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  • Minimalist living

    I had been doing the minimal footprint thing before, but this weekend I really tried to pare my belongings down to the bare essentials. I went through each thing I owned and asked if it was truly essential. If not I threw it out or gave it away. I ended up getting rid of most of my stuff, including most of my furniture. I was pretty gung-ho about this: do I really need more than 2 forks? Nope. Do I really need a chair? Nope, exercise ball will do. Do I really need about 80% of my clothing? Nope, probably won't wear it ever. Shampoo/soap/etc? Haven't had that stuff in months. Microwave? No way! I'm so glad I got rid of that thing. The hardest part was the bookshelf. But I made myself give away any book I haven't read, or read and didn't feel was truly epic. I only have about 20 books now but each one has changed my life in some way.

    So after this purge, all I own in the world is:

    1)two suitcases of clothing
    2)inflatable bed with pillow and comforter
    3)soup pot, utensils & dishes for 2, detergent, sponge
    4)desk, lamp
    5)phone, laptop
    6)free weights, pullup bar, exercise ball
    7)toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, towels, toilet paper, hamper
    8)frozen meat + veggies, eggs, butter, coconut oil
    9)some books
    10)stethoscope, ID badge, pens, USB drive
    11)vacuum


    That's it! I feel so clean and pure after getting rid of my excess stuff. I feel like this kind of living is in the Primal spirit, after all, Grok had to move from place to place and probably was no hoarder. Wondering if there are any other minimalists or like-minded people here?
    Last edited by dizzyorange; 01-09-2013, 12:41 AM.

  • #2
    We lived in an RV (travel trailer) for 9 months and did a very similar thing, though not quite as minimally as you are since we're a family of 4. We pared down a lot but didn't completely liquidate our belongings though, just stored them. We've been back in a regular house for almost 6 months and are itching terribly for the lifestyle again. I was so horribly overwhelmed by all the things and stuff everywhere when we first moved back in--why in the world did we feel the need for all of that stuff? I'm still wearing the same daily clothes that I did in the RV (about a small suitcase worth), so why do I have the big dresser and closet full? I'm using all the same kitchen ware, so why do I have all these big gadgets or extra pans? And so on... Our plan next time (in a few years) is to have an estate sale and get rid of everything before we move into an RV again and hit the road.

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    • #3
      I've done the minimalist thing too so I'm not judging, but I think it can end up being a mental disorder no different than hording for a lot of people. Perhaps for different reasons, but just as debilitating.

      One of my best friends bought a condo after he got his first good job. For a long time he wouldn't invite anyone to his home. When he finally relented he had been living there for over 10 years. His entire furniture was a bare mattress on the floor in one room. His list would go something like this:

      1) two sets of clothing (he said he had two pairs of jeans and a handful of shirts)
      2) bare twin mattress
      3) laptop
      4) toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, towel, toilet paper
      5) Old oak wall unit which he said his parents gave him when he was 14.... it was donated to goodwill not long after.

      No cooking equipment, nothing he enjoyed having, just the bare minimum needed to keep going through the motions of life. He could've packed everything except the mattress in a compact car...thinking about it, probably into a single large suitcase.

      He was making decent money (north of $70k in the 1990s) and could afford more, but he had this minimalism condition working against him. It wound up interfering with his life. He was embarrassed to have guests over to his home, he couldn't have hobbies because... well... just as one example, learning to play a musical instrument requires one to keep a musical instrument around for months at a time, and that would cause a minimalism flare-up. I always found it very sad and made an effort to coax him into a more healthy equilibrium.

      When I moved from CA to TX I could easily fit everything I brought into a smallish SUV, and I slept on air mattresses for a long time after moving. My list "minimal" list is very short (I'm infamous for taking long trips with almost zero luggage) but my comfortable list includes tools, quality of life objects such as musical instruments, safety equipment, and so on.

      I guess it's like eating disorders. Too much is a problem, to little is a problem, but when it gets "bad" is when it becomes an obsession. Emotionally making rash and irreversible purges of personal belongings can't be healthy, any more than hording or puking up your dinner to lose weight.
      Last edited by Him; 01-09-2013, 07:45 AM.

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      • #4
        You might think it's a disorder, but at 70K a year and not spending on anything he'll probably be able to retire young and spend his life traveling the world.
        Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Him View Post
          1) two sets of clothing (he said he had two pairs of jeans and a handful of shirts)
          Ugh, I wish I could do that as a girl -.- lol!

          Originally posted by Him View Post
          I guess it's like eating disorders. Too much is a problem, to little is a problem, but when it gets "bad" is when it becomes an obsession. Emotionally making rash and irreversible purges of personal belongings can't be healthy, any more than hording or puking up your dinner to lose weight.
          I honestly don't think it's a problem to be "too" minimalist. If that's what makes him happy, even after the fact that he couldn't ask people over or learn an instrument, then it's not a problem. I think things become a problem when a concept begins interfering with your ability to enjoy life in your own eyes.
          My chocolatey Primal journey

          Unusual food recipes (plus chocolate) blog

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          • #6
            Originally posted by sbhikes View Post
            You might think it's a disorder, but at 70K a year and not spending on anything he'll probably be able to retire young and spend his life traveling the world.
            Oh, but that's not how the story ends.

            He saved a ton of money by the time he hit 40. He actually paid off the condo at 13 years into a 30 year mortgage...wrote a check for the balance.

            Then he took an early retirement from his (fortune 100 level) employer with a golden parachute to the tune of 2 years salary.

            Then he sold his condo to the tune of almost $300K... at that point you can imagine how his bank account is looking....

            Oh, in selling his condo he gave away the mattress. The last time I visited him at a home he could call his own he was renting a room with someone in an apartment ... his bedroom had a blanket on the floor, he had a laptop and some clothes, plus of course his car.

            Five years later he now has no home of his own (he couch surfs), is still living within 100 miles of where he was born, has been trying to buy a new place to live but cannot get out of the bargain hunter mode... he keeps looking at REO/bank owned (scary) places but other people always out-bid him... oh, and no job... he's been living on savings, which he's admittedly good at doing but between the 2008 financial mess zeroing out interest rates and tanking investments he is down a LOT of money even before his poverty-level living expenses.

            At some point in there he got serious enough about suicide that I actually called his doctor to explain that the whole gamut of, "concrete plans, location, access to method, etc." screening was met. Fortunately he hasn't actually killed himself, but he just doesn't seem happy or healthy.

            His embarrassment at his lifestyle was such that he had no serious relationships. Lived alone, will probably die alone. No wife, no kids.

            Again, don't get me wrong...being fiscally responsible is great. Keeping things as simple as they should be - but no simpler - is great. I paid off my own mortgage after 15 years and I'm currently looking at buying a second house outright (no mortgage/cash sale) so I'm not much different in some ways, but I think when it comes to simplifying - as in everywhere else in life - you need a realistic balance. I live a far more complicated, richer, and in many ways more cluttered life (though perhaps not by mainstream standards), but my happiness is through the roof higher than his. Part of my happiness is the fact that I can own 6 guitars, a kayak, and a full set of SCUBA gear...AND a vacuum cleaner of my own. Getting rid of that stuff would make my life simpler in the short term but would lower my overall quality of life far more. If you can't keep stuff you like or that makes your life better because some miswiring in your brain causes you to descend into minimalism, if the minimalism manifests itself in ways that make you less happy, that's not healthy.

            In my opinion.
            Last edited by Him; 01-09-2013, 09:44 AM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Him View Post
              I guess it's like eating disorders. Too much is a problem, to little is a problem, but when it gets "bad" is when it becomes an obsession. Emotionally making rash and irreversible purges of personal belongings can't be healthy, any more than hording or puking up your dinner to lose weight.
              It's only a problem if it's a problem for the individual, though.

              When we first moved here, we had our clothing, DS's toys/books, our basic electronics and toiletries, and basics for the kitchen (cuz we do cook rather than dine out. a friend of mine is a multi millionaire and he doesn't own any kitchen gear because he never cooks). We had lots of people over, full social lives, lots of activities and even hobbies. It's not as if having very little *means* that you are embarrassed or have a problem.

              Obviously, this guy has another issue, and he channels that into this minimalism stuff (or something).

              ---

              We currently rent a 465 sq ft cottage (finally got the confirmation from the landlady).

              This is our furniture:

              Bedroom: King size bed, dresser
              Lounge: twin size bed with drawers beneath, two chairs and small bench
              kitchen: kitchen table, 4 cafe chairs (i want to get rid of these and get 4 used tolix-style stools).
              closet/second bedroom: 2 book shelves -- one holds books, electronics, business/immigration/etc information; the other is DS's toys/books (3 shelves) and pantry space (two shelves).

              In terms of clothing, we do capsule wardrobes.

              DS got over-loaded because family likes to send him clothes. I had to tell them to stop because I was storing "grow into" stuff, would forget it was there, and he would have grown out of it before wearing it! So, i sold it and was able to use the money to pay for fun stuff for him (like bowling).

              DH's clothes fits into two drawers, mine fits into one and on a couple of hangers (dresses), and DS has the most with 5 drawers (three in the day bed in the lounge, two in our dresser -- it's high-boy style, so the dresser isn't big). And we have three jackets each: three season, warm, and rain.

              For shoes, DS has two pair -- everyday and rain; I have three pair (two vibrams, one rain); DH has several more than that -- i don't keep count.

              We have a pot, a skillet, a crock pot, knives (3), spatula, dishes for 3, several jars for food storage, and three mugs.

              We have two computers (lap top each), two iPods, an external hard drive. DH and I have about 10 books here -- most are DH's. We have bedding, of course.

              Toiletries: toothbrushes, hair brush and comb, some hair supplies (bands, barrettes, hair combs), moon cup and washable pads for me, plus my rags for things like body-honey waxing and oil-washing.

              For most people, it's pretty simple.

              And DS has toy minimalism. He has lego, blocks, about 10 soft toys, 8 wooden vehicles, a wooden sword, and one box of books. He also has some rocks, sticks. shells, and cloth (scarves, sheets) that he uses for costuming, building, and other creative play. He has 4 musical instruments (harmonica, drum, rattle, ukulele). For most kids his age (4) -- that's very few toys.

              Oh, and he has a big boy bike now -- no training wheels! -- and a helmet.

              I also have my roller derby gear. And DH has some weight training stuff.

              Still, like i say. LOL

              I oculd do without several things int he house, but I think they are good for us to have for the now.
              Last edited by zoebird; 01-09-2013, 11:41 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by zoebird View Post

                And DS has toy minimalism. He has lego, blocks, about 10 soft toys, 8 wooden vehicles, a wooden sword, and one box of books. He also has some rocks, sticks. shells, and cloth (scarves, sheets) that he uses for costuming, building, and other creative play. He has 4 musical instruments (harmonica, drum, rattle, ukulele). For most kids his age (4) -- that's very few toys.

                Never knew why kids have so many toys. Parents try to overcompensate for something?
                Everything is bad for something - How do you feel today?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by zoebird View Post
                  It's only a problem if it's a problem for the individual, though.

                  When we first moved here, we had our clothing, DS's toys/books, our basic electronics and toiletries, and basics for the kitchen (cuz we do cook rather than dine out. a friend of mine is a multi millionaire and he doesn't own any kitchen gear because he never cooks). We had lots of people over, full social lives, lots of activities and even hobbies. It's not as if having very little *means* that you are embarrassed or have a problem.

                  Obviously, this guy has another issue, and he channels that into this minimalism stuff (or something).
                  Well sure. It's like when someone suffers from anorexia nervosa - obviously they have other issues and channel them into body image, which in turn reinforces those other issues starting a classic vicious cycle that is hard to break. And obviously the anorexia is at one level just a symptom of other issues. And obviously every behavior associated with anorexia can be positive in certain circumstances. However, it's probably best not to celebrate those behaviors or congratulate people for exhibiting symptoms of anorexia.

                  Same deal here IMO.

                  You aren't minimalist from what you've described. You have a lot of stuff, most of which is absolutely unnecessary. On top of that, moving usually involves some purging for reasons that are tied to the realities of a move and economics...it's an externally driven purge, like vomiting because you are sick. That's socially and psychologically very different from what the OP and my friend were engaged in, which is far more like putting a finger down your throat because doing so makes you feel you have control of some part of your life. The results are superficially similar but categorically very different.

                  I think that when people who are not objectively overweight, or who do not objectively have so much stuff as to be a problem, start taking remedial action and getting an emotional (vs. functional or economic) reward for action (vs. improvement in safety, capability, or other objective quality of life measure), it's probably best not to offer positive reinforcement. It's a tricky line, as any weight-loss related forum demonstrates perfectly. There is a line between mutual encouragement between people who need to lose weight, which is wonderful, and pro-ana, which also happens and isn't wonderful at all.

                  Just my take, YMMV.

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                  • #10
                    Basically, you are making an illicit conversion.

                    All dogs are mammals, therefore all mammals are dogs.

                    My disordered friend is a minimalist, therefore all minimalists like him are disordered.

                    I know many minimalists who own very little who are not disordered. I would know them because I am part of the minimalist community, and we talk about the "spectrum of minimalism."

                    Minimalism isn't truly a "set number of items" or "only what is necessary." It's a process of discovering where your personal lines are, and being willing to try things out.

                    When I went to university, I moved from one version of minimalism (one car load of stuff) down to another (one carry-on suitcase plus the car I borrowed from my parents, living in furnished accommodation). This second one made me very happy, and I certainly wasn't miserable, mentally ill or disordered. I was very happy and very social.

                    When I got together with my husband, and then we later added in DS, my lifestyle inevitably changed to balance out their needs.

                    I still only have one carry-on suitcase of clothing/personal items. That includes putting my laptop in there. So, I have maintained a certain aspect of my own minimalism going forward. But I do live in a shared household, and the needs/desires of others must be considered.

                    Also, like a Whole 30, it's fun to take on personal challenges. My personal challenge that lead me to the single-suitcase wardrobe (at age 18 no less) was wanting to do as little laundry as possible. It came down to three loads, or an hour-long process 3x a week (for wash/dry/fold). I actually had more clothing then than I do now -- because I refined my personal style, got better at layering for warmth (rather than having truly seasonal clothes), and got better at laundry. LOL It taught me *a lot* about myself, and it still does.

                    I did a minimalist toiletries challenge. I got down to just using coconut oil and water. I also decided to stop shaving. I discovereed that I didn't care for this lifestyle. So, I've now added in some of my prior grooming habits BUT instead of being habitual (using disposable razors to shave), I learned about a natural technique that is waste-free, inexpensive, and really works well. And, I discovered that I want to wear make up again, so I got recipes to make my own. These are big discoveries. I probably wouldn't have made them had I not tried to go down as minimally as possible.

                    Every time I do a minimalist challenge, it really changes my world-view. I learn about myself -- and I learn new ways of being, and discover new communities. It's truly a journey of self discovery.
                    Last edited by zoebird; 01-10-2013, 06:19 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by zoebird View Post
                      Basically, you are making an illicit conversion.

                      All dogs are mammals, therefore all mammals are dogs.

                      My disordered friend is a minimalist, therefore all minimalists like him are disordered.
                      If you can point out where I said anything even remotely close to that, I'll agree with you. I didn't.

                      What I said, to reiterate, is that when "minimalism" (and I would extend that to any -ism) results in a reduction of actual ability (tools needed to do things you actually do), safety (emergency supplies, tools, equipment), or quality of life (entertainments, hobby equipment, etc.), and somewhere in there I would fit financial health (which is harmed by repeatedly buying and getting rid of the same items, or periodically renting things, instead of buying once and re-using) in return for a mental perception (especially a temporary one), that is not healthy.

                      I used an example, because anecdotes are easier for most people to absorb... and it's such a sad case IMO.

                      There are many utilitarian reasons for minimalism. A poster mentioned living in an RV. Two others (you and I) mentioned moving. I could mention living on a boat, motorcycle camping, etc.... these are functional adaptations to external reality, which is completely different and quite healthy.

                      I'm perfectly happy to entertain the idea that I'm wrong, but I'm not wrong in the way you think.

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                      • #12
                        Here are the relevant quotes, and here's how I understand them:

                        1. asserts what minimalism means and is -- that it is an objective standard. Relevant quotes:

                        Originally posted by Him View Post
                        You aren't minimalist from what you've described.
                        -- I might live simply, but it's not minimalism because simplicity and minimalism are defined as . . .

                        Originally posted by Him View Post
                        Again, don't get me wrong...being fiscally responsible is great. Keeping things as simple as they should be - but no simpler - is great.

                        [then defined as]. . .I think when it comes to simplifying - as in everywhere else in life - you need a realistic balance. . . .Getting rid of that stuff would make my life simpler in the short term but would lower my overall quality of life far more. If you can't keep stuff you like or that makes your life better because some miswiring in your brain causes you to descend into minimalism, if the minimalism manifests itself in ways that make you less happy, that's not healthy.

                        In my opinion.
                        By definition, minimalism means lowering your quality of life. It logically follows, of course, that doing so is not healthy (i agree with this logic).

                        I disagree that minimalism *means* lowering your quality of life for an emotional reward.

                        In minimalist circles, minimalism actually means simplifying and finding your personal balance -- to break the cycle of consumer culture, become free of the burdens of stuff, and to provide opportunities (financially and otherwise) to do what you want to do with your time/money (life).

                        Thus, you would even be considered a minimalist -- since you take this simplicity approach. Though it is true that some people (minimalists) have abandoned the term minimalist in favor of "simplicity" and "simple living" because they do not like the "i'm more minimalist than you!" process (ie, being told that what they have isn't "necessary" and that "true minimalism is X").

                        2. anyone who practices minimalism (by Him's definition) is mentally ill.

                        Emotionally making rash and irreversible purges of personal belongings can't be healthy, any more than hording or puking up your dinner to lose weight.
                        True, but just because an individual has fewer things doesn't mean that their process was rash or irreversible or causes them suffering. That's where the illicit conversion comes in.

                        That's socially and psychologically very different from what the OP and my friend were engaged in, which is far more like putting a finger down your throat because doing so makes you feel you have control of some part of your life. The results are superficially similar but categorically very different.
                        Your friend purged his life of stuff.
                        Op has purged his life of stuff.

                        Your friend was mentally ill, therefore the OP is mentally ill.

                        The trouble is this -- the lack of stuff doesn't objectively point to an irrational, mental-illness process.

                        If I lived on my own, I would very likely live like the OP. Why? It's a matter of preference. Although, I would have had only *one* suitcase of clothing. So, I might have been more minimal there.

                        This is not an indication of mental illness. It is the same process that you describe above about happiness, etc. Truly. You might not believe it, but going for less than what you (subjectively) consider "balanced" does not automatically equal rash decisions, lack of utilitarianism, lack of safety, and lack of happiness, or mental illness.

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                        • #13
                          I'm somewhere between Ron Swanson and Tom Haverford aka Tommy Edamame.
                          I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by zoebird View Post
                            Here are the relevant quotes, and here's how I understand them:

                            1. asserts what minimalism means and is -- that it is an objective standard. Relevant quotes:



                            -- I might live simply, but it's not minimalism because simplicity and minimalism are defined as . . .
                            Actually, no... I don't consider what you described as minimalism because you seem to have a lot of stuff that you want but don't need. In other words, you haven't reached, and have no intention of reaching, the minimum. Minimum isn't your goal.

                            Originally posted by zoebird View Post
                            By definition, minimalism means lowering your quality of life. It logically follows, of course, that doing so is not healthy (i agree with this logic).
                            Again, no. Look at part of what I wrote: "if the minimalism manifests itself in ways that make you less happy, that's not healthy."

                            Logically, that "if" allows for minimalism that manifests in ways that make you more happy, and minimalism that doesn't change your happiness at all, as well as minimalism that makes you less happy. I'm not saying that minimalism itself is always a source of unhappiness.

                            Now, if you want to bring mental health into things, consider this: If X and Y are NOT proportional...If minimalism and happiness do not increase together...is it mentally healthy to ALWAYS increase X when you want more Y? In other words, if you are unhappy should the answer always be, "get rid of more stuff!" If you answered, "no", does that mean that the minimalism is the mental health issue? My answer is another no.

                            Logically, your conclusions don't follow from what I said. I didn't make anything like the claims you are trying to attribute to me.

                            Now, if you want my opinion, which I'll freely admit, I think that simplifying beyond the limits of the functional definition I supplied previously is rash and ill advised. I think it can be very unhealthy. But I don't think it is the minimalism itself that is the problem. I don't think minimalism itself is a mental illness. I think it can be a symptom of mental illness... but as you yourself point out, having a symptom doesn't logically mean you have any of the diseases associated with that symptom. I would never claim otherwise.
                            Last edited by Him; 01-10-2013, 03:01 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Minimalism is the point where utility curve reaches a maximum
                              My chocolatey Primal journey

                              Unusual food recipes (plus chocolate) blog

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