10 Helpful Principles of Essential Minimalism to Change Your Life

Essential minimalism is a lifestyle philosophy that focuses on simplifying life by removing excess and focusing on what is truly necessary and valuable. It emphasizes intent, clarity, and purpose. 

Since focusing extensively on decluttering, minimizing, and only hanging onto possessions I actually need and use, my mental health has improved beyond explanation. It has changed every aspect of my life and thought processes for the better and there’s no turning back now for me.

How do you implement the process of essential minimalism into your life while still maintaining practicality and realistic expectations, though?

Here are the key tenets of essential minimalism with real-world examples:

1. Decluttering Physical Spaces

Take the time to regularly purge closets, kitchen cabinets, garages, and drawers to keep only what is used and loved.

If I go more than a year without using something, it is immediately sold or donated.

Keep a capsule wardrobe so that your closet isn’t full of outfits that only work cohesively with each other. Instead, buy key pieces of quality clothing that can all work together and be swapped or layered effectively when needed.

If something sits in a box in a your closet or garage and you never look at it, need it, or use it, then what good is it to keep lugging around? It just takes up space.

I love 80s/90s nostalgia and I’ve spent so many years hanging onto items that don’t do much except sit in a box. I’ve recently listed a ton of stuff on eBay or given it away to my friends and their kids. It’s been a huge mental hurdle that has left me feeling better on the other end. 

2. Simplifying Digital Life

Go through your lists of emails and delete and unsubscribe to newsletters or communications you’re not interested in.

File what emails you want to hold onto into easily-understood folder structures.

Go through your phone and tablet and PC and delete unused apps. If you haven’t opened the app in over a year, get rid of it.

Set boundaries for screen time and app time and don’t let the pull of doom scrolling control your life. Do what makes you happy and feel at peace instead of what makes you anxious or jealous.

Remember that technology should be a tool of productivity and should save you time and energy instead of sapping it.

I have narrowed down my technology to only items I use regularly and it’s saved me a ton of space, money, and worry knowing that I have everything I need.

3. Prioritizing Quality Over Quantity

It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying cheap items because they seem like a bargain. Most of the time, these items don’t last or they don’t function the way you need them to and you end up having to buy them again or buy multiple versions of the same item. This is a waste of tie and money.

Invest in a few high-quality, durable kitchen tools. Buy nicely crafted clothing. Buy furniture that will outlive you or whose frame is so sturdy that it can be easily re-upholstered or styled as needed to last a lifetime.

This can apply to interpersonal relationships as well. Invest the time and energy into maintaining friendships and relationships with only people who enrich your life instead of stealing your time and happiness. Don’t worry about how many friends you have, but only give care to the number of quality friendships you maintain.

I only see who I want to see and I only buy things that are of a quality to last at least 10 years or they’re not worth buying.

4. Intentional Spending

Spend your money intentionally and only on things you need or things you truly love.

Let the items and experiences and consumables you purchase be things that reflect your true values and needs. Avoid impulsive purchases.

Gift your spouse a vacation or concert tickets or some kind of memorable, life-changing and mentally-enriching activity rather than disposable stocking stuffers. Buy people things that will improve their lives instead of cluttering it.

I have set a budget and stuck to it and I spend time thinking about costs in my life and how they can be minimized to only serve what matters.

5. Reducing Waste

Focus on living sustainably both in the food you buy as well as the products.

Purchase one good reusable water bottle and take it with you everywhere. Get some reusable tote bags for shopping and keep them in your car, backpack, or purse.

Buy reusable containers and reusable silicone zip-top bags that can be repurposed in a number of ways instead of used and discarded.

Over time, you’ll have a small collection of quality possessions that will stand the test of time and you’ll know you have that need covered with something practical.

My Yeti rambler and my reusable spork are travel essentials.

6. Focusing on Health and Well-being

Remember that your health and well-being are the cornerstones of living with clarity and purpose.

Prioritize activities that promote physical and mental health like regular exercise, spending some time in the sun, writing, reading, creating, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, and practicing meditation and mindfulness.

I have recently lost 53 lbs and I want to lose 70 more before the year’s end. I am pursuing my YouTube channel to keep myself creatively active. I am trying to practice what I preach.

7. Streamlining Schedules

Simplify your calendar by saying “no” to activities you’re not interested in doing. Don’t do things just because you’re obligated to. Commit to situations you actually wish to be a part of. Prioritize your own joy and fulfillment.

I used to do things just to please other people or serve what they need of me rather than what I need. Once I learned to say “no,” my life has improved drastically.

8. Cultivating Mindfulness and Presence

I try to take the time to meditate every day to allow my emotions time to breathe. I try not to hang onto passing thoughts and let them flow past me once they’ve been processed.

Take the time to appreciate moments like a great meal or time with loved ones or pets and take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you’re safe and really notice those moments of joy and try to embrace them with intentional attention.

9. Emphasizing Experiences Over Possessions

Things will never be what you remember in the late stages of your life. What you will remember are experiences that shaped you and gave you perspective. You’ll remember laughs and learning experiences that helped you grow as a person.

Focus on creating memories like these through experiences such as travel, personal hobbies, or spending time with loved ones.

I have gone on many trips with my wife over the course of our relationship as well as some solo adventures and every one of them lives in my brain as a thoughtful, beautiful memory. I wouldn’t trade experiences for any replaceable, physical object.

10. Creating a Personal Sanctuary

Always remember to protect your peace, no matter the cost.

Create a living space for yourself that promotes calmness, organization, and protects you from unnecessary distractions.

A reading nook, a clutter-free workspace, a minimalist office, or a bedroom without the distractions of the outside world can promote clarity and creativity and help you feel well.

I have severely limited the number of items in my office and bedroom over the years and it’s helped to promote restful sleep and keep me focused on work and productivity when the time calls for it.

By embracing these principles, individuals can create a more meaningful, focused, and fulfilling life, free from the distractions and stress of unnecessary excess.