The Minimalist Lifestyle Is Not For You

My name is Florentine and I am what the world describes as a “minimalist.”  I can pack all my belongings into two suitcases and go travel the world if I want.  I aim to make $30,000 a year from various online projects and consulting gigs, which makes me feel slightly guilty since there’s a hint of hypocrisy.  With an efficiency studio and a bicycle, I don’t need much money to lead a happy life.  I want to tell you a secret, which is a secret that many minimalists have, but don’t want anybody to know.

The reason why I deem myself a minimalist is because I have difficulty achieving more.  For three years after college, I tried my hardest to work myself up an advertisement company.  I was passed up for promotion, and then the recession came.  Instead of telling people I lost my job, I told people “I quit” so I could lead the life of freedom I’ve always wanted.  “Screw the world and conformity!”, I told everyone.  I was too ashamed to tell my parents and friends that after 4 years in college, all I could do was stay a gopher, photocopying papers and answering phones all day.  I didn’t even succeed at that.

Getting up and going to work is hard, I realize this.  Earning just $30,000 a year in a job that you don’t particularly like is particularly dissatisfying.  But, I know that doing the dirty work for years is just the process in order for me to get to where I want to be.  I want to create those beautiful images, and put together those unique sounds and call them my own creations for all to experience.  Yet, thanks to the recession, my opportunity was curtailed and I can’t get back in.  Let me back in!  Please?  It’s been almost a year now.

I renounce material goods, nice homes, and great careers because I can’t have any of those things.  Don’t even talk to me about retirement savings or starting a family.  I’ll get to those things when I can.  I tell people that they are leading lies and are on illusory treadmills.  It makes me feel better.  I know I shouldn’t try and make others feel worse.  Minimalism is a way of being.  I tell people I can live anywhere in the world, yet here I reside in a crappy city nicknamed HOE, or Hell On Earth.  It’s freaking freezing right now.

The easiest way to tell whether a lifestyler is successful is finding out where we live.  If we are really living the dream, we’d reside in Rio de Janeiro, Malibu, Paris, Rome, Hawaii, Bora Bora, and other fantastic places for goodness sake!  We wouldn’t live in HOE now, would we?  But, we do.  Damn you HOE.  Your streets are so dirty.

I embrace minimalism now, because I’ve come to accept the difficulty of becoming great.  I’m great to the outside world, because I say so damnit.  In reality, I want more, but society just doesn’t let me get there.  There is no coincidence that our movement has taken off during one of the greatest economic downturns of our times (so my parents tell me).  Although our employers let us go, at least they gave us the dignity to say we left on our own volition.

Let’s face it.  Nobody leaves a job they love.  If they did, they are either batshit crazy or lying to themselves.  I’m thrust into my minimalist position not out of choice.  But, everyday I embrace my situation and even convert some to do the same.  At least I’m not siting around feeling sorry for myself.  I’m actually practicing what I preach.  Just be careful OK?  Not everything is what it seems, especially if you have a choice.

Dream on,

Flo

Thanks for this terrific insight on minimalism Florentine!  I’ve also noticed a big minimalist/lifestyle movement ever since the recession started in 2008.  It makes sense to turn one’s back on society if society turns their back on you.  As the economy recovers, perhaps the movement will fade with more opportunities.  Perhaps not.  Either way, consuming less, saving and investing more is probably necessary in our economy!  What do readers think about minimalism?  On another note, the Yakezie Scholarship essays are now live! Regards, Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Beth says

    For someone who claims to be “minimalist”, the writer has no clue what the word actually means. Even if you totally ignore the originally meaning of the word (an artistic movement), this post is way off base. If you read blogs like “Miss Minimalist”, you’ll see that many “minimalists” are people with good jobs who simply choose to live with less. It’s a conscious choice, not a lack of achievement or drive.

    Besides, not everyone is a raging consumer, as this post implies we should be. Personally, I admire people who choose to live with less. I think it’s better for their finances and for the environment. It’s a far more sustainable lifestyle than wanting all the big houses and latest “Stuff”.

    • Beth says

      I noticed you removed the line where I muse about this post being made up by the author of this blog, not a real contributor.

      I have totally lost my respect for this blog now that I know you edit people’s comments.

      • Financial Samurai says

        I removed your comment for accusing me of being a liar because it was unconstuctive, false and OFFENSIVE. If you want me to delete all your comments and ban you, just let me know now. In retrospect, i should have just deleted your entire comment. Comments are supposed to be constructive. What kind of person goes and accusing someone of lying? It’s so rude. I gave you a chance by leaving the rest of your comments. Email me your number and I’ll give you a ring so you tell me I’m a liar in real life. And, I’ll forward you the posters email address so you can ask her yourself.

        If you are wondering why you are unhappy, look inwards at your own self. My advice to you is to treat people as you would if you met them face to face. Unless of course you’re a bitter, nasty person in person, then you are what you are and can’t help yourself.

        • Beth says

          See my comment below. Like I said, I was wrong and I apologize. I’m not a bitter, nasty person, but I can see why you might think that and it concerns me. The last thing I want to be is one of those annoying negative posters on someone’s blog, so I think it’s time for me to move on.

          For what it’s worth, I have enjoyed a lot of your writing! Good luck to you in the future.

          • Financial Samurai says

            Thanks Beth. Fighting and negativity suck and I appreciate your follow up comment. I wanted to spare you from getting blitzed by me and other readers. Also best to focus on the subject.

            As bloggers, we put ourselves out there a lot and are often times under gun fire. Yes, I want an open community of free discussion, at the same time I want things to be constructive.

            Best, Sam

  2. Everyday Tips says

    I don’t understand, is this person a a minimalist or basically homeless?

    I also don’t know of anyone that became a minimalist because of this economy. I do know many that strategically defaulted on their mortgages so they have more money to spend in the end.

  3. Kevin @ Thousandaire.com says

    I have to disagree with the overall theme of this article, particularly this quote:

    “In reality, I want more, but society just doesn’t let me get there.”

    It’s not society’s fault. I hate to put it so bluntly, but it’s your fault. You picked a career where you couldn’t succeed or you gave up too easily. It’s not that success is impossible in that career; I’m sure you see successful people doing what you would like to do all the time, even in today’s economy.

    I would imagine if you stopped blaming your problems on “society” and spending so much time telling other people how much of a minimalist you are, and started working on actually fixing your problems, they would start going away.

  4. DoNotWait says

    @Beth, sorry but I had to make a parenthesis about your second comment. Maybe the author should have not removed your sentence, but I don’t think The Financial Samurai would have made up a post like this. He is a well respected blogger and if you follow him a bit you will notice his writing is not the same than the one is this post. But I do respect your point of view.

    @The post itself!
    As for the post itself, well very confusing! Turning into being a “minimalist” has to be a real choice, not the result of some “society circumstances” as the author is trying to describe. I also would mostly agree with Kevin just up there that whatever we want we must at least try to make it work. To me, the author seems more like a person who does not really know what he or she wants than someone who is trying to live with less. If you want more, than go for it! If you really want to live with less, than stop blaming the society!

  5. Beth says

    I was wrong. I apologize. I interpreted the deleted line as Sam having something to hide. (My reaction to something like that would have been to address the concern rather than hide it, but I realize people react differently to things and I shouldn’t have made an assumption.)

    I had reasons for being suspicious, and like everyone else, I’m human and I make mistakes. I’m owning up to that.

  6. Evan says

    I am with you Sam (if I am reading this post correctly) – I want the ability to purchase more, give my child what I deem he should have, the ability to travel AND live where I want. It is not saying I *need* those things or even want them, I just would like the ABILITY to make those choices.

  7. retirebyforty says

    I would really hate to have minimalist thrust upon me. Hopefully, The Minimalist take some learning from this experience and keep living the minimalist lifestyle once he/she gets another job. Bad times doesn’t last forever and you just have to learn from it and keep fighting.

  8. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog says

    It sounds like this person has minimalism thrust upon them by matters of their own choosing, but call themselves minimalist because they are trying to set themselves apart and make it sound like their circumstances are chosen, not forced (as the article makes them sound). Kudos for turning lemons into lemonade.

  9. SophieW says

    Well… it sounds like the poster is trying to come to terms with some delusions she has been living with for some time. While it seems she has a ways to go – society has not thrust the minimalism upon her, it is more likely her own issues have created her inability to sustain meaningful work – at least she is trying!

    Like anyone who has a problem; accepting it and then learning to deal with it are the basic steps to overcoming it. I hope she continues on her road of discovery and can realise her dreams.

  10. MD says

    I had to read this post twice. I would love to go with a drink with you one day Sam. Two killer points I wanted to highlight:

    “I renounce material goods, nice homes, and great careers because I can’t have any of those things.”

    and

    ” Nobody leaves a job they love. If they did, they are either batshit crazy or lying to themselves.”

    I really needed an eye-opening post like this. As a recent (two days now) college grad, I’ve been reading nothing but feel good posts on the internet. I actually brought this stuff up to a mentor the other day. He’s 40 years old and works as a Director of a major company. He told me that side income is simply just side income. Who in the world would quit a high paying job that they love to sleep on the floor in a room with 20 other people?

    • Financial Samurai says

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Mr. VP of Marketing! :) I thought it would be great to highlight a less than rosy post to make sure people are aware of more, before making a choice. It’s very easy to get convinced by the Internet that everything is so easy and hunky dory.

      The recession has been rough for many of us who were/are in the work force. It’s easier to just throw one’s hands up and revolt against society.

  11. Matt T says

    Interesting PostSecret-style post. I do see how someone could interpret this as Sam saying “all self-described minimalists are really just jealous,” but I see this for what it is: one person saying that not all people who call themselves minimalists are that way by choice. Hopefully everyone gets that the post isn’t an indictment of minimalism but instead one person’s story.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Well said. This is NOT an attack on minimalism, but a compelling story from one who got disconnected by the economy and is making the most of it. I strive to consume less myself and declutter and constantly. I hate having tons of stuff and have stopped buying things for a long time now.

      The reason why readers may feel I wrote this is because :1) It’s on my site, and 2) I edited it to flow better. The guest post is excellent, biting, hilarious (HOE) and to the point. As the economy returns, perhaps things will change.

  12. Norman says

    Back in the 80s, I knew a girl that had 17 jobs in one year and could put all of her belongings in one laundry basket. I had no respect for her. This story has opened my eyes. After reading this, I now realize that she was a minimalist! Now I almost feel bad about judging her.

    • Financial Samurai says

      17 jobs in one year? Surely you exaggerate? I would t have anything but a backpack if I had or knew I had to move more than twice a year! Obviously she would rather have a job she loved to do and stay put for a while. We shouldn’t judge, we should just be appreciative or what we have.

  13. Briana @ GBR says

    I appreciate your brute honesty about your lifestyle, but still would love to live it, if only for a month. Then again, it makes me appreciate my lifestyle, my “anchor”, even more.

  14. The Everyday Minimalist says

    All right here goes, because Financial Uproar had to start some shizz on Twitter.

    Please don’t think that all minimalists are like that.

    I am not a minimalist because I can’t afford it or because I can’t “make it” in my job (paraphrasing her words).

    I became a minimalist while making $65,000 a year coming out of college.

    The “ah hah” moment was when I realized I was living in each client city, out of a suitcase.

    A single suitcase while everything else was in storage. That’s incredible for me. I felt like I was what I called a ‘modern nomad’ at the time, but now I am understanding the real term is “minimalist”. It also really helped my $60,000 of debt.

    I quit that cushy corporate job, and became a freelancer of my own choice.

    I didn’t get fired, I didn’t get laid off because of the recession — I did it because I loved my job, but hated the company I was working for.

    The nice side bonus is now I make a lot more money, about 4 times as much.

    When (huge emphasis on the WHEN), I work, I make anywhere from $18,000 – $20,000 a month.

    I love that being a minimalist means I only need 3 months of my earnings to pay for my expenses for the year and save a decent amount.

    I have less to take care of (no house, old junky car), I spend less than I did before and as a result I don’t need to work the whole year to pay for all of my stuff.

    The rest of the time I have free, I travel (!!!) relax, blog, chill out and keep an even keel on my expenses. I’m going for at least a month all over Asia.

    The best part of it all is that I’m happier with less. This is not crap. It’s true, and it may not work for you or anyone else, but it works for me.

    Everyone who is feeling that minimalists are a bunch of hypocrites who secretly want to own a huge house and have many cars, and all this stuff but just can’t afford it should read this post of what motivated me to become a minimalist:

    http://www.everydayminimalist.com/?p=3120 — A minimalist’s train of thought.

    Good luck to the poster, I hope things work out for the best and she finds what she’s looking for.

    (Sorry this turned into a mini post)

    • Financial Samurai says

      Thanks for your perspective. You’re going to tell us how you make $18,000-$20,000 a month as that’s pretty good! What type of contract work do you do exactly and how many months a year do you work?

      What happened to your other blog btw? Did you sell it and start this one recently?

    • Jeff says

      @Financial Samurai: When I first read your blog I felt the guest blogger was more angry at the world or the job for getting passed up on a promotion. Successful people (Whether Minimalist or not) and (however you determine your own success) are usually VERY positive people and create their own success on a daily basis. They don’t shy away because of a hiccup like getting passed up for a promotion. I was passed up 2 times when I first started my career and now I’m one of the most success people in my multi $100 million company BECAUSE I stayed positive and didn’t let those things get to me. I persivered and stayed the course and pushed harder everyday to be the best. “Minimalist” should be a lifestyle choice like “The Everyday Minimalist” not because they were passed up or fire or laid off.
      and BTW…

      @TheEverydayMinimalist: more props to you for living the lifestyle because you choose too…I’m very impressed and would not be able to do that…mostly because I started a family now and will do everything I can to give them the best lives…while still being VERY humble and positive of course. Please respond to his question on what you do…I’m curious as well…

  15. Barb Friedberg says

    Hi Sam, Fascinating article and comments. I’m still confused whether you wrote this to create a message or it is an actual guest post. Either way, (and it really doesn’t matter) I appreciate the perspective. It’s kind of a back door commentary on the current economy and personal challenges. On another hand, it could be another way for a job searcher to describe his/her situation. Regardless, this is one of the most unique posts I’ve read! Kudos (plus, the conflict highlights that you have really made it in the blogging world :) )

    • Financial Samurai says

      Hi Barb, it is an anonymous guest post. I’ll go add some of my commentary in the post below. I did some editing as I do all guest posts, but just to make sure it flowed as best a possible. Thanks for reading. Cheers

  16. Aloysa says

    I don’t know what fascinated me me more – a post by Flo or all the comments after. I think it all comes down to perception. We all perceive things differently and some of us assign different meaning to the same concept. What I consider being a minimalist can be very different what my friends thinks about it. I don’t like to define things, I guess.

  17. Charlie says

    Minimalism is a great concept if done with the right frame of mind. We really don’t need a lot of things to live a happy life. I think that along with everything else in life should be done with a positive mind set. We can choose to be frugal or extravagant or somewhere in between and no matter what we choose we shouldnt bash on someone else for living differently. A minimalist may feel good for having a low carbon footprint whereas an extravagant person may feel good for spending and stimulating the economy.

  18. First Gen American says

    Is it possible to be a recyclist? I think it’s more difficult to lead this type of lifestyle with children in tow. I love buying things used and then reselling them when my kids outgrow that particular size or phase. It’s easy for me not to buy a lot of stuff for myself, but it’s harder when kids are always outgrowing things and toys.

    With regards to the article, yes the minimalism term can be bastardized to be the catch all phrase for a wealthy kid who isn’t following in the footsteps of their parents and “chooses” to live a simpler/poorer lifestyle. Career choices do dictate lifestyles in many cases. I don’t know many executives who lead minimalist lifestyles, but I know plenty of writers and social workers who do.

    There comes a time in people’s careers when they need to ask themselves..what do you value more, time or money. Often the answer to that question dictates the path people take with regards to financial and lifestyle choices.

  19. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom says

    The world of minimalism is a bit confusing to me. I don’t like buying shit (the process of buying shit or the process of getting rid of shit) – does that make me a minimalist? I don’t know. Years ago when I could move everything I owned in a pickup truck, I suppose I was minimalist, I thought I was a broke student. But I loved being that overhead-less.

    This is sort of the same argument that came up on the early retirement discussion you had many moons ago. Are you retiring because you suck and you can’t find a job that you love? Well, some like me can find and have jobs they love (that pay well) but want to do lots of other things too and the normal career path doesn’t allow for that.

    One of the main differences to me between Flo (not most other minimalists) vs. early retirees is deferred gratification and being able to push through the unpleasantness and know that the reward will eventually be there vs. the instant gratification of wanting it right now.

    Some minimalists, like Everett Bogue, seem to make it with quitting their jobs with $3,000 of savings in the bank and an idea for a minimalist site/book (that’s what I got from his story on Lifehacker anyway). Adam Baker too quit on a wing and a prayer (IMO not enough security, but then I’m risk averse), but those guys both had determination and a pretty good work ethic for their personal projects as their “capital”. What scares me is that most other people who want to follow them just don’t have that.

    I have friends that follow the lifestyle design movement (which has many similarities to the minimalism + travel movement). They’re in debt (will be paid off through selling one’s house and severance for the other) and planning on traveling around working where they can because of the “life is too short and I hate my job” argument. I don’t know if they’re taking the right path for them or not. I fear that both of them actually got INTO debt because of this need for instant gratification. And choices made from that mindset are usually not good. Of course I prefer my path of not HAVING to work at all. But a main driver for that to me was encountering a couple of jobs that I hated too. Paradoxically since I hit financial independence, I haven’t had a contract job that I hated. Weird how that is.

    I keep going round and round with one friend about the desirability of saving just a bit – I mean unless it’s one’s occupational dream to be a Wal-mart greeter at 65. Because if you take yourself out of your profession for long enough with the way that technology moves today, you’re hooped. But some people value freedom far far more than they value security and that’s their life and their choices. It just seems to me that there’s a disconnect with reality there and some kind of dream that a) they will not age and b) things will be somehow different in the future. Is that similar to how people in debt think? That “someday” things will get better (but they don’t have to do anything different to get there like (gasp!) deprive themselves or something) they will be able to pay off that couch they bought on the CC?

    I would be very, very hesitant to follow the advice of anyone who has debt or has had debt in the recent past and has never made a good income that does this minimalist travel shtick – because I don’t trust their way of thinking (even if I like them and they seem like really good people). Of course, that could be because I’m an old bag that got sucked into the “do what you LOOOOVE and the money won’t matter” shit that came out in the ’90′s and I’m still bitter that it didn’t work out for me and I got in a ton of debt from it. :-)

  20. DoNotWait says

    See, I came back this morning thinking I might have a better opinion of this post. I read most of the comments and I am still very confused. I think what I don’t understand the most she did not (at least at first) become minimalist by choice. I understand we all have harder times and that we sometimes don’t live the life we wanted. Still, we always have the choice. Maybe the author just did not find the right choice for her yet. But again, I sincerely think she has the choice to say: Okay, stop it! I want a different life, I want this and that and I’ll find a way to make it happen. And not saying everyone should have a nice home, the car of the year and an impressive income. Some want less and are very happy with it. The thing is, that is not what the author wants.
    Maybe it’s just me hearing so many complainers blaming everything but themselves that I don’t sympathize as much as I used to.
    I guess your post is a very nice one! At least, it brings debate! And that, I like!

  21. Stephanie says

    Hm.

    I have a certain amount of sympathy for this poster.

    About twelve years ago I was asked to write an article for a local paper describing how I had “simplified” my life (this was back when “simplicity” was the buzzword for what is now called minimalism) — the editor wanted to know how I what stuff I had sold or how I had down-sized my living arrangements, etc. All I could do was laugh and tell her I’d never had the money to buy a lot of stuff or “up-size” to begin with and that “simplicity” sounded like the kind fad pursued by people who either didn’t remember or never knew how complicated life can be for the poorly compensated.

    None of which is to say that I advocate collecting a lot of junk. If I wanted to do that I would have tried for a job that would have allowed me to do so. But that doesn’t mean living in a small house, using public transportation and cooking my meals at home equals a lack of stress. In some ways it creates more, since it means I am out of sync with the values of most of the people in my life. It’s gotten easier as I’ve gotten older & more comfortable with myself, but in the beginning the social pressure was very difficult to negotiate. What I would say to the poster is that, with the exception of a very few exceptional souls, choosing a life (or having unemployment force you into a life) that is outside the mainstream path of success almost inevitably takes many other choices off the table, and if he/she isn’t prepared to accept that then it may be better to be honest about what one’s priorities are.

  22. SPENDaholic says

    This is a great post, if only for the fact that it generated a lot of mixed reaction and comments from people.

    There are some interesting themes here. What is minimalism? Can one be a minimalist without ever having earned a good income? Can minimalism be an excuse? I don’t have the answer, but I do surely sympathize with the guest poster.

    More and more, my generation (I’m guessing the poster is young) is paying for the sins of the past generation. Can you imagine that people used to raise a family, own a house and two cars on a high school education? That’s impossible now. College tuition is up, health care expenses are up, home prices are high, jobs are down, manufacturing is gone and the US dollar is a joke.

    This will be a new theme for my day, and I’m sure at some point there will be many more minimalists who were forced into it.

  23. Invest It Wisely says

    Minimalism out of necessity isn’t fun, but minimalism out of choice is good. I think the recent economic crisis has shown people that they cannot continue going further and further into debt, and this will encourage “real” spending further down the road that will be backed by real savings instead of false credit. Then we can have sustainable consumption. :)

  24. Money Reasons says

    I think the reader might be a minimalist, but I don’t think her reasons for being a minimalist isn’t shared by the average minimalist!

    It sounds like she is more of a poser than the real deal. I always thought that the minimalist were more of a environmentally conscious sort, not quite a freegan, but a close cousin to them.

    It looks like I’m going to have to read up on this topic…

  25. The Write Shadow says

    @Florentine: Good for you for embracing your reality. Sarcasm can be a bit tricky when you put it in writing, but I think I understand what you were getting at. ;) Sometimes life forces a new reality on you, and you can either accept it and adapt, or you can live in misery constantly wishing for what is not. I admire your ability to just suck it up and claim it as your own.

    @Financial Samurai: Thanks for publishing this post. Once again, I was more than pleased with your selection. :)

  26. Andrew Hallam says

    @Invest It Wisely
    Kevin,

    Your words here are very wise: “Minimalism out of necessity isn’t fun, but minimalism out of choice is good.”

    On a personal note:
    I’m not sure whether I’m a minimalist or not. I suppose, defining that can get pretty blurry. Some would say I am, while others would suggest that I live lavishly. Should minimalism then, be defined compared to the socio-economic wage bracket we’re in? I mean, I might spend lavishly compared to some people in my wage bracket, while being deemed a minimalist by others. Thoughts?

  27. youngandthrifty says

    Good point, Andrew.

    I agree that minimalism is by choice- to me, minimalism is living on a small portion of your income. Or it could mean living on a small amount of income by choice (e.g. Early Retirement Extreme)

    I knew that Sam didn’t write this post- it wasn’t his style, though I was confused because there wasn’t any commentary to it.

  28. Financial Samurai says

    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for sharing all your insights and thoughts. I don’t know where Flo is, but perhaps she’ll share more of her own.

    I absolutely hate clutter. It drives me nuts. Minimalism to me is living light and utilizing all you have with relatively little waste and inventory. I can’t wait to throw my own book giveaway, where over the past years, I’ve accumulated so much.

    Maybe it’s an addiction actually, to want to have less. Having a lot of things weigh me down. But, I admit I have a choice. I am always amused by minimalist/lifestyle bloggers who proclaim how wonderful their lives are and make others feel bad. That’s not cool, and not zen in any way.

    Whatever the case may be, I love this post, the subtle humor, and the poignancy.

    Best, Sam

  29. Barron says

    @The Everyday Minimalist

    Although I am by no means a minimalist, I really look up to the ones like The Everyday Minimalist, where they embrace that lifestyle by choice, and at the same time make a shit ton of money. That really says something, more than those who are resigning to a life of minimalism out of necessity and thinking, “aww snap, good thing this shit is trending right now” … because that seems to be an excuse for not hustling and being the best at whatever you do.

    Not saying that the original author (Flo) thinks this way exactly, but some things she said in passing reminds me of some people like those I’ve mentioned.

    Anyway, great contribution nonetheless, because it seems to have initiated good discussion in the comments.

  30. Early Retirement Extreme says

    There seems to be several breeds of minimalists. The “travel-minimalist” has all their stuff (typically brand name computers, five finger running shoes, and print shirts) in a carry-on. When I was young(er), that is, in my twenties, these guys were called backpackers, not lifestyle designers. Filling up a suitcase with trendy clothes and gadgets is a different kind of minimalist from the simplicity, environmental, or simply “mental” minimalist, who simply prefer either to have a low impact on the environment or simply not having to deal with clutter. It becomes a lot easier to organize things if there aren’t that many of them.

    In the larger scheme of things, I think there is some connection to the economy. In the 70s many hippies were moving “back to the land” to do subsistence farming much like “lifestyle designers” are moving to beaches in poor countries. This is possible because the generation that preceded them generated a rich life where things in general were/are considered abundant. Consequently many of them have no idea of the economics involved and no plans for the future. How many of the approximately one dozen lifestyle bloggers who make a living selling ebooks about how to make a living selling ebooks to the hopeful masses are still going to be in the top of their field even ten years from now? Furthermore, is there still going to be a market of “disgruntled yet hopeful” close-to-dropouts in that time.

    I think the “lifestyle design” business is quite cyclical. It’s also impossible to make a living doing it except for a very limited number of people at the top.

  31. Roshawn @ Watson Inc says

    Minimalist hypocrites? I guess I am not familiar with anyone who lives the minimalist lifestyle personally, so I don’t know whether I find their behavior hypocritical. With respect to your comment that no one leaves a job that they love, I respond with I don’t know. If someone is financially-secure but feels a calling to another area, I don’t find this so outrageous of an idea for them to leave something they love to pursue something they love more (even if it is traveling)

  32. Sean says

    This is a really interesting concept, and I’m not sure if I’ve seen the idea presented in this way.

    I know I personally left my job last year, moved to Thailand to start a business and a lot of people said that it was because I couldn’t do anything else. Further, people said when I moved back to Portland in July it was because I failed.

    The reality is that neither are true. Moving back to Portland, if anything was a sign of success in that I can afford to live in a more expensive place. There really is a huge allure to the lifestyle, and if you have the motivation to do it well, the rewards are big.

    While I dont consider myself a minimalist, I think the ideas are similar for people who try to go location independent (many of which are minimalists).

    I think everyone adopts the lifestyle for different reasons, but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the majority do it because they can’t do anything else. Although I really do appreciate Florentines honest story and reflections.

    Great post.

  33. Forest says

    Wow this one really kicked off!!!

    I think one problem here is the definition of great in relation to how we live our life. Great is a personal choice but climbing high in a corporate career has never been great for me personally. I am not driven by money but of course I am looking for financial security.

    So great for me would be to climb to a place where I am earning plenty of cash to fund myself and my retirement whilst allowing me enough time to volunteer and be involved in charitable organisations…… That is my goal and I am getting there. Some others goal may be to be CEO of a plastic pipes factory or a capital investment business or to design a new social network or even to visit every country in the world earning money as they travel.

    Anyway the minimalism part is unrelated in many ways. I’m striving for minimalism despite of any financial situation and even as I earn more I am not changing minimalist habits. I don’t like having lots of stuff and I like being ready to move around. I don’t live in HOE, although some people may consider Cairo just that! Next year I might be living in India, maybe Germany or maybe even New Zealand and minimalism allows me this because I don’t have the stresses of a rooted life bearing down on me.

    Another part of minimalism that I strive for and that is very important to me is the mental side of minimalism. I work hard on keeping my mind light of stress and try to keep calm about everything. Less mental baggage makes life a lot easier in general.

    People who are minimalist out of poverty are of course still minimalists and I was there for quite a while but the choice is taken out unless they want to get more and more in debt. Was every normal household in the Great Depression a minimalist household?

    Great post for some great conversation.

  34. Monevator says

    I spent about a year after I sold out of a business trying to persuade myself and others that I didn’t care for achievement anymore. Basically I was miserable for a year and got nothing much done. It was a giant waste of time.

    I aspire to some tenants of minimalism, but not giving up. It’s a difficult balancing act.

  35. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog says

    it’s all a matter of perspective, and perspective changes with time as over time we are exposed to various experiences, events, situations and circumstances, both internal and external, that shape up our perspective. we all make our coffee in a very different and specific way. we are all entitled to drink our own cup of coffee :)

  36. brokeprofessionals says

    I am by no means a minimalist, but I do try to be self-sufficeint, to live off one of our paychecks rather than two, and to not fill our house with junk we do not need, waste food, etc. The real eye opener for me was when we went to Paris and saw how people lived in smaller apartments, with less, but had much more vibrant lives because of it. I believe people are much too complex to ever put easy identifier-titles on anybody. Somedays I am feeling minimalist, other days I come home purchasing $15.00 dog treats for our dog and I feel like it was great buy. Who knows?

  37. Randy Addison says

    The discussion is really great. This is what I love in this website. The discussion goes longer and longer creating a mix of different opinions making the website more exciting. Thanks for posting this kind of writing. Really interesting.

  38. Jonathan says

    Over the past few months I’ve entered into a minimalistic state of mind by choice. I think it’s dangerous to to be too connected to society, whether it’s through food, obligations, whatever. People need to be independent and self-sufficient in the majority of what they do. When one becomes too dependent on the system, and the system fails, such as during hurricane Katrina, then you will have a hard time.

  39. Mark says

    Some of these comments seem rather hateful and reek of classism.

    It’s OK to be a minimalist if you have good career prospects, but it’s not OK if you are only qualified to work jobs that pay less than 20k a year? That must be circumstantial, right? Lower classes don’t have enough money and possessions to be a college grad minimalist, right?

    I’ve met people who earn less than 20k who have a home full of possessions. They shouldn’t be allowed to become a minimalist because they aren’t earning more money? You can still be a minimalist if you earn a low wage. Someone earning 20k can buy a cell phone, computer, internet, television, cable box, and many other things for the home that aren’t always necessary. Many have just as much need to reduce their belongings and expenses as someone who works in IT.

    I’m starting to think that people feel minimalism is only reserved for the middle and upper classes. Only in America would people criticize others for trying to simplify their lives just because they don’t fall under the “I gave up my corporate job to live in the woods” category. What a bunch of snobs.

  40. CTH says

    I just found your article, and I can relate to a good bit of it. I live on about 12k a year so minimalism has pretty much been foisted on me. So relating to what you’ve written here, perhaps there’s a bit of rejection on my part of our materialist society because most of it I can’t have. But then I’ve also always been this way simply because I love the aesthetic of it. So I guess you could say that I was a minimalist before being minimalist was cool; in my case it’s just a part of who I am I suppose. Sometimes I guess I do hold it over other’s heads simply because it’s the only thing I have that they don’t, material wise anyway. Not usually, though.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Interesting view point. How did you find this article?

      Minimalism is cool. And minimalism is GREAT if you are happy to live in such a way. I know I am heading towards that way and enjoy it.

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