Two years ago, I was in debt, financially trapped, working a job I hated, and needing to move in with my sister. (I love her and all, but it wasn't ideal.) All the while, I was daydreaming about moving to the beach and traveling the world. Deep down, I knew there had to be a way to get there while staying financially afloat.
Fast-forward to now: I live in Maui, run a location-independent business, travel often, and no longer feel suffocated by my bills.
How did I do it? By embracing less "stuff." By becoming a minimalist.
For me, this meant selling over 80 percent of my belongings, moving into a tiny home, and embracing a life with 30 items of clothing, four pairs of shoes, and no oven. In the process, I've ditched trivial decisions like, "What should I wear?" or, "What should I make for dinner?" and opened up major mental space. Whittling my life down to the essentials has led to more financial freedom, less mental (and physical!) clutter, and clearer priorities.
However, I don't think you need to go to such drastic extremes in order to reap these same benefits. You just need to take proactive steps to create a less stressful environment for you and your family. Here are my top tips for decluttering and downsizing:
1. Identify your "why."
Why do you really want that raise at work? I'm willing to bet there's more to your motivation than the money. Are you really after more time with family? The freedom to travel? The ability to quit your job and start your own business? The first step to becoming more minimalist is getting crystal clear on your goals and understanding exactly why you want them.
In order to pinpoint your motivations, grab a journal and write out exactly what your ideal day would look like. Be specific! Are you living somewhere else? Spending time with your kids instead of working? Keeping an image of your goals and values at the forefront of your mind will make paring down 10 times easier.
2. Take stock of physical items.
Go through your house, one room at a time, and make a list of everything you haven't used in the past three months. Then divide it into things you can throw away, things you can donate, and things you want to save. (This list should be the smallest!) Do this with room-specific items like appliances and toiletries but also articles of clothing. I promise you don't need that many pairs of shoes!
3. Get personal with your money.
I used to be terrified of looking at my bank account and credit card statements. I lived in a land of ignorant bliss because it meant I never had to actually know what was going on with my money. However, this mentality ultimately left me disempowered and never really sure what I could actually afford.
If you're in debt, put a sticky note up in your room (or somewhere you can see it daily) so you know exactly where you stand financially. Change the numbers as they increase or decrease. I know it's scary at first, but this method is GOLD, especially if you're a competitive person like me. It's so satisfying to rip those sticky notes and replace them with smaller numbers until they are gone.
If you aren't in debt but have a financial goal, use the same note method and take a minute to look at your goal every single day. This practice will get your subconscious mind consistently thinking about ways to make your goal a reality.
4. Stop saying yes to things you hate.
Seriously, how many times have you said yes to a social event that you didn't want to go to or a project you didn't have time for just to please someone else? Stop going out and drinking every weekend if it makes you feel crappy, tired, and broke. Don't go back for that master's degree just because you feel like you should. Stop reading every book that your friend recommends or every Netflix series people are raving about just because you have FOMO. This will free up time, energy, and money to do the things you're actually passionate about (remember your why!).
This leads me to another point: Start saying yes to things that light you up and make you excited about life. Play outside, listen to music, go hiking, read, create, sing, cook, jog, whatever! Ask yourself: Is it a "hell yes"? If it's not, make it a "hell no."