Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Minimalism: What it is and What it is Not

                   It seems I've been making waves in my group of immediate influence with my seemingly sudden interest in living a minimalist lifestyle. Concern, disbelieve, confusion, and even this odd clinging to a life of materialism have been only a few of the views I've had expressed to me over my new public outpost. This has led me to write a post discussing what minimalism is and what it is not. Hopefully, this will clear up some concerns, as well as open a few minds up to the possibility of perhaps not minimalism, but living a more conscious lifestyle.

1. Minimalism does not mean I live like a hermit. 

The apartment I just moved into it 760 sq. ft. It's a two bedroom one bath with an incredible space for entertaining. Do you know what I plan doing with that space for the next two weeks before I start school? I want to have people over as often as I can. A key point of minimalism is you remove things to create room for people. I remove all of the extra stuff in my life, whether it is items, projects that don't serve me, or people who are unhealthy for me, and in turn, I make room for what matters. Now I have time available for meeting people, hanging out with friends and family, and pursuing the things that are important to me.

2. Minimalism does not mean I have zero possessions. 

Okay, my 100 thing challenge list has my personal items on it, but it doesn't have everything my family shares on it. I have more underwear than hardcore minimalists would think appropriate. I don't count my books. While my furniture is very sparse, because I gave it away before all of our moving this last year, I do plan on having some furniture. I even have a list of items I want in each room! What I'm saying is you need some things to live comfortably, and...

3. Minimalism does not mean you don't live comfortably.

I like being comfortable. There is nothing better than flopping on a comfy couch after a long day. However, instead of getting lots of crappy furniture that isn't going to live through my daughter's toddler years, I'm going to get a few pieces that I really like and will stand the test of time. In my living room, for instance, I plan on having a large couch, folding tables stashed in the closest for when I have company, and probably a small coffee table. While sparsely furnished, everything will be of nice quality and create an environment of welcoming. Isn't that the point of a living room, after all?

4. Minimalism doesn't mean you live in poverty and disregard your finances.

Minimalism is not committing oneself to a life of poverty. In fact, it is far from that. As far as I'm concerned, minimalists do not intend to live the life of someone in a third world country. Perhaps one of their goals could be to raise awareness about such a situation, but that is their personal mission, not mine.  My ideal lifestyle, which includes a fair amount of travel, requires about $34000 a year. That lifestyle also includes a fair amount of travel. Most people will look at that number, look at me, and tell me I'm insane. And, I can look right back at them and inform them it is possible. While the number crunching would take some time to explain, it basically comes down to not needing or wanting a few things. For instance, subscriptions to magazines, insanely expensive phone plans, needing the latest fashions, and monthly pay-to-play fees on games are things I forsake in order to meet my financial goals. Oh, and I do have financial goals. However, I don't measure these goals in a, "How many dollars do I have in my savings account? How will I retire?" Blah, blah, blah. Basically, read The 4-Hour Workweek and The Art of Being Minimalist, and you'll understand. There have been countless studies that all conclude after you reach a certain point of income beyond meeting your basic needs, the marginal benefit of each dollar flat lines. What does that really mean? It means regardless of where you live, who you are, what you do, once you reach that point of income, every dollar past that you earn per year is basically just money. Yes, just money. As in, paper stuff that only has value because we say it does. Thus, one can conclude, maybe life should be spent doing things other than trying to accumulate lots of money.

The nobility in minimalism comes from wanting to leave a smaller footprint on this earth while we are here. The idea that we can each live sustainably on an individual level is a noble idea, and this is why I "preach" minimalist living.

5. Minimalism doesn't mean you stay at home and do nothing.

Read about some other minimalists. See where they are. While some of them stay at home, most are abroad or have plans to go abroad. If you have less expense at home and don't buy everything marketers tell you that you need to be happy, you have a lot more money to travel with.

6. Minimalism doesn't mean you disregard your appearance.

I hope this has alleviated any fears that I live in some sort of awful existence and want others to do the same. I want people to consider how much stuff they have, and ask why they have it. Do you have it because you feel it makes you a better person? Do you have it because you feel obligated to? Do you have it because you actually need it? Seriously consider the answers to these questions. Make sure you control your stuff and your stuff doesn't control you.

The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living   The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life      The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life


  1. While I don't know if I could be as radical as reducing my collection of things to just 100 (I love my quilts and pretty china too much), I certainly do appreciate your thoughts. We live on a teacher's salary, therefore we have come to appreciate our time vs. a massive paycheck. I helped out my mother-in-law clean out her storage before she moved a few years back. It was difficult to watch her struggle with her attachments to her "things" which was so easily replacable leading me to realize that I don't want to be like that EVER. I look forward to more of your thoughts and plan on looking at the books you suggested!

  2. Just a quick question. How often do you use the china or quilts? :)

    I understand living on a small salary. Teachers don't make nearly what they deserve to.

    Isn't it funny watching people who are so attached to their things? They base far too much of their personal worth on many of these items because they are things they have earned. But, why not earn experience instead?

    Thanks for reading!

  3. I wouldn't be able to make myself a minimalist . But i commend you for the fact if America ever gets attacked and bombed because of stupid choices like burning the Koran you will be used to having to live light. I would just curl up in my possessions and die. So for that I give minimalism 1 point.

    If you'd rather be a materialist like me!

  4. The quilts I use every day and the china once a month--okay, I could give up the china but for now they are not in the way. I love your thought--"Earn an experience" My sister and I are big fans of yours! Check out my blog ( I just started it):
    http://spend less weigh