8 Minimalist Habits I've Learned Since Living in a Small Space

Did you know the average American lives in a 2000 square foot home? I know that’s larger than most new york apartments, but that’s a pretty decently sized home.

We do not live in a 2000 square foot home - rather, we live in a much smaller house.

When we made the decision to move to a smaller home of 998 square feet from a home of 2600 square feet, we knew that we would have to change the way we were living. Part of what we wanted to do was also live a more minimalist lifestyle - to be able to spend more time on the things we loved, and less time decluttering, organizing and cleaning.

We’ve been living minimally for around a year now, and have learned some habits that help to keep our lives happy and our home minimalist, and I wanted to share them with you to help in your pursuit of living a more minimalist life.

  1. All surfaces are kept clean

    In our home, all surfaces are kept clean and empty. It’s not just for the esthetic (although I love it) but for a very practical purpose - I can tell if my home is cluttered at a single glance. And if something is cluttering a surface, I immediately identify it and can put it away in its place. This is a habit that is now second nature to me (meaning that I can do it while on the phone or talking with Kee-ju) that I can do it without even realizing I’m tidying.

    It didn’t use to be this way - I used to have to try and figure out why my home felt cluttered! This way, I know if something is out of place immediately so I can take care of it.

  2. Tidying often

    I love cleaning now. Remember that part of me not liking to clean? Well, turns out that part of that was due to the fact that it was so difficult to clean. When you have a hundred items on floors, countertops, shelves, desktops and tabletops that you have to shift and move around, you’re less inclined to clean because it will take you a half an hour to move all those items to clean the surfaces. When you minimize the things that are present on your surfaces, it makes it so easy to just wipe down a countertop or a table or desk. Wonderful.

  3. Eliminating Paper - Before it Even Gets Into the House

    You may have had the dreaded stack of papers happen before - where a pile of unattended mail and magazines and brochures piled up into a massive stack so big that it started being difficult to contain.

    Or maybe it was just me? As a new minimalist convert, I remember that stack very clearly, and I want to prevent it at all costs. To do this, I ensure that the paper doesn’t even make it into the house. When I open the mailbox, I start shuffling through everything. Junk mail, items I don’t need to keep, things that are not relevant right now I immediately toss into the recycling bin, never letting it even cross the threshold.

    Don’t let junk mail into your home. Just don’t.

  4. Nightly Walkthrough and Roundup

    Now that we’ve decluttered our home and everything has its place, it’s so easy to see if something is out of place. A coffee cup on a desk, a sweater draped onto the arm of a couch, a dog toy that’s been left on the floor. We do a walkthrough before we head to bed of the home to ensure that everything is picked up, put away, and tidy - so we can start our day off right the next morning without having to tidy first thing. It only takes us about five to ten minutes to get the house picked up now.

  5. Skip Over 99% of All Purchases

    Since we live in a small space, there’s not a lot of room for stuff to begin with. Since we decided on a minimalist esthetic, there’s no surfaces for items to go on because they are already fully occupied by things we love and enjoy.

    When your home is setup like this, you are restrained from purchasing cute things or things that you think you need to have. Not because you’re depriving yourself, but because you know that you have what you need and love already, and the dopamine high you’ll get from purchasing that item isn’t going to last long - especially when you find it difficult to find a place for it in your home.

    Surprisingly, rather than feeling restricted, I feel liberated - I’m able to focus on long term purchases as opposed to the little things (that I call potato-chip purchases) that will ultimately bring me more joy and satisfaction for years and years. It’s a win-win situation.

  6. Not Allowing My Home to Turn into a Goodwill

    I’m not sure if I’m the only person who has these type of friends. You may have some of them - they’re the ones that are always coming by to drop off something because they were “thinking of you”. Or they are trying to declutter and “thought that you could use this.”

    I mean, they are well-intentioned of course. Many of these people may feel guilty at getting rid of items, and want to rehome them with somebody that they know will appreciate them. Which, in another point of my life I would have, but at this point of my life I simply don’t have the room.

    If someone does this to you, don’t be unkind. Simply thank them for thinking of you and tell them about your new way of living as a minimalist - in a short thirty second spiel, don’t give them a lecture. And then when they are gone, donate the item to your local charity. You don’t have to feel obligated to keep anything, even when it is a thoughtful gift.

  7. The One-in, One-out Rule

    We have a new rule - for every item that does come into the home, one must go out. We usually try to make it equivalent - for instance, one item of clothing comes in, another must go out - but it doesn’t have to be perfect. You could always use a new purchase to motivate you to declutter something you’ve been wanting to tackle for a while.

  8. Make Minimalist Choices When Decorating

    A minimalist home doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of decor or personality. In fact, a minimalist home needs to have decor and art - otherwise, it just looks like you are in a constant state of moving in. Since moving to a minimalist lifestyle, we still like to decorate - but in a way that is different than we used to decorate, as I mentioned in this post.

    Basically it’s a focus on natural organic items that are seasonal and compliment the home as opposed to cluttering it. This time of year it’s pumpkins and gem corn and dried grasses. When the season is over, they can be composted or fed to wildlife (instead of taking up space somewhere) and then I’ll start over fresh the next year.

The funny thing is that these habits developed very organically for the most part. It’s more the mentality of being a minimalist and living a minimalist lifestyle that allowed us to come up with these habits. As I mentioned, it’s not that I feel deprived - I feel free to live my life without having to worry about clutter or decluttering now.

If you are still starting on your path to a minimalist life, I encourage you to perhaps try one of these habits and see if it works well for you. Remember, a minimalist life is a journey, not a goal - and every day is an opportunity to grow and learn.