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.
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:
No internal concept of Minimalism
Introduced the concept, but not having it affect any lifestyle changes or consumptions choices.
Aware of minimalism, with a loose intention on how you want to consume, but without a commitment to yourself to do it.
Setting a confirmed intention as a commitment for yourself on how you want to consume things in this world and mindfully considering things.
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?