How to Be a Good Minimalist


how to be a good minimalist

1) Toss Your Excess: Minimalism is a lot more than getting rid of your junk, but it’s an essential first step. As you clear your attics, your basements, your closets, and your car, you’ll come to realize that something bigger is changing than just  your outward physical space. You’re changing too. This first step can’t be skipped. Each and every one of us has to downsize, face the decisions, fill the bags and boxes, and drive them away from our lives. It is step number one for a reason.

2) Reduce Exposure to Media: The average American sees around 5,000 marketing messages a day. Start cutting back your exposure to advertising and marketing in television, magazines, and online. Consumerism is like a drug, and we’re all recovering addicts. Reducing your exposure will keep the daily consumer drip feed from entering your brain.

3) Reduce Exposure to Shopping: Step number three is to minimize how much new stuff comes into your life. This is the part I forgot to focus on for too many years. You can downsize all you want, but if you’re always out there searching for the perfect something, you’re going to find plenty of perfect somethings. A good minimalist knows that by slowing the cycle of shopping it will also slow down the cycle of temptation.

4) Follow your Heart: Don’t listen to anyone else’s rules, anyone else’s numbers, anyone else’s comfort levels. Listen to your inner minimalist, the one buried inside you underneath a stack of Target bags. That inner minimalist will steer you straight. Your inner minimalist will care for your Great Aunt Katie’s ring, saving it from “the great jewelry purge of 2012″. Your inner minimalist will preserve the important family photos. But your inner minimalist will also say no to the cheesy door prize you won ten years ago that you only keep to remind yourself you won something. It will rail against the bad 80′s clothes that you haven’t fit in since 1989. And it will fight to release the old unused exercise equipment, dare I say “treadmill”, that’s hiding in your spare bedroom, shrouded in dust.

These four steps will take you far down the road of minimalism. It’s a journey, and much of the pleasure is in the trip. Focus on the path rather than the destination and see how your life becomes limitless in the face of limits.

How to be a good minimalist?

Toss lots of stuff.

Stop using so much stuff.

Stop buying so much stuff.

Listen to your inner minimalist.


the minimalist packrat clutter bootcamp


47 Responses to “How to Be a Good Minimalist”

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  1. Hi everyone,

    I thought this would be a fun quick little post to set everybody up for a fantabulous monday morning. My personal update is the botanical gardens trip was cancelled this weekend due to heavy rains. We had a no-name storm pass by with wind gusts up to 75 miles an hour. I love a good tropical storm and this one achieved almost-hurricane proportions. So no botanical gardens, but today I will be out in the yard with Patrick and Cora, doing a lot of clean-up work from branches and brush that got knocked down. It’s one of the things I love about being self-employed. Clean up won’t have to wait till next weekend! I’ll just play hooky from working on my online projects this morning. :)

    I hope your weekend was absolutely wonderful and I’d love to hear what minimalist action steps you were able to take this weekend!


  2. I love how simple & to the point it is! And it’s absolutely true!!! Cutting back on marketing exposure is definitely a biggie! I’ve found that once I cut a lot of that out, I get overwhelmed when I watch normal TV or flip through magazines. So much time is wasted on advertising!
    Megyn @ Minimalist Mommi recently posted..Success & Failure: Weeks 1 & 2

    • Hi Megyn,

      I’ve been practicing with writing smaller for a few months now, after a long time of making every post a 2,000 word behemoth! I’m glad you enjoyed my simple little list today. :)

      I don’t like giving advertising room in my head, which is why I’ve chosen to minimize my exposure so much. I was excited to read about your tv fast from last week! Very exciting results Megyn!

  3. Annie says:

    This is so true! The hardest part is living with a consumer kid cause she loves to shop. I would rather stay out of the stores after getting what I need but she loves to window shop…
    Annie recently posted..Voices in my Head

    • Hey Annie,

      I’m like Meg, I try to stay away from the temptation as much as possible. I bet it’s tougher with a daughter because all her friends are probably in a shopper mindset. Hopefully your small town doesn’t have too many stores. :)

      I’m lucky that New Smyrna doesn’t have anything. I have to drive a long way to make it to a real store, unless I want to do a Walmart, Kmart or Beall’s.

  4. summer says:

    Love all of your posts. I only read a few minimalists blogs, these too had to be downsized. Yours is one of the best. You always inspire me. Your blog shows the true process. It takes time and it’s lots of work to get rid of things. Then you throw in the emotions and it can really take time. I live in Los Angeles and I’m a native. I have been unemployed for the last two years. I am blessed to live in a 1000 square foot house in a wonderful neighborhood. My two bedroom house has always kept my stuff in control. In 1938 the closets were really small. Makes you wonder…I only shop for food and fill my car with gas as little as possible. I had a yard sale this weekend to get rid of stuff and make money. All the leftovers went to the Goodwill. Now, when I go through stuff I look for gifts for my friends. I have a lovely vintage cocktail shaker that is on it’s way to a friend’s birthday.
    Thank you for all of your help and inspiration, Tanya. I gotta go clean out another drawer. Blessings, Summer.

    • Hi Summer,

      Wow. What a compliment! Thank you so much and I’m glad the packrat helps inspire you. :)

      Those 1938 closets can be very small! Size does do a wonderful job of keeping things in check. I think I’m lucky I never landed in a 2,000 square foot house, because mine wouldn’t have looked like Jill’s does. I would have filled it just like every other space I ever had!

      Two years, huh? That’s a long time to be facing unemployment. I’ll be sending positive wishes your way that a wonderful opportunity opens up for you. The one silver lining in times of unemployment is there’s so much more time to focus on all the life stuff, like decluttering and figuring out if you might want to try a career change. It can be a great chance to sort out all the inner stuff.

      Have fun with that drawer today! :)

      • summer says:

        I truly appreciate the positive thoughts. I have been able to do lots of inner work and spend time with my teenager. I have also recently separated from my husband. Talk about decluttering. Lots of change all at once.
        Love the packrat, love the logo.
        P.S. Went through the jewelry box instead of the drawer.

  5. tammy says:

    i feel like the movement is underground somehow…
    wishing it could go national! and you and patrick can be on good morning america. only…
    let’s rename it “wake up america!”
    your work is important.
    tammy j

    • Hi Tammy,

      I have noticed a definite lulling in minimalism online, with lots of minimalist blogs shutting down recently. However, simple living can also be about minimalism at times, and there are a ton of simple living resources out there too.

      The concept of living with less isn’t going anywhere. It’s been with us since Thoreau and before. With the economic situation I think more families are considering voluntary simplicity more than they would have if the champagne was flowing around the world.

      Good Morning America? My worst nightmare. :) I’d rather quietly go about my business like Flylady does, inspiring change and keeping it simple, but wake up america is definitely happening all around us. One just needs to look at the stand being made on Wall Street right now.

      Thank you for the kind words Tammy. :)

  6. Lorna says:

    Yes, unfortunately, I believe the movement is underground. I am the only one out of my family and friends who is a minimalist. Tanja, even your blog is minimalist….it is simple and to the point. I think that is what keeps me coming back week after week. Please don’t change a thing.

    • Hey Lorna,

      You know me. I’ll change something every single week! But it’s the important stuff that doesn’t change, and that’s the connections with people and sharing something I obviously feel so strongly about. Don’t worry, Minimalist Packrat isn’t going anywhere. I think as the blog approaches it’s one year anniversary, that it’s starting to age quite beautifully, and settle in to a more comfortable level of being.

      Hmmm. Maybe a post about the many names of minimalism is in order. I find new people every day who are sharing their thoughts on living with less, I just don’t always have time to connect with them all. It’s out there and it’s happening all around us. There are people frugally making do, there are people going green and minimizing their footsteps on the planet, there are people downsizing their physical possessions, there are people learning to share resources with the communities around them. Minimalism as a movement is alive and kicking, even if it’s not mainstream.

      p.s. Thank you Lorna. I appreciate you!

  7. Douglys says:

    Hey Tanja and Patrick!
    Been meaning to get on here for awhile. I chose the wordpress site as the new (free) home for the Howl-o e-Den.
    That was a nice way of letting go of an expense without tossing the whole website! thanks for the tip. I also let go of (managed to sell) a space-hogging p.a. system which had been clogging up closet space. That piano which I had always planned to have repaired someday also went, and I even found a good home for it.
    I have a couple of very nice handmade renaissance doublets which I’m going to sell. I have actually outgrown them – not in the belly – but in the shoulders! Yes my day job does have some advantages! LOL
    I’ll have my own gazebo at the Renaissance and Fantasy Faire coming up Halloween weekend. The doublets will no doubt sell there. and hopefully some cds!
    Still giving away sack loads of clothes – there’s a nice and convenient drop off box for “big brothers” on College near ONF.
    Well that ‘s all for now!
    Love you guys!
    Douglys recently posted..Welcome to the New e-Den!

    • Hi Douglys!

      How wonderful to see you here my friend. Do you know I keep threatening (almost daily) to come back up to Arkansas? I like the new site, I just spent some time reading through the whole thing:). I did miss your wolf pictures though. Are you planning on putting them up too?

      Everyone, Douglys is one of those fascinating people who have their fingers in a little bit of everything. We shared many of our crystals with him when we were downsizing and he shared them with everyone he met. It was wonderful! Douglys is also an excellent musician and performer, and a renaissance minstrel. My shameless plug, he and Bella offer cd’s for sale that are delightfully fun when you’re in the mood for some ballads of yesteryore. Everyone if you’ve got a second go check out Douglys at his new wordpress home. :)

      Love you Douglys! Hope the coop is treating you well and that you’re doublets fetch a fair price at the festival.

      • Douglys says:

        Well it would be most awesome to have you guys back up here!
        It’s really cooling off now, perfect time to do it! ;)
        We’ll be glad to start a game night…D&D, Rummikub, Risk, Rook.

        That’s a great idea to post the wolfie pics at the new site. Think I’ll do it.

        I do like this site’s easy going interactiveness. Not like bad ol FB, which was so in-your-face-needy.
        That was such a time-suck!

        oh, and thanks for the kind words on the musical front. I remember when you and Patrick sat for our show that time we were filling in for the belly dancers. It was nice to see your friendly faces in the audience! ;)

        • Douglys says:

          Used the quick-n-dirty method- but herre are those pics, Tanja!
          Douglys recently posted..Welcome to the New e-Den!

          • Douglys says:

            Used the quick-n-dirty method- but herre are those pics, Tanja!
            This time with an actual link ;)
            Douglys recently posted..Welcome to the New e-Den!

          • Hey Douglys,

            Awesome. I went and looked and I think you have even more wolf photos up now than I saw before. If I thought the wolves were beautiful, the wolf puppies are even more!

            That was the first time we met you actually, was at that Renaissance Faire show, or rather, after it. It’s funny I always think we met at the coop, but really it was when you were in full garb and minstrel mode. :)

            I think you’re going to love wordpress as you dig into it more. It’s so incredibly simple, and puts the focus on writing rather than coding. I’ve gotten spoiled and never want to look at code anymore. :)

            I bet it is cooling off up there, and I’ve got a feeling the leaf color is amazing. And what comes next, the firefly festival or has that already passed? I miss all the events up in Fayetteville so much!

            • Douglys says:

              yes I’m liking wordpress even more as I delve into it. Like, I just found out how to do sub-pages, and used the wolf pics page for that under howlz, as you found.

              yeah the firefly fest has passed. I didn’t go this year.

              We went to a George Washington Carver shin-dig and although it was fun overall, they fell prey to a trend I’m noticing in faires, more and more, and that’s that all the really cool and fun stuff is geared towards kids. It’s like parents are resigned to just blandly walking thru the festival, watching their kids to all the fun stuff. Many of these activities would also be fun for adults, but they’re not supposed to have fun at faires, I guess.
              I watched the puritan “no-fun” zone eat away at the Ren and Fantasy scene last decade. But it was a tough decade for having fun here at any rate. Ready for that pendulum to swing back around.
              Douglys recently posted..Welcome to the New e-Den!

  8. Jill Foley says:

    Some day I dream of living away from town – away from stores that are all too easy to walk into or drive to when they are just up the street. I think one of the most important keys for me is to stay out of stores as much as possible. I am much, much better about only coming out with what I went in for, but there is still always temptation and I don’t always resist.

    My ways are rubbing off, though….I noticed a pile of clothes on our closet floor and when I asked my husband about them he said, “Well, I got 2 new shirts so I knew 2 had to go.” : )

    Thank you for yet another great post. I love the simplicity of it.
    Jill Foley recently posted..Weekend Women’s Retreat

    • Hi Jill,

      I love that your honey already had 2 shirts ready to go. He’s really taking to this minimalism thing well!

      Staying out of stores is key for me too. I went into Target a few weeks ago for a specific thing and I found myself getting distracted by all the pretty colors. It’s like my brain shuts down, I forget what my bank account balance is, and I start justifying left and right! Luckily Patrick was at my side that day and I walked away without giving in to temptation. Not having a kitchen, bathroom or living room of my own also helps. There are less options for things to decorate! :)

      I hope your retreat was absolutely divine. I’m going to go read all about it right now. :)

  9. Sky says:

    Great post. I really enjoy your down too earth blog as I minimalize my home. Your photos are always very nice too.
    Sky :)

    • I’m glad you enjoy it Sky! It’s a lot of fun to work on, and I feel blessed that I have enough time right now to do it. :)

  10. Willow; says:

    Simplicity/minimalism has been around for a very long time, but it seems like it has always been less than mainstream. Maybe it’s because people are basically selfish and think that more makes them better or richer. But we know better :)

    I like this post because it’s to the point. Have less stuff. Make it less. Keep it less. (But how can I still have so much stuff in my house when I’ve gotten rid of a ton and don’t bring much in???)

    I’ve been wondering about the minimalism blogs disappearing and think that some people just wanted to jump on a bandwagon and maybe make some dinero or maybe they realized that a blog was complicating their lives not simplifying them.
    Willow; recently posted..Some Mobility

    • Hi Willow,

      It’s funny how sometimes it isn’t the groundbreaking stuff, sometimes it’s the simple repetition of basic concepts that can have the strongest impact. Hmmm, was my 3rd grade teacher right and that’s why we had to do the multiplication tables so many times? Get rid of stuff, shop for less stuff, look at less commercials for stuff, and follow your heart along the way. It’s simple in the end!

  11. Mia says:

    Great article Tanja!

    I must admit, I DO still love to window shop. I justify it as “research” – if I know exactly what is out there, then when the time comes when I do have to buy something, I will be informed. When I first went minimalist (I like to call it Spartan Chic!) I refused to enter the shops at all, and occasionally I would legitimately need something like clothes for work and freak out! Too much choice! What is good quality? What is expensive nowadays? What the hell do I do with THIS thingy?? Aaah!!

    I have noticed though, that as much as I like to look at the pretty things, I rarely if ever buy anything. I just dont feel the pull any more, I get tired simply thinking about where I will put that thing and it turns me off! My mindshift seems to have been so complete it’s freakish, except for one or two small areas… like shoes and nail polish. Which it is generally best to avoid. Maybe I’m just minimalistish after all. :)

    • Spartan Chic. I love it Mia!

      I wish I had your resistance for window shopping. Research away girl! I know you’re wardrobe probably looks a lot better than mine from all that window shopping. :) Life has to have some fun in it, and a little bling is an awesome thing. A little bling, whatever form it takes, can be that wonderful little spark of individuality and fun. Without it what would our world be? A little more boring that’s for sure. :)

      And hey, you know you’re still human if you have low resistance to shoes and nail polish. :) My weakness lately has been bedspreads of all things. Luckily for my budget the last two I “tried” out were five dollars from a thrift shop!

  12. Nina Nelson says:

    I wish my in-laws read this blog. They are so bogged down by their clutter. To the point where I can only go there for very short periods of time. My mother-in-law knows that she should have less, but is so overwhelmed by it that she won’t start. It’s so sad. When I read your story about your stuff, I said, “Oh my gosh, that sounds just like them!” I pray that they will have the revelation that you did and come to where you are now. Family visits would be so much more pleasant. :)

    P.S. What font do you use on the site? I love it!
    Nina Nelson recently posted..How to Get Your Spouse on Board With Your New Diet

    • Hi Nina,

      You know they just might find a way to change. When we moved in with Cora I didn’t know what we were going to do because she had some serious packrat habits going on. We slowly created change, and now she’s the one keeping those changes going. A lot of stuff can move out of a house in not very much time at all. Here’s something I wrote about it a while back that’s one of my favorite pieces of writing I’ve done on the blog. It might help a little. :)

      p.s. The font is Buda, and it’s a google font. It was nice to see you here again Nina!

  13. Bliss says:

    Great, pointed reminders! Thank you. Tanja, am I missing how to subscribe to you by email? Didn’t I get emails before? I am so confused…help. xxBliss

    • Hi Bliss,

      I should probably email you to make sure they’re not landing in your spam box. It’s funny, I explained stuff in my latest newsletter that would have cleared it up, but you didn’t get it. How’s that for ironic!

      Long story sort of short:

      I switched the email newsletter to only go out once a week. It just felt invasive sending emails into people’s inboxes 3+ times a week, even if they were just blog post updates. Plus there’s some really weird law I just found out about, where you have to post a physical address on an email newsletter or you can get fined hugely. I’m contemplating lots of stuff with the newsletter right now. I either need to pay for a p.o. box so I can put that on, or share my home address with all my subscribers. I don’t like complicating my life with new things, and paying for a p.o. box for that one purpose is a complication, so in the meantime I’m still doing the newsletter but I’ve hidden the sign-up form while I sit with it and think it through.

  14. I forgot to tell you all about the photo. Patrick took the picture near Madeira Beach by the bird sanctuary. This guy and some of his friends were hanging out on the lawn of a beautiful beach house we walked by on our way to the ocean. I’m not sure what kind of bird it is, because I’d never seen any like them before. He stood by very quietly and posed as Patrick snapped a half dozen shots off and I made oooohing noises. We were about five feet away from him and he didn’t seem nervous of us humans at all. :)

  15. It must have been fun to get some interesting weather. How did the new Tiny House hold up to it?

  16. EcoCatLady says:

    I am such a shitty minimalist… I really am. I am currently struggling with buying stuff… which is really not in my nature. I HATE shopping in fact. But lately I’ve been trying to solve some problems which have required me to buy some stuff… and it’s SOOOO frustrating. Because once you start buying things to solve a problem, you get back into the whole mode of buying things, and then you’re sunk.

    Seriously, I know that biking is supposed to be a “green” hobby… but I’ve bought more shit than I can count to try to solve bike issues in the past 6 months. The worst has been the butt pain problem… I’m on bike seat number 6… SIX!!! how crazy is that?!? Plus I’ve tried all sorts of padded pants, shorts and every type of underwear – or lack thereof… AAAARRRRGGGGG!!! And it’s not like you can return underwear once you’ve tried it out and found that it didn’t help. Sigh. I had a similar problem with pillows… I’m not picky really… I’m just trying to find a way to sleep more than a few hours without neck pain, or ear pain, or shoulder pain, or my arms falling asleep. But now I have like 20 pillows and still the problem isn’t solved…

    So then all of this buying shit to try to solve problems leads me to problems… like, if I can buy things for this reason, why can’t I buy something that I actually want? And this led to a new set of glassware for the kitchen… OK from the thrift store, but really, I didn’t need it, and a few new Pyrex casseroles that I really didn’t need, plus a handful of other stuff…. Grrrrr….

    So what do you do in these situations? I mean I know some shopping is inevitable, but how do you do it without falling of the wagon completely?
    EcoCatLady recently posted..How the Other Half Lives

  17. Dmarie says:

    very nice! love your minimalist approach to this post!
    Dmarie recently posted..Happy America Recycles Day!

  18. Claudia Buckner says:

    I know you’re wardrobe probably looks a lot better than mine from all that window shopping. I wish my in-laws read this blog. Because once you start buying things to solve a problem, you get back into the whole mode of buying things, and then you’re sunk. Yes, unfortunately, I believe the movement is underground.
    Claudia Buckner recently posted..Arthritis Tips

  19. Rachelle Harrison says:

    Ready for that pendulum to swing back around. Keep it less.
    Rachelle Harrison recently posted..Many Mops

  20. The speedy form with tummy reducing exercise easy

  21. I am a minimalist person. I don’t want to have a lot of things inside on my house. I feel I am free when the things are just small inside my house. I can move freely when the there are no such accessories in my place.
    Barbara Aniston recently posted..What Makes Performer5 Standout?

  22. I am not a minimalist person yet I don’t want a lot of things this year inside my home so that is why I just seldom went to shopping. I just went on the mall if I have important thing to purchase like my necessities.
    Katleen Quinlan recently posted..Natural Remedy for Nail Fungus

  23. Frieda Buckley says:

    I know you’re wardrobe probably looks a lot better than mine from all that window shopping. I bet it’s tougher with a daughter because all her friends are probably in a shopper mindset.
    Frieda Buckley recently posted..Top Realtors in Murrieta CA

  24. Jess says:

    Thanks for a great blog! – I just sold my old TV, after a month i didn’t miss it at all!
    I tried to make a list of the most essentials things for a minimalist, what is your thoughts on this?

    Keep posting and inspire us :)
    Jess recently posted..Twelve essential possessions for minimalists

  25. Orion Pond says:

    “Don’t listen to anyone else’s rules, anyone else’s numbers, anyone else’s comfort levels. Listen to your inner minimalist, the one buried inside you underneath a stack of Target bags. That inner minimalist will steer you straight. Your inner minimalist will care for your Great Aunt Katie’s ring, saving it from “the great jewelry purge of 2012″. Your inner minimalist will preserve the important family photos.”

    This struck a chord with me, although I am not as sentimental, especially when it relates to other people, so I don’t have any heirlooms or important family photos, but I am reassured that my “inner minimalist” (love that) won’t let me get rid of my bison horn cup that I picked out with my family at the Alafaia River Rendevous, even if it is an odd trinket, or my collection of orca paraphernalia, because they bring me such joy whenever I look at them, but it will still let me downsize my collection if I have too many duplicates or they become worn out/damaged.


  1. [...] 3) Reduce Exposure to Shopping: Step number three is to minimize how much new stuff comes into your … Tw:…on  [...]

  2. [...] Does anyone know what happened to Tanya and her posts just stopped. Nevertheless her posts are still worth revisiting. Check this one out How-to-be-a-good-minimalist [...]

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