Minimalism While Working From Home: 10 Steps to Simplify Your Life

Are your habits, your spaces, and your possessions supporting you—or holding you back?

When life gets especially hectic, we can let clutter build up in our homes, in our home offices, and on our schedules, leaving us feeling overburdened and overwhelmed.

If this sounds like you, you may want to consider implementing a few strategies to incorporate minimalism into your work from home life and start the new year with a clean slate.

What is minimalism?

Some researchers argue that the minimalist lifestyle dates back centuries. Nowadays, minimalism usually refers to keeping things simple: By paring down your possessions and activities and removing anything that doesn’t contribute something positive to your life, you too can uncover what is most important to you.

My own journey to minimalism began when I moved my family of five out of the country for two years, so my husband could pursue his education in medicine. To make the trip, we had to undergo the difficult process of parting with most of our belongings—items that I had become attached to and that we spent a lot of time and money accumulating.

But one thing became readily apparent after our massive garage sale: we weren’t going to see much of a return on those investments.

After a couple more moves and more decluttering, I realized that cutting back on our possessions helped me feel lighter, freer, and more energized. While taking the first step toward a minimalist lifestyle can be difficult, I know from experience that it only gets better with time.

Related: How to Declutter Your Home for Simple Living

The benefits of minimalism

Incorporating minimalism in our lives can be a daunting and challenging process, but it comes with a host of benefits that will not only simplify your home life but also help you be more productive at work.

Here are just some of the rewards that await those who embrace a minimalist mindset:

Increased productivity

Studies indicate that our physical environments can influence our ability to think, our moods, and even our decision-making. A messy space is likely to increase stress and limit your ability to stay focused, meaning clearing the clutter could do wonders for your productivity.

Reduced stress levels

Owning a lot of stuff means worrying about things like maintenance, repair, and loss. By limiting yourself to only items you need, some of that stress is lifted.

Freed-up space

Having fewer things means having more space to spread out in your rooms—and more space to organize your drawers, cabinets, and closets.

More money

Often, keeping the number of things you own to a minimum simply means not buying more things. This leaves more money in your pocket to spend where it really counts.

Less time cleaning

With little to no clutter, dusting is a breeze!

More time for the things you love to do

With less cleaning to do and fewer activities to manage, you’ll have more time for what’s most important.

Minimalism in your workspace

Now you’re sold. But how can you incorporate minimalism into your life as a remote worker?

Related: 40+ Best Tips on How to Become a Minimalist

It starts with your workspace. Whether you have a whole room, a closet, or just a spot on the kitchen island, the area where you do your work is the perfect place to start making big changes.

Step 1: Declutter your desktop

Just looking at a messy workspace can be overwhelming, so before you do anything else, start by clearing off your desk. If you aren’t currently working on a certain project, keep papers and memos out of your line of sight so you can focus on what is most important at the moment.

If you lack space to put things away, try investing in some storage solutions to ensure everything has a place where it stays when not in use. Many remote professionals also strive to keep their work materials in their office or another singular location, so the clutter doesn’t spread throughout their homes.

Step 2: Focus on the essentials

It’s great to declutter and organize, but sometimes, organization is little more than a way to hide the stuff that you don’t need. Just because something is neatly put away and labeled doesn’t mean it’s not adding clutter, so take the time to identify what is truly essential. What do you need to get through the workday? What items haven’t you touched in weeks?

When it comes to paperwork, try asking yourself if you really need a hard copy. You definitely want to keep documents like business licenses and professional diplomas on hand, but receipts and other loose sheets can often be scanned and shredded.

Step 3: Clear out your digital spaces

Almost as distracting as cluttered office space is a cluttered digital space. How many work documents and tabs do you have open on your work computer right now?

The mess can be hard to keep track of—and worse, make it difficult to find what you need in a pinch. To avoid the added stress later, remove excess files from your desktop and home screen, organizing what you need to keep into folders, and trashing everything else.

And don’t forget about your inbox: Tackle those hundreds—or thousands—of unread emails by deleting, and most importantly, unsubscribing, to slow the flow.

Minimalism in your routine

Implementing a minimalist remote work lifestyle involves more than just striving for clutter-free spaces; it also means decluttering your day.

Take back time not spent on activities that are most important to you or that aren’t adding value to your life with these strategies:

Step 4: Establish a morning routine

Sometimes the best place to start is the beginning. Establishing and adhering to a morning routine can help you feel balanced and in control, laying the groundwork for you to approach the workday in a calm and confident way.

What should your morning routine look like? The answer is a little different for everyone, and it may take some time—and some tweaking—to get yours just right. If you’re not sure where to start, try activities like exercising or stretching, meditating, eating a solid breakfast to kick-start your metabolism, and doing a quick review of your day’s schedule so you know what’s ahead.

Step 5: Take advantage of your flexible schedule

One of the best parts of working from home is having more flexibility in planning out your day. Get out your calendar and see what appointments, meetings, and activities you have over the next three weeks, and for each, ask yourself: What is the value of this activity or experience to my life? Is it something I need to do right now, or can I focus on other priorities that may have been pushed down my task list first?

Remember that there are only 24 hours in a day. Sometimes, rescheduling just one or two low-priority activities can make all the difference.

Step 6: Just say no

The easiest way to keep a decluttered schedule is to start saying no. While we all love to help, saying yes every time you’re asked for a favor can quickly lead to exhaustion and resentment. Establishing healthy boundaries both at work and at home, and saying no to requests that will overwhelm your already busy days, is a great way to combat stress and maximize your time.

Minimalism in yourself

A final area to focus on when incorporating minimalism into your remote work lifestyle is yourself. When working from home, it’s easy for our daily obligations and responsibilities to encroach on our personal time, but living a minimalist lifestyle means prioritizing what’s most important—and that means you. Here are some ways to practice both minimalism and self-care:

Step 7: Eat simple, healthy meals

From deciding what to cook to shopping for the ingredients, putting them away, getting them back out, cooking them, eating them, and finally, cleaning everything up, meals can suck up a lot of time if you aren’t careful.

To cut back on the amount of time spent on meals, try reducing the number of items required while still keeping things healthy. For you, this might mean preparing one-pan dinners, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time doing dishes, or simplifying your recipes to ensure you’re still getting all the nutrients you need without all the added fluff. You might consider forgoing dressing on your salad, for instance.

Step 8: Go on walks

You don’t need to fork out hundreds in membership fees or spend thousands setting up a home gym to reap the benefits of regular exercise. Keep things simple by going for a walk around the block.

Even just 20 minutes of walking each day can put a spring in your step and leave you feeling more focused and optimistic. It’s also a great way to boost immune function: one study shared by Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat found that people who walked at least 20 minutes each day at least five days out of the week “had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less.”

Step 9: Meditate

Spending a few minutes meditating or in quiet contemplation is a great way to clear your mind and prepare for—or destress from—the day. Some prefer practicing mindfulness, while others like reciting mantras or creating visualizations. Whatever you choose, there are countless tools and applications available to help you start a daily meditation routine.

If sitting still and focusing isn’t your strong suit, you may find it easier to clear your mind while doing a repetitive, rhythmic activity like running, cleaning, or knitting. When engaging in this activity, do your best to focus on the present moment. What sounds do you hear around you? What smells are you experiencing? How about textures?

Step 10: Turn these changes into habits

Now that you have de-cluttered your spaces and simplified your life, it’s time to turn these changes into habits. One of the easiest ways to keep a space clutter-free is to clean up after yourself as you go throughout your day, and you can keep your schedule clear by going back over it regularly and canceling or rescheduling when necessary.

Make these practices part of your daily routine, and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of the minimalist lifestyle.

Final thoughts

By establishing these habits and keeping up with them consistently, you may find that the minimalist lifestyle is easier to maintain than you thought. By intentionally living with less and focusing on what you value most, you can find clarity, mindfulness, and increased joy and purpose in your life and your work in the new year.

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Website: Virtual Vocations

Laura Spawn is the CEO and co-founder of Virtual Vocations, the web’s No. 1 hand-screened, all-telecommute job board. Alongside her brother, Laura founded Virtual Vocations in February 2007 with one goal in mind: connecting job seekers with legitimate telecommute job openings. Laura lives in Oregon with her husband, three children, and two dogs, Ivy and Jilly.