A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Minimalism is my Diet

I read three interesting posts this week that had me thinking about my motivation for minimalism. Jenny’s post on Minimalism and the Need for Control, Rachel’s post about two four letter words: Debt and Diet, and Joshua’s post on the continued pursuit of becoming minimalist. As I reflected on these posts, I thought about minimalism and what it means to me.

This post is not about eating or how to have a healthy minimalist diet. (In fact, I had fun with the irony of the pizza at the top of a “diet” post). If you’d like help with that, Jurino has some really neat posts about minimalist diets. This post is about the correlation between healthy eating habits and the healthy life choices of minimalism.

Minimalist and Taking Control

I think Jenny is right to some extent. Minimalism does involve the element of wanting to take control of your life. I definitely don’t think that’s a bad thing if the control serves a larger purpose. It can’t just be about control for the sake of wanting to control things. I’ve met plenty of people who just want control because they love it, but that’s not the goal here.

Taking control of your life through minimalism is meant to serve a greater purpose. You might be taking control of your clutter to create a more peaceful home. You might be taking control of your spending to escape the confines of debt. You might be taking control of your busy schedule to make room for more free time. Minimalism is like any goal we strive for. Nothing will happen on its own without taking control, making choices, and pursuing it on purpose.

Minimalism is My Diet

Back to my diet analogy. I see pursuing minimalism like pursuing a healthy diet.

Here’s what I mean:

  1. Minimalism and a healthy diet require you to make good choices. If I want to be healthy, then I must continue to make healthy choices every single day. I won’t someday arrive at the point of being so healthy I never have to consider what I eat or whether I exercise. It is a daily choice of what I consume and how I treat my body. In the same way, you must continually evaluate what to buy, what to keep, and how to spend your time. Minimalism is never done.
  2. Like a diet, minimalism must be customized to each individual. I have a friend with an insanely fast metabolism. Her whole life has been a struggle to maintain muscle mass and stay at a healthy weight. I only wish I had this problem. Clearly, our eating and exercise habits are not interchangeable because what works for her wouldn’t work for me. Minimalism is unique for everyone as well. Some of the foundational truths remain the same, but what it looks like will vary from person to person.
  3. Everything requires moderation. No one gets healthy overnight. Have you ever stressed your muscles because you worked them too hard? It takes time to recover from that. Recovering from clutter overload takes time too. Setbacks are normal. Consider each baby step you make as progress towards your ultimate goal. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get there as fast as you’d hoped.
  4. Pushing your “diet” onto others is not typically accepted very well. Recently I decided to change my eating habits and do a better job at exercising. It’s definitely a big challenge eating a different diet when the rest of the household of 10 people aren’t eating the same way. I can’t expect to tell other people what to eat and what not to eat just because I’ve made certain personal choices. Minimalism requires compromise as well. You can’t tell everyone they’re horrible if they don’t want to throw out all their books and collectibles just because you chose to. Living well and feeling free is the best life example because it’s contagious and people will want to know how to live that way too.
  5. To be successful, the change must become a lifestyle. Fad diets and 6 week body makeovers typically don’t last. If you want long lasting change, it must become a permanent way of life for you. Come to the realization that you will be becoming minimalist forever if that’s the path you’ve chosen. Don’t be afraid of taking the control necessary to pursuing a lifelong goal. Eventually the changes will come easier and easier as one change leads to another and they lead to your new “normal” way of life.


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Article originally published on 03/31/2011

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  1. Hi Faith! Thanks for the mention. 🙂

    This is a powerful post and a good reminder that minimalism — like healthy living — is not a destination, but rather a lifelong journey. I find that as I weed out the excess in my life I have more time and choices. But it’s so gradual. I still have that sense of urgency to get there faster. And yes I know, the tortoise always “beats” the hare. Slow and steady wins the race… 😉

    • Faith Janes says

      I’m always impatient to make a big change happen RIGHT NOW! By the time I make that mental shift, I can’t wait to get where I want to be. So I understand where you’re coming from, but you’re right…the outward changes are more gradual.

  2. I never looked at minimalism in the form of a diet, but what a great analogy. It totally is. For me I have just started the process of getting rid of unneeded necessities. I am really trying to simplify my life and un-crowd my surroundings. I recently moved in with my boyfriend and I had to downsize in order to make our living arrangements LIVABLE. I gave away bags and bags of clothes, over 100 pairs of shoes and now I am starting to sell my possessions on craigs list. At first it was very hard to give these things up, like in a diet having to give up your favorite foods. But once you give it up, it gets easier as time goes on. Now, I don’t have that same connection with these material things. I am also looking towards a goal…. to be traveling and when I am traveling I don’t want all these “things”. When you are doing any sort of diet there is always an end goal that helps you get to the next stages and steps. I loved this post. I am saving in my personal folder. 🙂

    • Faith Janes says

      Thanks for commenting, Meg. Like you, we started downsizing because our living situation demanded it. It seemed overwhelming at first, but it simply came down to “Do I value my stuff more or what I want to accomplish more?”

  3. I think that another part of the analogy could be that it takes some “pain” some effort to get results down the road. With dieting and with minimalism. 🙂
    I agree that you have to decide what works best for you! And you cannot push it onto other people!
    Great analogy and great post!
    Getting more work done in less time

  4. Love this analogy! So true. Your writing is so spot on, Faith.


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