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.
This week, we hear from Dyed-In-The-Wool Minimalist, who shares with us his long-term commitment to a pared-down lifestyle (great inspiration!).
Dyed-In-The-Wool Minimalist writes:
I have been a minimalist for twenty-five years.
When I was a teenager my room was not especially cluttered until my grandmother moved in with us. Having lived through the second world war, she was something of a hoarder and our house became crowded with a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff. I personally inherited my late grandfather’s collection of audio equipment, including no fewer than three reel-to-reel tape decks. Something didn’t feel right.
One day while browsing through a homewares catalogue I wondered why the rooms that it depicted looked so much better than my own. The answer was both simple and mundane: the model rooms were largely devoid of stuff. So it was that, far from being a search for inner peace or financial security, Minimalism for me was originally a simple matter of aesthetics.
I set about expunging the things I didn’t really want from my room. I didn’t find this difficult, perhaps because I am a Minimalist by nature rather than by conversion. By the time I was seventeen my room contained only a mattress on the floor, a desk with a stool (which doubled as a linen basket), a filing cabinet in which I kept my papers and clothes, and a collection of austere paper mathematical models hanging from the ceiling. A different room housed my stereo and record collection. I felt purged.
At the age of eighteen I went to university. Here my mind put into place more of the planks of my personal philosophy: I realized that I should seek experiences rather than things; I took to travelling in a big way; I went vegetarian; I stopped watching television; I developed a passion for cycling and an aversion to motor vehicles. I didn’t consciously view these decisions as Minimalist or even as being related to my preference to life without clutter. Back then I considered Minimalism to be nothing more than a school of aesthetics, albeit one that I admired.
Seven years later I emerged from my studies with a great deal of travel under my belt and very little stuff. I took a job at a software company and started earning a salary. I moved in with the wonderful person who was to become my wife. This is the stage where one might expect a confession that this is where everything went wrong and I started accumulating things. But I didn’t. My wife is not as resolutely Minimalist as I am but she is no hoarder and she was quite happy to live without a televideogram or much furniture.
Fifteen years further on, I remain a dyed-in-the wool Minimalist. While I am not as devoted as some Minimalists, I have few possessions and those I do own are all carefully considered and must earn their keep. I have not willingly watched television for two decades; my ignorance of celebrities and popular culture in general is enough to induce gasps of horrified amazement in many. I have never owned a car and I still don’t eat meat.
However, until about a year ago I was still unaware of Minimalism as a lifestyle choice subculture. Even when I met fellow real-life Minimalist Robert Wringham, I was still unaware of the likes of Leo Babauta and Miss Minimalist. It was only recently that I blundered across their blogs on the Internet and found that many others had developed a philosophy of life similar to my own. I was pleased to find that it wasn’t only Wringham and me who thought this way. However, I didn’t find the existence of this subculture to be a major revelation because I have always been quite secure about the validity of my lifestyle choices. Nevertheless, it was good to see that others were experiencing the benefits of stripping life down to the things that really matter.
So how do I fill my time without television or shopping to supposedly entertain me? I read. I travel incessantly (I wrote this article in Stockholm). I write—I have written three books and I am working on a fourth. I have learnt to speak both French and Japanese reasonably fluently. I exercise, especially by cycling and walking long distances. None of these activities requires much stuff and all of them are life-enhancing.
Now I am in my forties, I see my contemporaries burdened with obligations, cars and houses full of things they don’t need. I am glad that I chose a different path early on in life and have stuck to it ever since. I hope that at least some of the people reading this blog can do the same.