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The Minimalist Manifesto

Posted by Minimalist J on June 1st, 2005

Stuff ties us down. It weighs on the mind. It gives us back pain when we carry it around. It gets stolen, broken, or obsolete, then pollutes the world as it breaks down in a landfill. Advertising tells us that stuff will make us happy, and we want to believe that purchasing can solve our problems. Rarely, stuff can actually deliver the goods. But beyond food, clothing and shelter, stuff is not the answer to the most pressing issues in our lives. Worse yet, in a very complicated world, it isn’t just physical clutter that raises our anxiety level – we have too many choices: where to eat, what job to take, where to live, what to read.

We feel moments of clear thought when we’ve stripped away the peripheral things that weigh us down. We live in a small dorm room, go on vacation with a single backpack, or spend a weekend at a retreat in the woods. Our minds feel clearer, and our bodies healthier. We resolve to keep that feeling back when we return to our everyday hectic world, but it slips away in mere days.

Minimalism starts with believing that everything we bring into our lives has a cost to our soul. Every choice we allow ourselves to ponder extracts its pound of flesh. Every dollar spent costs the time it took to earn that dollar. Whatever we do or accumulate has a high bar to make up for these problems. We write about minimizing:

  • STUFF: We almost always overestimate how happy a new purchase will make us, and vastly underestimate what a drag it will be to maintain, store, and discard. Advertising successfully manipulates us to make sure the anticipation/reality gap is as large as possible. By focusing only on the best products that really perform, and recognizing that the cost is always higher than you expect, you can eliminate many bad purchases.
  • TIME: We can waste most of our lives procrastinating and dealing with useless crap. Stop. Focus on the critical, and stay organized and on track.
  • EFFORT: Skill over stuff – if you learn how to do something well, you’ll need fewer gadgets and will know the most efficient way to do things, leading to less effort and more energy to spend on the stuff that matters.
  • MONEY: Minimal is not poor. Spending hours managing coupons is not minimalist. A cheap bathroom scale is not simple since it is unlikely to really tell you how much something weighs. A cheap computer will cost you hours of troubleshooting. Spend on the things that you’ve wanted for a long time, not impulse purchases. Save up and stay out of debt. Buy quality. But buy less, and spend wisely.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: Don’t soil your nest. Ick.
  • ILLNESS: Taking care of yourself means a minimum of doctor visits later. Without your health, you don’t have anything. Don’t be fooled by magic cures – being healthy is hard work, but often requires more knowledge and willpower than stuff.
  • STRESS: Stress that causes growth and excitement is good – without stress, life is boring. Make sure you’re stressing about the things that matter, and clear the path of everything else that causes you to freak out.

And finally, once we’ve minimized all the bad stuff, we like to kick back and have a cold drink.