The more happiness I find, the more I realize what matters most and the easier those decisions get.

The 30-Day Minimalism Challenge

While I’m happy with everything I’ve discovered about myself in this journey, so far, there are still so many little things I want to try, test out and tweak. I want to do one final declutter/purge, build journaling and meditation back into my daily routine, get offline more, and continue to re-evaluate my priorities and commitments – all things that will help me live a more intentional life.

A couple weeks ago, my friend J. Money shared an image with me that he found on Pinterest, and the minute I saw it, I knew it had to be my next 30-day challenge for 2015. Take a look:

Created by Anuschka Rees

Are you up for the challenge? :)

  • I guess you can’t update everyday because then you would have cheated on your offline day :).

    I read a book about the Amish and they espoused this- “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

    • Ha! You’re right. I typically spend most of Saturday offline, so will make sure to document it on Sunday. ;)

      And I love that! Thanks for sharing.

  • I’m with you on how freeing it is to not spend time thinking about buying stuff! That’s something I’ve realized in my no clothes shopping ban–I was spending a legitimate amount of time and energy plotting out what I might buy next. What a waste of brain power!

    I like your new minimalism challenge, although I admit I think I’d have a hard time with the no internet days… maybe if I could do them on the weekend… but even then ;)

    • Yea, we can use that brain power to do other things… like take over the internet! ;)

      And I’d say start with #10 on a Saturday or Sunday, then try the full day the following weekend.

  • Sounds like a great challenge. The fiance and I need to do something about the amount of time on our phones/computers. I am finding we are on them way to much, I’m going to work on that this month. Just curious, did you buy new jeans after? I saw the tweet and was just wondering, you would be completely justified in doing so if you did. I did see patches you can buy at the pharmacy and I thought of your jean situation. Either way good for you for repairing your pjs and learning a new skill :)

    • I have NOT bought jeans yet! I’m going to patch up the hole, to practice my new sewing skills. But then I’ll still probably need to buy a new pair in the next few weeks, yes. I’m not going to feel too guilty about it, because I’d be replacing my one and only pair (would toss the ripped ones)… but still, a small loss for the ban!

      • You should not feel bad at all, you’ve been amazing so far and clearly from all the comments here on the blog you’re an inspiration to many. You should be very proud!

  • sounds a nice plan but I don’t know if it would work for me. I am in a sort of shopping ban also if I can buy some things, for example yesterday I had spring shopping but I bought however hopefully you will achieve your goal.

  • You know what, yes. I’ve been needing some mind decluttering. I might shift the offline day to the weekend (since it’s not realistic for me to do at work where I need to look things up constantly). Other than that, challenge accepted.

    • YAY! I’m so excited you’re going to join me! And I have to do the offline thing on the weekend, too. Let’s stay connected on Twitter… after lunch and not on the weekends, haha.

  • I think I might just be up for the challenge! As I read through the list, most of them rung true “Yea, I need to do that.”

    Now to print, make pretty and hang up somewhere noticeable!

    • Yes! I printed it, too! Today I’m going to cross off #16 – don’t buy anything for 24 hours. Is that too easy? ;)

  • I’m definitely up for the challenge! I would love to hear about how you overcome moments of weakness. I’ve just started on my own journey to minimalism, and I’m finding it very difficult at times to stick to the plan. Old habits die hard and discipline is hard to come by.

    Thanks again for sharing your journey.

    • What’s been the toughest part for you so far, Andrea? Would love to chat about this more, with you!

      • Mostly just kicking bad old habits and creating good new ones. I lack discipline and follow-through. They’re qualities that don’t come naturally to me. I guess what I’d like to know is how you’ve “trained” yourself to turn a blind eye to temptation when it’s constantly being pushed in our faces in Western society?

        • Hmm, I guess it depends on what you’re tempted by. Truthfully, once I kicked my habit of buying books, the temptation to shop went away (mostly). Like I said up above, I get little pangs here and there, but the shopping ban reminds me that I’m not allowed to spend money… so I just don’t. Writing helps! You guys all chatting with me helps. So maybe having someone to talk to about it would help you? There’s a lot to be said for having someone to stay accountable to / just chat about whatever you’re working through.

  • I love that you included the challenge from Into Mind! That’s one of my absolute favorite websites. She has so much great advice about building a minimalist capsule wardrobe. You should definitely go through her archives when the shopping ban is over.

  • Although I don’t have much physical clutter I do have a lot of mental clutter sometimes. I really need #1! I’m so bad about taking a FULL day off. I can’t wait till I go camping and can totally check out! Seems like a doable challenge!

    • I’m going to do that on Saturday. Want to join me!? We can chat about it on Sunday? ;)

  • I am in! I won’t be doing them in order, and I may not be able to do them all (forgive me for my lack of minimalist strength) to my own perfectionist standards, but I am ready to give it a try.

    Love your challenges!

    Have a great day!

    • Yes! And that’s ok. Maybe you’ll find 1-2 you really enjoy, and make them part of your daily routine – that would be a win, too. Which one will you start with? :)

      • I am going to make today “No Complaint Day”. This will be a challenge for me, I am sad to say, but all the more reason to take a shot at it (plus, it is early, so I have not yet had a chance to complain!). This would be an awesome addition to my daily routine, although I don’t complain a lot, I do have some days ……

        I’ll be watching for your updates..

      • You may not believe this but I am 69 years old and 17000 in debt. I am going to budget for a month and if I get through that I can continue.

  • I really like this challenge; it seems very do-able with just one task per day. I like having lists and crossing things off.

    And I love that you don’t have to do it in order – I never thought of that before when I’ve been looking at all the “ten things to do for decluttering” or “how to improve your life in 15 steps” posts on the internet. It’s kind of the Tao of Minimalism – one simple small change every day for big results over time.

    Looking forward to joining everyone, thank you.

    • Exactly! I keep looking at the list and thinking that I could cross 5 things off today… but that’s not what this is about. Try 1. See how it goes. Onto the next. :)

  • You know what, I might try this. I think I can get my fiance on board too.

    I think staying offline for one whole day will be the hardest. Definitely can’t do it on a work day… or can I? ;)

    • Haha, I definitely cannot! J$ would come after me, if I disappeared on a weekday. Oh, and my job probably wouldn’t be happy either, haha.

      Please try it! Or try some of them. I’d be curious to hear what the fiance thinks of it all.

  • What a great challenge! Looking forward to your results!
    I hate clutter and have noticed that I naturally part with things really easily. I also cancelled cable recently and do not miss it! In fact, I love the silence I have throughout the day without the TV on in the background. I’m oddly excited to spring cleaning as well, so I can declutter and reorganize my life.

    • I’d be excited about spring cleaning, too! I keep getting the urge to purge, then walk around my place and realize there’s almost nothing left I could part with… I wish I had something, haha. Anyway, maybe I’ll just turn it into spring gardening/sewing. ;)

  • It’s a nice challenge. The image and the challenge are from the into-mind blog. It would be nice to link back to her blog & give due credit.

    • It’s already linked! If you click on the image, it goes to her site. I also put her URL in the PDF.

  • I just participated in National Unplug Day this past weekend..no smartphone from sundown on March 6 until sundown on March 7th. I didn’t jump on the computer or watch TV for the most part although I’m not sure that’s part of the challenge.

    Anyway, I felt that I did focus more on my children but I’m not 100% sure that complete undivided attention while my boys slowly scoop food in their mouths is actually helpful. I did feel anxious around 4pm March 7th. That’s when I slipped and took out the iPad for my kids. Big mistake as this resulted in a major meltdown and me losing my temper, which is rare.

    The downside was that I had a long wait at the doctor and there were no magazines around. Everyone was on their smartphone and I couldn’t make much use of that time.

    • Nice, I’ve never heard of that! I was offline for most of Saturday, though, so let’s pretend that’s why. Teasing ;) I don’t want to take away from the effort everyone like you put into that! I can imagine it was tough…

      Anyway, I don’t think any of these little challenges will feel quite that big! Staying offline is only a fraction of fully unplugging, so I’m sure you guys could do that!

  • YES!!! Downloaded & printed off to join you in this! I’m excited..every since U started blogging about being a minimalist I see around my house just clutter…things I don’t want or things I can’t believe I bought/got… Geeze!! It ends now!!
    I really hope family is on board with this.. The crying will get old after a bit

  • Oh I love that printable – it makes visualizing each day a lot easier for me. I’ve also wanted to start paring down my life to be more minimalistic, and think this would be a great start. One challenge per day seems easy enough and hopefully will end up sticking after the 30 days are over!

    • It’s great, eh? I just printed it off for myself, and am going to leave it on my desk – out in the open, right next to me – so I look at it daily. I can’t imagine we’ll make habits out of all of these, but each one would probably do us some good… and a few might stick! Good luck :)

  • When I started reading this post, I was all “no way I could do this challenge” but as I started reading through the comments, and realizing how many people were on board for the challenge, I had to check myself… Why was I so against it? Probably because it will actually be a challenge some days… I have a lot on my plate the next couple days, but I think I will print it off and maybe give it a try once this week is over… Looking forward to following along with your progress.

    • Hmm, that doesn’t really surprise me – your resistance to the challenge (or certain aspects of it). Not you, personally. I’ve just been coming across a lot of material on why we are resistant to change and how to overcome it. Actually, I’m going to share something with you via email… look for it in your inbox. :)

    • Agreed! It gives me a much greater sense of community than I’ve ever had before… and I’m only just dipping my toes in. Imagine all the other good/helpful people I could come across!? :)

  • Hi Cait! Long time reader, first time commenter, haha! :) I just wanted to say this post was really fantastic. Thankyou so much for sharing the 30 day challenge, I am starting today and am looking forward to it!

    Have a lovely day!

    • Hi Elise! Great to hear from you :) come back and tell me how it’s going, anytime throughout the next 30 days! I’ll be updating this post often, so you can consider me your accountability partner, if you need one. Would also just be interesting to hear what people’s challenges/successes are!

  • New follower here. I love this. I have done a 30 day spending freeze and again tried over Lent but keep finding excuses so here is to starting fresh and putting boundaries in place (listing things I do plan on purchasing already because I do need them). Thanks for the inspiration to jump back on board!

  • I am so grateful i stumbled across your blog. The law of attraction never fails. This journey started for me with a desire to get out of debt and quit spending my hard earned money on luxurious living. When in truth i should be using my money and my time on more rewarding things. It has been my burden ever since i moved to the USA from Australia. Three years in, i am tired of having so much stuff with so little meaning. Not to mention the dust that accumulates in my bank account! The thought of getting out of debt can be overwhelming for many, and i was no exception. However, minimalism has given me hope and a sense of security. My journey to be debt free is not over but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and my very being feels lighter and more joyful because of it. So thank you for sharing your wonderful blog with the world and being part of the collective soul.

    • Thank YOU for writing such a beautiful, honest and thoughtful comment, Joanna. I love when people have the courage to open up – and with strangers, no less. I once moved across the country and brought sooo much stuff with me; stuff I thought would make my new home feel like home. But in all the time I was in that new city, I didn’t touch any of it. It, too, collected dust. My stuff didn’t make me feel at home; a working kitchen, hot shower and comfortable bed did. It was a learning experience, nonetheless. I wish you well on your journey. :)

    • Yes yes yes! I bet there are a few ideas on the list that would help you during the moving process! Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  • I like this a lot Cait!! I found your blog through your guest post at Becoming Minimalist today and I’m so excited to connect. I think the truths you listed about minimalism are right on, and I’ve experienced a lot of them already :) That said, I actually wrote a list of “lies” about minimalism today, as I think people who are minimalists or know minimalists can see the concept in very narrow ways. Would love your thoughts! Keep up the awesome work, friend!

  • This is all so true! Many people wouldn’t think that you actually save a ton of time by having less stuff, but that’s one of my favorite benefits! Not only does my home look clutter-free, but it really is! I don’t have to spend hours shoving the clutter away or trying make it look organized. It gives me so much more time to read and work on projects that I really care about. Thanks for sharing these truths and the awesome plan!

    • I sometimes walk around my place, thinking I should be doing something, and then remember that… nope! It’s all clean and done, haha. Such a cool feeling :)

  • Hey Cait,

    Love the blog! I love your point about how less items in the household make for less cleaning which frees up time. Never thought about it that way!

    Best of luck with the shopping ban :)

  • Fantastic blog Cait! Just found you through Joshua Becker’s blog and I am delighted. I will introduce you to my daughter who will graduate this year from university with 5 years of student loans. She is pretty responsible but I hope it will help motivate her to pay that debt off fast!

  • I’m not HUGE on minimalism and reducing my objects (I already live in a 600sq foot place and don’t even have a real bedroom, so I like my companionable clutter… to a point) but I definitely like the intentional living ideas behind it. I’m going to give this a try in April! The offline day will be the hardest due to my job so I’ll have to find a weekend to do so.

  • I love your blog! I am so impressed with all you have accomplished! You are truly inspiring. I have so much clutter and items I could sell. My 13 year old son is collecting money for a car some day, lol…so he wants to go through some of his stuff to sell some things. I find it hard to get of things. I always wonder … what if I need it someday?

    I find it hard not to spend. We all have the wants and it drives me crazy, although I did resist buying a new wallet today! It’s hard with a family when we aren’t all on the same page, including the husband. We have different views on money, but our debt is causing me stress. I have to figure this out and get serious!

  • You’re making great progress, and are an inspiration for both personal finance and minimalism! I’m half-way through Gail’s challenge and liking it, so decided to take on this challenge, too. A couple friends and I are doing it together, so far so good!

  • I enjoyed reading your post. We moved from a 4 bedroom house to a 1.5 bedroom condo. I have probably taken over 30 bags of clothing and misc. stuff. We’re getting rid of all our furniture and stuff in our storage for which we’re paying almost $250/month. It’s been almost 2.5 years that these things have been in storage and we don’t miss them/need them. We’ll be saving a lot of money by doing this. I’m also putting my hardly used purses and shoes for sale on eBay. I’m saving the money I make on eBay for future purchases, but the funny thing is that I don’t want to bring anything into my house unless I need it and absolutely love it. Becoming a minimalist is helping me becoming more aware if my choices.

    • That’s great. I have de-cluttered my home extensively. We got rid of all of our furniture in our large storage 3 months ago and we did the same with our closets. I spent one week of “no shopping” and I had more time to cook and simply relaxed at home. I plan to do the “no shopping ban” for one month soon. Any tips on how to not get tempted by the “Sales” signs online and in retail shops?

      This is a great blog!

  • I have enjoyed catching up on your blogs!

    Are you walking outside without music? I don’t mind being alone, it is silence I find challenging.

    After my trip to Scotland I have returned home motivated to read my Mary Queen of Scots (900 page book) that I bought in 1997 and haven’t read. I purge books monthly but couldn’t let that one go. Now I’m glad I didn’t but certainly will once it is read. The only books I consider buyong are ones the library doesn’t have or a friend cannot loan me. I’m getting better!

  • You have inspired me to take on this challenge as well! Although it’s the first day of the month, I hope to be able to stick to it. Thank you for sharing your insights!

  • What an amazing woman you are! Your articles are easy to follow and inspiring. I am so impressed by what you have accomplished with your life. Very important info to share with all. I will recommend you to others and also on some of the groups I am part of as others will find this very helpful I am sure. Thank you for what you are doing here! I am happy to have signed up for your emails.

  • I want to get into my sewing machine and repairs too. Do you have any pointers for starting? I seem more confused about working it than either. I have a basic Singer machine but I have seen machines that having various speeds and stitches. But my main problem is when the thread bunches up where the bobbin is. I don’t know if I threaded it wrong or I am going too fast. Can u help?

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