From the kitchen and closets to the home office and beyond, clutter doesn't just overwhelm us. There's evidence that even mild hoarding is bad for emotional health. Minimalism is freedom from the prison of stuff. By aspiring to a minimalist lifestyle, you can break the shackles of all that clutter, and the escape can be inexpensive or even profitable.
The best-selling book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," by Japanese organization guru Marie Kondo, is considered gospel for minimalists worldwide. According to Kondo, every possession should "spark joy." Whether it's a coffee mug or a piece of jewelry, don't keep it if it doesn't meet that standard.
The road to becoming a minimalist can be paved with green. Online it's possible to sell almost anything quickly and easily. Look for sites and apps based on location, such as OfferUp, so no shipping is required. Simply photograph the item, describe it, and name a price. People in the area send offers and, once a deal is struck, come pick up your unwanted stuff.
Most people need only one set of coasters -- and the same goes for things like potholders and measuring cups. Put all duplicate items in a box, then store it out of sight for a month. If 30 days go by without a genuine need to open the box, all that stuff is clutter that can be donated or sold.
Clothes are among the hardest things for a pack rat to discard. The 333 Challenge pushes people to wear 33 items or fewer for three full months -- including outerwear, jewelry, and other accessories (wedding rings and sleepwear don't count). Box up everything else and say bye-bye for 90 days. If you can get by without it, consider getting rid of it for good.
The 100 Thing Challenge is an aggressive approach to minimalism that dares people to live with much, much less. The allowed list includes only personal items, not household necessities (the fridge and sink don't count). The challenge doesn't mandate a specific time period, and the list can be adapted and changed along the way. It's a radical undertaking, but some adherents have found that living with less has led to a more valuable, constructive life.
Stacks of mail. Seas of sticky notes. Bursting filing cabinets. Dealing with paper clutter is one of the most straightforward steps toward minimalism. First, go paperless for all bills and financial statements. Scan and e-file anything that doesn't require a hard copy. Download PDFs of appliance manuals and manufacturer's instructions. Use a tabbed folder system to corral the papers you absolutely must keep.
The digital age has created a massive tangle of devices, chargers, cords, and other electronic clutter in most homes. Take an honest inventory of your devices and "upcycle" any gadget that can be given a second life (look for inspiration on Pinterest). Recycle or sell the rest.
If a full closet inspires a sigh and the words "I have nothing to wear," it's time for a purge. Let go of pieces you've owned for months and never worn (or worn only once). Likewise, ditch the stuff that might fit at a different weight and reward yourself with new, on-trend clothes after meeting goals. Also, toss "closet clones" -- items that look virtually identical to each other. Don't love it anymore? Toss it.
There is nothing wrong with buying new stuff, but to avoid clutter, try to get rid of an old item for every new one purchased. There's no rule that says they have to be like items, but for the sake of continuity, it's seems to work best to swap out something similar.
One of the most difficult decluttering challenges is confronting sentimental items. No one is asking you to toss your grandmother's ashes, but letting go can be incredibly rewarding. Start by boxing up things that stir an emotional connection but just don't seem to suit your decor. Bring in outside help for an unbiased eye, take pictures of things that can potentially be discarded, and give special objects a little send-off. Consider giving formerly beloved items to charities that can put them to use.
One great thing about the minimalist lifestyle is saving money, but sometimes the best course is to spend a little more. Get the best your budget can accommodate, so it won't be necessary to replace it or supplement it with other mediocre stuff. For example, instead of buying a cheap butcher's block filled with flimsy knives, invest in a single high-quality chef's knife.
That ottoman should open up into a storage container. The space under the bed should be filled with rolling drawers. When any one object can perform its primary function and also double as something else, it removes the need for that second object. A nightstand is fine; a nightstand that doubles as a small dresser is better.
Investing in reusable, washable containers removes mountains of space-hogging cardboard and plastic packaging from the cupboards and pantry. Cardboard boxes take up dead space and don't keep cereal fresh. That can't be said of airtight Mason jars.
Expired groceries. Rotten leftovers. The average fridge is both a food trap and a money pit. Try downsizing to a mini fridge. Compared with their larger cousins, they are cheap to buy and run -- and they hold a surprising amount of stuff. They are, however, small enough to make you genuinely assess each purchase and take honest inventory of what you need and don't need.
Chances are high that your virtual life is just as cluttered as your physical life, if not more so. How much precious, non-refundable time is lost scrolling through social media feeds? Participate only on the platforms that really add value or provide intimate connections. Delete any un- or little-used accounts. Finally, make a habit of regularly purging lists of friends and follows.
For those who are really ready to take the plunge, the ultimate in minimalist living is the tiny house revolution. Tiny houses are defined as complete living spaces of 400 feet or less. The Holy Grail of downsizing, tiny homes require serious sacrifice and adjustment. However, many denizens have found that the lifestyle offers boundless freedom, clarity, and gratitude -- not to mention more money.