What are the common misconceptions about the minimalist lifestyle?

Answered Jan 23, 2019

Thanks for the A2A.

I would say that, a common misconception is that, it is about feeling deprived. Like, still buying into the value system of wanting a huge pile of stuff. While feeling bad about refusing to buy it. As if it were an act of masochism.

Another misconception is that, it is simply a matter of poverty.

Another misconception is that, it is a matter of being miserly, and “cheap” minded.

Some people also denigrate minimalist goals like geographic mobility. And they push misconceptions that, all adults “must” be locked onto a single location, with their big pile of stuff, and their mortgaged house, etc.

Since you renounced material goods, what have you missed the most?

Answered Jan 16, 2019

Thanks for the A2A.

The problem with this question is that, it approaches minimalism as deprivation, rather than freedom. It’s a very common problem.

I wouldn’t say that I have exactly “renounced” anything in any spiritual sense, or sudden epiphany. And it hasn’t been one of those scenarios of very rapidly going from high materialism (huge volumes of stuff), down to one suitcase.

I’ve been inclined towards minimalism since I was a teenager. Long before it was trendy.

At different points, the volume of possessions has increased or decreased. But never too extreme. There is an ongoing process, rather than one big event. And I have recently made progress in downsizing, even though I had already been down to a volume that could comfortably fit into a medium-sized car. Generally, the plan is to never again have any greater volume of possessions than right now, and likely somewhat less. Sure, I may buy a few things (e.g. clothing suitable for job interviews), but it will be very little.

The idea of “missing” possessions isn’t really the issue. If you were carrying around a backpack full of rocks all the time, it would be a burden. After you dump out the rocks, you won’t miss them at all.

If you are concerned about the risk of emotionally missing a possession, then set it aside. Perhaps in a box in the closet, or something like that. You will still own it, so no danger of regret. Then, see how long it stays in the box. I’ve had things sit in a box for many months, unused. I’ve set a rule that (aside from things like office supplies and computer backups) if I haven’t used something in a full year, I don’t really need that thing.

Sometimes, the idea of missing something is more in the anticipation. The fear of tossing a “just in case” item, and then having a situation where it would be useful. The fear of emotionally missing something. The anxiety of letting go of something familiar, and moving to the unfamiliar state of not having that thing around anymore. Sentimentality, and associating a non-useful item with events or time periods of the past.

But, after I have overcome that, and the thing is gone, then, well, it’s gone. A done deal. Missing it won’t bring it back. And the optimistic approach is to appreciate the increase in my freedom, (even a small increase). I’ve had moments when this was wonderfully liberating. When the attachment and fear disintegrated, leaving freedom.

I recall one moment of feeling rather odd, although not necessarily regretful. I had large stack of university study guides, lab manuals, etc. I’ve heard of people lugging boxes of that type of material around for years and years. There was the practical idea of possibly referring back to the information (I’ve probably forgotten a large portion of what I’ve learned). But there was also a sense of familiarity, and sentimentality for a transformative period of life. So, after scanning it all to PDF files, and dumping the paper, I felt a strange emptiness. But that didn’t last long, and I gained freedom. Especially since I’ve moved to different rooms numerous times in the past several years, and generally moved around over my whole life.

That’s another big point. Moving (even just a couple of blocks down the street) puts me in touch with the downside of material possessions. The hassle and expense (especially moving longer distances). Getting rid of something comes with the satisfaction that every future move will be easier/cheaper.

There are people who cannot even move across town, because of being attached to a huge pile of stuff. While I could toss a few excess or easily replaceable items (e.g. $30 printer/scanner, etc), and move to a new city, with only the amount of luggage that I could physically carry at once.

I’ve been attached to books, until I realised that, I didn’t refer to them for long periods, and can always access newer editions from the library. Also, while I prefer regular physical books, I can get many of the same ones in electronic format, so a heavy, bulky shelf-full becomes weightless and compressed to the volume of a tablet computer. Physical ones tossed without regret.

I’ve been attached to a few sentimental items of zero practical use. But let those go, too. In some cases, relating to letting go of past experiences or people (e.g. a relationship).

For practical items, it may sound wasteful, but I try to view everything as disposable, or like a consumable. It isn’t actually that wasteful, since the volume and costs are so low.

Of every possession that I let go of, what do I miss?

Nothing.

The one regret I’ve had in this area is about the times when I remained attached to material burdens, resulting in unnecessary hassle and dollar costs. The regret is about not having let go more, and sooner.

What is the best wallet solution?

Answered Dec 31, 2018

I recently stopped carrying a regular wallet.

Now, I just have a little plastic card folder thingy that I got for free from the bank that I use. It has:

  • Driving licence
  • University ID card (which also functions as a city bus pass)
  • Credit cards (2)
  • Debit card
  • Supermarket discount card

Keys to my room, mailbox, locker, and bicycle go on a carabiner on my belt. Cardkey for the office and laboratory is on one of those thingys with a retractable string, that clips to my belt. The phone fits in the pocket of my jeans or fleece jacket.

Why are people stressed out over the concept of small private living spaces? When “hotel sized rooms” come with common spaces, that can be an awesome living arrangement.

Updated Nov 24

Many people are calibrated by their childhood circumstances.

Some adults are also calibrated by situations where they didn’t have to personally pay any rent (e.g. non-employed housewives).

They are stressed because they are whiners with a sense of entitlement.

Some of these people grew up in middle class situations, in detached houses with yards, etc. They think that, the minimum that they personally have ever had, is the minimum survival level.

And it isn’t just “millennials” or any of that, “kids these days” labeling.

I know that I harp on this, but it is yet another point where females are trained to feel victimised by anything and everything. It is an issue of training females to expect material circumstances higher than one’s own ability to pay. Plus, of course, the incessant competition of desperately needing other females to be at the bottom-of-the-barrel, economically and socially.

Some induhviduals grow up in one detached house, on a quiet suburban street, and then decided that that is the definition of housing. Separate bedrooms, lounge, kitchen, bathroom, etc. Until adulthood strikes.

Some induhviduals are leeching housewives, with breadwinning husband/slave paying for that house. Until the divorce.

They feel horrifically victimised at only being able to afford a one-bedroom flat, and even expect their neighbours (in identical or even smaller flats) to feel sorry for them.

I have even encountered women who acted offended and victimised by my housing floorplan. Starting with a fear that, some new acquaintance might be able to afford a larger/nicer apartment than themselves, or live in a nicer suburb.

There are actually induhviduals who will almost immediately demand information, about either your general area, or even your exact rent payment, and then tell you, “It’s a one-bedroom!” Because they thought that was the bottom-of-the-barrel minimum, and need you to be down there.

I have encountered induhviduals who claimed that, a one-room-plus-bathroom studio apartment was equivalent to a cardboard box on the street. Or that, it is somehow impossible to sleep and cook in the same room. Including, “That’s not even surviving!”

Some will demand sympathy from neighbours in identical flats, acting like special induhviduals who are entitled to better housing than low-class dirtbags like you.

Personally, I have spent most of my adult life in modest housing. This includes years in university halls, and years in one-room-plus-bathroom situations, and one-room-with-toilets/showers-down-the-hall situations.

I lived a few years in the latter situation, in a rundown 8×8 foot room, with a sink in the corner. It was cool, because it enabled me to live in a high-cost city. I would do so again, without hesitation.

I have seen articles decrying listings of housing that included under-stairs closets, and also plastic capsules stacked into a regular flat. But they actually looked OK, for the rent and central locations.

Yes, I would pay $180/week to live in a stacked plastic capsule in central Auckland, or in a closet in London, or in a tiny hovel in San Francisco.

Generally, I just want floor-to-ceiling walls and a locked door when I am sleeping. And a decent barrier when showering or using a toilet.

What are the reasons that black is so popular among minimalists?

Updated Aug 9

Minimalism is about simplicity, and black is a simple colour.

Black is unobtrusive, barely noticed. Nobody is distracted by your plain black shirt, or the fact that you always wear identical plain black shirts (compared to something bright, or patterned).

When you only have a small amount of clothes, you don’t need a reason to choose black. Because it is simple and classic, for all socioeconomic situations.

When all of your clothes are the same colour, then you don’t waste time choosing or thinking in the morning. You don’t waste mental energy about whether a certain outfit looks good today. I could easily get dressed in total darkness.

I am privileged to be spending my days in a relatively informal environment, where brain-power is more important than attractiveness.

My current “uniform” is $8 stretch jeans, one size too large (because I like being comfortable), from K-Mart, plus either a plain black T-shirt, or turtleneck, or fleece sweatshirt, depending on temperature. Plus whatever cheap comfortable shoes I get every few months, from a chain store.

Underwear and socks are cheap, plain black. Nobody sees those, anyway.

In the past, I have had some bizarre encounters with people who accused me of trying to make some kind of “statement” with my clothing. As if I were morally obligated to be constantly thinking about random strangers, and their opinions on this.

As long as my clothes are clean and in good condition, nobody as any legitimate reason to care.

How do I start living a minimalist life?

Answered Jun 20

  • Take an inventory. Here is an idea for that.
  • Rent a really small room. I do this, and it helps to show the volume that works out well. Also, some housing situations may let you share a common kitchen, vacuum cleaner, etc, so you have access without having to own the items.
  • Digitise, and go paperless. Scan your paper to multi-page PDF format, at 300 dpi. This helped me a lot. Get books in PDF format. Scan personal photographs at 600 dpi, and save to disk. Set bank statements, power bills, etc, to electronic delivery.
  • Get simple with clothing. And with breakfast. This helps to avoid “decision fatigue” starting early in the morning. I wear basically the same outfit every day – jeans and plain black shirts, with style just depending on the temperature. Duplicates hang in the closet, and I just pull out the next identical shirt. These don’t have to be expensive.
  • Think of things being disposable. This will help you to be mobile, and dramatically reduce the hassle/time/cost of relocating or travelling. It doesn’t have to be wasteful. Anything that I want to get rid of can be put out in common areas, with a “Free Please Take” note, and will be useful to someone else.
  • Disposability doesn’t really have to be expensive, since you wouldn’t be buying very much stuff, anyway.
  • Some people are into counting all of their items. However, I focus more on total volume and weight.

What are some ways to be a minimalist without being obsessive?

Updated May 20

The desire to eliminate the unnecessary, continues after you have already started eliminating.

I got rid of this, that, and the other thing. but still feel an urge to get rid of something else. I feel a need to go through life’s journey as light as possible and fantasise about getting to a better level of freedom.

In the most recent move to a new residence, I was very annoyed with myself, needing an entire taxicab (small, NZ-style taxi) to move all of my stuff in one trip.

I have an Excel spreadsheet, used as a detailed inventory of everything.

At some point, I over-bought socks. There were 19 pairs at the moment of Peak-Sock. All identical, thick work socks, from a chain store, of course. So I set aside a few pairs, to wear frequently, until they wear out, to downregulate to a better sock-equilibrium.

I am comfortable with five identical black-t-shirts, but wonder if the seven identical black turtlenecks is too many? I thought there were too many thermal underwear-tops, but it is cold now, and sometimes I wear two at a time, so maybe those are OK.

I bought a new bowl – plastic with a handle, safer to retrieve from the microwave when making dinner, and also lighter. The old bowl – ceramic without handle – is still OK for morning cornflakes, but maybe should be jettisoned at the next room-move?

I should probably unload those excess pads of graph paper that I don’t need in the foreseeable future. And why do I have excess pens and pencils? Maybe some first-year students would use them. Not sure about that half a ream of printer paper though. Going paperless was an excellent move, but I still need a few temporary copies of things.

I just found a free bicycle tool station, so I don’t need to buy a tyre pump.

Why do I have three different types of coffee cups? The plastic screw-top one can stay in the office, and the regular ceramic handle type can be at home, but should I dump the insulated round one?

I just briefly looked over the top shelf. What is this? One of those little folding disposable plastic forks that comes in an instant noodle container. Why do I have this item, reducing my freedom, and weighing on my mind?

Etc, etc…

What seems to happen is a sort of refinement of attention.

“I need to sort through that big pile of stuff…”

Becomes…

“I still don’t need it all, so the pile could be a bit smaller. I should sweep through everything again, for items that I haven’t used in the past six months.”

”Your Stuff” can funnel down from a large, confusing, grey, amorphous blob (or multiple blobs), down to small group of organised items/categories/containers, which you can remember and hold in your mind all at once.

I’m still working to a “sweet spot” of efficiency. The lowest, simplest amount/selection of “stuff” that doesn’t burden with the unnecessary, but which also doesn’t hassle/cost with lacking.

ETA: I just got rid of the little plastic fork. Another step towards perfect freedom.

Are you a person who lives a minimalist lifestyle? How do you maintain this way of living?

Updated Apr 25

Maintaining this level is fairly easy.

My initial impetus for minimalism (as a teenager) was housing-based pressure. This meant, living in a small space, and relocating numerous times (both short and long distances). This has continued for a long time as an adult, and I foresee it continuing.

My basic value system (again, developed at an early age) is towards experiences and freedom. Objects are simply tools for those real pursuits.

Maintaining can come from a few angles.

First, there is the simple point of thinking carefully before you buy a new object. Do I really need it? How is it going to impact my daily life (e.g. helping efficiency and time-saving)? How is it going to further my overall medium/long term goals?

Second, some purchases are replacements. New item comes in, and old item goes out.

Nearly all of my physical possessions have practical use, and actually get used on a relatively frequent basis. It can be a good idea to keep track of usage (e.g. have I used this item in the past year?) I avoid keeping “just in case” items.

I used to be burdened with paper (old bank statements, letters, articles, printed information, university manuals, etc, etc). Scanning years of backlogged paper is time-consuming and tedious, but it only needs to be done once. Now, a lot of that starts as digital, and never takes paper form. Also, new paper can be immediately scanned, and so never builds up. Some paper (calendars, lists, notes, articles, work or university stuff, etc) is only around for a short time period and then tossed.

While I love physical books, I only own a small number, which are all for scientific reference. Otherwise, I rely on a large quantity of PDF format books, plus borrowing from libraries.

Some large/heavy items in my daily life don’t even belong to me, due to renting furnished rooms for the last few years. I have usage without the burdens of ownership (i.e. moving to a new room is quick and easy).

The last time I owned furniture, it was cheap second-hand stuff, which I donated back when moving.

I view most of my possessions as being temporary, disposable, consumable, and replaceable. This is in my mind from the moment I contemplate buying something, so my investment (both financial and emotional) will be relatively low from the start.

Disposability relates to mobility. If I moved across town, I would take a single taxicab trip to carry all of my stuff. However, the next time I move to a new city, I plan to downsize to an amount that would work for a long-distance bus/train/plane trip. Upon arrival, I would buy a few replacement items, but those would also be ultimately disposable.

Maintenance of this lifestyle is based on having a low financial and emotional investment, both when contemplating a purchase, and also when downsizing.

Do you live a minimalist lifestyle? If so, why?

Answered Mar 24

Yes.

The original impetus was a situation when I was a teenager, but it still applies.

Minimalism generally saves money. The arguments against this, are cases of downsizing so far that the person lacks an object that they actually need, so they have to buy or rent one (especially if it is on short notice and/or overpriced).

Minimalism saves time. This applies to physically dealing with your pile of possessions, and also to working for the money involved.

Minimalism enables me to comfortably live in small, lower-cost apartments or rooms. This not only saves money, but increases the number of options, giving the ability to move to a high-cost city in the future (as I have done in the past). Or it could be smaller scale things, like prioritising location for a short commute, or living in a lower-crime area.

Minimalism enables me to relocate with relatively low hassle, cost, and time required. This applies to my relatively frequent local moves, and also to a number of long distance moves. It is critically important, because mobility increases your available choices and opportunities, and broadens your horizons in terms of life experience.

Finally, minimalism makes it easier to be physically and mentally organised. This means less daily stress and worry.

What kind of cars do minimalists have? Do they have bicycles?

Updated Mar 27

Minimalism is a general approach and attitude, not a set of fixed rules for everybody.

When I lived in the middle of a large, crowded, city with good public transport, I got along just fine without a car. That’s a good thing, since it was also an expensive city, where even a parking spot wouldn’t have been economically viable for me.

In another city, I had a job that required me to use my own vehicle to go from place to place, during the workday. The vehicle was an investment and tool to generate a paycheque. The selection criteria was simply purchase and running cost.

If I lived in a rural area, or some outer suburbs, I would need a car just to get to the nearest supermarket.

Presently, I use a combination of public transport, walking, and bicycling. The bicycle is just the lowest-priced one I could find at KMart.

If I were to purchase a car, it would be a station wagon, or possibly a minivan. Japanese brands tend to be reliable. Either manual or automatic transmission (manual is lower cost, can be push-started, and, in my experience, fails one gear at a time, while automatic fails completely).

I would want it to be average-looking. Not flashy, but not too battered.

An ideal vehicular situation would have the ability to simultaneously get all of my material possessions in, and put the back seat down and sleep in it comfortably.