How Minimalist Can You Really Be?
There are people out there writing about minimalism who seem to own a passport, a laptop, a toothbrush, and not much else. But that level of absolute minimalism isn't exactly possible for most people. While many of the specifics of minimalism come down to matters of personal preference, there are certain limits that are hard to go past for the average person. (See also: What is Simple Living and Why Should I Care?)
Lifestlye Over Life Lived
Different lifestyles put their own constraints on how minimalistic you can easily be. Of course, no matter what other factors are at play, you can find ways to reduce your number of possessions further and to live even more simply — but it won't be easy. For most people, there's a point where eliminating even more from your life just isn't enjoyable and your pride in not having "stuff" isn't going to balance it out.
There are certain practitioners of minimalism who have built fairly expensive lifestyles around owning very little. They take the approach that if they can buy, rent, or otherwise access whatever they need, as they need it, and then get rid of that item in some fashion, they're still living a very minimalist lifestyle. Similarly, some people will spend more money on more versatile products that can see them through more parts of their lifestyle.
These approaches to minimalism can be more expensive than one might expect. In her article, Is Minimalism Really Sustainable, Katy Waldman describes minimalism as too expensive to be sustainable — and this is the variety of minimalism she's discussing. For anyone hoping to take this approach to minimalism, it's very possible to find yourself reaching a point where you're living as simple a life as you can afford to. But, overall, your savings account shouldn't be the deciding factor on where your minimalism stops.
Getting to Almost Zero
As I was getting ready for a recent cross-country move, I reached the point where I wanted to get rid of everything I owned. I didn't actually do that, but I did manage to get rid of everything I didn't have an emotional attachment to or that we didn't absolutely need. My laptop and the family photos made the move; a large percentage of my wardrobe did not. I took a "give 'til it hurts" approach: everything I didn't even have a twinge of pain over getting rid of went to a new home. Everything that looked like it would hurt to move myself and that I didn't have a good reason for keeping also went to a new home. It was, essentially, a minimalistic approach to becoming a minimalist.
I keep finding more things that I know I won't worry about if I don't have, so I'm getting rid of more soon. I won't ever get down to just what I can carry in a knapsack, but I'll be as minimalistic as my own lifestyle allows for — and I won't be stressed out by the process. It seems better to focus on how minimalist I want to be, over how far I can take it if I push.
Have you embraced the minimalist lifestyle? How far have you taken it? What are your limits?