Where Are You On The Minimalist Living Spectrum?

Minimalist living means many different things to different people. Many people in this world are minimalists without even knowing it. Are you?

Written by Adam on 2017-11-16. Blog, Minimalism. 7 comments. Find out how I make money.

I’m currently going through everything in my house and preparing for a move out west. This involves transitioning from a 1,700 square foot house with a garage to a 2-bedroom apartment out there. It also means going from having a yard (and everything to maintain it) to a small patio. We’ll no longer have an attic to store things in, and now only have a hallway closet. For us, this means slimming down our already sparse house quite a bit more. We’re starting to figure out just how different the idea of minimalist living means depending on where you’re living.

Simple desk

Having Only What You Need

The term “minimalism” means different things to different people. This could mean owning a few possessions – like 100 Things. It could mean owning so few things you can carry them (which I consider to be a nomad rather than a minimalist). My internal conversation has always strived towards the direction of “do I need this?”. My own flavor of minimalism would be something along these lines:

Mindfully bring things into your life you need and enjoy, and accept and part with things when they no longer meet these conditions.

The answer to “do I need this?” will be completely different depending on where you are in life. As a homeowner with a yard, anything related to maintaining those is a definite “yes” to this. Could you get by without these – definitely – but that would mean paying someone else for that service, or skipping it.

When owning a home, being a minimalist can feel like a struggle. There are things we don’t want, but that we need. What about for guests rooms? We want people to feel warm and enjoy our space when they’re here. That means more things to support that in our current house.

What about holiday celebration items? Keeping them and reusing them is better for the environment than consuming and throwing them away each year. We have opted to keep sentimental Christmas ornaments that bring back memories each holiday season and reduce waste.

What about the house itself? This is the hardest one to change. We’ve lived in a house entirely too large for 11 years. During that time, we both started pursuing minimalism in our own ways, resulting in somewhat sparse rooms. If there was an easier way to change up our home, we would have moved sooner. What we prioritized was the sunk cost of the house over living simply. Being aware of your own intention and moving into a place that fits your intended lifestyle shapes it like no other decision can.

A Chat With A Friend

Mrs. Minafi and I have been chatting with a bunch of long-time friends here in Orlando prior to the move. In one chat, the idea of minimalism came up. The couple we were having dinner with has a big house, 3 young kids, and a yard. She mentioned they consider themselves minimalists. That statement made complete sense to me for them. Having been in their home many times, I did a mental rundown and I could see how they mindfully choose everything they bring into their life.

I suspect there are far more people who would consider themselves minimalists with a definition like this. The recent documentary about minimalism does as good job of presenting people with many different takes on the subject – from parents with families, to near-nomads. In this spectrum, there’s room for anyone to consider themselves a minimalist – especially if they’re making some kind of mindful decision about what to bring into their lives.

The Minimalist Living Spectrum

One takeaway from these conversations and chats with a bunch of people at FinCon was that the word “Minimalism” holds a lot more meaning than I’d been giving to it. I truly think that most people are minimalists in some sense – perhaps not by pursuing that intention but as a side effect of other personal choices. Making eco-friendly choices, budgeting and decluttering are all synonyms for the same end goal – conscience consumption.

For each of these, you could put them into a spectrum that follows the knowledge journey on each. Here’s what a Minimalism Lifestyle spectrum might look like:

1. None

No internal concept of Minimalism

2. Aware

Introduced the concept, but not having it affect any lifestyle changes or consumptions choices.

3. Developing

Aware of minimalism, with a loose intention on how you want to consume, but without a commitment to yourself to do it.

4. Committed

Setting a confirmed intention as a commitment for yourself on how you want to consume things in this world and mindfully considering things.

5. Passive

Committed but without needing to spend additional willpower to make it happen. Your consumption choices are on auto-pilot.

The Spectrum as a Habit Journey

If these parts of a spectrum look familiar, they’re roughly the same steps you’d take to build a habit. Minimalism could be thought of in the same way – as a muscle that can be shaped and improved with time, focus and attention.

There’s nothing on this spectrum that defines what minimalism is for you – that’s up to you to develop. I’ve spent small periods of time in the Passive area here (likely at times when my savings rate was rather stable), but more often than not I was in Committed. When a change comes up in life and I’m thrown back to Developing to formulate a new intention.

This is where I’m at right now as I attempt to move across the country. My overall concept of minimalism is the same, but I’m still developing an intention on what I want to bring into my life with this move – from new experiences to people to things.

This goal setting approach with an intention is great for helping me focus, but it may not be what you need. If it’s not, maybe think of an intention more like my above flavor of minimalism (Mindfully bringing things into your life you need and enjoy, and accept and part with things when they no longer meet these conditions). What would yours be?

Passive vs Developing

Passive and Developing here can often look and feel the same – effortless. For a habit of minimalism that can involve not doing things, it may feel difficult to measure. You could compare it to exercise. In developing, you say “I want to go the gym 3 times a week”, but if you miss days you’re not broken up about it. You don’t have a habit of going to the gym, so one more day missed doesn’t matter.

In Committed, you wake up and tell yourself “I made a commitment to go!” and hold yourself accountable.

In Passive, you don’t even think about it – and go just as much as you did when you were Committed. In all cases being accepting of life and anything it throws at you – while not putting yourself down if the path is a little rougher than you thought.

Do you consider yourself a minimalist? Why or why not? Where would you be on the Minimalist Spectrum? 


Hi, I'm Adam! I help millennials invest to reach financial independence sooner than they ever thought possible. Want to see what you could do to reach FI sooner? You're in the right place!


Why not add to the conversation below? Your voice is welcome!

I’m somewhere around Developing I’d say. Having just upsized significantly to a new house I can’t say our living situation is minimalist by any definition of the word, but we’re definitely trying to make a conscious effort on what we fill the house with.

It’s sometimes tough mentally to see empty rooms but then I think about how much it’d cost in mental bandwidth and actual money to fill the rooms up and I get turned off to the idea of filling it all up right now.

Besides, if we end up moving eventually (though we’re not intending on it), the less work we have to do to clear our place out the better! If nothing else someone’s going to have to go through our stuff when we die.

I can fully sympathize with the empty room problem. For us, we filled those with inherited furniture then never felt the need to go any farther than that with anything well thought out. Seems better to wait until you have a need to use the room, then design it around that problem than to try to fill it first before you know how you want to use it.

I’m developing too! That’s a huge step up from #1 this time last year. I love James Altucher and his “I live on the street with only 40 things in my possession. And oh I’m a millionaire too” thing. It’s refreshing. I wanna experience that someday but my husband thinks I’m crazy.

I’m a big Altucher fan too! He’s gone full nomad for sure. The idea of something like that has a ton of draw. Without trying it out, it’s hard to know how that would feel after a month or a year. If I can convince Mrs. Minafi to try it sometime down the line we’ll give it a try too. 😉

I consider myself “minimalist lite.”

I could definitely live with less, but I try to make sure the possessions in my life each bring meaning or utility into my life. ????

Between “committed” and “developing” somewhere, not sure which category to pick!

That sounds like a good place to be!

I think it is a poor choice to seek happiness in possessions and that experiences are much more important. That puts me in line with much minimalist thinking. But the kinds of experiences I love the best are active outdoor ones and I don’t see a way to do them without substantial equipment. I don’t care about the equipment but I can’t have the experiences, at least at the expert level without a lot of stuff. I love to ski, endurance run, extreme hike, bass fish, and play competitive tennis. Except for skiing which is seasonal I do almost all of the rest of these on a weekly or monthly basis. I’m early retired so my wife and I have more time than most. I don’t particularly enjoy buying the racquets, clothing, footwear, fishing tackle, boat, trailers, ATV, etc. but those are the price of admission to some of the most exciting experiences we share together. I’m FI and cost is no issue and we are decidedly on the very low cost end of every one of those hobbies but at what point does minimalism mean you just stop doing anything enjoyable that requires special gear? I would argue that some of the most awesome experiences require pretty elaborate gear to participate, I’m thinking climbing K2 or Everest, ocean sailing, flying or gliding, or the more mundane sports I do.

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