What IS minimalism?

Whenever I tell someone I’m a minimalist, they look at me like I just told them I’m waiting for a comet to return me to the motherland.

Defining minimalism is a bit difficult, as it’s more a lifestyle than personality trait.

However, we see minimalism in terms of meaningfulness. We don’t need stuff to make us happy or fulfill unmet desires.

We want to live intentionally, and we feel like minimalism helps us do that. We focus more on experiences, meaningful work, and people than we do on things.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean we live in isolation without electricity. We still buy things. We just try to be extremely intentional when we do so. We’re always asking – “Is this something I need?” and “Is this the best tool for what I’m trying to do?”

Minimalism is the opposite of consumerism and the violent grasp of living intentionally.

 

Why does minimalism allow you to “pursue your passions”?

This is a two-fold answer that still leaves more unsaid than said. However, minimalism helps us do what we’re doing in two ways:

1) We don’t overspend. Once we realized that we could be sustained on very little, it meant we don’t need six-figure jobs to support our lifestyle. That means we can consider work we find meaningful and fulfilling first, and let the money thing work itself out.

2) We invest saved money into businesses, ideas, and dreams. Sometimes this is direct – we save more and therefore have more money to spend on the tools we need. And sometimes it’s indirect – we don’t need a lot of money, so we have jobs that require less time, which translates into spending more time on things we care about doing.

In short, something is always going to take your time and money. And if we aren’t living intentionally, we end up spending our time and money on things we don’t really care about.

 

Why do minimalists own so few things?

Although some minimalists have goals of owning “X” amount of things, we’re not really like that. We just like to have only what we find necessary.

Sure, we sometimes buy something we don’t need. But we’ve also become much more adept at realizing when this happens and quickly try to sell it or give it away.

For a minimalist, it’s just as easy to ask the question “why do people own so many things?” To us, things are an obligation and a weight. If they aren’t worth it, we don’t keep it.

 

Do you really save money being a minimalist? How?

We have saved money in three important ways:

1) We spend less buying things.

2) Spend less maintaining things. Everything we own is a choice to not have the money it is worth (resell value). If we could sell something and we decide to keep it, we view ownership as a cost of keeping that thing. If the cost outweights the benefit, we get rid of it. Secondly, things break, wear down, and just lose value. That costs us money, too. Owning fewer things means we have less maintenance/ownership costs.

3) We buy higher quality items. Yes, we buy things and we’re usually the people with the $100 coat instead of the $50 one. Say what you will, but we buy based on value. If we don’t love something, we don’t buy it. Since I only have one pair of jeans, I only buy jeans that I’m happy wearing every day. It might be more upfront, but I know which jeans wear out quickly (and, as a side benefit, I keep my jeans until they wear out – something I never did before).

 

How do you get rid of things?

We are still getting rid of things, but it definitely starts with a conscious decision to live differently.

I’d love to overcomplicate this and give you a decluttering plan and all these other things to “help” people get rid of things, but that never really worked for me.

You know how to get rid of things, what you’re really asking is “why should I get rid of things?”

And in a funny way, the times I’ve found most beneficial are when I’ve started out being content with where I am at. I’ve found that when I’m secure in myself, I realize that I really don’t need all this crap to make me happy. When I go into a decluttering session with that mindset, it’s a beautiful dance of liberation and reaffirmation.

Once you answer that for yourself, the best advice I have is to just start. The closet is always a great place to begin. It’s fast, it’s overstuffed, and you hate half of it anyway.

Once you’ve cleaned out a space, you start to realize more things that don’t fit or are unnecessary. Continue to pare down and reevaluate. It can take months or years, but that liberation is a fire that can blaze a new trail of life.

 

How has minimalism impacted your life?

Although I loved the feeling of being rid of many of my things years ago, and even more so a year ago, I feel like it’s really opening up a new season of life.

Sure, minimalism brings all these benefits of cost savings, less distraction, and simpler life, but I think it does something else.

I don’t quite have the words yet, but I think it helps me become more available to opportunities.  If a really great opportunity comes across my plate, I have the flexibility to take it.

More importantly, it’s changed the way I think. I no longer think working for myself has to be a stressful, cumbersome combination of chance and luck. It’s just living intentionally and learning to keep an open mind.

 

I want to live a simpler life. Where do I start?

Really, I think you need to start with the resolve of “why” I’m doing what I’m doing. That’s why I think the work of these bloggers/authors is absolutely phenomenal. They focus on the “whys” rather than the “how tos.”

You know how to get rid of things. You know how to sell things and drive to the goodwill.

Sometimes tactics help (I really like zoning off a section and just deciding to go through it), but at the end of the day, just doing something will always trump planning.

For wild inspiration, read The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, and Zen Habits.

 

Can minimalism help me get out of debt?

Yes. But it’s probably easiest to just start spending less than you make. And sell anything you can.

 

Anything else?

I hate writing about minimalism too much in this fashion, because I feel like it’s very preacher-y.

Please, the last thing I want to do is tell you how to live your life. If you’re happy with the trajectory and what you own in life, please keep doing it.

We wanted to make a change and getting rid of the crap that keeps us from living intentionally was a great way to do so. It also freed many of our financial obligations and led to opportunities we never would have otherwise experienced.

We know what it’s like to feel stuck and in a rut. We were there. We didn’t like it. We’ve changed. And minimalism was a huge catalyst for that.

Questions? Fire away! john [at] minimalistbaker.com

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Comments

  1. jennifer says

    Wow, I’ve been a minimalist for YEARS! I didn’t know there was a name for the way I am, but apparently there is! I get anxious if I start acquiring too many things, so then I start giving things away until I’m back down to the bare essentials (and a few keepsakes). It’s good to know there are others out there.

  2. Lori says

    I can’t wait to make your Ginger Beer Margarita but I would like your simple syrup recipe please!
    Thanks and Cheers,
    Lori

    • says

      Hi Lori!

      We keep it simple: 1 part sugar for 1 part water. Bring to a boil and mix. We use organic cane sugar, but any sugar should suffice.

      Let us know how they turn out! We really love them!

  3. Cynthia says

    Just like a commenter above, I’m living a minimalist life without knowing that it had a name either! The reason, however, is because since I got injured in the military I now live on a very small disability cheque.. I had no choice but to curb my spending to the amount I actually have – no credit! It took me a full year to learn to live with a lot less to spend, but now, even if I had more money, I wouldn’t change my lifestyle. I feel so much freer, happier :)

    I bake my own bread, pizza, and other goodies. I never eat out – If I want french fries, I make them myself with a fryer. I save on my winter hydro bill by using a bed heating pad (incredible, btw) and a heated blanket on my sofa. Keeping your feet warm (microwavable slippers or wool socks) help in feeling warm, too.

    I, too, buy expensive winter coats & boots because they are better quality and last me for years!

  4. says

    I love your food blog and everything in it :)

    I’m actually pretty excited about the photography course. I have a food blog and this is just I what I need.

    Can’t wait to learn more.

    Zen Habits is one of my favorite blogs – he’s brilliant too.

    Keep up the great work and the minimalist life. Zen Habits is one of my favorite blogs – he’s brilliant too.

  5. Joy Carrera says

    I became true-er minimalist after moving my family of 5 in 13 suitcases from Brazil to Peru. But as I read the page above, I realize that as a missionary with low income but big ideals I have always been a mminimalist at heart. However, not sure how that translates into the kitchen. Cooking is the least simple part of our lives. Being overseas we make most things from scratch and fairly healthy, but as we love variety, entertaining others is main part of my life, and trying recipes from various countries ends up being a lot of work. I to pair my recipes to one no month of favorite meals and just couldn’t because we like too my things. I keep ingredients like dried peppers for Mexican, to nori and wasabi for sushi, to dried blueberries that reminde of the US in muffins and pancakes. So how do I keep my cooking simple? Minimal? I could use some advice. Thanks.

  6. Ana says

    This is such a great blog! First of all, I absolutely love recipes. Second, I have recently been getting into minimalism and didn’t even know it until I stumbled across this blog! I was afraid people would see it as an OCD or as being insensitive (since many people get very attached to things) but it is good to know that it is really a lifestyle that allows us to focus on what’s truly important to us. Keep it up.

  7. Meredith says

    I just found this blog while searching for a black bean recipe. It is in the oven as I write this.
    My husband and I are in our very early seventies but we ascribe to this philosophy but do
    not really practice it as you do.
    One of my children went on a 10 day Explorer Scout trip in the wilderness of New Mexico after graduating from high school. Upon her return where she had been exposed to living out of a backpack, fending for herself and learning other life lessons, she explained to me that “you don’t need a lot of possessions to be happy in life.”
    I wish my other child had made that trip also.
    Y’all keep up the great work.
    MKT

    • Dana Shultz says

      Lovely to hear from you Meredith! Coincidentally, I had that same thought today that you really don’t need much to be happy in life. Glad your kids are finding their way! Thanks for following! Hope you enjoy the brownies :D

  8. Monica says

    I am back today, looking for you especially. A few months ago I was looking for a recipe, found you, and your story really stuck in my mind. I am married to a man who would be a great minimalist — he even gave away his Beatles albums (gasp!) in preparation for entering the monastery. But then I came along. :) I, on the other hand, inherited almost a depression-era mindset of “save everything.” It’s been an adventure. He has helped me learn to let go of many things (not everything, yet). Not quite minimalist, we try to live simply. I started making my own yogurt to avoid having dozens of empty plastic containers (couldn’t throw them away, you know). Little things like that. I’m looking forward to trying some of your recipes — we cook just about everything from scratch and I’m feeling a bit bogged down. Thanks for being here.

    • Dana Shultz says

      Minimalism is definitely a journey and a process. Glad you have someone so intentional to help you along! Thanks for following along, Monica. Glad to have you! -Dana

  9. Evpraxia says

    Greetings,

    Thank you for being here. I am very glad to find this blog, the recipes and the mindset.

    However, have you looked into solar cooking? I just started learning how to do this and have so far made (prior to finding your blog) cornbread, black bean chocolate brownies, baked potatoes, power soaked black beans, blueberry muffin bread and brown rice. Yes, it does take a few extra items, the solar oven for one (or more) but not having to pay a utility bill to bake part or all of my dinner is Great!!

    I have signed up for the updates.

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