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When you think of the word minimalism, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of Marie Kondo’s hit Netflix show. Maybe you think of a millennial who doesn’t have time, space, or money for a lot of material items. Or maybe you think of a plain home lacking character. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to minimalism, but the reality is that it can be great for your family, your personal life, and your budget.

One of our transition coaches, Sonya Rodriquez Ph.D., has implemented minimalism into her life and has seen a drastic change in her family and home for the better. Dr. Thayne sat down with Sonya and discussed the benefits of this lifestyle and possible strategies for jump-starting and maintaining this change.

Materialism requires more and more while minimalism reinforces the message that less is more. Sonya describes minimalism as clearing clutter in every way—email inboxes, kitchen cabinets, closets, clothes, home decor—she points out that clutter requires maintenance, so it’s better to reduce that clutter to make more time for what really matters. If you’re spending all of your time managing the clutter in your life, you don’t have time left for your valued relationships.

Years ago, Sonya saw photos from a photographer who asked individuals from different cultures to bring all of their possessions out into the front yard. He photographed the items then published them. Sonya’s eyes were opened to how little other cultures lived with, and she realized that the American photos had exponentially more items than any other photos. With four kids, many toys, and an abundance of things, Sonya decided to simplify her family’s life by adopting a minimalist lifestyle.

One out of 10 American households have a storage unit, while one in four Americans with a two-car garage can’t even park one car inside because of the clutter. If you are in this situation and want to change, Sonya offers five tips that can help you or your teen simplify life and cut back on clutter.

1. When You Bring Something In, Take Something Out

The first rule of minimalism is to evaluate what you are buying and bringing into your home. A good rule of thumb is: when you bring something in, get rid of something else. You can donate it to someone in need or to your local Goodwill store so you know it will be appreciated. This is a great way to keep your clutter to a minimum and give to those in need.

2. Try Wearing 33 Items in 3 Months

At the beginning of Sonya’s minimalism journey, she took a long trip with her husband where she only wore 33 items in the entire three months (excluding workout clothes and pajamas). This helped her realize how little she truly needed and jump-started her journey to simplifying her life. If you’re looking for a good place to start, try doing something like this. You will be surprised by how much you can do with a few great pieces of clothing.

3. Get Out of the “Just in Case” Mindset

We all fall into the scarcity mindset from time to time—it’s inevitable, especially during times of uncertainty and difficulty. However, it’s important to get out of that mindset and not to keep things “just in case.” If you haven’t used something in the past year, you most likely won’t need it in the near future. Sonya recommends the 20/20 rule to help you decide when to let things go: if you can get it for $20 or travel 20 miles or less to get it, it’s best to donate that item or get rid of it.

4. Gift Experiences Rather Than Items

Over the past decade or so, people (especially younger generations) have started to see the value of experiences rather than things. If you want to give someone a thoughtful gift, Sonya suggests “gifting” them an experience. You could give flight vouchers, Airbnb gift cards, a National Parks pass, or even tickets to see the latest movie. There are endless possibilities that come with gifting experiences, and people will most likely remember and appreciate it more than another material item.

5. Use Others’ Things

Borrowing or renting items from others is a great way to build community, help people out, and experience everything you want without having to clutter your home with more material items. Sonya did this by renting an RV to go on a camping trip with her family—they were able to rent the RV, have a great trip, use the items inside the RV, and give it back when they were done. This helped the hosting family out by providing some extra money for the rental, and Sonya’s family got to experience the camping trip without purchasing an RV and everything inside. You can also return the favor by letting others borrow things only you have. It helps you, helps them, and creates more connections in your community.

If you would like to learn more from Sonya Rodriguez and Tim Thayne about how a minimalist lifestyle can help your family, check out this episode of the Not By Chance podcast.

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