Real Life Minimalists: Vince

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.

Today we hear from Vince, a writer and photographer who travels the world in minimalist fashion. Read more about his adventures (and see his wonderful photos!) on his blog, www.20LiterLife.com.

Vince writes:

Vince

When I traveled to Australia in 2009 I brought so much stuff. I think I took five or six pairs of shoes with me – and I’m a guy. In my defense, I was moving there for almost a year, so I would need pretty much my life’s worth of stuff, right? Well, yes, but the real question, I think, is how much stuff do I really ever need?

Earlier this year I traveled for 10 weeks through India and Southeast Asia and took only a backpack the size a school kid would use. My friend Franklin and I tirelessly researched travel gear and scrutinized every item that would ultimately make it into our bags. It was a cool learning experience and the outcome absolutely proved to be worthwhile for our trip. This foray into minimalism was initially geared almost entirely towards the travel aspect; I didn’t want to be weighed down by excess junk while constantly moving through foreign countries. I soon realized, though, that the more cerebral effects of minimalism were, in fact, even more significant in the long run. The willingness to part ways with a lot of material accessories that I deemed necessary, as well as attachments that I’ve long held dear (I’m sentimental – I like to hang onto some important things), is extremely liberating. What started as a quest towards minimalist travel would lead me to put everything in my life on the chopping block; why only be a minimalist while on the move?

The process of minimization also forces you to confront cultural norms that might be influencing your living and purchasing decisions. Is being fashionable actually important to me? Honestly – a little bit. Should it be? Definitely not, but it’s a constant struggle to convince myself that dressing sharp shouldn’t be one of my priorities. It’s a process, not an overnight epiphany. Is a new car important? No. Is a car at all important? Maybe, maybe not. Should I be eating out/buying gadgets/furniture/etc. that aren’t really adding any actual value or utility to my life?

Becoming a minimalist helps you edit and improve all aspects of your life. As someone who takes productivity and personal development seriously, I don’t think I could help but eventually realize how little significance stuff typically has. Now, I try to look at my belongings through the lenses of utility (some clothes, toiletries, computer), necessity (passport, money), and maybe occasionally some sort of intrinsic importance (heirlooms, books). Streamlining my everyday life and the amount of distractions in it provides me with time, energy, and resources for things that are more important to me: reading, writing, eating, exploring, photographing, conversing, etc.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Related posts:

  1. Real Life Minimalists: A Working Rachel
  2. Real Life Minimalists: Jenna Ann
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Jesse

14 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Vince

  • First of all, I love what you wrote. I’ll probably be back to read it a few times. My only question is, within your categories of utility, necessity, and intrinsic value, I don’t see anything strictly for the purpose of beauty. Perhaps, because you are constantly on the move, you are seeing such interesting beauty all around you, and perhaps, because you are a photographer, in a sense you get to keep a bit of that beauty after you leave. This is me reading myself into you, so now, I’ll let you talk, haha. Do you have thoughts on keeping beauty in your life?

    • Hi Katherine,

      That’s a great question. I definitely appreciate different types of beauty and want to keep them in my life, no doubt. Your point about photography is spot on; I get to keep a lot of visual beauty and memories in digital form. The same goes for writing and music, two things that inspire me but take up essentially no physical space in my life. Nature is another source of beauty that I try to prioritize time towards. I don’t feel the need to have flowers in a vase or anything like that, I like to connect with them where they are meant to be. I guess that leaves physical art? I have much appreciation for visual art, and own a little bit of it, and visit museums to enjoy it.

      I guess the more existential answer is that when you simplify your life, the beauty of the world around you becomes that much sharper and more vivid. Now I’m sounding like some hack of a poet… But you get what I mean. Does that answer your question?

      Thanks for reading!

  • Hi Vince,

    I love this line in your post: “Becoming a minimalist helps you edit and improve all aspects of your life.” Ah, editing is such a great word! It works in many aspects of life. For example, that statement would be just as meaningful if it read: “Becoming a saver helps you edit and improve all aspects of your life.”

    I write to help people transform their relationship with money. Money and minimalism have a close tie in my mind because the process of “editing” your behaviors around money over time creates wealth that can support the life each person envisions for themselves.

    The definition for wealth, like minimalism, is not the same for everyone. Some will make more, spend more, save more, need more…or make less, spend less, save less and need less. It’s the craft of editing what you desire out of life over time and then tweaking behaviors that ensures continued progress toward the vision. I’ll likely write a post using the “editing” theme and I’ll be sure to credit you for sparking the idea. I love your blog, visually and the content (hey, you helped me figure out a good stocking stuffer…the Swiss Knife Utili-Key!).

    Happy journeys!
    Ree

  • Lizzy W

    “The process of minimization also forces you to confront cultural norms that might be influencing your living and purchasing decisions. Is being fashionable actually important to me? Honestly – a little bit. Should it be? Definitely not, but it’s a constant struggle to convince myself that dressing sharp shouldn’t be one of my priorities.” Totally get this! I think one of the biggest obstacles one needs to overcome to achieve this mindset is not worrying about what others think or say about one’s dress sense… and that can be quite hard!

  • I like your mention of about being fashionable. While I am not, I do love good clothes but not trendy ones. Therefore I spend money on something that I can wear for years and in many ways. A little black dress can take me on a picnic or to the opera. Being a minimalist is different for every individual and that is the way it should be. There are no absolutes in this. You have found your balance. I am very happy for you.

  • Awesome points raised Vince! I love the idea of traveling with just a backpack full of things. On my two backpacking trips, I’ve come back to civilization with a new found appreciation for minimizing my things and looking at what I truly need to live. Your blog has some of the best photography I’ve ever seen! Well done, count me in to become a regular reader.

  • Spot on Vince. Each time I get rid of an item or expense I realize, “Wow I really can live without this.” Decluttering frees up not just space in the garage or the closet but definitely in the mind as well.

  • [...] recently read a short post on Miss Minimalist by a young man named Vince. He was describing how he discovered minimalism and what it meant to [...]

  • Hi Vince, I’m coming back to let you know that I did write that post. Between the inspiration I had reading your story and the comments from my readers, it is probably one of the best posts I’ve written to date. So thank you for the inspiration! I linked to your story here and credited you with sparking the idea for the post. I’d love for you to come over and comment if you feel moved to do so. You can find the post at EscapingDodge.com and the title is: Consciously Edit Your Life in 3 Easy Steps.

    I tried to contact you via your site, but I was unable to find a contact form or email so I’m reaching out here…

    Cheers,
    Ree

  • Angie Hall

    Vince, I loved your post! So well-written, and inspiring also. Thanks!

  • 33

    I love Vince’s journey and appreciate his sharing. I am an extreme person. I travel light (not a school backpack light but a no-check-in-luggage kind of light) but I live with LOTS of stuff; fashion stuff (clothes, shoes, handbags, accessories), lots of pots and pans in the kitchen, and lots of furniture pieces in a 1-bedroon apartment. In a way I’ve done only half of what Vince had done.

    2014 I will put in real effort in purging things in my place….one box, one corner, one thing, one area at a time.

  • Jeannine

    Vince I think it’s great you came to the realization of being fashionable is truly individual. If it is important to you and not what is imposed on us, then it’s being honest with yourself. While I’m pretty much a jeans or black slacks and white tee or tailored shirt person, I certainly understand that others want more. There’s nothing quite like the travel experience to teach us what we really need.

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