Back to the Basics: Why College Students Should Embrace Simplicity

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College is a time for exploring new social connections, following passions in academia and learning about your place in the world. All of this, combined with our current social and political climate, can be a lot to balance. Why not reduce stress by simplifying what you have control over?

The minimalism movement is all about embracing simplicity and intentionality. By eliminating the excess, you’ll have more room to live a purposeful and, overall, happier college life. If you’re overwhelmed and not sure where to start, just take it day by day. Progress happens over the course of time and eventually, you’ll be in the minimalism mindset so it will get easier. In order to get back to basics, try the four strategies outlined below:

1. Streamline Your Physical Space

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Perhaps the most well-known tenet of minimalism is less is more. There’s much to be said for embracing this lifestyle when living in a compact dormitory or college apartment. With limited space available, maximizing the utility of your footprint helps to improve the functionality of your physical space.

Sort through all of the possessions that exist in your living space. This includes all areas of your dormitory or college apartment – think living room, closet, under your bathroom counter, and even your car. Ask yourself with each one, is this a necessity or something I want? If it’s not a necessity or you don’t have emotional ties to it, discard it accordingly. This process can be difficult but once you get started, you’ll learn how to prioritize function versus comfort. Eliminate as much as you can while still keeping everything you need to succeed in college, i.e., furniture, printer, bookbag, computer, mini-fridge, etc.

By removing the excess items, everything that you need will be readily accessible and cleaning will be much less of a hassle. Plus, you won’t have to worry about an over-filled living space that alleviates stress and distractions. For a more in-depth dive into how to organize your college living area into a minimalist dream, check out this article.

2. Simplify Your Schedule

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Now think of minimalism in terms of your daily activities. Bringing intentionality back to each gathering or class you attend helps you to feel more fulfilled at the end of the day. Think about your schedule in the same way you address excess clothing on your floor. Does this activity serve an intentional purpose for me? Is it useful for my future? Does it bring me joy? If you answer no to any of these questions, it’s worth eliminating it altogether.

Also, don’t forget to look at all aspects of your day – not just attending class or an appointment. Your morning routine serves a purpose as well as any downtime you have throughout the day. Analyze your typical day and try to spot areas that aren’t serving you intentionally. Maybe you spend too much time scrolling through social media or maybe you stay up too late watching tv.

The founders of the minimalism movement, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, cite applying this mindset as one of the main ways they prevent burnout caused by a hectic schedule.

With the constant pressure to achieve and tons of extracurricular options, college students are particularly susceptible to burnout. By focusing on essential things in your daily schedule and skipping the fluff, you can avoid being stretched too thin. This can also apply to agreeing to activities or obligations you wish you wouldn’t have.

3. Reorient Your Focus

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As a college student, you have a lot on your plate at any given moment. There’s pressure to succeed at every assigned task, passion project or social activity. With your attention pulled in a million different directions, it appears counterintuitive to focus on just one item at a time. When, in fact, the opposite is true.

Applying a minimalist mindset to where you direct your attention is quite simple. Create a list of goals or items where your focus is most needed—with the most important at the top. Focus on each task or goal individually. Apply yourself to it with gusto. Address any changes that need to be made and move forward with a clear vision of how you’ll adapt your lifestyle to achieve these goals. By reorienting your focus to bring intentionality to each objective you set and then complete, you focus on the moment and the process.

Also, remember no one likes a to-do list a mile long. Minimalism is all about centering your life around the most important things. You can do this through goal-setting with purposeful actions and a single-minded approach.

4. Edit the Unimportant

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One of the primary goals of adopting a minimalist mindset is honing in on what’s most important to live purposefully. College is all about the journey of self-discovery and for many students, this is a process. The things you hold in the highest regard will be different for everyone and they can and likely will change over the course of your college years.

This is the true beauty of minimalism as it is not a one size fits all way of thinking. It’s about tailoring specific aspects of this lifestyle for you to live as clutter-free as possible. For some people, the beginning of a new year marks a time to reflect and adjust. For others, it’s a birthday and another trip around the sun. For you, it might be the start of a new semester or school year. Be consistent, yet willing to reflect — and adjust accordingly.

Embrace the Simple Life!

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As a college student, freeing up your schedule, your closet, or your goals allows you to exist unencumbered by the stress that comes with more. Make room for more joy in your life and you’ll be surprised at how big of a difference eliminating the extras can make.

As you progress through your college career, keep in mind these suggestions on how to adopt aspects of minimalism to achieve a more purposeful life. Less truly is more! You have nothing to lose and only joy to gain.