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What is a Minimalist Lifestyle?

Updated on October 25, 2019
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Philosophical writer and YouTube creator covering the topics of simplicity, homemaking, and the romantic vintage lifestyle.


What is a Minimalist Lifestyle?

Minimalists are people who subtract all from their lives, other that than which is necessary or cherished. This movement of simplicity spans the gamete of those who want to simplify their homes, to people who live in "tiny houses" or cars, to the most extreme where they have limited their possessions to 100 things.

Minimalism can be broken up into three main areas of peoples lives: wardrobe, household furnishings & other belongings, and activities. Leo Baubauta of Zen Habits and author of The Power of Less, is commonly referred to as the father of the modern minimalist movement. He overcame smoking, eating junk food, eliminated activities that no longer brought him value, a cluttered living space, a sedentary lifestyle, and the confines of a conventional job, all by establishing habits, and he did this with a family.


Minimalist Wardrobe

Courtney Carver of Be More With Less and Project 333, inspired a movement to restrict ones clothing choices to 33 items, every three months, or each season. For women this is a significant paradigm shift. Many females now feel they have permission and support to consciously pare down their elaborate wardrobes. Other similar movements include abstaining from buying anything new for 1 year, or more radically, making a social statement by wearing only one garment for 365 days.

Minimalist Vintage Lifestyle-Audio Podast by Rain San Martin

Make Your Home More Beautiful by Subtracting All But the Essential

When you have a bunch of knickknacks competing for your attention, the result is clutter. Better to display a few grouped pieces. This will give you a sense of space. Marla Cilley, the Flylady, says your home should never be a dumping ground for junk. She encourages people to take baby steps towards having a de-cluttered home, when building a haven.

Practical Minimalism For Families

Living simply without excessive toys, cluttered furniture or kitchen gadgets are part of what goes into making a minimalist home. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist and author of Simplify, gives practical tips for minimizing the clutter of your home. It starts with the mindset of prioritizing the value of family, God, people, and service over possessions. In his story he shares that he found he was investing too much personal time re-organizing "stuff" in the garage, rather than spending time on the things that were of greater priority. This realization made him reconsider all they had acquired, yet doing so with mindfulness. This means he would not try to compete with others in the minimalist community, racing to have as few possessions as possible. If a gaming station was loved and used by his family, he would keep it. Practical minimalism in action.

The Backpack Movement-Extreme Minimalist Unconventional Lifestyle

Many have been inspired by the "100 Thing Challenge." For some, all of their belongings fit into a suitcase and backpack. Advocates of this extreme minimalist lifestyle claim it gives them a new freedom, where they can relocate at a whim, without being chained to a mortgage or rental space. The Bible has even made a reference to this lifestyle:

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

In context, this is not to say possessions are evil, they can however at times be an obstacle in obtaining freedom, or doing the perfect will of God, as each are called into a unique purpose.


Voluntary Simplicity Equals Freedom to Those Who Live It!

On the site Man Vs Debt, the motto is "Sell Your Crap… Pay Off Your Debt… Do What You Love!" as possessions aplenty often can weight us down, keeping us in unsatisfying jobs. Adam Baker founder of Man Vs Debt, produced the film, "I'm Fine Thanks" which illustrates that the "American dream" of owning a house, two cars, and a hot corporate job, do not necessarily equate fulfillment. As our time is given in exchange for the material goods we acquire. The new American dream for many is to spend less time in unfulfilling jobs, just to earn more money, and more time doing what we love, using our skills, yet living frugally.

The Roots Of a Simple Lifestyle

Quakers, the Amish, Gandhi, and Walden are all apart of the origins of simple living. In the classic literature work: Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, he writes about the folly of man for trapping himself in busy work activities with the chief goal of accumulating more possessions:

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail.”

Never Practice Minimalism At the Expense of Your Marriage

Your spouse and family are infinitely more important than a mobile lifestyle or de-cluttered home. Never come to the conclusion that your family is expendable. If their clutter is a source of suffering in your life, kindly ask them if there is a way to pare down their possessions. There are many practical ways to implement this. Start by removing all of your unneeded items, then make a habit of requesting gift cards or clutter-free gifts. Aim to keep child's toys to a minimum and see if the salvation army will pick up items directly from your front porch.

Minimalist Lifestyle Experiments - Video by Rain San Martin

The Classic Story of the Mexican Fisherman

This story has been reprinted by many minimalists as a classic parable, advocating a life of simplicity:

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "only a little while."

The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "but what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15-20 years."

"But what then?"

The American laughed and said that's the best part. "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions.. Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

What area of your life needs to be simplified the most?

See results

© 2013 Rain San Martin


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