What’s the Point of Being a Minimalist?

Minimalism has been on my mind for a few reasons recently. First, I bought a motorcycle. If minimalism were a religion, I’d probably be excommunicated for having more motorized vehicles than I have pairs of socks (RV, motorcycle, folding scooter, and electric skateboard vs. two pairs of socks). Second, I had a long conversation with Leo Babauta about minimalism, which brought it from the background of my life to a concept actually examined and discussed. And last, Erica twittered a video about minimalism that’s clearly a parody, but makes some valid points along the way.

I sat at a poker table for a few hours tonight and got the coldest run of cards I’ve had since I can remember. I didn’t lose a lot, I just sat there and folded everything. All that time that I WASN’T spending outfoxing my opponents and pulling down monster pots was spent thinking about why I became a minimalist, why I’ve stayed a minimalist, and what the point of it all is.

I became a minimalist on a lark, which, for better or worse, is why I do a lot of things. I bought an RV, thinking I’d take road trips in it, and from that point on I never slept in my condo again, and I started selling everything. Momentum kept pushing me, and before I knew it I didn’t own anything that didn’t fit in my 28 liter backpack.

The point of minimalism, for me, was unearthed as I continued to live with relatively few possessions and even fewer obligations. I realized that it wasn’t about having nothing-it was about having only things that mattered.

An ex-girlfriend of mine, once frustrated with some probably-extreme action that I was insisting on, pleaded with me: “You know, Tynan, not everything has to be as efficient as possible.” But for me, it does. I find a certain Zen in efficiency. Minimalism has just become the extension of that.

Before I began sloughing off possessions and obligations, I let the tide rise and carry all of my boats with it. I had a Mercedes, so I needed a nice big house. I had a big house so I needed to put a movie theater in it. With such big closets and regular attendance at nightclubs, I needed a huge expensive wardrobe. Even things I didn’t really care about, like china, needed to be a big deal. I bought two sets of Wedgewood bone china, so that I could serve 16 if necessary.

Minimalism helped me understand that imbalance can be a good thing. I live in 80 square feet on the side of the road. Space isn’t important to me, and neither is permanence of abode. So I scrape those to the absolute minimum. The function of clothes is important to me, so I have really high quality “outdoors” clothes. But I have only two shirts and a pair of pants. I don’t need to signal my status with my shirts.

Minimalism has given me focus. In the time I’m not raking my non-existant yard and not shopping for the latest fashions, I am doing things that I care about. My spending becomes as focused as my time. Most of my expenses involve healthy food and getting places (vehicles / plane tickets). Those are things I care about, and because of my experimentation with minimalism, I’m able to enjoy them more. My time and money are spent efficiently.

Minimalism should be a tool, not a cult. I think it’s a good default, too: when in doubt, don’t accept obligations or buy things. But if you’ve really thought something through and want to buy it, even though it might not fall in line with traditional minimalist dogma, go for it.

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I have the time to be writing 2+ blog posts a week, but not the focus. I spend all of my time thinking about my new project. I hope you’ll bear with me as I post 1-2 times per week for a while until I release my new thing. I think you’ll find it worth it.

A quick shout out to Chuck Callebs for writing a really flattering paragraph about me on his blog. As suspected, I don’t have time to be a mentor, but I do appreciate it. Also a shout out to Carlos for translating Life Nomadic into Spanish! I haven’t had time to format it (or write him back yet. soon!), but I’m psyched!

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