5 Steps to Start Living Lite

“The philosophy of lifestyle design is actually quite simple. It suggests that there are limitless ways to arrange and configure your life and that the logistics of living are much more flexible than most of us can imagine.” - Clay Collins

In our last post we explored the value of finding our minimum. However, starting this process can be difficult. When I began to drastically reduce my possessions, I followed five basic steps. The following list will help orient us to the idea of living with less and maintain the final product. Hopefully you find them as helpful as I have.

Here are the 5 Steps to Start Living Lite:

1. Visualize. Literally. Finding actual images of what your home/office would look like with less will make your goal tangible. When beginning to minimize, I Googled photos of minimalist apartments and fashion as motivation. To make it real. This does not mean we have to emulate the homes or styles of others, but instead provides possibilities and calms our fear of a the unknown. Remember, the goal is to live a way that provides more space for what matters, not live up to a standard.

2. Conceptualize. Jack White of The White Stripes (TWS) uses a peculiar benchmark to organize his life: the number three. He discovered the magic of three while working as an upholsterer and later applied it to his music. Three staples to secure the upholstery material, three elements to his music: drums, guitar, and vocals. He applied this to TWS image as well: black, white and red. This concept provides a template for how he conducts himself. Having a simple motto or concept to refer to during times of doubt can help clarify our goal and keep us on track. My motto is the Robert Pirsig quote, “The only Zen you find at the top of mountains is the Zen you bring there.” Which emphasizes growing peace at our feet as opposed to chasing “if only” scenarios.

3. Prioritize. Sitting down and writing out a list of what enriches our daily lives can also make our goals more tangible. Start by making three columns. In the first column, list aspects of daily life you cannot go without. This may be friends, family, a favorite book, iPhone or practice (such as clubs, exercise, or religious activity). Next, list aspects that you could but would rather not reduce. Lastly, list the parts of your life that you would like to eliminate or are willing to part with. Be as specific and thorough as possible. If it’s helpful, add a list of things you would like to have more of in your life as well.

4. Organize. After creating a list you may find that more people than products appear in the first column. Now you’re ready to get to work. At this point some suggest the best method is to clear everything out of the cupboards, closets, shelves and drawers and begin to replace items as they’re used. While the initial purge of items can be liberating and exhilarating, a more gradual approach may be easier for the time strapped. Start by identifying local charities and creating a donation box for clothes and goods featured in the third column of your list. Try to add an additional item from the second column of your list each day. If you’re up for it, write down habits and people in your life you’d like to go without and throw them into the box as well!

5. Empathize. Lastly, once we’ve created space in our homes and schedule start filling it with things that we value. Invite people over to share your new minimalist home, leave an hour aside each day to pursue one of the hobbies/passion you’d wished you had time for, or take time to relax. Create a space where you can open up to the needs of yourself and others. With this new found time, we can pursue ventures where our talents can benefit those we care about. An amazing thing happens when we turn down the noise in our lives. We gain a heightened ability to listen to the world and others in a deeper way. When we do this, we begin to see the world through the eyes of another and cherish how we occupy our time.

These 5 steps can be applied repeatedly. Living Lite is a process and requires maintenance, which means time and energy. For example, I’m currently using these to help lighten my busy schedule so I can focus more on writing and planning for my upcoming trip. I find applying these steps makes the task less of a burden and more of a growing process. Habits are hard to break and starting a new lifestyle can seem even harder. However, making our goals vivid and measurable helps reinforce the positive changes taking place.

Photo by Paul B