Minimalism: How to Join the Movement

Minimalism: How to Join the Movement

By Daniel Seifert
Living light can be scary, but life-changing. We explore how being a minimalist at home, work and online can help you refocus on what’s most important

Who would have thought the movie Fight Club would brim with such wisdom? Yet as a smouldering Brad Pitt tells Edward Norton, an everyman obsessed with buying Ikea-like knick-knacks: “The things you own end up owning you.”

Many now think owning too many things may be a part of this anxiety. While this doesn’t mean abandoning a material life completely, it could certainly mean living life more consciously and making clearer priorities. “Minimalism isn’t about empty white rooms with hardly any furniture,” as British minimalism blogger Chris Wray explained to BBC. “It’s about removing all the things that distract us from what’s important in our lives.”


Minimalism isn’t necessarily about throwing possessions away willy-nilly. It’s about looking at the things around you and saying, “Is this what I really need?” And when we cast off the possessions that weigh us down, the results can be remarkable, says Piyush Mohan.

“I live in a pretty small apartment and I started to get stressed just staying at home. I wondered why. Then I looked around one day and there was barely room for me,” he laughs. “The stuff was more important than personal space.” So he sold off reams of clothes, an Xbox he barely played with and dusty exercise equipment he didn’t have room to use — at a tidy profit.

Now Piyush has room to breathe, literally. “I feel like there’s a huge weight off my back. I have less to clean, and more space to invite friends over.”


Sit in a corner of your room for a few minutes and simply let your eye wander over your things. Ask yourself these questions:

  • When is the last time I used that? If it was over four months ago, consider throwing it.
  • Do I have duplicates of this? Throw away one.
  • Can I digitise this? If so, upload your clunky CDs and photo albums at once.

Once you start asking these questions you may find you can discard something from your house every day, even if it’s as simple as expelling your wallet of old business cards.


Want to pay attention? Purge your desk trash. Researchers have found that physical clutter impedes our ability to focus, simply because our visual cortex is jammed up with too many stimuli.

Here’s how to declutter at work in three easy steps:

  • Make it a habit to clean your desk of stray paper, cups and stationery at the end of each day, so you start your morning with a literal blank slate
  • Don’t just own less, do less — within reason. Is there a weekly meeting you’re attending that pointlessly eats up your time, for example? Or time-consuming tasks you can delegate to a junior?
  • Emails beget emails. Cultivate a minimalist inbox by speaking to colleagues in person where possible, and bundling questions into a single email rather than multiple messages.

    Quick tip: Minimise distraction by turning off smartphone notifications, so you don’t get pinged with every status update or LinkedIn request.


Nothing is more exulting than being able to skip checking-in your baggage — which then can’t get lost or delayed. Stay light by:

- Buying clothes at your destination, especially if you’re travelling in Asia, where cheap markets abound. This will also encourage you to explore authentic bazaars, not airless malls.

  • Skipping a toiletry bag if you’re staying at a hotel that provides one.
  • Shedding the three heavyweight travel offenders: shoes, books and towels (which take up space). How? By wearing one versatile pair of shoes, packing a Kindle and buying a microfibre towel that folds up to the size of a book.


Ask yourself at every opportunity: is this adding value to my life? If not, slice it away. It could be a gym membership, a newsletter subscription or as a response to a party invitation.

“Being minimalist isn’t just about stuff,” says Piyush. “It’s about the way obligations, even intangible ones, make you feel.” So keep the stuff that makes you feel happy — or as hit de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo would say, keep only what sparks joy.

Change can be scary, especially when it involves a conscious choice to consume less and be happy with less. When we surveyed thousands of Indians, 17.7 percent said fear and anxiety is holding them back from success.