Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Mar

Minimalist Living: Is It Primal?

Minimalism FinalIn Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick imagines a world overflowing with “kipple,” useless objects like junk mail, paperclips, empty matchboxes, old lightbulbs, depleted batteries, and gum wrappers that reproduce when no one’s around. It’s a drab, dreary, depressing vision of the future. It’s not that bad yet, but we definitely have a problem with stuff. Our oceans contain vast swirling vortexes of microplastics. The average American house contains over 300,000 objects, most of them we’ve long since forgotten. “Hoarders” is a popular, horrifying reality TV show. The growing minimalist movement is a response to all this: a concerted effort to declutter, remove non-essentials, and simplify one’s life. Dozens of minimalist blogs, podcastsbooks, and decluttering/organizing businesses have popped up. One of the best-selling books in 2014 was the English translation of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, which asks readers to discard or donate every possession that does not immediately “spark joy.” Her most recent book is already topping charts and spawning a cult of personality. It’s big.

How does minimalism jibe with the Primal Blueprint?

Readers of my blog are already familiar with my take on the minimalist, or “barefoot” shoe. Unencumbered by supportive arch inserts, stiff soles, and cramped dimensions, the healthy human foot performs, feels, and functions best in a minimalist shoe. It cuts out the fluff and the artifice, the rent-seeking yet unnecessary modifications and upgrades that characterize the modern shoe industry and distills the essentials of what shoe should do—protect the bottom of the foot without changing the heel height or cutting off incoming sensory data. Even if you don’t currently wear minimalist footwear, you grasp the argument, understand the appeal, and agree that minimalist shoes hew more closely to the ancestral environment in which our feet evolved. They are Primal through and through.

Does the same hold true for the growing minimalist movement? Was Grok a minimalist? Sorta…

Most true hunter-gatherers were nomads, meaning they moved around a lot and carried only what they could hold themselves. No pack animals or vehicles, remember. Frank Marlowe, who lived with the Hadza people of Tanzania (one of the last remaining nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples in the world) for years, catalogued their personal possessions. The list looks an awful lot like what we’d expect from a paleolithic group of hunter-gatherers:

  • Tools required for sustenance (digging sticks, hammerstones, fire drills used to generate sparks and start fires, bows, arrows, poison, knives, axes)
  • Gourds as containers for water, honey, coals, and fat
  • Skins (as clothing and to carry food, make baby slings, and construct shelters)
  • Clothes
  • Art (primarily jewelry like necklaces, bracelets, earrings, anklets)

The Hadza have an oral tradition rather than written language, so they don’t carry physical embodiments of entertainment. They tell stories rather than watch TV or read novels. They dance and their native musical instrument is the voice, or perhaps a dried gourd used as a maraca.

What does this look like in contemporary Western terms?

You’d need the tools you require to stay alive. For the Hadza, that means the objects that help you dig out edible plants, catch and butcher game, and start fires. For most of you, that’s whatever you use to make money. Computer and smartphone if you’re a “knowledge worker.” Whatever physical tools you need if you’re not. Transportation to work. Plus, there’s a couple other obvious things to add to the list:

  • You’d need storage for food, tools, and your other possessions.
  • You’d need cooking tools. Or I suppose you could just take Soylent.
  • You’d need clothing.
  • You’d need shelter.
  • You’d need entertainment. Books, Internet, film, music (and the instruments to make it), television. Consumable stories.

What else do you need? I’d argue not much. That looks an awful lot like what leading minimalists own.

But what else do you want? That’s where I come up short on minimalism. We want things we don’t need, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people just really like having and wearing tons of clothes, keeping vast libraries, or collecting souvenirs from their travels. And though strict minimalists can ostensibly hold on to “frivolous” possessions as long as they do so mindfully, it rarely pans out like that. They’re tossing everything. They’re throwing away every single object that they haven’t used or looked at in the last 60 days (or some other arbitrary period of time).

Overall, though? It’s great. I get it. Eliminating waste, focusing on experiences over possessions, tossing stuff you never use or even look at—who doesn’t agree with that? Heck, that’s how I determine my training—I eliminate the useless exercises and do exactly what I need to do to support my play and my health. And it’s how I try to write, by eliminating unnecessary words. I just can’t suggest that everyone overhaul their entire lives, clear out their storage space, and toss 80% of everything they own in good faith.

A few readers have asked me about tips for minimalist living. There are other and better guides across the Internet from people who write and think about this stuff for a living. My friend Leo Babauta writes beautifully on the subject, if you want more. But here are a few tips that I feel comfortable giving.

Eliminate single-use items. Alton Brown’s number one kitchen tip is to get rid of all single-use appliances like melon ballers (slice them instead) and garlic presses (just smash it with a knife). Unless you’re a pasta chef, you don’t really need that massive pasta maker taking up valuable pantry space. Besides, this is Mark’s Daily Apple—what the hell are you doing with a pasta maker?

Only keep single use items if they’re truly meaningful and valuable to you. If they “spark joy,” in other words.

Replace them with multi-use items. Increase capacity and reduce space taken.

A food processor can make pesto, quickly dice a ton of onions and garlic, produce fresh nut butter, and a million other things.

An Instant Pot replaces the rice cooker, the crockpot, the stovetop pressure cooker, the steamer, even the yogurt maker. The Bluetooth-enabled version, which allows temperature programming, can even double (or is that sextuple?) as a rudimentary sous-vide.

A cast iron pan can sauté and double as a baking pan.

A good 8 inch chef’s knife (here or here) is all most home cooks will ever need. Just keep it sharpened.

A Kindle can replace shelves of books (although I prefer paper books and won’t ever give them up). Maybe even better, a good local library gives you access to paper books without forcing you to purchase or hold on to them.

A barbell with a few hundred pounds of weights and a pullup bar will replace a room full of machines. Several kettlebells can do the same.

As much as people vilify their overuse (and I’m one of them), a smartphone can replace your map, GPS, flashlight, alarm clock, regular telephone, and many entertainment mediums like TV, gaming consoles, magazines, newspapers, and books.

A simple towel is the most important multi-use possession for any interstellar traveler, and as we progress into the coming Space Age any minimalist worth his or her salt should heed the prophet Douglas Adams’ suggestions.

Replace huge items with smaller ones. I refer to physical size. This isn’t always desirable, but sometimes it is.

A hand mixer can replace a KitchenAid stand mixer (that, let’s face it, you never really used anyway). A hand juicer can replace a huge electric juicer (unless you’re on a juice fast or something, which you really shouldn’t do). A French press makes better coffee than a drip machine.

Go digital. Bills, receipts, records—scan ’em and convert ’em.

Eliminate thought clutter. I’m not sure if this is part of the minimalism orthodoxy, but I like the idea of eliminating non-essential decision making. Think buying a quarter cow twice a year and freezing it instead of deciding what cut of meat to buy every night at the grocery store.

Ask “Does this add value to my life?” Whether it’s a knick-knack on the shelf, an old photo, a kitchen appliance, or an article of clothing, asking if the object adds value helps you identify the things to keep and discard.

Don’t identify as a minimalist. Use it as a system for eliminating unnecessary items, decluttering your life (and mind), and focusing on the things that truly matter and bring you joy, but don’t let it define you. I’m “the Primal guy” to many people. I wrote several books on the subject, I’ve maintained a daily blog for years. Look a bit deeper, though, and you’ll realize that all this time I’ve been constructing a way to approach problems, make decisions, and analyze the effects. I’m not giving you The Answer. It’s easy to say “I’m Primal” or “I’m paleo” as shorthand, but I also caution against turning it into a dogma or religion.

The same applies to minimalism. Acknowledge and implement the aspects that work for you. Even if you wholeheartedly agree with every maxim found on the leading minimalist sites, you don’t have to identify as one. And you can own more than 100 things. You can keep non-essential physical objects. Don’t let minimalism become another source of stress.

Minimalism needn’t mean “less stuff” if that stuff actually makes your life run more smoothly and makes you happier. Nothing is all or nothing. If you want to convert your bills to digital but prefer your old physical photos over scanned ones, that’s fine. Just pick what works because getting rid of anything you don’t actually want, need, or enjoy is a positive shift. There are no score cards.

Now let’s hear from you. I’m especially interested in hearing how people in the minimalist community make it work with Primal living. I suspect there’s a lot of overlap.

Thanks for reading!

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. “When you prescribed a year at this place for me, you told me I would find great joy,” a student said to Suzuki Roshi, as they sat sipping tea in Suzuki’s cabin at Tassajara. “To find that great joy, I will first have to lose the will to live, won’t I, Roshi?”

    “Yes,” he said, “but without gaining a will to die.”

    – Shunryu Suziki, Zen Is Right Here

    Rick wrote on March 8th, 2016
  2. About Marie Kondo’s new book: You would be person #81 on the waiting list at our small, local library. So it seems there is a great need to simplify in this crazy world.

    I’m a big believer in simplifying and Primal has just been icing on the steak!

    Noconago wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • I hope by icing you mean butter!

      Myles wrote on March 9th, 2016
      • butter on the bacon

        cndnrose wrote on March 9th, 2016
  3. I laughed about the pasta maker. Years ago my mother thought it would be a good idea for me to have a pasta maker, even though I didn’t make pasta and rarely ever ate it. Then a few years later she forgot she had already bought me one and got me another one. I think I made homemade pasta once in my pre-primal days. Since then both of these smallish hand-crank machines have been stashed in a cupboard. I really do need to find them another home.

    I used to be more of a minimalist. Now we have a bigger house with more storage place. My spouse is much worse than I am. He would save empty boxes if I didn’t throw them out when he’s not looking. I do use quite a few of my kitchen contraptions, but for sure there are some I don’t use. A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it for 2 years or more, get rid of it. We have many things that would qualify. It’s mostly a matter of setting aside the time to just do it.

    Shary wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • I use my pasta machine for rolling polymer clay to create art! If that’s not your thing, maybe you could offer it to a crafty friend. They’re fairly pricey so it would probably be appreciated (and crafters are almost never minimalists)!

      Paleo-curious wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • My pasta maker was bought to use with FIMO or Sculpty clay. Of course, it’s no good for pasta anymore. Sometimes, there are alternate uses for some of this stuff.

      I’m in the process of weeding out the things that I don’t use. It’s not easy and I don’t do it all the time.However, I was more successful in the doing the kitchen. What I did was remove absolutely everything from my kitchen, then as I needed it, I returned it. It’s a long process but it works. Anything left behind is going to a garage sale.

      regards,
      Theresa

      Theresa Diaz Gray wrote on March 9th, 2016
  4. When my grandparents died, we had decades worth of things to go through. We contacted our local homeless shelter and asked if they had any needs. Turns out a lot of the appliances grandparents owned the family didn’t really need, and the shelter really appreciated the upgrade as grandparents stuff was basically like new. They also appreciated a lot of the tasteful, like new clothing as well as small furniture items and bedding that had never been taken out of the original packaging. If there’s a need elsewhere and you wish to part with it, it can be a win win situation and help other people.

    Ziva wrote on March 8th, 2016
  5. Hordor

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • Next Season coming up soon! Looking forward to it.

      BJJ Caveman wrote on March 14th, 2016
  6. When I saw a boy drink from his hands I cast my cup away.
    – Diogenes, ~300 BC.

    But please, more blogs about this new idea!!

    : )

    Rick wrote on March 8th, 2016
  7. I remember a year ago i went through my entire room and did a big decluttering, got rid of almost all my old school papers, a lot of old toys that were broken and didnt played with. I emptied out my desk drawers, boxes, and my nightstand cabinet. It felt refreshing having less stuff, but sadly now i have more stuff. Not as much as before i tell you. I still need to work on my decluttering and organizations, two things i want to do this summer is go through my entire closet and bookshelves. Anything i dont want thats still useable will get donated to goodwill, or the library (if its books).

    Steph wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • Years ago I went through a book reduction phase. I took boxes of books I no longer wanted or needed to the used book store for credit, then used that credit to buy used books that interested me. Did that five or six times over a couple of years. I seldom buy physical books any more (except cookbooks), so my collection is personalized, useful to me and frequently accessed. Like a library should be.

      Ted wrote on March 11th, 2016
  8. “Don’t let minimalism [or any other lifestyle decisions] become another source of stress.”

    I think many people, in an attempt to accomplish something choose stress. They must obey the rules. They stick hard and fast to the principles of a choice without understanding they are taking ion them yet another yoke of stress.

    Let’s all go “ommmmmmm” and let it go.

    Julie wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • Well said. Many years ago, when all my possessions fit in a backpack, I rented an apartment and dropped my pack in one of the bedrooms. That was my “fancy tent”. I used to vacuum patterns into the carpet for amusement. But I caught myself getting irritated when someone would walk through them and mess them up.
      : )

      Rick wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • Couldn’t agree more!

      Ziva wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • I would’ve fixed my spelling but am avoiding stress.

      Ommmmmmmmmmm.

      Julie wrote on March 8th, 2016
  9. Does a Maserati count as minimalist, Mark (the one referenced in the Outside magazine article)? I mean I guess I can see it both ways… its minimalist compared to say a Yukon XL Denali. But its not very practical for carrying around your stuff or more than one other person. And unless you frequent a race track, you can’t legally use it to its full potential. Sort of makes it wasteful in that sense. Tell you what… why don’t you not use it for 60 days, then donate it to me. 😛

    A. Davis wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • Even if it does do 185, if you’ve lost your license and no longer drive, you may as well sell that Maserati, Mr. Walsh.

      His Dudeness wrote on March 8th, 2016
  10. I find making more room and more time for what is truly important to me results in less stress in my life. Less chronic stress definitely supports my primal lifestyle. I embrace the tenants of minimalism which result in reducing my stress.

    Jann wrote on March 8th, 2016
  11. The “replace single use with multi use” is exactly what multi-day backpackers do. My small bottle of Everclear? Its stove fuel primarily, but can also be used to clean a wound or to warm up my body if it gets too cold (ie: imbibe). I remember doing something similar to this article when it came to backpacking. I started out with a 60lbs pack, but after 3 or 4 trips I re-evaluated. I started by cutting the things I didn’t use (my printed Army survival book, for example). I went multi-use where I could. Ex: my iPad is lighter than most books. So I got the digital copy of my Army Survival guide on it. Plus it also acts as my GPS/wayfinder, holds my topomaps, and logs my exercise, etc. These are just a few examples… I wrote a much longer article on the Backpacker Magazine blog a few years back. But these days I can go out for 4-5 days with a pack weighing less than 30lbs not including water. So different situation but similar application to this article.

    A. Davis wrote on March 8th, 2016
  12. Exactly.

    HealthyHombre wrote on March 8th, 2016
  13. When my 87 year old father died the physical goods he left behind were a car, a home, a closet full of simple, neat clothes, books on all subjects, and tons of framed photos of family. He was not monetarily poor, but simply had no need for ” things”. Today we call this minimalist, but what he really was, was content.

    Marianne wrote on March 8th, 2016
  14. My way of living sort of requires minimalism. I sold my stick-and-brick house a few years ago and started living full time in my RV. Because of weight considerations, you just can’t haul around everything you think you might need (or want).

    I bring a mountain bike (with both road and knobby tires to use, depending on the local bike terrain), a pair of 10# dumbells, and multi-task a pair of 6 gallon water jugs to use as heavy weights/ water haulers. I can get books at the local library, or go to gutenberg.org to download free E-pub classics. Television is usually available by antenna, as are radio stations.

    My homebase is near Seattle, but I travel south and live in the Arizona desert during the worst of the Northwest fall, winter and spring seasons. I left Quartzsite, AZ a week ago (it was getting a little to warm for me) and headed up to Moab,UT. I love it here, and have been enjoying riding my bike and hiking up and down the slickrock.

    I do need some “stuff”. Last week my generator broke down, so I bought a new one. I’ve been spending a bit on upgrading my bicycle with new gears and a chain. But I don’t buy any doo-dads, souvenirs, or other junk. I spend mainly on food and any camping costs.

    Anyway, life is good these days. Since I can travel to nice weather, I’m more motivated to be active. In the last year I’ve lost over 80 pounds, and feel stronger and more fit than I have in years. No gym membership needed. Just regular, moderate activity and simple, real foods – meat, fish, eggs, veggies, good oils, nuts, and a couple Baker’s unsweetened cocoa squares for a treat.

    Bill wrote on March 8th, 2016
  15. Interesting timing on this. I just got permission from my boss to take a four day weekend so I can clean house. I moved two years ago, still have boxes I haven’t looked at since I moved. It’s been long enough that if I haven’t missed it by now, I don’t need it. I’ll be pitching or donating a lot that weekend.

    Beth wrote on March 8th, 2016
  16. I like “Only keep single use items if they’re truly meaningful and valuable to you. If they ‘spark joy,’ in other words.” I would also apply that to things I haven’t used for a long time.

    When someone tells me I should “Get rid of that junk you haven’t used in the last X months,” it is likely to very quickly turn into a fist fight. [Not literally] I probably have things I haven’t used in 30 years, not pictures and other mementos, just things I love. You can toss them out when you can tear them out of my cold dead hands.

    I have lots of cookbooks. In reality, when I want a recipe, I usually find one on my mobile device. And, no, I am not giving up the cookbooks.

    Harry Mossman wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • I like the way you think, Harry. I, too, have things I haven’t used in 30 years that I will probably never get rid of–including a sizable cookbook collection that I hardly ever use any more.

      Shary wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • My neighbor across the street had a bunch of seldom- or no longer used kitchen appliances stored in her garage (30 years old or older). I strolled over and helped her clean out the garage, noticed the appliances, and told her to put them on Ebay–she’d probably make a fortune because these were all once-top brand names still in working condition. She said that was too much trouble, so I went to Ebay to look up prices on some of the items. I made a list, then went back over, and offered her half what Ebay was showing for a few of the appliances and some Tupperware items with lids, and we made a deal.

      Now some of her aged garage “junk” is doing duty over in my kitchen, and any needed replacement parts are just a click away. I’m really enjoying the blender–14 speeds with a GLASS pitcher. Replacement rubber rings and a top have already been bought for it (no doubt from someone else’s garage full of 30-year old kitchen appliances). For $20, my blender can do what the Ninja, the Vitamix, and a food processor can do–good sturdy motor with no plastic parts.

      Wenchypoo wrote on March 8th, 2016
      • Lucky!!! I had one of those blenders that my parents gave me, after having used it themselves for at least 10 years, and it lasted in my own house for another 10!! I wish I had thought to see if I could get the motor fixed instead of throwing it out… that was 20 years ago and I’ve had 2 or 3 since then that SUCK. They just don’t make ’em like they used to….

        KariVery wrote on March 8th, 2016
  17. I’d replace the barbell, weights and pullup bar with a set of Olympic rings and there’s your gym.

    Steve wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • Ha. That’s exactly what I have. Rings and pull up bar. I can find some many exercises to do with the rings, especially when I adjust them down to waist high. Dips, pushups, hang upside down with head on floor. Those two objects, rings and pull up bar make up my upper body routine. Sprints on Saturdays and near-constant walking (movement) make up the rest.

      Jed wrote on March 8th, 2016
  18. I can definitely see primal & minimal going hand in hand. When we decided to get off the fence and fully immerse ourselves in the primal lifestyle, we really overhauled our kitchen and all the crap we’d accumulated, both in the pantry (nonessential food items) and in the cabinets (nonessential hand tools & mini appliances).
    If we could simplify further & get rid of one or both cars, we’d love it!
    Currently, we’re looking at downsizing our house.
    Who knows what the future holds!
    As long as we view these options as choices rather than feel stressed that we have to follow some particular dogma or someone else’s prescription for our lives, then we feel privileged to have these choices & make the decisions that work for our family.

    Beth wrote on March 8th, 2016
  19. I think going from a plant based diet to a paleo-ish diet, I don’t find much use for my expensive $300 juicer and even my Nutribullet anymore. I avoid over consumption of fruits and sweet vegetables now, and that is one thing that can be abused with juicing and smoothies.

    dude wrote on March 8th, 2016
  20. But then there’s the psychological side of decluttering…in that less stuff means less of the person who owned it (in their mind). There are people who use their possessions (however inane) to surround themselves and separate themselves from the outside world as some sort of “belongings barrier”. Hoarders do this–their barriers of stuff makes them feel comfortable, and to eliminate some or all of it is the same feeling that a breach in the defense barrier causes. And once a perceived breach exists, they promptly go out and buy more stuff to replace it.

    My M-I-L refused to lose weight because she felt there would be “less” of her (mentally). She thought her presence in this world would diminish. As she grew older, she became a hoarder.

    Thank god I’m the opposite–you have to keep an eye on me to make sure I don’t throw too much away! The way my luck runs, I toss something out (or find a new home for it), and three days later, I find a use for that very same thing I no longer have. To help short-circuit this, I now wait a year before I remove stuff–the only exception is clothing, since Hubby and I are shrinking. I don’t wish to hang onto memories of a larger weight, and don’t want to provide a back-up plan if we backslide and regain. The clothes we have NOW are the ones we need to keep fitting into, unless we go smaller.

    Wenchypoo wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • ‘Murphys Law’….the time difference between throwing something out, and needing it again, is approximately 2 weeks!

      I’m the thrower, hubby is the keeper of stuff! I keep saying I’ll find his expiry date on him one day, bahaha! :-)

      Sparrow wrote on March 8th, 2016
  21. I think many times we hold onto things because we feel guilt…either for the money we spent on them, or we don’t want to hurt the feelings of the person who gave them to us. And then the longer we hold on to something the harder it is to let go. I find it easier to give things away when I know that they can be useful to others.

    Elizabeth wrote on March 8th, 2016
  22. In defense of the humble melon baller, no tool is better for coring apples. Given the name of the website, surely Mark will allow me to keep the melon baller if I use it to core an apple daily?

    oxide wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • I concur. I core pears with a melon baller then poach them in a spiced red wine.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 8th, 2016
  23. Two years ago I sold my 3400 square foot home in the suburbs and bought a townhouse in the city, which is 1200 square feet. The transition required selling much of what I owned or giving to charity the items that didn’t because I just couldn’t fit all of it in. I remember at the time being depressed over all of it. Today I can’t remember why – hahaha! I have so much freedom and ease in my current living situation that I come and go as I please and I am able to save and invest a large part of my income that used to go to large house upkeep/mortgage. At this stage of my life my focus is on experiences and doing things versus having them. And I still buy the stuff I like – nice clothes and nice car to be specific. I like it better with less – it allows me to focus on what I really want to accomplish – as an example I took the time and money to complete the Primal Expert Certification. So for the same amount that it would take to pay for watering the house lawn and paying the landscaper in a year, I trained myself in the lifestyle that supports my life the rest of my life. More than fair trade I say. :)

    Whitney wrote on March 8th, 2016
  24. I found that the more toys I had, the more I spent on maintaining those toys. So I got rid of four of my wooden human powered boats (sailing dinghy, skiff, old style double ender etc) and just kept one wooden rowboat for picnics and a couple of paddleboards for my wife and I. I still have 4 kayaks but they are plastic and only need a hosing off for maintenance. Now I can lavish love on the one wooden boat and play with all the rest as they require no maintenance.

    Helps to live in a 500 ft2 house too, can’t put much crap in there. Did I mention my 700 Ft2 storage unit? That is my shop. Seriously.

    michael wrote on March 8th, 2016
  25. Since my 20s, I’ve moved a lot–houses, cities, countries, continents. Partly because of that, have kept my belongings minimal.

    Now, nearing 41, I don’t move houses so much (though I DID just move to Colorado). And yet, I still prefer to keep my possessions very, very simple. This includes clothes (think “capsule wardrobe” but smaller), furniture (don’t really use it much anyway), and general “stuff”.

    I’m not attached to some “minimalist” label. I just know having fewer things brings me ease, spaciousness and creative flow. I love this feeling in body and mind way more than I love having more stuff (and the feeling that creates).

    Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons wrote on March 8th, 2016
  26. No pack animals or vehicles, remember.

    Ayla had a pack horse and a storage sled which dragged on the ground. In one funny scene, she tries to travel, only to find she has too much stuff!

    oxide wrote on March 8th, 2016
  27. I like the idea of minimalism, but I do find myself thinking that a minimalist is a single, affluent professional type person who has the luxury of not having stuff. Children is a good example, but a better one is shelter. Try renovating a normal house with a teaspoon and a laptop. You could live in a mud hut, but we need other people and that includes society – warts and all (Town Planners may have something to say about your mud hut also). One more on the affluent, I have found that minimalistic people dispose of their posessions, only to buy them again a while later, which costs money and can be wasteful.

    Kit wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • Good point. I would consider myself more of low impact than minimalist. For example, I reuse glass bottles by filling them with reverse osmosis water. To some, three cases of Gerolsteiner bottles in the garage would be hoarding. To me, I’m recyling. When I’m alone, it takes me three weeks to fill a kitchen trash bag(egg shells, coffee grinds, potato peels, etc., goes to compost. The other three members of my family fill one every two days with half empty plastic water bottles and the boxes and tray inserts for their processed convenience foods. Buying quality once and keeping forever is better than cyclical buying and discarding.

      Jack Lea Mason wrote on March 8th, 2016
  28. I respectfully disagree with the main conclusions in this article: this kind of paring down of possessions leaves people very dependent, and, ultimately, compels consumerism.

    You may replace shelves of DVDs and even VHS with a couple of video-on-demand services feeling very smug and modern, but then you’re hooked into regular payments just to watch favorite movies, have no say in what’s taken off the streaming services – and heaven help you if the internet goes down or you have equipment failure, especially at weekends or holidays.

    The string that you proudly cleared out from the junk drawer? Yeah but then when you need a bit of string, you have to go out or online to buy a whole ball – and the books and landline you threw away mean you NEED that smartphone, which can then break, be stolen, or become obsolete, requiring regular upgrades to a newer model (not to mention calls are almost always going to cost more that a fixed line, ditto paying for the data you view) – the excess bedlinen you clear out in pursuit of “lagom” gives you nothing to use when the central heating packs up, or a friend in trouble needs to crash on your sofa with their dogs and a toddler.

    The WW2 generation kept these kinds of bits and pieces *for a reason* – multiple redundancy is a pro-survival technique, that gives you a padding against hard times, even just temporary ones.

    You become like the person on the very edges of starvation, with no remaining reserves of fat (something we’re taught is desirable – but wrongly so IMO) – vulnerable to the smallest setback, with nothing to fall back upon.

    “Make do and mend” isn’t a philosophy compatible with the very elitist modern minimalism seen online, where there are no spare parts allowed!

    I’m not a hoarder in the pathological sense, but just one knife, just one smartphone… no thanks.

    I don’t think that’s primal at all, I think it’s a modern fad dressed up as humility and eco-awareness, forgetting that our Hadza buddies are using things they can mainly pick up easily from the world around them, with no trade-off of long hours worked (converted to a wage) just to be back where they were last week.

    Oh, and melon ballers rule, they replace the need for grapes or berries when you fancy picking on some fruit, which is a net result for saving money, and also, less pesticides!

    Yeah, I feel pretty strongly about this. :)

    Mrs Rathbone wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • YES!

      KariVery wrote on March 8th, 2016
      • Recent floods (in York, England) left us without internet and landline, and with only mobile signal for a day or so. Radio became the best way of knowing what was happening locally. We were lucky to keep power but I will now look to buy a wind-up/solar radio and continue to hoard extra towels, water bottles, books, food and other bits and pieces. That kind of ‘essential’ clutter doesn’t stress me but there are other kinds of clutter that make me feel much calmer when they’re gone.

        Caroline wrote on March 8th, 2016
        • Intermittent mobile signal, that is.

          Caroline wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • I agree and add that things like reusable water bottles and other eating wear that you can take with you prevent waste of disposable things. These are useful to own. But you can also carefully consider what you save. What might be useful? I save most containers that food I don’t make from un-containered food, because they are useful for storage and I don’t have to buy something new. So there is a corner in our basement of containers, that ebbs and flows in fullness as I have more or less food to store. But I don’t have shoes to match every outfit. And every person’s situation makes different things more important to save. I should add, too, that if you’re gonna save things that might be useful, you better be organized, or you’ll never find it when you need it.

      Becky wrote on March 8th, 2016
  29. I’ve been a minimalist for decades. For me it makes for an easier life, keeps more money in my pocket (less stress!) and is better for our over-burdened planet.

    Peter wrote on March 8th, 2016
  30. I look at Mark as a Philosopher. His vehicle of delivery is health and fitness, but it’s just a venue to get across the brilliant and cohesive ideas of a great contemporary philosopher. Thanks Mark.

    Jed wrote on March 8th, 2016
  31. Ironically, I just bought a garlic press. I got tired of grating my fingers as well s the garlic when I made a curry paste.

    What? Don’t judge me! 😀

    Wildrose wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • No way am I getting rid of the garlic press! It may only do one thing, but it saves me plenty of aggravation.

      Angel wrote on March 9th, 2016
  32. If we all did a quick survey, I’d venture to guess that a lot of us would find we probably use about 10% of our stuff 90% of the time. I know that’s how it is with me — especially the kitchen gadgets and gizmos.

    PrimalGrandma wrote on March 8th, 2016
  33. I’ve been trying to declutter and started reading minimalist blogs. I discovered that I’ve pretty much been a minimalist for a long time (and I’m living with a pack rat, haha.)

    I like the idea of having fewer items of higher quality that last a long time. I like the idea of owning things I love and getting rid of things that don’t mean much to me. It makes sense. I like the idea of getting creative with the stuff I have instead of buying those uni-taskers.

    Experiences and people are more important than stuff in the long haul.

    Cutting down on choices (like having to choose from a huge closet full of clothes) is definitely less stressful. :-)

    I’ve been on both ends of the extreme regarding possessions, and for me, less is definitely better.

    Suzan wrote on March 8th, 2016
  34. I’m an unapologetic maximalist! As an artist I collect items that delight my eyes, from antique books & beautifully crafted housewares to seedpods & animal bones found on woodland rambles. I also very much enjoy keeping plenty of supplies at hand so that when inspiration strikes, I can make all sorts of art without having to go shopping first. (I seriously hate shopping.) And in the kitchen, I find having just the right tool at hand to do a job perfectly & elegantly gives me satisfaction & encourages me to cook more.

    I respect the minimalist view though, just as I respect veganism. I can see where both are coming from philosophically; I just don’t want to live that way!

    Paleo-curious wrote on March 8th, 2016
  35. We’ve been on this Discardia journey for years now…with lesser and greater degrees of success. (Discardia, by Dinah Sanders is my favorite inspiration in that department.) We don’t watch TV, turned it off in 1997 and don’t miss it a bit. And I use a small barbell and a Theraband instead of complex exercise equipment. (I also push off against the end of the bed, and do a kind of isometric exercise plus a bit of yoga.) A big iron pot does most of the jobs of an instant pot and we have it already.

    On the other hand, too many books, too much hobby equipment still…as a creative person I’ve been through a lot of hobbies in 73 years, and I keep trying to find good homes for what I’ll never use again. If I’m SURE about that…

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on March 8th, 2016
  36. And by the way, that “spark joy” thing is the real deciding factor for me. If I love it, if it makes me smile, it stays. Even if it’s a 30-year-old stuffed B. Kliban “momcat.” She still makes me giggle.

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on March 8th, 2016
  37. That’s a great article! But it’s nothing said about what opportunities does this kind of living brings. When you don’t have home you can always live in different places, and learn a lot traveling around the world;) And now it’s easily achievable, as you can easily work online. That’s what we do!

    Maya wrote on March 8th, 2016
  38. I don’t know about going totally solo with the Instapot. What if you have bone broth going in the instapot for 3 days and need to make rice for dinner, with your venison neck stew, and want some yogurt? Though yogurt can be made on top of the fridge in a mason jar, so no yogurt maker necessary.

    If only manufacturers would ask themselves, “Does the world really need this?” too!

    Becky wrote on March 8th, 2016
  39. To me minimalism and paleo are kissing cousins. They are both about getting rid of the things that don’t help me live a better life so I have time, money, and energy for the things that do. For me that includes keeping things that remind me of enjoyable moments plus occasionally indulging in a tasty food that is not the best for my body because enjoyment should be a part of everyone’s life.

    Linda Sand wrote on March 8th, 2016
  40. Minimalism is for rich people. If you can’t afford to buy it again, then you are better off holding on to it. It is way cheaper to do home repairs yourself, with gear you have saved from last time, than to pay someone to do it for you or buy new gear each time. I love to travel, and use either a tent, camper trailer or caravan depending on the trip. Even things like how we carry water, depends on the trip. Saving that stuff means I can do any type of trip, whenever I want. If I didn’t already have the stuff, I would need to buy it each time, or simply not do the activity. Ditto cookbooks and cooking tools. Yoga class comes and goes, but the mats remain.

    Maybe minimalist people also don’t have much variety in their lives, and in how they spend their time. Maybe that’s how they get away with it.

    And I do regret throwing stuff out. I am sad that my grandparents didn’t keep more stuff. Used stuff has love embedded in it in a way that new stuff doesn’t.

    Lyn wrote on March 8th, 2016
    • You speak to my soul!

      I have a friend that sells all their baby stuff after each baby to then buy it again (used, but still) when they have a new baby. I could never understand that kind of mindset.

      Also I love old stuff so much. Maybe I’m a nostalgic, but I think that old stuff is sturdier, nicer and overall better than new stuff.

      Coco wrote on March 9th, 2016

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