Being a Minimalist

I’ve basically been a minimalist for a while now. I become more and more of one as time goes on.

I have always had a bit of a weird dichotomy – I love luxurious places, and dream of gorgeous glass houses with large spaces, but when I think of them, I either think of very minimal decor, or very bohemian homes, but not with tons of STUFF. It’s always spacious.

I also love the total opposite – the idea of living in a van or an RV, or a cave, a yurt. The former because of mobility and adventure, the latter because of one big room – spacious. I like space. The whole world could be my space in a mobile home. Wherever I live needs to have large space, or at least a big yard. As much as I like the idea of a tiny home, I don’t like limited room to move and create.

I hate “stuff.” I don’t mind a little decor, but having crap everywhere is tedious and annoying. How much does one person, or even a few people, need? I am pet-sitting right now – there is 12 animals here and one lady. The amount of crap is ridiculous. The amount of animals is ridiculous, honestly. I realized, even though I love them all, that I wouldn’t really want more than two! I used to want a whole gaggle of dogs, now I am not really into the idea. It’s just so limiting in what you can do. I like freedom. I want to be able to move, breathe, and share space, not fill it with tons of junk or living creatures.

Do you use everything you have? I use almost everything I do have. I have most of my things in storage under the stairs of my boyfriend’s house right now and can’t even remember what’s there, other than my journals. Lots of books, I know – at least those are worth having to some extent, and I got rid of about 3/4 of what I used to have!

When I moved to the Island (a year now!) initially and just before, I put all my things in a storage locker except for summer clothing and a few books, my blender, food processor, and my computer. I didn’t miss anything in my storage locker, at all. I felt super free. Everything I had with me fit in my car. Everything I had with me, I used, or would read. I could have pared down even more.

I will never understand hoarders or people who go shopping just for fun, unless it’s for something you actually need. I mean, I like going vintage shopping but I do need clothes – I only do this every year or two! I actually hate regular shopping and avoid it as much as I can. If I need new socks I basically wait until all of them have holes, or try to sew them. My shoes are falling apart, but mostly I can’t find ones I like that are not leather, even used leather is fine but nothing appeals so I just wear the one I have to death. Mostly I just hate shopping. Shopping and stuff is not interesting to me. It doesn’t make my life more exciting. ADVENTURE makes my life more exciting. Going after and dedicating my life to my DREAMS is exciting. PASSION is exciting – for my sweetheart, nature, my friends – so much better than going out to have a 5 minute thrill of a random thing you find cool.

I also like to use my money for things that are IMPORTANT to me. Healthy food, martial arts, books I want to OWN (I use the library more than buying books anymore). Gas to get places. Clothing I ADORE and will wear all the time. Debt payments from my months of unemployment. Now I work for myself and make more than I ever have. Go figure. But I also am frugal for the most part, except for with food, and am even trying to lessen the cost of that.

So what can you do to be more frugal and minimalist? And why?

1. Go through everything you own. If you haven’t used it in a year, or it does not have intense sentimental value (like my journals, for instance, and some letters), toss it or sell it. I go through my journals every few years and they are precious to me. Almost everything else I have, I could take or leave. If something you get rid of initially is something you want or need in the future, get another one!

2. Being minimalist saves you money so you can do the things that you love. Accrue experiences and not THINGS.

3. Write out a plan and figure out just how frugal you can be. It’s actually sort of fun. I once saved $7000 in 4 months by doing this. I worked, lived in a staff house (and still paid some rent), babysat, sold things, and suddenly I was able to travel for 5 months overseas. I didn’t really buy anything except food. I rode my bike everywhere. I hitch-hiked (I lived in a town where this was common and acceptable and safe). I made things for Christmas presents. I spent my days going after my goals instead of being bored and looking for entertainment. My life was my entertainment, and I like to keep it that way.

4. Eliminate the non-essential. This Bruce Lee quote has had a profound impact on me, and I try to implement it in all areas of my life now. Sometimes it’s hard, as I enjoy things like eating a whole bag of mulberries, but otherwise it is seriously the best advice to follow in every aspect of life.

5. When you clear out your life of stuff, you have more room to breathe and relax. You have space to fill with ideas and experiences.

6. When you die, you will be able to look back and remember everything you accomplished, instead of everything you accumulated.

7. If you’re unsure what to do with all your stuff, separate it, donate it, sell it, trash it, give it away, put it in a free box on the sidewalk, put it on Craigslist, put it on freecycle – just get it out of your space. You won’t miss it, I promise you.

8. Read about other minimalists. Minimalists tend to be happier people. There is less cleaning, more savings, and more imagination and creativity. Minimalist people are usually interesting and admirable folks. They generally do a lot with their lives.

9. Do you want to deal with paying for all your¬† crap when you get old? Do you still want to be working to pay off debt from your junk? Do you need a fancy car to get to where you want to go? Or are you just trying to look awesome? Looking awesome is great but not at the expense of the rest of your life. Spend your money on healthy food and adventure instead. Your passion and adventurous lifestyle will make you look more awesome. Sell your expensive vehicle and get on a plane to somewhere amazing. Spend your money on your passions. Learn something you’ve always wanted to learn.

10. Instead of collecting things, collect memories. Write the so-called bucket list. Not the “I want to buy” list.

11. Believe in yourself. Stop caring what other people think. Embrace simplicity. None of this matters when you’re dying – what does? The things you wish you’d done, not the things you wish you acquired!

12. If your life seems empty without “stuff” – ask yourself what you’re really missing – a great group of friends? Adventure? Freedom?

13. Pay your debt off as SOON AS POSSIBLE. If you have a lot of it, do everything it takes to get rid of it. Everything, because it will just keep building and building and building and you will never get out, and you will be a slave to it – get the fuck out. Declare bankruptcy if you need to. You may have shit credit but that could be a good thing – it will force you to be mindful of what you spend.

14. Don’t see being frugal as being poor, or vice versa. You will have more time and space, you will have more freedom, you will see more opportunities. Being frugal will give you MORE riches – in terms of experience, and actual money. You will have more LIFE, because you won’t be working your time away to pay for junk you don’t need.

15. Stop seeing cheap things as okay to buy – your apps, magazines, cups of coffee, take-out…drop them!! They all add up.

Would love to hear your minimalist/frugality tips in the comments ūüôā


Recommended Reading:

The Joy of Less

I’m only recommending one to be minimal. Heh.

Experience VS. Things

Me underwater in Cathedral Cove (Narnia), New Zealand, 2005.

An experience is always a better choice than buying an item.

Eschewing food and other absolute necessities, having an experience is always the better choice when choosing how to spend your money. Most people don’t even “choose” – they just mindlessly fork over the dough.

Something my dad said a long time ago has always stuck with me – when you consider how much work you have to do to make that amount, when buying something, think about it in terms of HOURS SPENT rather than the moola itself.

Would you work a half hour (or an hour?!) in exchange for a latte?
Would you work a whole week in exchange for a pair of fancy shoes?
Would you work a whole day for one meal at a swank restaurant?

That sort of thing – because that is what you are doing.

So many people work often and do little, because their money is spent on unnecessary things. Then they whine that they need a vacation but can’t afford it, or that they wish they had more time off, or more time to spend with their kids, on and on and on.

I’ve stopped buying things I don’t need, including books – which for me is amazing. I get credits at work (a book store) so that is the only time I buy them anymore. I read what I own, and I go to the library. I used to desire a huge book-lined home, wall-to-wall beauty – but without the money I spent on those books, I would have no free time to read them all. Dig?

I also make sure that the food I buy actually fills me up. On a raw diet, this is important, because many raw foods are so low calorie that you need a TON to be satiating – hence eating high-calorie fruit as a staple (bananas, dates, mangos, etc). I limit the amount of other things that are for flavour more than satiation – lemons, nori – things like this add up to a lot and really do nothing to fill the tummy. You should do the same, whether you eat raw or not!

I also pick up any change I see on the ground, even if it’s a penny. You cannot have any sum without pennies – these are the building blocks, If you ignore the free money around you, you tell the universe you don’t need it. I’ve seen beggars scoff at one cent coins – ironic.

Use your extra money to DO things. What are you going to remember at the end of your life? The stuff you bought, or the stuff you did?

Here’s some examples of what you can do with certain sums of money:

$10 – A couple of days of coffee VS. basket of fruit for a picnic in the park with friends.

$20 – a fresh-pressed t-shirt VS. a whirling slamdance nightclub evening.

$50 – lacquered nails VS. a thrumming live concert.

$100 – a dvd set VS. a zipline ride through the mountains.

$500 – a fancy handbag VS. a weekend away with your lover.

$1000 – the latest phone VS. a new guitar for your lifelong dream of being a musician.

$2000 – a designer gown VS. a sunbaked week in Hawaii.

Watching Pipeline, Oahu, 2010. I spent a week here for just over $1000.

$5000 – a diamond necklace VS. a raw food retreat in Costa Rica to heal you from within.

$10,000 –¬† plastic surgery VS. months of traveling in South East Asia.

$100,000 – a zippy sportscar VS. trips to every continent.

$250,000 – a partially-paid-for condo VS. a caravan to explore the country.

$500,000 – medical bills (due to your terrible eating habits, not unfortunate accidents) VS. enough to live on, work-free, for years.

$1,000,000 – a beautiful home…VS. basically whatever you want. If you have this much money you wouldn’t even be reading this article.

Most of us do not have much disposable income (what a horrible phrase – disposable income? If we work for that money, then we are saying our TIME is worthless – so we are saying that our LIFE is worth trading for insignificant crap).

Obviously a little indulgence is okay now and then, but when it throws you into debt, and you think shopping is “therapy” – that is when you need to really step back and scrutinize the reality of what you’re doing.

Personally I would rather do more, work less, and appreciate reality, not artifice; adventures, not stuff; dreams, not consumerism.

If you have debt, get out of it as soon as possible! There are many ways to do this, make it your #1 priority (okay, second – health is #1).

 Me snorkeling off West Coast Australia, with whale sharks, 2005.


Worth every cent.


(This post seems very geared towards females – oops – guys, I dunno what you waste your money on!)

The Future

That time I climbed a mountain.

There’s that cliche about living every day like it’s your last.

Do people actually do this? I think it’s pretty unlikely. Maybe you can do that¬† if you have zero responsibilities.

Inspired by watching “The Future” I just had a thought. What if we did this every month, instead? We could draw out a map and plan what we want to do before we “die” on that last day of the month.

How would you structure that time? I would definitely go somewhere hot, with waves. I’d ravage my boyfriend as much as possible. If I was single, I’d be lascivious and¬†revisit all the wonderful lovers in my past, and find new ones, too. This is the last month of my life, of course.

I would lavish my dog with attention and take her for many beautiful hikes through the mountains. Most of the time, though, I would write, swim, surf, and eat luscious things – durians and dandelion flowers.

Today I thought: In our lifetimes, we either contribute, or we consume. Most people consume. I don’t necessarily mean buying – I find the majority of human beings just take, take, take – they don’t put anything OUT there, or put themselves out there, doing something important. Is it just fear, or laziness? I think laziness stems from fear – everyone wants to do something amazing.

There needs to be more giving Рeven if you sell the things you create, that is still giving. As long as it is meaningful. Make it available. Toss beauty into the air like confetti, construct a paradise amongst the squalor of regular existence. When trapped, a moment of beauty you come upon can make all the difference  Рit can be the beacon to continue on, the lighthouse bringing your boat to the shore of what your life could really be like.

I would want to spend my last month contributing. Especially since I know my “last month” will go back to square one the next month. And hey – if I do in fact have little time left – then I really would have spent it doing worthwhile things. And I don’t necessarily mean “for the greater good” – even though I think that is important – but I mean for ME. For my¬† own happiness. So when I am about to die I can say I really lived.

So I think I am going to do this – construct my month, at least within my means right now. I could easily take a month off and live in the tropics for that time with my credit card – maybe I should.

Who do I want to see? What do I want to read?  What do I want to learn? What to I want to teach? What do I want to do? What do I want to make? What do I want to experience?

You could ask yourself the same questions. It’s much easier to imagine doing everything you want in a month than in a day.

I don’t think it’s feasible to live every day as if it is your last – because you never know when that is. And so I might spend my last day watching a movie on my computer or making a banana crepe, or WORKING. Blech.

If I have a longer time frame to think about, then I can actually get going.

Imagine, someone says, “Tomorrow is your last day alive.” How could you even DO what you want to do? Say your dream is to go to Antarctica (it’s one of mine). You couldn’t even get there in a day. That’s not fair!

Seriously, I say screw it. Write down the things you want to do most, and even if you have to take a leave from work, use your credit card, whatever – do it, and do the things you want most. Maybe this IS your last month alive. Who knows?

This is why it’s good to focus on experiences instead of acquiring more stuff.¬† When you get to the end…you really won’t care how much shit you have, you’re gonna regret the shit you didn’t DO.