Easy tips for be­com­ing a low-key min­i­mal­ist

Take small steps to­ward a more Zen­like ex­is­tence

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - AN­DREEA CIULAC

A self-im­posed fash­ion chal­lenge led Court­ney Carver to be­come some­thing of a min­i­mal­ist guru.

In 2010, the sim­plic­ity blog­ger be­hind Be More with Less down­sized her over­flow­ing wardrobe to a mere 33 pieces.

“I saved money, ex­pe­ri­enced less de­ci­sion fa­tigue and stopped wor­ry­ing about what other peo­ple might think,” she said.

Since then, mil­lions around the world have taken her min­i­mal­ist fash­ion chal­lenge, known as Project 333, to dress with no more than 33 items for three months.

We asked ex­perts how to take small steps to­ward a more Zen­like ex­is­tence.

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Start small to avoid get­ting over­whelmed.

Grab a bin, and pack up ev­ery­thing you don’t re­ally use, sug­gests Joshua Becker, founder and ed­i­tor of Be­com­ing Min­i­mal­ist. If tack­ling an en­tire room feels daunt­ing, start with a drawer or cab­i­net.

Carver sug­gests look­ing for du­pli­cates. Does your fam­ily of three need 10 cof­fee cups?

Af­ter the ini­tial sweep, give your­self time to ad­just be­fore mov­ing on to the next level. For Carver, that meant do­nat­ing all the ex­tras such as tow­els, books and even rarely used ap­pli­ances like a rice cooker. Book­shelves, dressers and chairs were the last to go.

Re­duc­ing fur­ni­ture and art­work to a hand­ful of es­sen­tials might seem too aus­tere for most peo­ple.

One way to keep junk from creep­ing back is to turn down free­bies, ad­vises Bea John­son, founder of the Zero Waste life­style move­ment. John­son, whose fam­ily man­ages to pro­duce just one pint jar’s worth of trash per year, swears by re­cy­cling and swap­ping dis­pos­ables for reusables — hand­ker­chiefs, re­fill­able bot­tles, cloth nap­kins, etc.

The prin­ci­ples of min­i­mal­ism ap­ply to your kitchen and diet too.

Re­becca Sh­ern, the reg­is­tered di­eti­tian be­hind Min­i­mal Well­ness, cooks healthy meals us­ing whole­some foods and a few ba­sic kitchen tools: a cut­ting board, knives, pots, pans, spoons and spat­u­las.

“When you stick with qual­ity in­gre­di­ents and sim­ple prepa­ra­tion meth­ods, the re­sults are al­most al­ways fan­tas­tic,” she said.

Kids

Min­i­mal­ism and chil­dren aren’t mu­tu­ally exclusive. When pack­aged right and age-adapted, the con­cept of own­ing less will ap­peal even to those “col­lec­tor” chil­dren, as Becker likes to call his 10-yearold daugh­ter. “She’s prob­a­bly the least min­i­mal­ist of all of us.”

One strat­egy Becker found help­ful is set­ting phys­i­cal bound­aries. Toys should fit into her closet. All art­work goes into a sin­gle bin.

For his son, who was in­tro­duced to this life­style at 6, those pa­ram­e­ters had to be slightly tweaked: “Pick­ing a closet would have been too dras­tic, so we said the toys should fit along a wall.”

Money

It’s pos­si­ble to cut ex­penses with­out watch­ing every penny or feel­ing de­prived.

Ste­fanie O’Con­nell, a mil­len­nial money ex­pert and au­thor of “The Broke and Beau­ti­ful Life,” sug­gests avoid­ing shop­ping trig­gers such as aim­lessly wan­der­ing around the mall. To ward off an im­pul­sive pur­chase, she said, “imag­ine the item buried in the clear­ance bin at a thrift store.”

Ex­pense-track­ing apps, such as Level Money, can help you stick to your fi­nan­cial goals. So do visual re­minders. Saving up for a down pay­ment for your dream house? Set its pic­ture as your desk­top back­ground, O’Con­nell ad­vises.

Speak­ing of houses, down­siz­ing to a smaller place can en­able you to spend more on things you al­ways dreamed of. Af­ter tak­ing this leap, Carver was able to fund her daugh­ter’s col­lege ed­u­ca­tion. And Becker used the cash sur­plus to start The Hope Ef­fect, a non­profit that builds houses for or­phans around the world.

Splurges, as long as they’re small, have their place. For ex­am­ple, go­ing on a week­end get­away in­stead of your usual week­long va­ca­tion at a beach re­sort will still feel like recre­ation with­out break­ing the bank.

Re­la­tion­ships

Part­ing ways with toxic peo­ple is just as im­por­tant as get­ting rid of ex­ces­sive pos­ses­sions.

Whether you de­cide to cleanse your life of things or peo­ple, don’t ex­pect overnight mir­a­cles.

“If you’ve been ac­cu­mu­lat­ing things for decades, how can you ex­pect to let go in two days? It took me years,” Carver said.

GETTY IM­AGES/IS­TOCK­PHOTO

In 2010, sim­plic­ity blog­ger Court­ney Carver down­sized her over­flow­ing wardrobe to a mere 33 pieces.

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