I have recently stumbled across a couple of articles discussing the concept of ‘minimalism’ and recently listened to a podcast, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, which discussed the same.
Between the various articles, the podcast and discussions with my wife, I got to thinking about what minimalism means to me. I should start off by noting what it does not mean to me.
It does not mean living in an impossibly small house. While I appreciate the advantages of living in a tiny home, occasionally watch – and find quite interesting – the show Tiny House Nation on the FYI network, and have even offered a couple tiny living documentaries as SavvyRecommendations, living in a tiny house – say less than 1,000 sq. ft. – just wouldn’t work for me, even though at this point in my life it is just me and the wife. We need a little more room to be comfortable and possess the things that are important to us.
It does not mean living without a car. Although I believe I could do without one, it just isn’t practical at this point in my life, primarily because I live and work in a small urban area, which although it possesses a transit system, the system is small in scale and would not be adequate as a means of getting me and the wife to and from work in a timely manner on a daily basis and/or around town when we aren’t working. Perhaps in retirement, if we move to a larger urban area with a more sophisticated mass transit system, living without a car would be an option, certainly not now, however.
It doesn’t mean possessing as few items as possible. It doesn’t mean living without a television. It doesn’t mean reducing my wardrobe to only the clothes that can fit into one small suitcase and two pairs of shoes. It doesn’t mean being cheap.
Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, interviewed in the podcast above and among the most recognized minimalist, describe minimalism as follows on their blog, The Minimalists:
Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.
I have indicated what minimalism does not mean to us, so what exactly does it mean? Of course, part of the answer is contained within the observations of what it does not mean.
While I don’t believe a tiny house works for me, I do believe it makes sense to not buy more house than you need, both for financial reasons and to limit your ecological footprint. Our present home is smaller, and less expensive than one we could afford; however, it meets all of our current needs and we are able to comfortably maintain the material items that are important to us. While I have a hard time envisioning ever moving into something less than 1,000 sq. ft., I can see a time where something in the 1,250 – 1,500 sq. ft. range would work for us.
As I noted previously, living without a car is not practical at this point in our lives. However, moving – or spending a fair amount of time – to a larger urban area with a sophisticated transit system is definitely something that is part of our discussions about retirement living. While we will likely never get to the point where we don’t own a car, I can certainly see a time when we reduce our reliance on, and time spent in, one.
Identifying the items that are important to us and discarding those that don’t make the cut. The Disabled Veterans of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters are two organizations that regularly leave bags for donations. If we haven’t worn or used an item for the last 4 – 6 months, it typically ends up in one of the bags for the next curbside pickup. Recently, we completed a couple of home improvement projects and had some removed mirrors, doors and the door frames taking up space in our garage. Instead of holding onto the items in case we might want to use them in some way in the future or for some future garage sale, the wife called Habitat for Humanity and arranged a pickup. The bottom line, we are always looking to identify items we no longer need and the best way to get them out of our lives.
Adopting some frugal practices but not being a cheap skate. I discuss the differences here.
Freedom from the scourge of debt and being a hyper-consumer. For me, the number one consideration for working toward a life of minimalism. Working simply to service debt is the path too many people find themselves on and one the wife and I work hard to avoid. Unfortunately, I see too many people who focus on a bigger home – which means a larger mortgage and increased costs for utilities and maintenance – to house all the stuff (purchased on credit) they don’t really need. Unmanageable debt translates to a reduction in freedom, a narrowing of choices.
How about it. What constitutes minimalism for you?