12 Things Being Minimalist Means To Me (And A Few Things It Means To You, Too)

Minimalist Journey   
February 13th, 2012

Credit: Maxim/Creative Commons

By Mark Savage

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the different flavors of minimalism.

For example, take “simple living”. “Simple living” encompasses everything from reducing clutter in your home to making your own soap.

Then there’s “extreme minimalism”, which ranges from challenging yourself to see how few items you need to live to voluntary homelessness.

Some people practice minimalism for themselves, some practice minimalism for the environment, and some practice minimalism for both.

And for some, their views of being minimalist are almost religious. Many times, this comes with the belief that there is only one “right” way to be minimalist.

There are as many “right” ways to be minimalist as there are people. Sorry, but there is no lifestyle that fits every situation and every person’s unique set of experiences.

So I thought I’d write a mini-manifesto, including not only what being minimalist means to me but also what it means to you. Or, at least, what it means to people you might enjoy having coffee with.

Let’s go!

12 Things Being Minimalist Means To Me

1. Being minimalist means being on a journey, recognizing that there is no destination; it’s not an endpoint but an approach to living.

This means not judging others for where they are in life. “Being minimalist” is not a checkbox or a measurement on a scale.

While being minimalist can positively affect the world around you, choosing to follow that path is a personal choice. Not everyone can do what you do, nor should they. Know that what you do is only right for you, and only right now. As well, some people will be unable to be minimalist in the way that you or I choose. And that’s ok.

Everyone else should do what’s right for them for where they are in their lives. At some point in the future, being minimalist may not be right for you or I anymore. And that’s ok, too.

2. Being minimalist means having what you want and what you need be the same.

I know some people will have a hard time believing this one. It’s just so contrary to our culture of “MORE MORE MORE”. For myself and others, though, being content with what you have is completely possible (even when you don’t have much).

3. Being minimalist means not trading your time for money just to buy things you don’t need. Though you need money to survive, you do not need money to feel alive.

For many, the drive for a bigger income comes from the desire for things. If you’re happy with what you have, that desire largely disappears. And if you don’t desire expensive things, you have more freedom to make less money.

This freedom can translate into just working less hours so you can spend time with people you love, or doing work you enjoy that doesn’t pay very much.

4. Being minimalist means sleeping well at night, knowing that you’re not a slave to debt.

This is a really tough one, I know, but it’s worth striving for. In general, the less you desire expensive things, the less likely you are to purchase them without having the means to do so. I have about $20K in debt including my car, and I’m getting rid of it at every opportunity.

5. Being minimalist means being able to carry everything you own in a backpack and a suitcase.

Again, this is just one thing that being minimalist means to me right now and I have no idea how long I’ll feel this way. But I’m just about there. When I moved to San Diego last month, I did travel with everything I own in my (pretty damn small) car.

It might sound strange, but it’s such a secure feeling to know that I have everything I own with me.

6. Being minimalist means focusing less on things and more on life.

This is about perspective. If you made a list of things you were grateful for in your life, I doubt your stuff would be at the top of the list. Your house maybe, but that’s probably about it.

All things occupy some portion of our attention, and having less things means having more attention. When you have few things, it’s trivial to know the location and status of all of them. This frees you from worrying or even thinking about them, and enables you to focus on whatever you want.

7. Being minimalist means being more secure by having less overhead, thereby needing less to maintain your quality of life.

The less required to maintain your lifestyle, the less dependent you are on a single source of income. You could also apply this to other areas of your life.

For example, depending on where you live, you might be able to replace your car with a bicycle or public transportation, thereby eliminating your dependence on everything required to maintain a car.

Or maybe you could reduce your internet consumption and high-speed internet bill just by hitting your favorite wi-fi enabled coffee shop twice a week. This would also allow you to support local businesses, if that’s important to you like it is to me.

Just a thought.

8. Being minimalist means being blissfully ignorant of whatever recent misery is the network news topic of the day.

I try to eliminate negativity from my life, and to me, that’s what network news represents. I figure that if I really need to know what’s happening, either someone will tell me about it or it will kill me.

Honestly, I’m fine with that trade as long I don’t have to feel stressed or depressed the rest of the time because of what I just saw on the news.

9. Being minimalist means never saying, “Damn it. There’s just nothing on TV tonight”

For all the positives of watching television, they’re crushingly outweighed by the negatives. Opportunity cost alone would be enough to avoid it even without the financial commitment.

Of course, this is only my opinion, and I only got here after years of sitting in front of the TV for hours every day. Hell, I bought a $3000 TV just four years ago and I only recently got rid of it.

And from a purely personal perspective, now I can only watch TV for about 20 minutes before I’m completely bored.

10. Being minimalist means being open to change.

Going from more to less requires a commitment to change and exploring the unknown, but so does trying anything new in life. This feels risky, but the real risk is in doing the same thing without ever pushing your boundaries.

There’s real power in knowing where your boundaries are and what you’re capable of.

11. Being minimalist means reducing your choices, thereby reducing the act of choosing to a minimum amount of effort. Unnecessary choice = clutter

Ever heard of the paradox of choice? The gist is that the more choices we have, the less satisfied we are with any individual choice. It’s that feeling you get when you buy something, get it home, and then wonder if a competing option would’ve been better.

Part of the reason is that we feel it’s our fault when we make a poor choice. Because there are so many choices, we feel that one of them must be the right one and we doubt that we chose it.

By contrast, when you have few choices or only one choice, it’s easy to rationalize that you probably picked the best one or the only one you could.

12. Being minimalist means moving can be not only easy but enjoyable.

Everyone I know hates the physical act of moving their stuff to a new home. What if it didn’t have to be such a miserable experience? When moving everything you own means making three trips to your car and back, it becomes a non-event.

This lets you focus on where you’re going instead of what you must relocate.

Enough About Me. Let’s Talk About You

A few weeks ago, I asked the Minimalist Journey community on Facebook the following question:

“What does being minimalist mean to you?”

The answers were so good, I wanted to share just a few of them here.

Anita said:

Less pleasure from the tangible, more pleasure from the intangible. Not just owning less, but wanting to own less and being content.

David offered:

Now that I have no kids to raise and can work and come home and just flop on the couch I find I have fewer pieces of furniture and material things but I enjoy them more. I use them to memorialize family and friends; having friends over just for the sake of their company. I am content with my view of the lake and I love sitting out on my balcony with friends and just being.

De might think it has something to do with freedom

Freedom. Freedom to move freely though this life without having stuff own us. Freedom to choose what is the best to have around. Freedom not to be sucked in by the status quo. Freedom to use what you need without guilt and pass on what you don’t with grace.

Susanne gave us:

I think its about stripping your life down to the essential. What “the essential” is will vary depending on perspective and hence so will minimalist.

Seth’s perspective:

I think minimalism is spending the time and energy to think through your ideas and the ideas behind what your environment presents to you, or pushes on you, and then accepting and rejecting ideas, developing a philosophy, and acting with purpose.

Maureen got right to the point:

If you don’t need it, don’t have it. If you are not going to use it often, don’t have it.

Finally, Saffra gave me a laugh with her thought about what being minimalist means to her:

Open space in the house for the dust bunnies to run around in.

Just… wow. Really great stuff that I wish I had written.

So what does being minimalist mean to you? Donate your 2¢ in the comments or over on Minimalist Journey on Facebook.

Ready to Go Minimalist?

Finally, I wanted to let you know about a new site and Facebook page I started last week.

There’s so much great writing on being minimalist all over the web, but it can be really tough to keep up with. So I started a new site called on Facebook). It’s updated throughout the day with links to minimalist writing and resources that I think you’ll love. If this sounds like your kind of thing, check it out! Thanks!

[Source: Minimalist Journey]

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