Updated on August 16, 2016
I’ve been a minimalist in the making for many years now. I grew up in a house with an overwhelming amount of stuff. I always tried to have my bedroom as neat & tidy as possible as a child, and would often base my room on the IKEA catalogue. It was like a showroom for many years. As I hit my teenage years this all went out of the window. Hormones took over & I would rather sleep or spend time with friends than spend time organising and culling my belongings. It was only when I started living in rented accommodation that Minimalism started to appeal to me again. In the last 10 years I’ve probably moved house around 20 times. As a renter we tend to have a lease for a short amount of time and then move on. In that time I’ve also needed a storage unit for 2 years to store extra stuff, either while living in smaller properties or staying with family in between houses. This adds up to thousands of pounds in wasted cash over the years.
Back in 2008 I read Sold Out by Robert Llewellyn and it got me even more interested in the minimalist movement. The book is about Robert giving up buying anything for a whole year. It’s a great read & I even did this myself after reading the book. My wife also got on board with the minimalism thing & we started to slowly downsize our belongings.
We have kept this up over the years & while not hardcore minimalists, we where able to move house this time with a single van. Some of the things we have done are as follows.
Media – We no longer buy any physical media, be that DVD or Blu Ray, Music CD’s or books. Our collection used to be massive, we had over 1000 movies on DVD which took up loads of space. We donated a lot to charity & sold the rest of our DVD collection to pay off some debts. We now only use streaming media, be that through the Apple TV, Kodi on the Raspberry Pi or the various catch up TV services. This means we have cleared out a load of our belongings in one go, removing the need for storing it & meaning we can live in a smaller place. The same goes for books. We donated the majority of our books, only keeping our absolute favourites & now we tend to read ebooks on the kindle. Our music collection has been digitized for many years and we also take advantage of Spotify free streaming for any music not in our own collection.
Paperwork – With the exception of ID, such as Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates and passports, we have pretty much destroyed our entire paperwork stash. We used to have a 3 drawer filing cabinet fill of bank statements and other paperwork. We switched our bank statements to online only, as culled the rest of the paperwork stash. We followed Rachel Aust‘s suggestion of keeping only essential paperwork in a small plastic wallet & either scanning receipts for business or throwing them out. We went from a massive filing cabinet to a plastic wallet. It saves a ton of storage space & the weight reduction is insane (you should try moving house with 10+KG of paperwork).
Magazines – Magazines used to be a real problem for us. I would buy tech magazines and car magazines whilst my wife was obsessed with fashion & beauty magazines. We spent a small fortune on them, they filled so many boxes when it came to move & we couldn’t throw them away due to some sense of value in them. We had over 100KG of magazines and we sent them all off for recycling. We now read them in coffee shops or stick to read decent blogs & news sites. Magazines are one of the biggest enemies of The Minimalist and quickly accumulate all over your home. They also cost so much money. If you can, drop the magazine subscriptions and source your information on free websites.
Clothing – We have simplified our wardrobe massively. My wife & I share a single clothes rail & a small 3 drawer chest of drawers for all of our clothes. Outdoor coats are kept on a hook in the kitchen & we only have a few pairs of shoes each. I normally have a pair of new trainers, an older pair of trainers & smart shoes. If I replace the new trainers, they become the old trainers and my old trainers are thrown out. The shoes are only used a few times a year & kept for weddings & special events. I used to own 90+ T-shirts, I now own 10. The same goes for underwear. I have 7 pairs of socks & 7 boxers. They too work on a one in one out basis. This saves me a fortune on clothes shopping and also means I can happily replace anything that is worn out without feeling guilty. It’s also much easier when your clothes as a couple pack into two suitcases.
Technology – This is still my biggest vice, but I have cut down a lot. I recently sorted through my old tech & donated 3 whole bin liners full of old wires, chargers, routers and similar tech items. I now have my iMac as my main machine, my X200 laptop as my Linux machine, iPhone 6 as my phone and an iPod 5th Generation which I adore. Apart from that we have the TV, Apple TV, Xbox one and Raspberry Pi media centre. My wife has her Kindle, Macbook and iPhone 4. Tech is the one thing that can really help a minimalist. My iPhone is also my e-book reader, my calendar, my camera, Digital wallet, Music collection using iTunes Match. Same with my iMac. I use it to watch TV, Movies, Listen to music & work. When it comes to Minimalism & tech I think as long as each piece of tech serves a unique purpose, and there is no overlap, you can keep it. But if you never use it, why not donate or sell it? It will save space & give someone else the opportunity to use it.
Furniture – We used to have quite a bit of furniture, most of the useless stuff was classified as ‘guest’ furniture. We had Spare beds, spare pillows, spare chairs. You name it we had extra stuff as if two more people lived with us. This had to change so a year or so ago we sold off the extra furniture. We sold arm chairs, mattresses, beds, dining chairs, plates, cutlery. In fact anything that wasn’t used by the two of us on a regular basis had to go. We now only have well used & functional furniture. This works much better for us & the rooms in our home feel bigger & lighter.
Cars – We used to own big, flash cars. The last car we owned was a Mercedes C class estate. It was spacious & luxurious. It was expensive & massive for the two of us. We decided to sell the car and try to live without one. We lived without a car for 7 months & it was liberating, but we decided a compromise was needed. Before we had cars we lived in City Centre Manchester. We did everything on foot or on public transport. It worked because we could get a taxi to the airport, or walk to the train station and get a train. We never needed a vehicle and it never seemed like an issue. Since moving out of a city it’s more of a requirement. For now, we live very rurally and it would take us hours to complete the most basic of tasks. We therefore bought a tiny, used, 2004 Fiat Panda. It’s bright blue & perfect for the two of us. It’s so cheap to run, tax & insure and it lets us do everything we could in the Mercedes for a fraction of the cost. We put perhaps £30 of fuel in each month and the Road Tax & Insurance is only £300 per year for both of us. When we move back to a city I’ll switch back to a bike or a scooter but for now, this is the best compromise.
There are loads of minimalist things you can adopt in your life. I fancied getting into the 100 things camp, where you only own 100 items. Maybe in the future I’ll pursue this, but the key is to find what works for you. I find I have more money to play with. We don’t tend to bring anything new into the house unless it’s replacing something worn out (with the exception of food & drink). It also means we don’t have to earn as much money to live this way, freeing up time for ourselves. That is one surprising benefit of minimalism. Living this way also means our physical footprint is getting smaller. We could feasibly move into a tiny apartment next time we move, and not even fill it. Minimalism becomes quite addictive. In the modern world, so much of what once was physical is now digital. This means you don’t have to do without your entertainment, you just don’t need to have physical copies clogging up your space. It essentially means we all have endless storage space for that kind of stuff (not that I’m advocating digital hoarding).
I’ll go into more detail in future posts on each of the above points. I have so many more to cover in the future.
Let me know your thoughts on this post, also if you have any tips or advice, share it in the comments below. It may help out some of the other readers of this blog.