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Minimalist living: 10 rules to simplify & change your life

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These 10 minimalist rules are awesome guidelines that will help you simplify your home and your life.

Why would you want a minimalist lifestyle?

Living with less stuff can have an incredible impact on your life. There’s less stress because you’re no longer surrounded by so much stuff. That stuff is telling you “You need to clean me,” “You can’t relax while I’m heeeerrrreee.”

We also spend so much less time cleaning and looking for things. Do you spend time shuffling things around so you can clean? Do you spend time “organizing?” or “tidying up” a lot?

How many times have you searched and searched for something that was right in front of you, but you couldn’t see it amongst your stuff?

Here are 10 of the best minimalist rules to simplify your life

Don’t feel like you need to jump on all 10? Maybe try starting with one and seeing how it goes. After you’re comfortable, try another!

20/20 rule for minimalist living

If you’ve ever said “but I could use it one day.” This tip is for you. The 20-20 rule makes decluttering the just-in-case stuff a breeze!

The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus invented this great minimalist rule:

If you don’t use it and you can replace it for less than $20 in 20 minutes, you can declutter it!

I LOVE this tip. So often we hold onto things because we think we might use something one day. This is basically what our garages, sheds, kitchens and storage units are full of!

Now I know, you might say “But I MIGHT use it one day and it seems awfully wasteful to declutter something AND spend money on it again! Shouldn’t I just keep it?” 

The point is to declutter things, not to keep them. Chances are you will not need to repurchase these items because you truly aren’t using them.

I’ve only ever once repurchased something I decluttered. It was six 2-litre jars for making kombucha. I also DO NOT regret not having those darn jars kicking around for a year while they were gone!

Think of all the things in boxes that you haven’t looked at in years or decades. Do you want things taking up your storage space?

20 minute timer with a $20 Canadian bill and a $20 American bill is a great minimalist rule to simplify life

Capsule wardrobe and minimalist living

One little rule a lot of us minimalists live by is a simplified wardrobe.

A capsule wardrobe is a wardrobe where every piece (ok, ALMOST every piece) can work with other pieces to make easy outfits.

Why would this be helpful for a minimalist lifestyle? The more we simplify decisions, sort clothes, and more in our daily lives, the better!

It’s way easier than it sounds too!

The first step is to declutter ANYTHING that does not fit, look good on your, or that you don’t wear. I know, you might be worried about some items that COULD fit soon, so check out this video where I tackle that https://youtu.be/XjOo9wII1wc

The second step is to sort out any neutrals: blacks, greys, whites, and beiges

The third step is to sort out what colours you have. Do they clash? If only a few clash, no worries!  

Recognize what works and what doesn’t work. Are there some that are seasonal and others that are not? 

For example, around Christmas time I have a bit more red in my wardrobe. In the summer, I wear more pink.

off-white sweatshirt with 'merry' written in red on the front is a random part of my minimalist wardrobe

The rest of the year, I can grab almost any top or bottom and they will USUALLY work together.

You can go very strict and declutter ANYTHING that doesn’t work with everything, but I think making sure most of your clothes work together will work very well for a capsule wardrobe.

Clothes and Mirror Inside a Room with matching colours to create a capsule wardrobe

Daily routine – declutter

It’s the little things in life that make for a beautiful and peaceful life. I love the idea of creating a loose outline for a daily routine. 

In my home, 4/5 of us have ADHD and routine is our friend! Just to be clear, we don’t like routines, but we do best with routines.

Think of it like keeping your bowling ball in the lane with the bumper sides up. The routine is the same way, it supports you.

If you’re trying to declutter, a routine is a great way to make a conscious effort to work on your physical space.

What’s the best way to create a routine?

The first thing to do is identify what major priorities you have for the day. Things like meals, work, school, sleep, etc.

Write those down

Next, what is usually on your to-do list? 

Any chores? Commitments? Exercise (the nurse in me says exercise SHOULD be a priority, but you do you)?

Psst, this is where you can put decluttering in.

Then, plunk the to-do list items amongst the priorities

I LOVE the idea of anchoring one activity to another. Like decluttering when you arrive home from work, or doing yoga after dinner. Something like that.

Post the schedule on the fridge or somewhere else you see it

It’s not meant to be ridged, but to be a loose guideline to help you stay on track with your goals and daily habits…like decluttering!

No is your best friend

Consider this rule for a minimalist social life. Do you ever find yourself regretting commitments to things? Perhaps a family member roped you into heading to a craft fair you don’t want to attend, or some other thing you agreed to that will take a lot of time that you don’t want to give?

I love the saying “No is a complete sentence.” A lot of us say yes to things that we don’t want to do because we feel obligated to.

Saying No to most things is the quickest way to take control of your life. I’m not saying don’t do anything and say no to everything, but consider saying this

“I’ll need to check my calendar, I’ll let you know IF I CAN.” (don’t yell that last part, but it’s important to let them know it’s a NO unless it becomes a YES).

One of the things I learned on my minimalist journey is that I can be a people pleaser. I used to do things because I wanted people to like me or not get mad at me. 

The reality is that you only have one life and you need to be the one making the conscious choice to fill up your calendar.

Another example of when saying No is a good idea is when people want to give something to you that you don’t need. So often we have loving people who want to declutter THEIR things to us! 

Oh, this happens so much. A sweet family member shows up with a box and says “I thought you might like some of these things.” Nice? yes! Unfair? Also, yes.

When we declutter our things to other people (or in this case, they are decluttering something to you), we release ourselves from deciding to let something go. 

A planner with blank pages is a great minimalist rule to keep your calendar clear.

How to buy new things as a minimalist

One of the best minimalist rules I live by is only buying things that will have their own home in my home.

I used to go shopping and buy a new sweater, yet my closet was crammed full! Or I’d buy a small kitchen appliance but think I’d just throw it on the already cluttered kitchen counter.

One of the good things about this rule is it makes you pause before you buy something. I now find myself asking “Do I need to declutter something to make room?” “Do I really need this item?”

A die-hard minimalist might rarely buy new things, but I just like to live with fewer things in general. I call myself Minimalist Lite. I have hobbies, and some of those hobbies require physical possessions. HOWEVER, I am very thoughtful and careful when bringing new things into my home.

Don’t just love the simple rule of a place for everything and everything in its place?

Woman Holding Paper Shopping Bags being careful what to bring in her home as a minimalist rule

Perfectionism is a bad habit

Not only is perfectionism a bad habit, but it’s also impossible to be perfect. Literally, nothing on this earth can be perfect.

One of the things I’ve learned in my own personal growth journey is there is no perfect thing and there are no perfect people. 

You can either be productive or you can be a perfectionist.  If you find yourself spending time finding the right strategy, the right boxes, and the right donation centre, you’re not only being a perfectionist, but you’re procrastinating.

I LOVE the minimalist principles of just relaxing and letting life be simple. Do the thing. Let it be what it will be.

Joy in letting go

One of the main themes of minimalism is decluttering and letting things go. Some people really struggle with this and don’t see decluttering as a joyful habit. This is understandable because so many of us struggle with the simple idea of letting things go. Many of us learned from a young age to hang onto things. To “keep things for good” as my dear mom would say. 

Once you realize that one of the benefits of minimalism is creating a simple life, and whenever you declutter something you are one step closer to that simple living.

If you take your time and consider the weight being lifted as you continue growing your new skills as a minimalist, you will recognize that the long haul is worth it. You are gaining more and more freedom.

There truly is so much joy in letting go on this minimalism journey. The joy is in the process just as much as it is in the results.

[To learn my decluttering process, check out this comprehensive guide on my blog post here] https://minimalisthome.ca/80878/a-to-z-minimalist-home-decluttering-strategies/

Digital and social media minimalist rules

Digital minimalism is starting to be all the rage. Have you seen some of these screens?

Person Holding Iphone Showing Social Networks Folder. A helpful minimalist rule is to avoid too much social media

You can even make them black & white! I don’t know about that one, but the idea of detaching more from my phone feels good.

When we practice digital minimalism, we can reduce distractions and be more productive. We might also notice that we are more creative and perhaps even spend more time with actual humans!

Here are a few ideas.


As you declutter and “go minimalist”, you can create helpful rules about digital things in addition to material possessions. Did you ever realize what a drag having a bursting inbox is? or having to wade through newsletter after newsletter to just find an email from your bank? Yup, me too.

One of my favourite new habits is to tidy up my inbox on Fridays! 

I sit down after the day is done, pop a chocolate in my mouth (I need a reward after all) and spend a small amount of time decluttering my inbox because it doesn’t take long if you do it regularly.

Social Media

Another great thing to focus on decluttering is having a strict set of rules around social media. Have you ever realized how much time you spend on Instagram or Facebook? Your phone gingerly reminds you that you’ve gone over 3 hours for the day? Yikes!! 

How do we fix this?

It can be hard, but I like the idea of starting good habits with the ol’ routine I mentioned above. Just add when you want to access your social media to your schedule. Perhaps you ONLY look at social media after lunch, then you delete (or hide it) off your phone?

Mindful living

One of my favourite parts of the minimalist mindset is to be mindful in my everyday life.

Mindfulness is being mentally active in what you are doing. Living in the present moment. Being mindful is one of the simple changes you can make each day to focus more on life. 

Here are just a few ways you can be mindful and live a more purposeful life.

Mindful buying

I already mentioned above that having an awareness of where things will go once you buy them is helpful, but consider mindful shopping.

Whenever you are buying anything from food to clothes, consider that you are, perhaps, becoming a minimalist and as a rule, you are focusing on having fewer possessions. Sometimes I pass by some random thing in the grocery store and think “Oh my gosh Achiote paste!! I saw a recipe once for that, I should buy it!” But should I? No, I don’t even know where the recipe is. I’ll buy it and never use it (true story…I bought it, sigh).

Do you really need another comfy sweater if you have ten in several colours? Probably not.

Mindful finances

Ever since I started using You Need a Budget https://www.ynab.com/, life has been easier. I’m not promoting it, but they have a SERIOUS following because they are such a great company and the system works (a wee bit of a learning curve though).

Finances are one of the most important areas of your life because if they’re out of control, life can get even more stressful. 

Creating a simple budget can allow for awareness of where and how you want to spend your money can be life-changing.

For me, one of the most important things is to live simply and being mindful of my finances helps.

Mindful eating

I remember years ago watching an episode of Oprah where a lady was sitting down and eating an apple with some parmesan cheese. She just sat there enjoying it and doing nothing else.

I will admit, I’m a bit of a foodie, so the idea of just sitting down and enjoying my meal without distraction sounds really nice and peaceful, yet I’m the first to reach for my phone.

So often we live with mental clutter distracting us from what we are doing, but mindfulness is a great way to connect with life and what we are doing.

Mindful everything else

How about mindful exercise or mindful walks? Talk about peaceful minimalist practices. Just be present with yourself and nature (or your treadmill).


One of the most basic principles in many religions is gratitude. Gratitude is the practice of appreciating things in your life whether they be people, experiences or even material things. Gratitude might seem like a buzzword, but I think gratitude is a lovely way to lighten your mental load because it can help reduce stress and even encourage some self-reflection.

“Gratitude is the sweetest thing in a seeker’s life – in all human life. If there is gratitude in your heart, then there will be tremendous sweetness in your eyes.” – Sri Chinmoy

I used to be kind of a grump when things weren’t going well. Now I realize that there can be gratitude in everything, even the hard stuff. I do still prefer the fun stuff more, obviously.

Whenever I’m exercising, I thank God (you can thank whoever you like) for my legs! I am SO happy to have strong legs that allow me to walk or run! If I open the window, take a deep breath, and smell the fresh air, I am so thankful for the experience of crisp spring air.

If you start looking for things to be grateful for, you might notice your mood and even mental health improve.

Using these minimalist rules can help your whole life

You may think, ugh, I don’t know about making these changes, I’m afraid of strict rules. First off, you do what works best for your day-to-day life. What works best for you?

One of the amazing things I’ve noticed in my own life is that I truly have less stress. I’m no longer fighting my house to relax. I also am not struggling to move things around to clean. I can quickly clean and then relax. It’s glorious.

I also enjoy having way more time to relax at home. No more marathons of “organizing” or cleaning up all the time. Sure, I declutter still (I mean, stuff still comes in), but it takes very little time. Maybe 5-10 minutes per month. I’m not going to lie, the house still gets messy frequently–especially when all 3 kids are home (our eldest is away at University most of the time), but it’s so much easier to clean now! Everything has a place, so tidying is a breeze. More time to chill.

I also spend less money on things I’ll be decluttering soon. One of the best minimalist tips is to ask yourself “Am I going to be decluttering this soon?” If you are, save your money!

My family and I are also more productive now. Because of the ADHD in the house, distraction is no joke! Living in a decluttered environment allows all of us to focus on work or schoolwork much better now.

I also love the look of our home more. We keep less stuff out, and sometimes there are even *Gasp* empty spaces on some surfaces! I love having sentimental items like this photo of my grandparents.

It’s also so much easier to find things! Drawers, closets and storage spaces are not full which makes remembering where things are easier.

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