Layers of the Minimalist Onion

You guessed it folks. I’m giving minimalism a work over with the good old onion/ layers analogy.

Minimalism as a lifestyle choice is quite onion-ish because it does have layers and maybe, like an onion, it will make you cry at when you have to declutter that hot pink Barbie and Ken Campervan circa 1991. 

I focus a lot on the decluttering aspect of minimalism on Minimise To Maximise because I believe it’s the step many people need guidance with......and I'm here to help!

But decluttering is just a layer of the Minimalist Onion, often the first one.

In this post I'm breaking down the layers I see make up the Minimalist Onion. Oh, and your reward for reading through to the end is a terrible Dad joke about onions.

Layer 1 - We declutter and de-own

“Don’t just declutter; de-own” Joshua Becker

Decluttering is where most people start their minimalist journey but decluttering is not minimalism. I like Joshua's quote above. It touches on the mindset shift that happens when we declutter with the intention of really changing the way we see our stuff and embracing a more minimalist lifestyle.

The act of decluttering becomes a process of permanently de-owning rather than just a seasonal spring cleaning binge...when everything becomes cluttered again 6 months later.   

Marie Kondo hit the nail on the head when she named her book The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. There is something a bit magical about decluttering. The way it infiltrates and spreads into many areas of our lives, creating the other layers of the Minimalist Onion. 

If you're on the decluttering layer and need a little guidance, ask yourself these 3 questions as you declutter:

1 - If I was shopping right now, would I buy this

We hang onto a lot of stuff we wouldn’t actually buy again if we walked past it in a store right now.

2 -  Does it serve me?

Is this thing either serving you in a practical or emotional way? If it’s not something you use around your home or it doesn’t bring a smile to your face, could it be time to let it go?

3 - How difficult would it be for me to get in the future?

If you did let this item go and down the track, it turns out you do need it, how hard  / expensive would it be for you to get again? Is it something you could borrow from someone instead?

If you don’t know where to get started decluttered, take my simple 50 Things In 5 Days decluttering challenge. It’s helped get over a thousand of my readers on the decluttering track!

Layer 2 - We stop buying things we don’t need or love

Decluttering is all well and good but you’ll miss the magic and the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle if you can’t get your purchasing habits under control.

Minimalism isn’t about never, ever buying stuff and it doesn't have to be about only buying the 'essentials'.

It’s about getting onboard with intentional purchasing, which is basically not buying stuff on autopilot that you’re just gonna feel *meh* about tomorrow. Stop filling your home up with crap you don’t need / don’t love or already have.

If you’re having trouble curbing irrational purchases, try asking yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want this?
  • How will this thing impact my daily life
  • What will happen if I don’t buy this? Isn’t it obvious?? The world will end!!!!!
  • Is this purchase based on emotion or practicality?
  • Have I already got something similar?

It takes some time but stick with it, the more you use your intentional purchasing mindset, the easier it becomes to make a decision about whether or not to buy something.

Nailing this step and really understanding the mindset of ‘I already have enough’ is the key to breaking the cycle of decluttering / buying more stuff / cluttered / decluttering / buying more stuff / cluttered. It also helps you to be grateful for what you already have.

Layer 3 - We being to understand the true environmental and human cost of your stuff

As you progress through your Minimalist Onion layers, you’ll probably become super aware of the environmental and human impact of living in a society obsessed with getting more and more stuff.  

When I began my minimalist journey, I didn’t start for environmental reasons. I honestly didn’t really know or care much about how a product came to be in my home.  That's not how I feel anymore. The impact of stuff on our earth and the human cost of a product really began to hit home as I focused on making more intentional purchases and just generally became aware of how much we consume.  

I’ll let this groovy video explain it way better than I can. It’s an oldie (love the iPod reference) but a goodie.

Layer 4  - We declutter our digital worlds

Once your physical space is cleared of clutter and junk that’s no longer serving you, you might begin to turn your attention to another part of life that get's cluttered....

Hellooooo social media / email / 100 million ‘untitled’ photos and folders on our laptop!

Unplugging from the socials or seriously culling what we allow in our accounts is a super liberating experience peoples! 

I’m a freelance writer so my laptop is like my second home. When it gets cluttered with junk, I feel the same way as I would if my physical home was cluttered. Getting down to the nitty gritty and decluttering our digital stuff takes time, especially photos, but it’s worth it.

I no longer have a problem keeping my physical space clutter free but I definitely have to be on the ball when it comes to staying on top of my digital racks up quickly! 

Layer 5 - We decide what's truly important to live the best versions of our lives

“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life” - Robin S. Sharma

This is where we get to what I believe the heart of minimalism is; figuring out what is most important to us and spending our resources: money, time and energy on those things.

Peeling back the first layers ultimately clears the distraction and crap (physical and emotional) from your life.

For me, this layer of minimalism was a little confronting. Because without all my stuff showing the world who I was, who was I?

If you can meet yourself face to face and see your life for what it is, minus the stuff and the status symbols, you get the chance to ask yourself the real question.

If I continue on this way, will I be happy with the life I lived?

Maybe the answer is Yes. If it’s No, minimalism is a great tool to help you figure out the changes to make.

In this layer, I kinda looked at the more tricky parts of clearing my life of activities (and relationships) that were no longer mutually serving. I got pretty good at saying No, putting boundaries on my time and embraced my introverted self. I began to recognise and respect I need a lot of time on my own to recharge....and that was OK!

 Stuff I was saying Yes to that really wasn't really a priority in my life was sucking up my precious, introverted energy! 

When we live on autopilot, we give over our control to the path society says we should follow. Stuff is a distraction. Too much media keeps us dumbed down. Overwhelmed and over-choiced, we’re kept running on a treadmill.

Minimalism helps you get real sharp. It helps you find focus. This is the layer of minimalism that changed my life.

Bonus layer (if your Minimalist Onion has a frugal flavour): Money

Minimalism isn’t always about frugality. You can be a minimalist and not be in the least bit interested in a budget.

However even without a frugal focus, once you stop buying crap you don’t need, your finances will probably improve as a happy side effect.  I actually started peeling my Minimalist Onion with the finance layer. I used minimalism to sort out the mess my finances were in. I believe adopting a minimalist mindset is hands down one of the best ways to get your finances in order, especially if you’ve got a boatload of debt to pay off like I did.

I paid off 15k of credit card and personal loan debt in just over a year by putting a stop to buying stuff I didn't need. 

Peeling the Minimalist Onion isn’t a race

Peeling back the layers of your Minimalist Onion isn’t a race my friends.

This is a real lifestyle change, it takes time - and maybe not all the layers will be part of your journey. That’s the cool thing about minimalism, you can live whatever version of minimalism feels right for you. 

Maybe you want to de-own everything and travel with just 100 items around the world with a backpack. Or maybe you want to embrace minimalism to simplify your home and family life. Or maybe you absolutely love books, so you keep your amazing collection of 1000’s of books and minimise everything else in your home. 

There’s no right way to do it and there’s no right time frame to do it in. Do the version of minimalism that works for you and enjoy the journey!

After all this onion talk, let me leave you with this little gem of a Dad joke:

“I saw an onion ring. So I answered it”

HA! Sorry. So bad. 

Elesha 🙂 


I’m Elesha! I’m minimalist lifestyle coach, decluttering ninja and expert coffee drinker. I’m here to help you rise up from the clutter.
I help overwhelmed women get out from under the clutter by applying minimalist living principles to their homes and lives!

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