12 Reasons I'm a minimalist

Our life is frittered away by detail . . . Simplify, simplify.


- Thoreau

Okay, let me start by saying I am not a minimalist by some standards.  I do own two  one automobiles.  I do have electricity and running water.  I thoroughly enjoy my iphone, and I am a frequent user of high speed internet.  By typical American society's standards though, I think I am learning to keep it pretty simple.  We don't have a big screen TV, and our house is furnished with minimal basic furnishings. (Update - as of May, 2013 we live in a motorhome for freedom and simplicity)

Modern minimalism is not anti-materialism.  It is simplicity.  It is self-reliance. One of my greatest joys in life is the feeling of carrying everything you need to survive on your back when backpacking through the mountains. That is minimalism at its finest.  It is being a step (or more ) removed from the norm of society.  It is moving away from soul less living including the dependence upon convenience, perfect comforts, constant indulgences, and emphasis on image. Convenience and ease in daily living even infiltrates our personal relationships. Authenticity and genuiness in our relationships take at times an element of discomfort, honesty, and truth.  When we live in a soul less manner then we create soul less and shallow relationships.

There are many ways to minimalize.  I try to minimize how much mind numbing television I watch.  I try to limit my alcohol consumption, my sugar consumption.  I find I appreciate things more when I do not go to excess.

So here is my list of twelve reasons that I'm a minimalist.  Please respond in comments why minimalism is or isn't for you and see the links at the end of the post for ways to begin your journey into minimalism.

1.  My wife makes me do it.  Partially kidding.  She was the one who introduced me to the idea though.  She says that years of social work with the elderly and poor taught her that you don't need things to make you happy.  At first she could not figure it out.  Why were these people with wind blowing through the cracks in the walls happy?  Was something wrong with them or her?  Happiness is a state of mind. These people were proof in the pudding that material things are not the key to happiness.

2.  It is liberating.  Often we are possessed by our possessions.  We spend so much time buying, caring for, and replacing things that we don't have time to enjoy them.  Do we even enjoy spending all our time off taking care of all possessions? We work and play under the gun, because time is limited.  I like feeling free to spend my time pursuing hobbies or interest.

3.  I feel more "able".  It feels good to be able to do things for myself.  I grow some of my own food.  I make my own vinegar. Minimalism includes a return to basic skills and taking care of ourselves.

4.  It is cheaper.  The cost of buying, maintaining, and replacing things can be enormous.  The initial cost of purchase is only the beginning.  Transportation expenses or shipping charges, the costs of accessories, repair costs, and the costs of a larger home to store our possessions really adds up.

5.  It is "greener".  I do like to feel that I am somewhat of a steward for this earth we live on.  Consumerism has caused a host of environmental problems.  Factory emissions, transportation emissions, packaging waste.  The list goes on and on. 

6.  I don't like cleaning.  Fewer things equals smaller home equals less time spent cleaning.  Even if you're not going to downsize your living space, it's much easier to clean an empty room than a room filled with excessive furniture and decor.  I'd much rather take a nap on a day off than spend all day cleaning the house.

7.  Simplicity can be elegant and beautiful.  I love simple things. Some of my favorite poems are haiku.  Simple and to the point.

Clouds appear and bring to men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.
- Basho

8.  It lowers my blood pressure.  Multitasking is dangerous.  If you don't believe me watch me try to cook sometime.  When I simplify and do one thing at a time I find that I do a better job with a lot less stress.  To have time to do one thing at a time, most of us need to reduce the number of things we are trying to accomplish.  You'll probably get more done anyway.  Start here to help set priorities.

9.  Non-attachment.  Fewer material possessions can help free our spirits.  Attachment and craving are the source of much of our dissatisfaction ( Dukkha ) and stresses in life.  The things that we think we need or that will make us happy are fleeting...momentary. Once again we will return too quickly to that state of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment. The more things we have to worry about keeping, the more stress and suffering. 

There is a story of a farmer passing by the Buddha one afternoon.  The farmer appeared stressed and very unhappy. He asked the Buddha and the monks whether they had seen any cows passing by. The Buddha said they had not seen any cows. 
The farmer said, "Monks, I'm so unhappy. I have twelve cows and I don't know why they all ran away. I have also a few acres of a sesame seed plantation and the insects have eaten up everything. I suffer so much I think I am going to kill myself. "
The Buddha said, "My friend, we have not seen any cows passing by here. You might like to look for them in the other direction." So the farmer thanked him and ran away, and the Buddha turned to his monks and said, "My dear friends, you are the happiest people in the world. You don't have any cows to lose."

10.  I don't like clutter.  My wife would laugh at this.  She is more extreme than I, but I don't like clutter.  I can sometimes be afraid to throw things out and let things collect, but overall I like open rooms and organized counter tops.  It is easier to find things and more aesthetically appealing to me.

11.  I take better care of the things I do have.  It seems that when you don't have a lot, you take better care of what you do have.  Is that because you cherish them more or because you have more time to devote to caring for the few things you have?  Probably a little of both.  Whatever the reason, I like being able to care for things properly.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction.

12.  It sets an example.

First Steps to Minimalism

How to Become Minimalist with Children

Zenhabits - Leo Babauta

Zen Presence home page
Simple Life