Meet The Minimalist Rules That Will Simplify Your Life

rules minimalists live by


I love using minimalist rules because they make it so easy to stick to the basic principles that make my daily life more manageable. I think of these minimalist rules to live by like a toolkit that I can use to tinker around with my habits and make my lifestyle work for me, not against me.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Minimalism is a mindset that has truly changed my life. For me, easy minimalist rules give me the structure I need to live a balanced, simple and fulfilling life that I have more control of.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Minimalist Rules Give You More Freedom, Not Less

Minimalist Rules Give You More Freedom

While the minimalist philosophy has never been about adhering to a particular set of forced rules, there are a few that make starting and maintaining the practice way easier. I do believe that there is actually a lot of freedom that you gain from adopting minimalist rules, especially when you’re a beginner to the lifestyle.

When I was first starting out as a minimalist, I kind of had a chip on my shoulder about the way I wanted to do things. I thought that if I wanted to stay true to myself, I had to create all my minimalist guidelines on my own and not let anyone else tell me what to do.

types of minimalismI could not have been more wrong in my original thinking! As a whole, the entire art of minimalism is such a communal experience. The minimalist community is made up of tons of extremely wise, experienced, thoughtful individuals who have taken the time to develop and test different rules, challenges, and systems through trial and error.

The best way to learn how to practice minimalism your own way is to start where the wisdom already exists. By trying out all of these different minimalist rules, I was able to find the ones that best resonated with the way I’m wired, my lifestyle, my habits, and my personal needs.

I tend to think of all of these popular minimalist practices more like thoughtful guidelines than strict rules. When trying any of these options, you don’t have to follow them exactly by the book. I certainly encourage you to expand on these rules, add to them, take away from them, and make them your own.

Entry level minimalist rules are kind of like bumpers in a bowling lane. They are there to serve as helpful guidance to keep you on track, not to control your entire direction. You can dive in head first while still maintaining structure.

30-Day Decluttering Challenge

The 30-day decluttering challenge is a four-week-long decluttering intensive that allows you to blaze through the clutter in your home at lightning speed. Each week tackles a particular clutter category, leaving your home clutter free by the end of the month.

Week-By-Week Clutter Zones

  • Week One: Everyday Clutter Zones
  • Week Two: Problem Area Decluttering
  • Week Three: Tackling Tough Clutter
  • Week Four: Final Clean Sweep

declutter challenge

20/20 Rule For Minimalists

Started by The Minimalists, the 20/20 rule for minimalists is a decluttering strategy that simplifies and expedites the decluttering process. The rule asks you to test each item you’re considering decluttering against two simple criteria:

Rules To Test Each Item When Decluttering

Can the item by replaced in 20 minutes?

Can the item by replaced for $20?

If the answer to both questions is yes, the item gets decluttered. This is a super easy, black and white decluttering method to get items out the door fast.

minimalist 20 20 rules for decluttering

90/90 Rule For Minimalists

Another two-criteria based minimalist rule, the 90/90 rule for minimalists was created to help you get rid of items easily and efficiently.

This rule asks you two specifically time contingent questions of each item you’re considering letting go of:

  • Have you used this item in the last 90 days?
  • Will you use this item in the next 90 days?

If the answer to both of questions is no, the 90/90 rule encourages you to let the item go. This is an awesome rule if you are looking for a way to decide what to toss and what to keep while cleaning.

90-90 rule for minimalism

Project 333 Challenge Rule For Minimalist Wardrobes

Courtney Carver jumpstarted these guidelines in her book, “Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More.” The practice of Project 333 is a closet decluttering challenge that encourages you to create a rotating capsule wardrobe. The challenge gets its name by encouraging you to wear only 33 items of clothing over a three-month period.

simplify your closet with project 333

Four-Box Method Rule To Help You Declutter

Lots of minimalist decluttering rules deal with helping you decide what to declutter, but the four-box method helps you decide what to do with your stuff.

The four-box method works exactly like its name suggests. You create four boxes: one box each for stuff to give away, throw away, keep, and put in storage. Then, you sort your decluttered items accordingly!

four box decluttering method

Sunday Reset Routine To Help Your Sunday Sweep

The Sunday reset routine is one of my favorite minimalist practices. This is one of the rules that you definitely have to make your own.

The basic concept is to create a routine that you do every Sunday to reset your physical space and mind for the upcoming week. Your routine should cater to your own needs.

sunday reset routine

Five-Gift Rule For Minimalists

One of the best minimalist rules around the holidays, the five-gift rule for minimalists aims to think more about quality than quantity when it comes to gift giving.

The idea is that each member of your family receives only five gifts during the holiday season, comprised of something you want, something you need, something you can wear, something you can read, and a special experience.

five gift rule

minimalists five gift rule

Ryan’s Minimalist Rules To Live By

Ryans Minimalist Rules To Live By

While I believe that using minimalist rules to kickstart your journey with minimalism is a good move, I also believe that minimalism is most successful when you define it for yourself. Over the years of figuring out the best ways that minimalism works for me, I’ve come up with a few rules of my own that are most in line with my personal values.

I encourage you to take some time throughout your own minimalist journey to think through what elements of the minimalist speak to you most. What gaps in your own life can minimalist thinking help you to bridge? Create your own set of rules based on your own needs.

take time in your minimalist journey

Don’t Sacrifice What’s Truly Important

One of the most important elements of minimalism in my eyes is to remember that it’s about adding value, not decreasing value. Oftentimes I see people get so hung up on the decluttering and minimizing aspect of the minimalist life that they forget the whole reason they wanted to declutter in the first place.

The minimalist practices you choose to adopt should not make your life harder, more stressful, or take away things that are truly and deeply meaningful to you. The whole point is to make your life easier!

how to declutter like a minimalist

Fix What Bothers You

I think one aspect of minimalism that I always come back to is the concept of making small, micro changes in my daily experience that will add up to be big, impactful changes that make my life simpler overall. In my own life, I apply this practically by addressing my problems at hand before they fester into bigger ones.

If something is bothering you, annoying you, or hindering you in your day-to-day life, it’s easy to just say, “it’s not that big of a deal,” or, “I’ll deal with it later,” and keep on your merry way. However, it’s usually the case that these small, micro issues are actually a simple fix in the moment. Fix things as they bother you. It’ll make your life easier in the long run.

Check The Madness Before The Method

No matter how many ways you try to apply minimalist habits and rules to your life, if your head isn’t in the right place, it’s hard to be successful.

If you feel stuck in a rut and like you just can’t make one of these systems work for you, don’t keep trying to force it.

Check in with your mind and headspace — that’s often the biggest culprit when I feel off track.

check with your mind and headspace

declutter your mind

Minimalism Goes Beyond Clutter

Oftentimes when people think of minimalism, their first thought is about decluttering and getting rid of things. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that minimalism is about so much more than the stuff you own.

I take some time each month to think about the ways I can apply minimalist thought lines to all areas of my life. Are there social relationships I feel pressured to give time to that aren’t really serving me? Am I spending excess time online?

How can I minimize my schedule so that my time is devoted to the things I truly value? Can minimalism apply to my diet? Can I minimize my closet? There are so many areas of our lives that could use minimalist ideals.

minimalism is not about stuff

The Power Of Monotasking

Applying minimalist ideas to my focus has been vital for me to stay on top of what I need to at The Tiny Life as well as in my own personal life. The idea of monotasking is basically to focus on one single task at a time.

It may sound simple, but it’s wild how frequently our attention spans are pulled every which way by accumulated micro distractions.

I like the idea of monotasking so much that I run occasional “monotasking sprint sessions” with my team at work where we all get together and devote ourselves to getting one task done in a specific amount of time. To me, this a great way to apply minimalism to something beyond just clutter.


Your Turn!

  • Which popular minimalist rules could best improve your life?
  • What would your personal list of minimalist rules look like?
  1. This is the best minimalist lifestyle that I feel is what I can do. I’m starting today with the boxes! Thank you so much for making each step forward with visible success.

  2. Great tips! Especially the 20/20 and 90/90! Thank you!

  3. Need this in my life. Have a blind 95 year old Mom living with me. She wants to save every shred of paper & drops paper towels on floor for me to declutter. Help!

  4. A good roundup. I especially believe in the “you do you”. I read a minimalist book that said I didn’t need so much kitchen equipment and I “de cluttered” a lot. I like to cook. This woman did not cook. It was a mistake to get rid of so much stuff that I really did use.

  5. I try and fill the garbage can outdoors every week before garbage day and it’s huge from the city

    Luckily, I volunteer at a thrift store twice a week so I try and donate stuff every time I work

    I need help with storage stuff I guess in the basement

    I’m trying to my house burnt down what I am not care about

  6. Thanks for the ideas

  7. I like clothes but go thru once a month. I do decorate for every Holiday Graciela L Kelly and go thrifting often. Just rotate, throw out and donate.

  8. I look forward to more

  9. “La simplicité est la sophistication supreme “

  10. Parmi l’une des caracteristiques de l’architecture le minimalisme est trop genial

  11. I decided that three of something qualified as a collection. Turns out I am content with three tea pots. I am a collector, and sentimental, but this works for me.

  12. Love your advise and follow by most of it

  13. Isn’t the very essence of being minimalist NOT living by rules? It is to me and I couldn’t even get beyond the title.

  14. Love the tips in this article. Definitely will be applying a couple. Thank you.

  15. What a great article! I have been making changes toward a minimalist lifestyle (in every way) the past 3-4 years. I love some of the ideas here. Thank you!

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