The Simple Guide To A Minimalist Life


Why is it, do you think, that we just don’t feel like we’re ‘good enough’ unless our lives are full? Of tasks and errands and appointments, but also of stuff – toys and gadgets and the latest gear. The dream car, house, life. The latest phone or laptop. What is it about our overfilled lives that is really so appealing?

We’re so busy trying to get everything done and attain all of life’s goodies, that we forget to stop and look around every once in a while. To even acknowledge the possibility that less, perhaps, could be more.

Take just a moment to consider what it is that’s truly important to you. Start with experiences – what are one or two activities that you truly love (or think you’d love) to do? And how often do those things feature in your life? If life really is *now* (and I’m pretty sure it is), as opposed to something you’re going to get to once you finish being busy, then shouldn’t those things happen daily? Weekly at the very least. Now how about possessions? Think of a handful of items that really matter to you. Things that you’d grab in a fire. Perhaps your book collection, a treasured piece of art, an important piece of jewelery. How frequently do you have the opportunity to enjoy or even notice these things in your oh-so-full world?

And don’t you ever get sick and tired of the endless need to be, have, do, keep up? You know you’re never going to finish that to-do list. You can push yourself as hard as you like, but you’re never going to get to a point where it’s all done, or where you have it all. Kind of wearying, isn’t it? Unless, of course, you decide to give up the chase. To pare back your life until it contains only the bare essentials. I’m not talking about living a spartan existence, but about cutting out the clutter and noise until the only things left are those that really matter to you. Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been busy paring back one previously all-consuming part of my life – my email account. I must have unsubscribed to over 50 newsletters and blogs. I’ve actually been quite shocked at how long this took me to do, I really didn’t think I’d signed up for that much stuff! As someone who regularly receives over 100 emails per day, and who has somehow managed to link feelings of anxiety with high numbers of new emails each morning, you can imagine my delight when I woke up a couple Saturday’s ago to just 4 new emails. All of which were welcome and interesting to me. It was quite the revelation, even if it did leave me wondering how on earth I was going to fill my morning (hmmm, perhaps with something I actually want to do).

And it made me think –

What else can I change? Being a visual person, I decided it was time to attack the way my workspace looked. Out went the old notes to self, the bills (I entered the due dates into my online reminder service), the cards and discount offers I’d been holding on to for who knows what reason. Next came my wardrobe. I threw out boxes and boxes of rubbish, and donated nearly an entire carload of clothes. By the time the day was over, I was on a rampage of file deletion, household Spring clinging and unnecessary-appointment-canceling. And it’s really been quite mind-blowing, the effect all this has had on my life in these past few days. It’s – liberating. By stripping much of my life back to basics I feel, more than anything, as though I’ve cleared out my head. As though I can focus on the things I want to be filling my time with (and time is something I suddenly have so much more of, now that I don’t have to sort through things to find what I want, empty my inbox every 2 hours, waste my time at useless meetings).

Picture 1

I’ve been slowly pursuing the path of minimalism for quite a while now. Almost unwittingly – I think I’d just had enough. But my inspiration to really take things to the next level? To consciously eliminate and to actively start saying no to more? A simple ten buck e-book. It’s called The Simple Guide To A Minimalist Life, is written by Leo Babauta, and is far and away one of the easiest reads I’ve come across of late.

In fact, I skim-read the entire thing in around 15 minutes, including stopping to implement some of the advice on simplifying my MacAir desktop, which is now the calm-inducing image you see on the left, as opposed to a mish-mash of icons, applications, a loaded dock, and a bunch of files that I’m supposedly going to read.

Anyway, here’s a listing of the chapters:

  • A small irony
  • Notes on using this book
  • What is a minimalist life?
  • Overall minimalist principles
  • How to become a minimalist
  • Contentedness
  • Rethinking necessities
  • Simplify what you do
  • Clearing clutter
  • Minimalist home
  • Minimalist workspace
  • Minimalist computer
  • Going paperless, digitizing
  • Minimalist travel
  • Wardrobe and grooming
  • Minimalist food
  • Minimalist fitness
  • Minimalist finances
  • Finding simplicity with kids
  • Dealing with non-minimalist loved ones
  • Minimalism is the end of organizing
  • Step lightly upon this world: on sustainability
  • FAQs
  • Other resources

Click image to purchase

Leo runs Zen Habits, which is one of my favorite blogs and one of the only few to survive the culling of my inbox. I’ll admit I don’t agree with the nutritional advice this book – Leo is a vegan. I don’t think I need to remind you that veganism is pretty much the complete opposite of what I teach (and certainly not a sustainable or green approach to nutrition in my mind, never mind the considerable short and long-term impairments to your health – more in an upcoming post). The great thing even on this point, however, is that Leo does a fine job of demonstrating what has worked for him and allowed him to pare back his home, work, and life to the point where it truly only is about the things he loves, without ever implying you have to follow in his exact footsteps. Each chapter provides brief, clear and very ‘easy-to-believe-in’ advice. I particularly like his use of quotations throughout the book, my favorite being that by Antoine de Saint-Exupe –

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Leo’s own definition of a life of minimalism is that it’s “one that is stripped of the unnecessary, to make room for that which gives you joy.”

And isn’t that what we all ultimately are looking for? More joy, in whatever form that may be for you? For me it starts with more headspace, with the gradual removal of the self-inflicted pressure to be so many different things all at once, and to get everything checked off that never-ending list. And I’m getting there, bit-by-bit. If something similar sounds appealing then click here to purchase your own copy of The Simple Guide To A Minimalist Life. For just $9.95, it just might help you change yours.

5 responses to “The Simple Guide To A Minimalist Life”

  1. A collapsing business (all that clutter) and a need to move across the country this fall have led to a binge of purging unneeded things, and, surprising to me, each item sold/tossed/recycled/etc. leads to “let’s do more of that”. I am convinced a cleaner life is not only possible, but desirable, one piece at a time.

    As for “too many” newsletters, RSS feeds, etc. (and my own secret addiction, podcasts), well, the purge is on there, too.

  2. Kane says:

    Hi Kat,

    I’m fairly new reader of your blog (3-4 weeks now) and now a subscriber to your feed. I also happen to be a once-reader of Zen Habits and wanted to comment a little bit about why I stopped reading ZH; hopefully without sounding like I’m trolling.

    When ZH felt less like a person who was blogging about what he was passionate about and more like it was about a person who was interest in making money blogging I stopped reading. The posts became forced, in some cases redundant, and more often cookie-cutter.

    I also happen to be regular reader of several blogs owned by professional bloggers. So I want to make it clear that I do not in any way think there’s something wrong trying to make money while blogging.

    The reason I’m bringing all of this up is so far I really enjoy your blog (and am slowly working my way through your past entries). I could also use all of fitness/health advice I can get. 😀 By all means, make money if you can, but please, please don’t lose your focus. Your following is growing, I’m proof of that. Don’t change a winning formula (too much). 🙂

    • Kat says:

      HI Kane,

      Welcome to the blog first of all! Great to hear you are getting something out of my posts.

      What you wrote is certainly food for thought, and I sort of understand what you’re saying about ZH. I guess with that many daily readers it would be impossible to maintain a true sense of connection to every one of them though! Please be assured, I chose Leo’s new book as a jumping off point for this post as well as a sales tool, purely because I really do love his blog. And I found the book very motivating; in fact it’s had me get off my butt (so to speak) on several issues this past week. My personal opinion is that I hope ZH does continue to be a great money-making tool for its owner, and my motivation for that is 100% selfish – I want to be able to keep reading it every day. I know how much time and energy it takes me just to write 2 or 3 good (I hope) posts each week, so I can begin to imagine the effort that would come from running a daily blog and all the extra emails/admin/comment moderation etc that that would entail. It is, however, something I strive to do. Writing is my passion and blogging is the vehicle for the time being. But only one that can be sustainable if it mixes income with enthusiasm, as I’m sure you can appreciate!


  3. bonglaz says:

    i 100% agree with that person’s comment. Please dont lose focus. I am also your avid follower..I am a gym buff myself and i love life. I love your blog and the one of Brian Kim.. Keep up the good work and best regards.