Non-Extreme Minimalism

This post from Minimalist Mom really resonated with me today.  It perfectly describes my kind of minimalism, and I agree with Rachel that it’s much more likely to be embraced by a lot of people than extreme minimalism.  I have no desire to live out of a backpack or move somewhere new every few months.  My family lived in several states when I was a child, and I traveled quite a bit in my 20s.  When I finished college, I joined the Peace Corps and headed to Africa for two years with only what I could fit in two suitcases.  I know that I can live perfectly well in a tiny house with no running water or electricity, and a ceiling made of old burlap sacks.  But I sure do appreciate the fact that the house I live in now has a washing machine and electricity.

At this stage in my life, I’m very happy to live in one place for a long time, working on our mini-farm and raising our children.  And I like having things like a couch, bed, and dining room table.  The extreme minimalist movement has inspired me to clear out clutter and stop shopping, but I have no desire to get rid of all of our possessions and become a family of wanderers.

Most of the extreme minimalist bloggers are very attracted to the idea of a location-independent lifestyle, and thus tend to earn a living from something online – often blogging and/or writing e-books.  Although my husband and I want to stay in our current location for a very long time, we have been self-employed for eight years, and began transitioning our business to be online-only around the end of 2003.  These days, everything we do to earn a living is online and over the phone, which means we work only from home (or wherever we happen to be, if we’re not at home) and can be very flexible with our time.  This is far better than the days when we were slaves to our alarm clock and commuting back and forth to jobs we didn’t really enjoy.  And since we work from home using the internet, we do technically have a location-independent life… that’s why we were able to sell our house in the city and move to a small town last year.  While I might not be into the idea of constant travel right now, I do very much love the way we earn a living, and how flexible our lives are.  Stay tuned next week for an amazing e-book package aimed at people who want to pursue location-independent self-employment… it makes for a good lifestyle, even if you are perfectly happy staying in one location.

What I liked about the post from Minimalist Mom was the idea of appealing to the masses.  I don’t think that most of us really want to live out of a backpack and wander from one place to another long-term.  But I think that the idea of a peaceful, less cluttered life without debt is appealing to a whole lot more people.  People want less stress, they want homes that are easier to clean, they want more flexibility with their time, they want more financial stability.  Applying some of the ideas of minimalism (like getting rid of excess stuff, not over-scheduling ourselves, and spending our time and money doing things other than shopping) can help nearly all of us achieve a better lifestyle in some way – and it doesn’t mean that we have to ditch our beds and living room furniture in the process.  Simply being mindful of our purchases, getting rid of physical and mental clutter, and focusing on what we really want out of life will make a huge difference in our lives.

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Comments

  1. Meg says

    Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

    I love reading about more extreme minimalists. They inspire me a lot by making me realize how much of what I do live with is a choice, not a necessity. I really appreciate that. And that it is a choice for them makes it less stigmatized. (After all, minimalist living is a real necessity for so many people, but that doesn’t make a lot of people want to choose that lifestyle.) Plus, every time they get someone to not buy another thing that’s better for the environment that we all share.

    Compared to them, I don’t feel like much of a minimalist. And that’s o.k., though I still like using the label because I share a lot of minimalist values like not filling up space just to fill it, not keeping stuff just because I can, enjoying uncluttered living, etc. But I find it hilarious when others think I’m extreme — especially after they’ve seen my home. It’s really not that bare-bones but compared to some it definitely is. I get teased a lot by certain family members.

    I’ve considered going much more minimalist. If I had to move, I would downsize. I really don’t need as much house as I have, even if it is below average. The great thing is knowing that I *could* downsize. So many people don’t move because they’re scared of letting go of stuff.

    But, for the most part, I’m pretty comfy with what I have now. And that’s o.k. I enjoy hearing from the extreme minimalists, the moderate minimalists, the occasional unclutterers… it’s all good. It reminds me how much choice I have and that’s a great feeling.

  2. says

    Thanks, Frugal Babe. I think the more extreme minimalists are inspiring and are for sure what got me started on our journey. And there probably is a trickle down effect from the extremists to an every day minimalist still working a 9-5 and location dependent – I’m an example of that.

  3. says

    I totally agree with your article.

    I think that minimalism is about the own needs and usage – and about the question what matters most to one and if much stuff is good for yourself and the environment.

    In my eyes extreme minimalism is the wrong way and often people fool themselves. If people are happy with it, they should. But I dislike how they sell their story or how they ignore the environment they life in (where’s always summer, you won’t need winter jackets; if you family owns the stuff, you don’t need to own yourself one).

  4. says

    You are absolutely right that you have a peaceful life if you have no outstanding debt. But we realize this problem when its too late. Now a days the world is facing the biggest crisis which we call credit crunch and it has made the things even worse.

  5. says

    I think when we take the approach of being fallible it’s a lot easier to follow each others examples. When it becomes so elevated that people cannot imagine living a certain way they won’t even try. I believe David Ramsey is popular is because he preaches ‘baby steps’.
    On another note when I hit about 30 I realized one of my requirements had changed: I must live in a house/apt. that had an indoor toilet and would only date a guy if he had running water and an indoor toilet.
    It’s the little things that become important!

  6. Corina says

    Thank You for sharing your views and insights. I have to say I truly do admire your lifestyle, being self-employed and working from home. Wishing you the best in the future as well.

  7. says

    I think you might be my new hero.

    My husband and I have been downsizing just about every year since before we got married. We now live in a studio apartment (we even have a Murphy bed!) so we can afford to live closer to the beach. I would rather have less and live where I love to be than have more and not be happy where I live. And in that same line of thought, we both strive to be able to work from home. I’m a blogger and my husband is an academic writer.

    It really is funny how some people think we’re extremely minimalist even though we don’t think we are. We don’t even call ourselves minimalist … we just don’t like having unnecessary stuff.

    Our family is always amazed that we don’t have a TV (we’ve never had a TV together) and they always ask if we want one for holiday and birthday gifts. It’s like people don’t believe us when we say we don’t want something. We have to work extra hard to convince people not to get us more of the stuff that would just clutter our lives.

    Thank you for this blog, I’m a new subscriber for sure.

  8. Jaime says

    This is a little late but I agree, we don’t have a lot of stuff, but we don’t live with 100 items. We have just enough for us. If that works for them that’s fine, but for me living with 100 things would be difficult. I would think that clothes wear out more if you have to constantly wash them each week. We are very organized, we throw away things immediately if we’re not using them. We know where our things are most of the time.

    The thing is that so many of these extreme minimalism have gotten a lot of attention, that many people think that’s what minimalism is about. I don’t go around calling myself a minimalist for that particular reason, I’m inspired by minimalism but my attempt is to live a life of balance. I’m glad to hear that there are other minimalists who aspire to do so as well. :)

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