Marination is a culinary technique. The noun—marinade—is a seasoned liquid solution used to soak meat before cooking. To marinate is to slowly break down the meat, infuse rich flavors and leave it more tender.
Beyond the kitchen, it’s a word I hear yoga instructors use: let yourself marinate in this posture. More often, I hear it during Yin poses, which are held for a minute or more, allowing sensation to slowly develop for a deeper, more restorative result.
Marinate—it can be quite the metaphor, right? I believe there are many things, beyond meat, that become richer through a slow build.
When I say to “marinate your minimalism,” I mean to let it develop over time.
Purging Over Time Builds Habit
Creating a lifestyle takes a consistent effort, and minimalism is a lifestyle. I love Marie Kondo and her mantra to only keep what “sparks joy,” but her method of one giant purge wouldn’t have worked for me. In the long run, I see minimalism as a set of habits. And it takes weeks, even months, to form a habit.
Being so, instead of one single purge, I removed one item a day for two years. This ranged from tossing a mateless sock to donating an extra loveseat couch I didn’t necessarily need.
By singling out one item a day, I built a habit for minimizing my stuff. I became better at discerning what I needed and didn’t need. And then I became better at actual parting with it (I realized I didn’t miss a single thing). I started to spend less time organizing my possessions, because I simply had less of them. Drawers were no longer stuffed to the brim. My minimalism habit was built and then reinforced by these rewards.
I’m past those initial two years. I don’t get rid of something every day now, but I still consistenly parse and toss (donate, sell, rehome) my belongings. I had intentionally acted every day—once a day—and over time it became something I did naturally. Again, it became a habit.
For example, today I bought a pair of slim wool running gloves, arrived home, and immediately decided to donate an existing pair of fleece gloves. The running gloves worked in place of those, too, I figured. In habit speak, that’s the “cue” I automatically responded to—seeing something I didn’t quite need anymore.
Before I knew it, my intentional minimalism habit had become a mindset.
Slow Purging = Slow Buying
This may be a little counterintuitive, but buying is still an integral part of minimalism. I had to own the right thing in order to own less, and so I had to become a strategic buyer. In order to do so, I had to have a better understanding of what did and didn’t work for me. And this I figured out through a slow study of the stuff I was purging.
For example, I used to have five oversized sweaters that I pitched one-by-one. Either they were too scratchy, an unflattering color, or I didn’t like the shape. Eventually I bought one single oversized sweater to replace them—it’s a quality wool/cashmere blend and in a color that goes well with what I already own.
As I minimized those sweaters, I was able to discern why they didn’t work for me. Then I better understood my ideal oversized sweater, one that I’d reach for every time I wanted to go out in the world wrapped in a soft blanket. When the sweater I have now went on sale, I had already pictured it in my head for weeks—in other words, I had let that buying decision marinate.
Now when I see a plushy sweater at a store—even if it fits or is on sale—I know I don’t need it. I spent enough time planning and mulling over the one I already have. It’s perfect for me.
Additionally, there’s been many items I left in an online cart only to decide I didn’t actually need. Within a few days I’d realized something I already owned fit the bill or it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Sorry, I know, this is every marketer’s worse nightmare: a consumer who buys at a sloth-like pace.
I started out with a lot of stuff. Getting rid of one item a day for two years is not a prescription for everyone. Maybe you need a Marie Kondo-style purge and then begin to remove an item a week for a year. Each person is different, and according to a 2009 habit study, we each need a different amount of time to build habits. The study also contends, “although consistency in repetition is required, the degree of consistency is not yet known.” That you might have to decide for yourself and your situation.
What I will rest my case on is the slow build marination. I needed to devote a consistent, conscious effort in order to develop a minimalist mindset. Not just a single purge. The easiest way I found to do that was simple: 1 day, 1 item at a time. In the end, that habit became a lifestyle and a minimalist mindset.