According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, minimalism is defined as “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.”*(1)
So how does that fit with me? True, I don’t have tons of “stuff" by modern standards at least. And my current home lacks in excessive decor. (Partly because I knew I was moving after a year, and partly because I didn’t have funds to spend on unnecessary items.) But not everyone who has simple tastes is a minimalist. So where do I fit in? (Or do I even fit in with this crowd?)
The stars of the movement, “The Minimalists” (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus), describe minimalism as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”*(2) Although it is often associated with having less stuff, the focus is on determining what is necessary for you to be happy, and getting rid of what isn’t important to you.
Hmmm…now that sounds like a definition I could get on board with. My supreme ambition in life is to be happy and healthy. And key components of this ambition include having the freedom to live as I wish. I also have a huge desire to be of service in some way to this world. I usually describe this in my little hippie as “leaving the planet even marginally better than how I found it.” Furthermore I certainly had few possessions, and no desire to add to them.
I became interested in learning more. So I subscribed to a ton of YouTube channels by self-professed minimalists and found that a lot of what they said really resonated. Had I finally found an identifying factor of my personality that I was proud to proclaim?
A common thread in minimalism is to NOT acquire stuff in order to simply “keep up with the Joneses” or to have possession for the sake of possessions. I noticed a similar theme here in my life. For example, when people asked me what I wanted for birthdays, holidays, or gifts in general, unless I NEEDED something, I typically answered “experiences”. So although I never seemed quite comfortable with the idea of a nice neat little tag as a part of my identity, I certainly couldn’t deny that I had a tendency towards the lifestyle.
(Side note: I have received some very thoughtful gifts over the years from people who know me well. One such recent present was from my bestie who found the perfect mug for my tea. It has an adorable design with houses that look very much like the ones in New England. All part of her campaign to remind me of things I love back East!)
But it seems like whenever I mention NOT having certain things, people act really surprised. So much so that they will argue with me about WHY I need them. (I’ve yet to be convinced.) What seemed natural to me, was considered unusual by others. So I reflected on this idea. Would having more of anything that I didn’t buy, improve the quality of my life?
It led to some interesting conversations with people about things they absolutely must have and why. After many fun talks, I realized that some common every day things, were no longer a part of my “must haves”, and thought I would share them here:
ONE - SUBSCRIPTIONS
When I first move to a city, I generally need to purchase a few things. And having an absolute abhorrence of being in most chain stores, (the energy of box stores kinda freaks me out…all soulless and fluorescent), I will often purchase a few general goods online.
Enter the curse of Amazon Prime. Sucking me in with promises of free shipping, Whole Foods discounts, and so called exciting entertainment, I sign up for a short period. But recently I realized that once I have the setup for my newest temporary home, I rarely use the service.
I don’t own a TV and find most shows boring. (Plus I’m rarely sitting at home as I prefer to be out exploring or walking or chilling with friends when not working.) I don’t shop unless I need something. (And most of the time will either shop local, or batch shop online so that I meet the required minimum for free shipping anyway.)
As for the promise of an extra 10% off Whole Foods sales? The maybe $1 or $2 savings (if I am lucky) per week simply doesn’t cover the cost of a monthly subscription. (At approximately $16/month, assuming I saved $2/month on groceries, I would still be out an extra $168/year!)
So the Amazon Prime membership? Cancelled. And as for Hulu, Netflix, or any other streaming service. I simply don’t have enough of an interest to pay for it. There are plenty of TedTalks, old movies, and podcasts on YouTube available for free, on the off chance I need to be entertained. Plus the occasional new movie on a big screen, a fun Broadway live show, or music concert, still holds more of an attraction for me. Date night anyone?
TWO - TAKEOUT
Once upon a time I was a crappy cook. (Seriously. Beyond bad. Ask a former ex of mine about apricot brandied potatoes which I cooked for a month straight. He deserves a sainthood for putting up with me.)
The joke became that the only thing I made was reservations. However after I transitioned to mostly whole foods, plant based, I realized that many restaurants covered the tastes of the foods with heavy sauces, drowned them in oil, or had no idea how to enhance the flavor of fresh ingredients. Heavy in salt, and low in spices, seemed to be the palate they catered to. Blech!
Once I was back on the road full time traveling, I began observing, eating, and learning from food traditions around the globe. Meals became synonymous with so much more than fuel. It was a way to share experiences, build community, and bond with others. Soon I discovered that I LOVED cooking and began learning from every cook I encountered. Happily, most chefs or home cooks are passionate about food and willing to share best practices.
The good news is that it’s healthier to make things from scratch. It doesn’t take much effort either, once I learned to have a few wonderful staples in my weekly repertoire. And it saves me a ton of cash on foods when I simply buy groceries vs pick up a meal. Plus the takeout choices were bland, boring, or repetitive - and most of them contain options I am not that fond of anyway, but was eating because it was “available”.
To all the naysayers asking about having TIME and COST to prep food, I have these simple facts. My average “gourmet” meal comes together in 15-30 minutes MAX (often in less time though), usually has leftovers, and costs me less than $5/meal. I eat fresh, organic, often seasonal, and from scratch. I don’t buy many processed foods (other than pasta which I haven’t learned yet to make myself - but at $2/box isn’t going to break the bank).
Plus I know what is in my food. In the age of processed sugars, artificial dyes, and “natural” flavors (which is a made up designation and indistinguishable chemically from artificial flavors), eating REAL food is a HUGE benefit to my overall wellness. I no longer get sick frequently, have virtually eliminated my migraines, and maintain a healthy weight without extreme effort. Dieting, in the sense of restricting what I eat, is a thing of the past. My plate is now filled with stuff recognizable as FOOD, gives my body the nutrients it needs, and tastes fucking fantastic.
Now I am human. And on the rare occasion that I truly don’t feel like cooking, I’ll indulge with the occasional sushi meal from Whole Foods. (I am currently MOSTLY plant based, although occasionally eat other things.) But one day I’ll learn how to make that too.
THREE - KNICKKNACKS
Every Saturday, I have a tradition of cleaning my current home. Although I keep pretty neat during the week, I love the thought of entering into my days off with laundry done, bathroom spic and span, and everything in it’s place. It takes me about an hour. Maybe an hour and a half if I obsess and dust down the baseboards, and wipe every cabinet. Seriously that’s all the time I need to be immaculate. Want to know how I do this so fast?
Although I adore decorating, the idea of having random “things” to dust and clean gives me shivers (and not in the happy way). Years ago I began to have allergy attacks. They got so intense that at one point I had an inhaler with me because the reactions were inducing an asthmatic response. Although they mostly cleared up when I made a few lifestyle changes (eating healthier, spending time outdoors, resting regularly), I noticed they flareup around dusty situations.
Enter the land of clean line aesthetics, that are easy to keep dust free! However I do get that some people enjoy collecting things. And if you are one of them, please continue to keep what (in Marie Kondo’s words) “sparks joy”! For me, however, collecting things takes away from my sense of freedom. It’s stuff I have to clean, maintain, and when on the road, find a way to store! One interesting TedTalk entitled “Is Your Stuff Stopping You?” proposes the idea that having too many possessions can actually prevent us from doing the things we most desire in life.*(3) So by not spending money on bric a brac (that I don’t notice once I own anyway), I have extra cash for the occasional show, trip, or gas money to have a day of adventure.
FOUR - EXTRAS for the JUST IN CASE
If you entered adulthood at ANY point before the year 2020, you will forever remember PAPER GAMES - the modern day equivalent of the Hunger Games. That moment when you entered a store, masked up, sanitizer in hand, and couldn’t find…toilet paper. Or paper towel. Or tissues. Or anything to wipe any body part with that was in any way disposable. And yet social media was showing reams of hoarders supposedly (aka your opponents), filling their cars with YOUR share of the goods.
Fortunately, life appears to have returned to some semblance of normal. And (fingers crossed), we are well past this terrible time in our history. Nowadays, with the plethora of stores that sell life’s basic necessities, there is almost no reason necessary to stock up reserves. On anything - not just paper products.
So when it comes to basics like toilet paper, paper towel, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc., I buy what I need and when I run low, simply put it on the next week’s grocery list. In an extreme emergency, I could run out to a grocery store, drugstore, convenience store, or the gas station up the street, and get what I needed within a few minutes. No crisis. And no hoarding needed.
The other day I realized this daring way of life had a wonderful unintended consequence. I am more careful with using disposables like paper towels in a willy nilly manner. (I’m all about climate change and being mindful of resources.) And I rarely waste money buying things I already have because my cupboards are never overstuffed, so I can always see what I have at a glance!
FIVE - BOOKS
Ok this one falls under the category of “almost” never buy anymore. Years ago I had bookshelves OVERFLOWING with books. Like multiple bookshelves. The tall kind, stacked double layer deep with books. I’m a not so closeted nerd girl (one title I do wear proudly) who loves to read anything, and practically anything - from fiction to nonfiction, poetry to prose, topics as diverse as one could possibly imagine.
But moving across country for the fifth, sixth, seventh time, I suddenly realized that these books were costing me a LOT. Of time. Of energy. Of space. And they weighed me down. Literally.
Because in order to have all these books, I needed to have some place to put them Which meant I needed more furniture and more space. For the books. (Who weren’t paying rent to live in my house.) And if I left town on one of my extended jaunts, I needed to store the books somewhere. Which meant a storage unit. For things I wasn’t using. So I would be paying for them to what…sit there and grow moldy? I’m a responsible adult (some days), but this started to be a burden I didn’t want to bear.
Now the first thing I always get if I move to a city for any length of time is my LIBRARY card. And it is the only card in my wallet that actually gets used every, single, week. So I donated the books that I had. All of them. To my local library. Over twenty-five LARGE boxes of books. Because let’s face it, sharing is caring and as a voracious, excited, abundant, and passionate READER, I wanted others to get the benefit of these treasures too.
Books though, are important to my life. They really are a part of my ambition to be happy and healthy. They provide entertainment and learning, opportunities for fun and growth. And they even bring me closer to friends and community. My bestie and I share a bond over our love of reading. And she will often pass along to me books she has read (which leads to us having wonderful conversations). But when I finish them, she knows that I donate them to any number of little free library boxes that I find on my walks thru cities. And we are both happy with the thought that someone else will benefit from the gift too.
There is a caveat here. Although I no longer have space for, or the desire to own, many books, as a writer myself, I 100% support the idea of authors making money off their work. So I have been known to purchase books on rare occasions when the library doesn’t have them. (And then I pass them along.) Or I get favorites as gifts for others to enjoy. This past Xmas I bought an ex of mine the book “If You Give A Kid Some Kindness” by Aubrianne Buckley (a fabulous human), to read to his children.*(4) It’s a beautiful book with a wonderful message. So feel free to support her too by clicking on the link I provide at the end and make a purchase. It’s her first book and I am so proud to know this superstar of a human.
I also will occasionally donate to a local library either books or money, as a thank you for being such a valuable source of entertainment and information available to a entire community. I’m grateful that such institutions exist and provide such treasures to enhance and enrich our lives.
Hi my name is Tink, and I am some type of minimalist. I think. Maybe. But regardless of whether I truly fit with this ideology, I do know that not having tons of stuff has enhanced my life in countless ways.
What are your thoughts? Do any of my “non purchases” resonate with you? Or do you have things that you don’t keep, buy, or subscribe to? Feel free to share in the comments below
*3 TedTalk on "Is your stuff stopping you?" by Elizabeth Dilemma https://youtu.be/8Pb-hjqdjbY
*4 “If You Give A Kid Some Kindness” by Aubrianne Buckley https://a.co/d/gqkYR7c
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Tink, world traveler, positivity muse, and adult entertainer, has also freelance written for a number of companies as their ghostwriter. Now talking directly to YOU on this platform, she is also writing two books at her community's request.