Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details. (Note: the schedule is now full until May — but if you don’t mind waiting, feel free to send me your submission!)
Today, I’m happy to share this contribution from Robert Wringham. He tells us how he’s pared down to the essentials, and how his minimalist lifestyle has enabled him to start his own business. Very inspiring!
Out of both necessity and preference, I’ve always been pretty mobile. When you move around a lot, it really helps to travel light.
I moved out of the family home in 2004, taking three heavy suitcases with me to Scotland. One contained clothes and the others were filled with books, DVDs and CDs. Three suitcases may seem a small load to a lot of people but it seems rather excessive to me now.
Over the next few years, I moved house a few times. The cost of ownership was made clear whenever I had to schlep these bags up and down the streets and staircases of Glasgow. I realise that most people have more stuff than I do and that they will have to hire a van to transport their stuff. To me, this doesn’t even bear thinking about. What a burden! I resented having to move even three suitcases. Mobility is everything.
In 2009, enough was enough. I had always enjoyed the aesthetics of minimalism, always preferring clean and manageable living or working space. At work, my desk was always clear while those of colleagues teetered with paperwork. At home, I’d always preferred neatly curated and optimum-stocked bookshelves to disorganised piles of excess. Given these preferences and the experience of carrying my stuff up too many flights of stairs, I became a proper minimalist.
I pared my life down to essentials: practical things; a few precious keepsakes; and a selection of entertainment products. By the end of 2009, my entire cache could be accommodated by a 5 square-foot storage locker. A good job too, because I would soon relocate to Canada.
Upon emigration, I seized the opportunity to minimise further. I didn’t want to lug any more than one suitcase to Montreal.
I sold off some CDs and DVDs but the main innovation in this area was to remove the discs from their cases and to file them alphabetically in a portable DJ case. Music and movie fans are always shocked by this, but I have little attachment to plastic boxes and bad graphic design. Financially, DVDs are worthless now (you might get an average of £1 each) and will be worth even less when digital movie distribution becomes the norm. If you thought the obsolescence of VHS tapes left swathes of waste behind, wait until you see how many DVDs line the shelves of charity shops next year. Digitising my collection would also have been folly: it would have taken hours of my time and vast swathes of computer memory to store them even at a lossy low quality. What I have now is a portable box of high-definition favourites. If pressed, I’d get rid of these too. Why own a single movie or album when cinemas, libraries and the Internet exist?
I minimised my wardrobe by vowing to dress smartly every day. I now own a suit, a few shirts, some t-shirts, underwear and some casual pants. I have three pairs of shoes: formal, casual and snow. Half a suitcase. Why any human male would need anything else is beyond me.
The thing about minimalism is that it prompts you to ask what is important. DVDs? Paperbacks? CDs? You can allow these things to be ephemeral. Clothes are important but you don’t need as many as you may think. These days, a material object has to have a damn good reason for hitching a ride on my back.
The best effect of curbing my consumer habits has been the opportunity to quit my job and start my own business. Instead of slaving in an office all day to pay for my artificially-stimulated consumer wants, I now have the financial clout to work on creative projects full-time. The process of making money from these is slow but thanks to my minimal overheads, I only require a minimal income.