Minimalist Living: How and Why I Own Little Stuff

Anyone who knows me personally recognizes that I own very little stuff. Everything I own can fit in my car (if you count strapping my bed to the top of my hatchback).

This is not by accident. I realized a few years ago that most people get no enjoyment from the majority of their belongings, and life can be greatly simplified by getting rid of these crutches.

In this article, I will share why I’ve designed a lifestyle focused on minimalist living and why you should too.

My Story

I grew up with five older sisters in a house that was lower-middle class.

My family’s finance was necessarily not limited by low income, but by having 6 kids who each had (expensive) hobbies, extracurriculars, and necessities.

Because of this, I grew up accostomated to a partially minimalist life.

Do not take this the wrong way – I had an extraordinarily happy childhood and I’m very grateful for it. In particular, I am glad that I grew up in an environment that taught me to be happy without constantly acquiring new material possessions.

Fast forward, and I moved out to head to college when I was 18. It was a bizarre feeling to leave to much stuff at home and only bring the necessities with me to my dorm room. While I did not realize it at the time, shedding these material possessions to pursue something greater (my education) was very refreshing.

Four years later, I graduated I wanted to take some sort of trip to celebrate and experience more of the world.

My family was vacationing in Florida at the time, my employer was in Texas, and I realized I had not seen very much of the United States (I’m proudly Canadian, if you didn’t know). I decided to drive down the East coast of the United States, stop in Florida to visit my family, and then drive west to Texas.

This trip was my first opportunity to truly implement minimalist living. I stored my bed at my parents house and forced myself to consolidate everything I owned into my hatchback.

Months later, I returned. I did not feel constrained in any way after living out of a car for several months.

On the other hand, the benefits were tremendous.

I decided to adopt the minimalist living lifestyle permanently.

The Benefits of Minimalist Living

Now that you understand how I became interested in minimalist living, it makes sense to discuss its benefits – which can be difficult to identify unless you’ve experienced them firsthand. I’ve described them in a few main categories below:

Moving is so Easy

No matter how much you like organizing possessions, moving is a pain the in the ass. Minimalist living makes this so much easier.

For shorter trips, I have a backpack that always contains a few necessities:

  • My passport
  • Extra socks and underwear
  • Vitamins, toothbrush/toothpaste, and razor
  • Phone/laptop charger
  • Paper & pen

I can grab this backpack, toss some pants and shirts into it, and be out the door in under 10 minutes for a trip that lasts several days. This type of mobility has allowed me to pursue adventures that would otherwise be impossible.

Moving is similar. I do not need a moving truck or a UHaul van.

Instead, I need a friend to help me move my bed and what little furniture I have, and a pickup truck to put them in. This gives me the freedom to move from apartment to apartment as I please since the friction associated with this change is very minimal.

The Happiness of Minimalist Living

Since adopting a minimalist approach to life, I’ve been noticeably happier.

It took me awhile to realize why this was. After some reflection, I now recognize that being a minimalist stops you from constantly comparing yourself to other people based on their belongings.

Sure, there might be an argument to be made that some element of comparison is healthy (competition in sports is an example of this). But looking at what other people own and feeling inferior because you own less is no longer a problem. If anything, owning less is now a source of pride.

In fact, minimalist living actually allows me to spend more on the things that I actually use and care about.

Minimalist Living Allows You To Spend More On What Matters

The core principle of minimalist living is “buy less stuff.” This is subtly different from “spend less on stuff.”

Indeed, minimalist living should not be confused with frugality. It’s likely that I spent more since adopting a minimalist living frame of mind. The reason why is because I spent nothing on unimportant things and a lot on the possessions that I deem important.

As an example, I spent a great deal of money on the following core belongings that I use every day:

The happiness and utility that I derive from these belongings makes me so glad that I was willing to pay up for the nicer version of the product.

3 Rules for Minimalist Living

No paradigm is complete without rules. To close out this article, here are five simple rules for minimalist living.

Rule #1: The One-for-One Principle

The easiest way to maintain minimlist living if you are currently near the amount of possessions you’d like to own for the long-term is by adopting the one-for-one principle. The rule can be summed up in the following statement:

“Every time I buy something new, I will sell or dispose of something that I already own.”

With this rule, categorizing belongings is very helpful – specifically for clothing.

If I’m buying a new pair of jeans, it does not make sense to throw out a fork. Ideally, jeans should replace jeans and forks should replace forks.

The one-for-one principle will not move the needle if you currently own too much stuff – a problem solved by Rule #2, discussed below.

Rule #2: Purge Often

Minimalist living is nearly impossible without regular and meaningful purges.

What does a purge look like for me? Successful purging is about walking around your residence and looking for stuff that you rarely use or enjoy.

For me, a good rule of thumb is three months. If I haven’t used something in three months, I believe it makes sense to get rid of it. A few recent examples for me:

  • I sold my Xbox on Facebook Marketplace after not using it for about eight months
  • I sold an old Garmin Fenix 2 running watch I had since I now own the Fenix 3 (which has a heart rate monitor while the 2 did not). My sole rationale for keeping the older version was “the new one might break.” Bad logic.

I do not believe that price should have an impact on purging.

If something was expensive when you bought it, that usually means that you can sell it for a reasonable amount as well and still successfully purge your life.

On the other hand, if you can’t sell something that you spent a lot of money on, that’s a good sign that you made a mistake when you bought it.

Rule #3: What You Can’t Shed, Store

Self-storage is an increasingly common service both in the United States, Canada, and internationally. A quick Google query suggests that about 10% of Americans take advantage of self-storage and they tend to pay around $90 per month.

I do not personally use self-storage so I will not claim to be an expert on this topic.

With that said, I am investigating the possibility of doing a multi-month trip later this year and have considered tossing my larger belongings (primarily my bed) in a self-storage unit while I’m gone.

Final Thoughts

Minimalist living is a powerful tool to simplify your life, improve your happiness and declutter your mind. I am living a minimalist life right now and strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to be happier and live a more simple life.

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Written on May 10th, 2019