As Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are fond of saying, minimalism is not a radical lifestyle – it is a tool. Take any two people who identify as minimalists, and you’re likely to see two very different lifestyles. There is no right way to be a minimalist, and minimalism is not a competition to see who can own the least number of things. Minimalism is about reducing excesses to make room for the important things in life – and what is important to me may not be important to you.
A Work in Progress
If you stumbled into my home, you probably wouldn’t think I’m a minimalist. You might notice that most of the walls are now naked, devoid of pictures and art. You might also notice a couple of empty spare bedrooms upstairs, and that most of the space in my house is no longer occupied by furniture.
But you would also see a large pile of junk packed up in boxes and bags. You might assume that I’ve just moved in or am about to move out. And you would almost be correct.
To date, I’ve shipped several truckloads of personal possessions over to the local thrift stores, sold some on CraigsList, and trashed things that were not worth selling or donating. Yet my house is still full of clutter. Some of the clutter is stuff that I need so long as I live in this house, but will leave behind after I depart. Some of the clutter is stuff that I still struggle to emotionally detach from. And some of it is simply stuff I’ve set aside to fill another truckload destined for the donation bin.
Nevertheless, there are a number of things that I want to keep. A considerable amount of power tools, hand tools, supplies, and materials that I use for my haunt work awaits me in the basement. Additionally, I’m reluctant to get rid of some of my earlier works – large, bulky corpses that don’t pack down into a small and neat size. Upstairs is a nice stereo system that takes up two shelves, and a DVD collection of almost 300 films and television shows. Several duffel bags are packed with my old hockey gear. I can’t play anymore – an old leg injury saw to that. But I can’t bring myself to part with it yet.
What I Want to Keep
I try to apply a simple metric to the stuff I own now. Does this thing have utilitarian value to me and/or does the thing bring me happiness? If the answer to both questions is “no”, I try to let go of the thing.
Utilitarian use pretty much covers essentials – basic cooking supplies, cleaning and personal grooming supplies, bedding, supplies for my dog, and a computer of some sorts. Most of the things that make me happy are related to my haunt work.
As I get rid of more stuff, I find it easier to let go of even more stuff. For every 10% I clear out, it makes clearing out the next 10% easier. However, my haunt-related possessions still means that I will be keeping and storing quite a bit of stuff before I leave on this trip.
The Spartan Appeal
Minimalism is not a competition. It’s not about measuring how much stuff you have against how much stuff someone else has and – like golf – declaring the person with the lowest score the winner. You don’t have to be able to count your individual possessions. And you don’t have to be able to fit everything you own into a single bag.
But you can… if you want to.
I find myself facing a paradox. On the one hand, I don’t want to get rid of my haunt supplies. It’s very important to me and the work I hope to do in the future. On the other hand, living a Spartan lifestyle without being weighed down by so much stuff has its own appeal.
Several weeks ago, I was browsing through YouTube and stumbled across this video…
… and I must confess to feeling jealous. I envied the shear simplicity and emptiness of this guy’s apartment. Being unencumbered by material possessions makes life simpler. This guy has less stuff to store, maintain, repair, replace, keep track of, or be distracted by. He isn’t weighed down by the stuff he owns, and therefore, he is considerably more mobile than I am. He might not necessarily be itinerant, but he has the freedom to be if he wants it.
Is a Spartan Lifestyle Right For Me?
Minimalism is a tool. I don’t want to be a minimalist for the sake of being a minimalist, but because minimalism aligns with some of my values. I value mobility and I value the freedom to do work I enjoy instead of work to support a lavish lifestyle.
But my desire to be mobile and nomadic is at odds with my desire to work in the haunt industry. I would love to be able to fit all of my belongings into a single duffel bag – to be able to hit the road at a moment’s notice with no preparation. But I want to continue my craft, and I can’t afford to part with my large and expensive inventory of tools and supplies.
I know it is possible to be a haunt professional and a nomad. I just haven’t perfected the recipe, yet. Perhaps one day (when I have more experience), I’ll figure out how to use the tool of minimalism to balance those two interests more efficiently.
In the meantime, all I can do is continue to think critically about the stuff I own and letting go of those things that are not important.
Is a Spartan Lifestyle Right For You?
There are a number of reasons why someone might choose to adopt a Spartan lifestyle. Some folks can’t handle clutter in any form. Other people have limited income and cannot afford the costs of owning things. Other people value the ability to pick up and go without being weighed down by things.
I believe that most people benefit from some degree of minimalism in its less extreme forms. Fewer people would find value in a Spartan lifestyle. If you think you’re one of them – fantastic. I’d love to hear from you and compare stories, share advice, or answer questions.
I just have one piece of advice…
If you’re considering a Spartan lifestyle, then make sure you’re considering it as a means to some other end. A Spartan lifestyle is not how you “succeed” or “win” at minimalism. It is not an end goal. A Spartan lifestyle – like minimalism in general – is a tool to achieve something else that is important to you.