#22 – Michael Joseph – 3 Tips For Realistic Minimalism

3 Easy Tips for Realistic Minimalism 

In early 2017, I found myself staring into an overflowing closet with absolutely nothing to wear.  I thought how is this possible.  This realization lit my curiosity flame on the trending concept of “Minimalism”.  As I learned more about Minimalism, I realized there was a very negative connotation around owning too much.  You had to be all in, or you weren’t really being minimalistic.  In my own experience, I found that doing what you can and what makes sense is far more important.  I think the first step to approaching realistic.  So, here are my 3 tips for downsizing (realistic minimalism) without going totally insane. 

Define your style

 Remove yourself from fast fashion!  This may take a while.  A lot of fashionistas will disagree with this point because the fashion industry is constantly changing.  However, the articles of clothing are not.  By defining your style, it is much easier to make the most out of all of your clothes.  Why?  Because once you have designed your ideal style, the days of donating a ton of clothes and replacing them are over.  Its more replacing items as they no longer fit or have worn down from wear.  You are replacing your items with similar items. 

Companies like Cladwell are an awesome resource for this.  This smart app helps you take inventory of all your clothes and gives you meaningful data based on what you wear.  You can determine the types of clothes you like to wear, the color combinations, and also what you haven’t worn in the last 90 days. You can be way more intentional with your purchasing.

I used to find myself in the mornings staring at my closet trying to figure out what to wear.  I had so much stuff, surely there was something I would want to wear.  Why was this so difficult?  Because I had not truly asked myself what my style was.  My closet was full of things I had accumulated over the years.  Former selves, Former Fad styles.  I had enough.   I chose to turn on netflix to try to find a documentary about downsizing, and I found exactly that., a documentary called “The Minimalists”.  The documentary featured a woman who did a 30 for 30 challenge. This challenge was picking out 30 total items from her closet and only wearing those 30 items for 30 days (1 month).  She described the process as picking out only the things she liked or could match with for work.  After two weeks, she realized that none of her coworkers noticed that she was wearing the same clothes in different arrangements.  She also noticed that she didn’t miss any of her clothes that were in storage.  I thought to my self, I have to try this.  Now, I took a little more of an extreme approach to this challenge.  I went straight to my closet and bagged up anything I hadnt worn in the last year. I looked at my closet and still saw a TON of stuff. In that moment I realized It wasn’t about what I wore in the last year, It was about what I liked wearing over the last year.  Another round of bagging began.  Before I knew it, 75 % of my closet was going to be donated. I had one pair of blue jeans, one pair of brown pants, a variety of button up shirts for work and a variety of tech tees and shorts for exercise.  I made this decision 3 years ago and never looked back.  Over the last three years, I have always been able to pack up my wardrobe in two bags or less!  How? Because my inventory always stays the same.  I am rotating new items in and old items out according to my style. Identifying your style and what you realistically need will help you enjoy what you wear and not be overcome with the indecision of having too many options. 

Downsize Sentimental 

Too often we lug around too much throughout our lives because these items have sentimental value.  Its an honerable reason to keep items, but also an inconvenient one.  More often than not the purpose a sentimental item is kept is due to a fond memory associated with that item.  When an item is associated with a memory, but serves no function in your home, it just takes up space.  This is why there has been such a boom in the storage unit industry.  Everywhere you look, there is somehow another storage business being built.  Why? Because we can’t get rid of our stuff. 

We may use it later or we like the idea that someday we may need it.  That “idea” is typical sentimental attachment.  We can’t justify the use, but we like to think someday we will.  Decluttering sentimental items will help simplify your home space and potentially save you on the cost of a storage unit.  “But how can you expect me to get rid of something that has meaning to me?”  

By taking pictures!

I am a sucker for memories too, but I don’t let them take physical form.  Ask yourself, how often you you look at these items and bask in the memory associated with that item?  For me, it was everytime I moved into a new place.  I would procrastinate packing and remember why I kept these specific items.  I realized after three moves in two years that these items were only serving a purpose when I was moving.  It was nice to remeninsc, but It was purly an emotional connection and not physical.  So, I took pictures of all of my sentimental items and donated them.  Now I can still occasionally take out the photos and remember, but my physical space at home is not comprimised.  It’s the memories you love, not the items! 

Realistic Use When Purchasing Consumer Goods

Another trap we fall into in our society is justification of purchasing items we don’t need.  A lot of times when we are looking to purchase something on sale or on impulse, we tell ourselves a very specific situation where we can use this item. We never use it.

It’s the justification of buying a new rain jacket because then you can have one for rain and one when you go ski.  

The old jacket works fine…

 It’s buying a special gadget for your kitchen that may or may not save you time peeling a carrot.  

The old peeler works fine…

When I worked in the footwear industry, I was overseeing multiple shoe stores.  I constantly made excuses to justify more shoes in my life.  I once told myself I could use a specific sports sandal for fording a river and bought it. What!!!?  GET THIS, I justified spending money on a sandal specifically for the simple instance of backpacking and crossing a river with shoes on.  It was crazy.  I had way too many shoes and I only wore 25% of them.   

When buying anything now, I have a mandatory waiting period to evaluate and ask my slef 3 questions:  Why do I want this Item?  How do I intend to use this item? Do I have something already that serves the same purpose?  If I can answer all three questions correctly, I buy this item.  


Having too much can be stressful and overwhelming. There’s no shame in wanting to simplify your life.  Just remember that you don’t fit into a box.  Everyone’s journey towards minimalism is different! 

Remember!  The purpose of downsizing is not to have less, it’s to have only the things you enjoy in life.  

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