How minimalist you think you are is relative to others around you

I was thinking about this the other day as I was looking around the hotel apartment: We really don’t have a lot of stuff, do we?

Then I started thinking about what we did have, and I came to the conclusion that we could actually be seen as being extreme minimalists!

  • We travel like modern nomads, going from city to city, job to job.
  • Our only furniture is a Japanese futon, a folding table and two folding chairs.
  • Our only appliances are a printer (we are going to sell this before we move, I think), a rice cooker and a microwave.
  • We each have about 3 suitcases of stuff each, and 2 carry-ons.
  • We have 2 bikes and 2 cars each. <— okay wait, that isn’t very minimalist 😛

So why don’t I feel like like an extreme minimalist?

Extreme minimalism seems to be filled with rules that don’t make sense for our lifestyles

  • You know, like only having 50 or 100 items.
  • Or not being allowed to wear more than a functional and bare bones wardrobe, consisting of only neutrals.
  • Or being able to pack everything you own into a single backpack.
  • Or not wearing makeup or having frivolous desires (4 laptops anyone?)

How would I know if all I need is 100 items? I might need 101. Or 1001. Or 5348.

It just seems very arbitrary to live your life based on guidelines that you haven’t come up with, or have a reason for.

It’s like saying that I want to make a million dollars before I’m 30 (not happening, by the way).

Why one million? Why not one billion? And what’s with all the round numbers?

Let me go count my things, and I’ll tell you at the end, how many things I need to live the life I want.

The only reason why we have 3 suitcases and 2 carry-ons each, is because that’s the airline’s limit, unless we want to start paying a fortune.

We can check in 2 bags and carry 2 carry-ons, but we allowed ourselves an extra suitcase each for our personal things; that to me, makes sense.

That limit is also what fits perfectly into our vehicles.

We don’t live very differently from the majority of the population

By that, I mean that we have so-called “normal” jobs as boring, office worker bee types who have a regular 9-5 existence when we are on contracts.

If we didn’t have our jobs, I certainly don’t make enough money off my blogs in a year to last even a day in a month.

We don’t live like true nomads, traveling from continent to continent with just a backpack and smile on our faces.

However, I guess compared to others who have the same “normal” kinds of jobs, we have very little.

We also live in very urban cities (it’s where a lot of the contracts are), and we have practical everyday lives where we like to cook a range of dishes which means we need different frying pans, pots, utensils, our enameled cast iron pot for stews, a microwave, rice cooker, cooking tools, plates, cups and bowls.

We certainly can’t fit all of that into one backpack!!

We also have addresses, albeit temporary, but we certainly don’t couch surf or move from one friend’s place to another.

Anyone can be a minimalist when you don’t need money and can use other people’s stuff and places for free, or live in a very poor country living on a king’s ransom consisting of only $10,000 a year.

While I salute people who move to low-cost countries and live a very simple life without having to make a lot of money, I don’t see it being practical for us.

We want to live a modern, urban existence

If we didn’t, we’d go live on some rural farm or go live in the jungle.

We need to work, save for retirement, have a bank account, think ab out investments and consider our future, which includes having kids. *gasp*

Granted, we don’t really need a lot of money to live on, but that’s not really minimalism to me. That’s more of a personal finance, money management philosophy: to live on less than what you earn.

If all I need is $20,000 – $25,000 a year net to very comfortably on (that includes traveling), then I don’t see why I’d want to willingly increase my expenses to achieve another kind of lifestyle, when I am happy where I am.

Compared to other minimalists, we have too much to be extreme

BF could be considered an extreme minimalist, except for his electronics… but I certainly am not.

I’ve already said that minimalism is what you decide it to be. Minimalism is what you want, need and use.

We were watching a TV show the other day about walk-in closets and he says to me:

BF: I don’t think that we have enough clothes to fill that closet!
Me: Er.. speak for yourself. I think I can definitely fill that closet if I hung everything up, each on its own hanger.
BF: *in surprise*… REALLY?
Me: Really.
BF: Well you’re still my minimalist. 🙂

But compared to other non-minimalists, we have too little

STEVE JOBS AT HOME IN 1982 — “This was a very typical time. I was single. All you needed was a cup of tea, a light, and your stereo, you know, and that’s what I had.” —Steve Jobs

Yes, we know. We only have 4 pieces of furniture, no decoration, but it’s what works for us.

For example, I’ve been told that we’re acting like cheap, poor student roommates by sleeping on the floor all because we have a futon and we split the expenses of the household 50/50.

I was upset when I first heard it, but now I’m just amused. 🙂

We’re not doing it on a mattress and because we don’t have money or are too poor or cheap to buy one.

Our Japanese futon is very mobile, and when we move, we roll it up and it easily fits into the backseat of our car. Imagine that, versus a full Queen-sized mattress!

I’m happier knowing that I can carry our bed so compactly and neatly wherever we go. It’s not really that weird if you consider that we have a set of valid reasons behind what we’re doing.

Even if having a mattress, boxspring and bed frame was much cheaper, we’d still be more than willing to pay extra for a Japanese futon on the floor.

We also don’t share the expenses 50/50 because we’re “roommates” (BF would beg to differ), we do it because it’s what we think is fair for the both of us.

In addition, our expenses are around $1000/month each for the basics, which is very affordable at any income level for either of us. We don’t spend in proportion to our income and we equally earn about the same amount of money.

Minimalism is really more of a mindset.

About the Author

I'm a 20-something year old girl who lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, and now I'm living with less, but only with the best. You don't have to get rid of everything to become a minimalist! Minimalism can help simplify and organize your life, career, & physical surroundings. You can read more about me as a minimalist. Or come and visit my other blog Fabulously Broke in the City where I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 gross/year.