Why minimalism is toxic for you and your business

by Peter Shallard

Minimalism Sucks

Minimalism is downright harmful to you, your ambition and your business.

I’ll tell you why I believe this in just a moment, but first, let me say that I’ve allowed minimalism to grind my gears for such a long time that I just have to vent. And blogging allows me to rant away.

You also allow me that potential. As an audience, you’re so damn smart I can test my wacky ideas and enjoy knowing that you’ll share your opinions with me – even if you disagree. Dialogue makes us all smarter.

Let the rant begin… 

For those of you who missed the memo, minimalism is more than the Wikipedia definition that focuses heavily on design and a sub-genre of classical music. In the lifestyle sense of the word, minimalism is the emerging philosophy of having less – of radically reducing the amount of stuff you own.

Minimalism experts believe in freeing yourself from modern “possession mania”.  In practice, what minimalism most often comes down to is a live-from-a-suitcase lifestyle that prioritizes experience over objects.

I have several axes to grind here. When you dip your toes into minimalism it’s a feel-good anti-materialism vibe. But as you go deeper, the philosophy slowly becomes dangerous and destructive, particularly for business owners. Let’s begin in the shallow end and dive straight to the bottom.

Minimalism Sucks #1: Stuff

The core tenant of minimalism is “thou shalt own less stuff”. Maybe it’s my psychological leaning, but this just begs the question:

Why do we own stuff in the first place?

Owning stuff rocks. In fact, owning stuff began with rocks – our caveman ancestors drew a major line in the sand between themselves and animals when they not only started using tools (chimps do that) but started keeping them.

The psychological leap to keep a poking stick or piece of flint (versus finding a new one each day) moves us to the next major brainwave: that one piece of flint is better than another.

Owning the superior piece of flint (cherishing it, even) is vastly more efficient than finding a new flint each day. More efficiency creates more breeding opportunities (less time looking for flint equals more time making babies).

This means we’ve all evolved from the proto-consumers who had the best tools. Our ancestors loved their stuff!

Fast forward to neighbors comparing sizes of homes, keeping up with the Joneses and Cadillac versus Lexus debate. Trying to find meaning in your leather seats upgrade is kind of lame and sounds like mid-life crisis material.

So sure, materialism has its problems. Our obsession with stuff has made everything cheap and disposable. No one aims to invest in the best, longest lasting “tools” anymore. Ikea furniture, the Dollar Store and the notion of upgrading your car every few years are all pinnacles of the materialist crisis.

Material without function is a problem. Our closets and garages are filled with the collateral damage of failed hobbies. But is this the fault of materialism… or perhaps our own?

The problem is that no aims to invest in the best tools any more – few people buy tools that increase efficiency or add meaning to their lives. We’ve forgotten how.

Minimalism says we should clean our garages of junk – and by doing so, a cleaner mind will follow. I’m not so sure. Minimalism doesn’t fix the problem. In fact, minimalist-favorite services like AirBNB and ZipCar take the cycle of mindless consumption to the next level.

Instead of making long-term savvy decisions about which dwellings and vehicles to invest in, you can now have the instant gratification of a swell apartment and wheels. Without thinking. And of course, this costs a lot more in the long run.

Minimalism encourages short-term thinking and investing, which becomes financially destructive over time.

Minimalism Sucks # 2: Art

Some believe art is the pinnacle of human achievement and creation-of-meaning. It’s definitely pretty nifty.

But minimalists don’t own art. How can they? You can’t carry around a canvas or a piece of sculpture in your bohemian commitment to counter culture. And minimalists say materialists look for meaning in the wrong objects – that people shouldn’t find fulfillment in a new car.

But there are tons of people who do. I’ve a friend in New York who gets a huge kick out of buying and racing the latest ridiculous rocket made by Ducati. He has about seven of them and is one happy dude.

So should we shun expressions of beauty while basking in the white-walled nothingness of our possession freedom? Some minimalists believe that for every possession acquired, another must be thrown away – so do I have to ditch a pair of socks in order to hang a Salvador Dali print in my apartment?

John T Unger, artist and entrepreneur, regularly joins me in bitching out minimalism over large quantities of whisky. This guy makes extraordinary works of art that serve zero utilitarian function. John claims that if he had a bigger house, he’d fill it with even more art and books.

Stuff gives us meaning, like it or not. Not all stuff, and sure, not everyone is good at finding meaning in stuff. Nevertheless, stuff is meaningful.

Victor Frankl talks about the quest for meaning – finding it through creation (ours or someone else’s). And the quest to find and create meaningful objects inspires some pretty incredible human achievements. It’s built into our cultural history – our myths are filled with quests for the golden fleece, magic rings and more.

For John Unger, the quest is his entire life’s work. Steve Job’s quest makes your life a better place every time you check your email.

There’s also a ton of evidence that humans thrive in a materialist abundance. Kids consistently get better grades when their parents own a home. It’s psychological security, and you can bet your bottom-line that security is present in the mind of every entrepreneur too.

If you’re trying to do something bold and risky in the world, it pays to have a really comfortable nest. Resting and recharging is better when you own a good blanket or two.

Meanwhile, minimalists compete to own less. Some even go on digital purges, deleting old photos – erasing their digital past. You have to wonder… who wins in this race to the bottom of a void of meaning?

Minimalism Sucks # 3: The coup-de-grace

Minimalism makes us complacent. At the core of the desire to own less is the philosophy of doing less. Of finding happiness with what you have – and with even less than that.

It sounds good. It sounds like quitting the rat race.

The problem is that minimalism actually encourages you to reduce your ambition. It’s the ultimate teenage expression of “trying isn’t cool”. Instead of winning the rat race, minimalism would have you drop out of it completely.

Minimalism and minimal ambition can’t be separated.

Try explaining minimalism to a starving kid in the third world. It’d go something like this:

“I was born in the first world, with every opportunity I could ever want for. I never wanted for food, education, or anything at all, really. When I see something I want, I can have it. Because of living this way, life has become kind of meaningless, so I’m going to actively commit to shunning all of it, having less and doing less.”

The opposite of this what happens in western countries for third-world immigrants. They tend to radically pull themselves up by their bootstraps, often achieving levels of success FAR beyond what the incumbent population do.

This happens because they arrive in paradise and are grateful for it. They realize they now have access to resources and opportunity in abundance and they maximize this. They don’t minimize anything.

To these people, minimalism is a fucking joke.

At its dark heart, minimalism is the hobby of disaffected wealthy people, playing at philosophy and hip counter-culture. It’s toxic because it encourages you to only focus on having what you need - which means rejecting any opportunities to help other people with their needs.

Ultimately, minimalism is the selfish squandering of opportunity.

It’d be nice to see the wealthy 1% reject this pale imitation of piety and step into their power. They have the potential to transform the planet with the resources available to them. Sound good?

It should. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you possess that potential in abundance.

The question is, what will you do with it?

{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

James Chartrand - Men with Pens January 28, 2013 at 11:49 am

I think minimalism is crazy talk.

If I followed the philosophy, I’d have no retirement savings set aside – I’d be too busy traveling the world to earn sales. I wouldn’t have a home for my children in a safe neighborhood – I wouldn’t have any money to do more than a cheap apartment in a crappy area of town. I wouldn’t have books that give me joy, the ability to take courses that educate me, or a new pair of skates that keep me healthy and swishing around the ice.

I wouldn’t feel secure at all… and I’d have nothing to show for my bohemian lifestyle.

Here’s to maximalism, with a dose of capitalism tossed into the mix. *chinks glass*

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Jack January 28, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I don’t think minimalism says you shouldn’t save for retirement. (At least, not any of the writings that I’ve seen)

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James Chartrand - Men with Pens January 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm

It doesn’t “say” that, no – but it does support what Peter mentioned: living out of a suitcase and traveling the world. Travel isn’t cheap, and when you start shedding possessions that actually help you earn business income, it can affect how much you take home to the bank!

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Jack January 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I hear that and I think we’re on the same page. I think if a person goes so minimal as to cut out important business tools, then they are prioritizing being minimalist over making intelligent business decisions.

I suppose I’m being a little defensive because I *do* consider myself a minimalist in a few different ways.

For example, I live well below my means in a variety of ways (underspend on housing, no car) in order to max out my retirement savings and stay resilient against economic shocks and instability.

But I think the word has been captured, as you describe, to describe some sort of twenty-something, male, perpetually traveling, internet entrepreneur who underspends on housing, healthcare, and possessions in order to overspend on plane tickets and skydiving.

I do think a person can be a minimalist without falling into this template.

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James Chartrand - Men with Pens January 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I agree that it’s a touchy topic, eh? I hear ‘minimalist’ and think of exactly that – the “no kids, double income, travel the world, own nothing” cool kid phenomena that gets shoved down our throat online. So my trigger finger is twitchy too!

But I completely get having less to obtain more – when I met my spouse, I had a LOT of stuff. (Like John Unger, “stuff” = memories, and getting rid of something means losing a memory.) But we had to do some serious cleanup to make two households fit into one very tidy, very minimalist (by my standards!) bungalow.

It hurt. And at the same time, the amount of stuff I gave away made me appreciate what I did keep a lot more and made me feel “lighter”, mentally. Stuff can really weigh on your psychology!

And I tend to like simpler things – a less fancy car, a house in the country – to get “better tools” – a larger retirement fund, more living space. (I’ll be damned if I get rid of my library, though!)

But buy experiences instead of things? No way. My things, carefully selected, make me really happy. :)

So I guess all that to say, I’ll meet you halfway and shake in the middle, yeah?

Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Right on Jack, and this is just one part of it. What concerns me more is the idea that when you have enough for your backpack of clothes and your sky diving tickets….. you just STOP.

Because some of the best and brightest of those young 20 somethings are squandering the potential they could make real if they just allowed themselves to WANT more.

Not just in a capitalist sense of wanting (a la Greed is Good) but in terms of ambition to make a big impact too.

Gigi January 28, 2013 at 5:24 pm

It’s a common mythology that traveling the world is more expensive than owning a home in the US. My budget is the same or less each month and I travel full-time. I also save, run my business, fulfill obligations to clients, etc.

It’s fine if that’s not your thing, but it’s unfair to imply that world travelers (or minimalists, who are much more often not living bohemian lifestyles) are somehow shirking financial responsibilities or spending their savings.

There are responsible people who are minimalists and responsible people who are not minimalists.

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Jamie Alexander January 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Tell us how you really feel lol

I live out of a 30ltr rucksack because it’s easy to carry and I can walk onto airplanes with it so I don’t really own much stuff, but I still love minimalism.

I don’t disagree with you about anything (apart from 1 thing) because I think you’re talking about extremes and what the gurus teach, but tbh as soon as I had a basic understanding of living with less things I made up my own way to live as a minimalist.

You might not call it minimalism, but I suppose there is one way of looking at something. For me, I think it makes me feel more secure. Maybe it’s more of a mindset thing because if I was staying somewhere long-term I would actually buy stuff, including art lol

Theoretically, I could walk away from everything with only my bank card and passport. If something happened to my laptop I’d have everything stored online. I could still work from an internet cafe. I could still get paid into my bank account. I could still buy new clothes. I could still travel anywhere.

I also love hobbies without needing to spend money: writing, lucid dreaming, meditation, bodyweight exercises, and I’m soon taking drawing lessons. So I could have a bike and a snowboard but in my mind I would be prepared to let them go.

Anyway, that is my condensed version of what minimalism means to me. I do like the idea of sleeping in a hammock in the forest and walking to the internet cafe every day to work on my site, but then I always wanted to be shipwrecked as a child and have to build my own tree house. :)

Good article

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful comment Jamie.

The “walk away from everything” idea is interesting. What is it that makes that a value for you? Why is it important?

It’s not that I don’t entirely see the appeal, but playing devil’s advocate makes me wonder if being able to walk away that easily equates to not having any meaningful and strong bonds with anything or perhaps even anyone.

To use Unger as an example: John could never just walk away from everything with a backpack – his entire livelihood is built on quite large pieces of steel. Living with that steel means his life is rich and surrounded by meaning. In some ways, MORE steel would mean more happiness, meaning and security.

Maybe? Food for thought anyway. I just think the impulse to be able to leave with the things on your back is one to think carefully about.

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Jamie Alexander January 29, 2013 at 11:02 am

I guess the idea of walking away from everything is just to have a feeling of security. If I had valuables and I needed to ship them to a different country I’m not saying I wouldn’t. It’s just nice to know I wouldn’t need to.

With my passport in my pocket and my money in the back it means I would start again anywhere. It’s maybe because I’ve been into the red and knowing those little possessions is my security blanket for a good life makes me feel more secure.

Thanks for the feedback.

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Albrecht Smuten July 22, 2013 at 9:48 am

Peter,
being able to walk away from everyone is strange at least. It reminds me of the popular concept of equal love for all beings, which in my opinion devalues special relationships like close friends or family.

I’m the exact opposite of keen traveler, maybe because I live in Prague and it’s hard to find an equally beautiful place :) But mainly because I have strong obligation to my band – I’ve seen couple bands fall apart due to their members going abroad for a year (au pair and stuff like that). I could never do this.

Unless you can do your thing entirely online, traveling is basically moving to a place where you have less (or none) means to work and evolve. Sure, you have some cool stories about how you almost died in some god forsaken piece of land, but that’s about it. Surviving a peril you’ve got yourself into in the first place isn’t much of an achievement :D

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Jack January 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Minimalism makes sense when it helps people choose the *right* amount of stuff for their lives. It becomes foolish when people start to play minimalist golf and cut back just to prove a point.

It can be a good experiment for a traveler or someone living in a very small space. But if the pursuit of minimalism makes a person’s lifestyle inconvenient or interferes with their *real* goals, it’s probably time to dial back. There’s no trophy for “Most Minimalist”.

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Jack I think the definition of the minimalism movement is that whatever you think the “right amount” of stuff is, to be a minimalist is to actually have LESS than that.

Otherwise, why would we need to have a name for choosing the “right amount”?

And if this is just an experiment for travelers, it’s nothing new. The airlines have been instituting minimalism since the 1950′s – checked baggage fees make it mandatory ;)

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Jack January 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Having the “right” amount was what I argued in a blog post a couple years back … but maybe I was off target in my definition – maybe it would be better called “conscious consumption” or something like that.

http://thirtytwothousanddays.com/blog/2010/06/minimalism-is-the-lifestyle-of-the-moment-and-the-future/

I don’t see anyone doing himself any favors by cutting muscle rather than fat and going below the point of usefulness (however that is defined).

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Precisely.

One of the points I (tried to) make is that perhaps we should be aiming higher than “conscious consumption”. Prior to the last hundred years, the notion of “consumption” didn’t really make sense. Purchased objects weren’t consumed so much as maintained. Almost everything besides food was built for lifetimes of use. Every purchase was an investment.

This is why my mother still uses her mothers pepper grinder. Know what I mean?

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Jack January 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I agree with that. “Consumption” implies throw-away, disposable container, IKEA furniture, cheaply made, easily forgotten etc. Perhaps “stewardship” might be a better word for what we are talking about? Buy your “stuff” for the long haul, take good care, and repair it.

There’s a luxury watch company that advertises: “You never actually own it. You merely take care of it for the next generation”. Perhaps that’s an easy suggestion for a watch that costs as much as a house, but it would be cool to extend “made to last” to more ordinary objects as it was in past generations.

Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm

PS

“There’s no trophy for “Most Minimalist”.”

… no kidding! The runner up in that competition should receive a trophy – the winner’ll be happy with nothing.

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Missy January 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Finally! I have been thinking these same things for a while now. As someone who follows a lot of blogging lifestyle designers, I found myself wondering if I fit in… being someone who enjoys owning things.

Stuff for stuff’s sake? Agreed, get rid of it. Stuff because I made an active choice to have it? Sign me up.

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Exactly. I’m all for being more mindful about what stuff to own. But attacking the concept of owning stuff completely misses the point.

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Linda Gryczan January 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Minimalism means that I have had the freedom more than once in my life to jump off a cliff and start a new business. Not having car payments or a high mortgage, allows me to totally focus on the business rather than the business & a 2nd job. Now that I am earning more, I can move towards my next set of goals which is to have a zero energy home that’s paid for.

It’s a matter of degree & a conscious lifestyle that fits a person’s goals.

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Hey Linda, thanks for stopping by to comment.

What was it about minimalism that gave you the freedom to start a business? Some of my clients who’ve got rather a LOT of possessions (including owning most of the equity in a home) would say that those resources gave them freedom to start businesses… so I’m curious to learn about how your experience was different.

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Paula February 4, 2013 at 6:33 am

Hi Peter,

I’ll jump in cause I feel like Linda. For example, no longer owning a car — because I realized I actually don’t need one — reduced my monthly expenses. Put that together with other “stuff” that I realized I didn’t need to keep in my life, and the reduction in expenses allowed me to leave my 6-figure job and start my own business, without the pressure of making the same amount of money immediately.

To me, minimalism means thinking carefully about what I want/need to own. I have music instruments, art, more than a thousand books, and I’m not getting rid of them because they make me happy. But no longer buying/keeping stuff that I realized didn’t make me happy has allowed me to pay more attention to and spend more time on the stuff that does. ;)

I agree with someone who commented we’re on the same page, because you’re talking about extreme minimalism. I agree it’s no good. Nothing in extreme is good.

Cheers and thanks for raising this discussion!
P

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John Unger January 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm

There’s no reason why a person can’t devote their life to having great experiences *and* great stuff. Even when I was living out of a truck as a teenager, I still had a large library, musical instruments, rocks and art objects.

I’ve had tons of adventures that were exciting and educational and shaped who I am, but I also have great souvenirs from the trip. And while I’ve forgotten a great deal of the experiences, I still have things around that remind me. Or things that are very cool even though I have no idea where they came from. Objects are definitely more durable than memory for me.

As an artist, I collect all kinds of things (including rocks… The “best rocks!” Oh, okay, even just some so-so rocks) because they’re a library of form for me to draw inspiration from. I have 1000s of books, over 1000 movies, tons of music, quite a bit of other artists’ work, but I’ve found that cool rocks, sticks, fossils, objects etc. tend to give me great ideas as a sculptor at least as often as books on art. Probably more. Even well-made consumer goods sometimes join the library of things if I find them inspiring (like a vegetable scrubber in the shape of a hedgehog that just amuses me and will never live in the kitchen).

There’s also no reason to assume that just because someone has a lot of stuff, they aren’t picky about it— I do choose tools and objects that I think will hold long-term value for either usefulness or inspiration. The books on my selves have been read, re-read and annotated. The guitars have been played and were chosen because they respond to my style of playing. When I see consumer goods that are created to be disposable and are poorly made, I die a little inside.

Minimalists remind me of the kid who doesn’t like his broccoli and tells his parents to “Send it to the starving children, then!” But I’d respect minimalists more if they *did* donate their earnings to raising one family out of third world poverty. At least that way, someone would benefit from the philosophy.

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm

John, thanks for coming here and saying it all better than I can.

I used you as an example here because I knew you have quite a bit of stuff … and that all of it is very “intentionally” owned.

I’ve personally done the same thing – although the last few years of globe trotting have made me ruthlessly prioritize my packing. Now that I’m settled in New York I’ve started acquiring stuff.

A good example: I’ve started scouring the internet to find original wooden games, built by my dad and sold all over the world (via his business) in the 70′s. These things are absolutely beautiful and serve almost zero functional purpose (think really, really nice wooden 3D puzzles and mancala boards) … but they’re extraordinarily satisfying to purchase, own and cherish. Since dad has lost almost all his old stock, it’s been a really rewarding quest for me to buy back these pieces.

Objects are more durable to me than memory (well said), but I share this story as an example of how deep (yet subtle) the meaning we find and create in physical objects can be.

I’ve got a monument to my father’s first entrepreneurial success sitting on my coffee table. I don’t ever want to pack my socks and underwear into a rucksack and walk away from that.

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Naomi Niles January 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I think this, like many other ideas, had a good intention when it started, but stopped being helpful when people quit thinking about what they were doing.

After moving internationally twice with two suitcases and a few boxes in the mail each time, I learned to appreciate having few possessions. That was because at that moment things were a burden.

That’s the thing: If stuff becomes a burden and stops you from doing things you want to do, it’s a problem. If it makes you happy, it’s not a problem.

Now that I’ve been settled awhile, do I have more books than I can read and my husband’s artwork decorating the walls? Heck, yes!

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Heh, Naomi I’ve done the exact same thing twice also (New Zealand-> Australia then Australia -> USA) and I really enjoyed traveling light. I actually moved to the USA with a single suitcase!

To me though, this left me with the feeling of things being missing.

Plus, I don’t feel truly anchored in the world until I have a home to call my own. The first few weeks after moving to both countries, scrambling to find something, was not a super empowering place to be. It’s fun and sexy to live “on the road” (and I’ve done it) but if you want to really sit down and create… you need somewhere to do it.

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Jordan January 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

At the intersection of poverty and losing my mind, a fate common to most starting entrepreneurs; I began my foray into minimalism.

I didn’t call myself a minimalist, but I did begin to listen to the conversation it was starting: Do I really need that? Could I do without that shirt?

One of the other questions minimalism asked me was if I really needed physical copies of books. After all they’re heavy, hard to carry around, AND they have these wonderful things called e-books and kindles! WRONG. After giving away several of my most prized books, and adopting several of their digital sisters and brothers; I realized how much I needed the paper page and crinkled jacket cover. It turns out my brain just functions better while reading the physical copy. I love the smell. I love to use them to decorate my desk, allowing the titles to motivate me. I like defacing my books with the mental grafiti from my hand and pen to the paper.

So, I went back to the real paper and got some real books. It doesn’t mean that I reject the digital delights, but it does mean that I know where the boundaries need to be set in the minimalist conversation.

I loved this post. Would love to work with you someday!

xoxo Jordan

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Hey Jordan!

Go get a free clarity couch – it’s working with me and it’s free!

Thanks for your comment btw. For the record: I love ebooks and have pretty much zero attachment to physical copies. It’s funny what tickles which people… I have a friend who’s a global nomad and traveller who always carries a set of extremely high end japanese chef’s knives… because he just can’t stand using shitty knives in rental apartments etc.

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Joseph Ratliff January 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I think you’re talking about “extreme minimalism” (if you have to put a label on it) in your post. For some people it works, so what makes that so bad? ;)

Some people preach it to, and just because the message doesn’t resonate with you… doesn’t make it wrong (or right).

I like the “middle road” as it were… I realized that I have too much meaningless stuff just sitting around doing nothing for me, so I got rid of it. I can read into “minimalism” as an idea, and not take it as a “must-have” lifestyle.

You don’t have to “live on less than 75 things” to be considering “minimalism”… because the label itself means something different to everyone.

To you, minimalism could mean taking every January and clearing out the garage… to me it means being watchful of accumulating stuff for no good reason, other than “just in case.”

Minimalism is not toxic, and neither is owning a bunch of stuff… if that works for you. ;)

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Hey Joseph,

We can play semantic games about the definition forever. My point is that minimalism IS in fact toxic (something that I definitely believe) in the context of entrepreneurial ambition (what this blog is all about). Racing to the bottom of the objectless existential void is not conducive to building successful businesses and making extraordinary impact. In my opinion, of course ;)

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Chris Wandel January 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hi Peter,

Very interesting post this.

I have recently shed all my thing when moving to Brooklyn and it felt great, there’s definitely a satisfaction to dumping possessions, it made me feel better, gave me a real sense of out with the old, in with the new.

I wholeheartedly agree with your point that this is very much a concept led by middle to upper class kids who like to try and be cool because I know these types well. Essentially they are making the point that their greedy, selfish, successful, ambitious parents have accumulated large amounts of wealth and stuff that doesn’t necessarily make them happy, that stuff can be a poisoned challace.

I think that the shift to accumulating important tools is the thing to focus on. I had a fast car once and it turned me into an a-hole that had to race everybody on the road. It was a giant waste of money, it did no more than to serve my ego and it almost got me killed.

Now I want to accumulate achievements, my first book, my new niche website, an independent movie production.

Yes, I want a comfortable bed and a good sized home with a big garden one day. But who needs a mansion and a ferrari? I don’t think that will really make me happy, if anything it may stress me out. There are some things that are just poisoned challaces.

I think we need to have ambitions, and we need to accumulate tools to be happy as people just as you pointed out, it’s genetically hardwired into all of us– but I believe that we need to be more careful about what kind of things and tools we are accumulating and stay away from the poisoned ones.

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Right on Chris, I’m totally with you here.

Your comments about the generational dynamic are fascinating. It occurs to me that a large part of the minimalism movement is the typical oscillating we see across each generation. The youth reject the values of the parents – conservatism flips to liberalism, materialism to minimalism.

Hell, maybe tomorrow’s kids will be all “Screw you dad, I wanna OWN stuff!”

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James Chartrand - Men with Pens January 28, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I hope not. My wee-est kid has expensive tastes. And I have to fund that!

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Neil Kane January 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I think there’s a middle ground. I spent 30+ years collecting stuff…and filled a basement with it…only to decide a few years ago that I didn’t need it anymore. So I’ve started a gradual process of ridding myself of everything that has mass (except for my family). I’m digitizing photos, scanning papers and selling all of the collectibles. I don’t intend to live a completely minimalist life, but I realized I no longer needed to “possess” things, and I felt weighted down by them when I realized that I moved stuff from home to home but wasn’t really enjoying it any longer. When I used to live in a loft and had it all on display, that was different.

I love the memories. I just don’t need the stuff. Having less and digitizing everything suits me just fine.

I still value the pursuit of wealth as money gives me freedom to choose to come and go as I please…and to buy experiences instead of things.

I”m not 100% rabid about this either. I’ve just moved the needle 30% toward less stuff. Aside from the time it has taken to responsibly disgorge everything, I feel much lighter.

Extra credit to anyone who can convince pre-teens that they don’t need as much stuff…

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Peter Shallard January 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Hey Neil,

You kid but it’s actually a good point. If we could teach kids to accumulate possessions with meaning, there may not even be the need for minimalism to exist – we could just have informed materialism for all!

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Amy Harrison January 28, 2013 at 6:07 pm

One of the best years of my life was living and working in Canada for a year.

Mattress on the floor, cabinet reclaimed from the street, a handful of clothes and no “stuff.”

It was liberating. I threw myself into experiencing life over there because there was nothing else to do. I had no stuff to play with.

But it was always going to be temporary. Spending every pay cheque, going out all the time. It was a frikken blast at the time, but there is no way I’d still be having fun now if I was living that lifestyle.

I still lean towards investing in experiences over buying things, but then there are some things I really really really love. My cowboy boots, my fancy pen, my iPad etc.

Oh wait… I just realised I also have about 3 shelves of Beano annuals and other books still at my parents house…

Maybe that’s the answer – have lots of stuff and keep it at someone else’s house.

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Peter Shallard January 30, 2013 at 11:09 am

LOL Amy, I still have stuff at my parent’s place too. When I moved to New York I had to leave behind a ton of stuff. ROFL I wonder how many so called minimalists do the same!

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Katie C. January 28, 2013 at 6:28 pm

First, I’d point out that your blog would benefit from minimalism. If you had a minimalist background, people could easily read your posts on the site. As it is, I had to highlight each paragraph to be able to see the font where your background is black and chocolate.

At any rate, I disagree with almost every point in your post. First, I disagree with the premise that minimalists all believe X, Y, and Z. I know minimalists who love art and have large pieces of art in their homes. I know plenty of minimalists who believe you should own things that are important to your life and shun those things that don’t give your life meaning.

Your argument completely falls apart at the end of your post. You’re basically saying people in the first world shouldn’t be minimalists because doing so is a slap in the face to people in the third world. Minimalists consume less than your average first world inhabitant. This means less pollution, in some cases less exploitation of third world labor and resources. What possessed you to make the argument that consuming less was a bad idea? Do you think of those third world inhabitants when you go out and buy clothes that were sewn using child labor? Does a tear come to your eye when you buy the latest and greatest products, just thinking of those children in third world nations who have nothing? If you want to make a contribution to the third world, take the money you were about to spend on stuff and donate it to some of the worthy charities working to change third world nations.

I don’t agree with every minimalist philosophy out there. I have even taken the philosophy to extremes in the past, but there are many things we can stand to learn from minimalism. At least recognize that it’s not black and white (consumption = good, minimalism = bad) and admit that there are some benefits to the philosophy. The closest you came to that concession in this post was, “So sure, materialism has its problems.” Way to be open-minded!

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Peter Shallard January 30, 2013 at 11:14 am

Hey Katie,

Sounds like your browser isn’t showing my site properly – the background behind post text is a sort of parchment and it’s very readable. I’d love to get to the bottom of the problem (probably something we can fix on our end) .. can you let me know what browser and device you used to view this?

I think you might have misread the last part of my post where you believe my “argument falls apart”.

My point isn’t that minimalists consume less (or anything to do with pollution) but that minimalists have minimal ambition – they aim lower on purpose and basically squander opportunity. My point is that someone from the third world would chose to spend those opportunities differently – that just because you HAVE opportunities doesnt mean you have to buy tons of jet skis and rubbish… you could actually take advantage of the opportunities you have, work hard, and make a difference.

Minimalism to me seems very focused on the self. It asks “How can you have less and be happy?” … My point is that if perhaps we didn’t so much focus on what we ourselves have (or don’t have) and looked at the needs of others, we wouldn’t worry about whether owning a car or jet ski is important. It’s not.

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dauda zai January 29, 2013 at 3:58 am

Hey Peter,

Splendidly provocative as usual. It prompts me to mention an even more insidious tendency among people who claim to vibrate at the higher levels…the attack on the ego and the desire to somehow transcend the messiness of the stuff of the world and ‘be in it but not of it’. Allowing that we are largely spirit/energy, and that when we leave the physical we return to that shimmery state, the main advantage of being here is the pleasure of being physical and playing with form. However illusory it may be, it is the major difference between our mortal existence and the other. Why bother to come here if not for the pleasure of playing the game of getting stuck in up to the elbows in the glorious and endlessly malleable clay of existence? Stuff is what Planet Earth is about.

dzai

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Peter Shallard January 30, 2013 at 11:15 am

Right on Dauda Zai!

Don’t even get me started on the whole pious self-denial of the so called spiritually enlightened. Don’t worry, I’m a totally epicurean hedonist too ;)

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Ike November 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Just a bit judgemental are we?

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Kyle January 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Hey Peter,

I think minimalism can be a useful tool. It’s interesting that you commented on buying more cheap stuff rather then stuff that lasts. When I started reading about minimalism, that’s when I started questioning my purchases more – which in turn led me to start buying better quality items. I just don’t buy every little thing in sight.

This has also lead me to start saving money, something I always thought I would do later in life.

I don’t live a minimalist life. I go out for lunch several times a week, we have two laptops and a computer, smartphones, plenty of clothes, credit cards and the rest of it. But the notion of minimalism does give me pause before purchase. ‘Do I really need this thing?’

Once a year however my girlfriend and I revisit all of our stuff we own and sell/donate a lot of it. Clothes, books and dvds tend to be stuff we end up with too much of.

That’s what minimalism is to me. Not living out of backpack, but removing excess from my life.

Kyle

P.S. Productivity wise – I actually started achieving more when I started doing less too. Another tip from minimalism.

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Peter Shallard January 30, 2013 at 11:20 am

Hey Kyle, can you explain to me what you mean by achieving more when you started doing less?

Sounds like you’re hitting something I really want to know about here…

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Kyle February 3, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Sorry this took a while Peter.

The biggest thing I learnt from Uni was how to procrastinate and use my time poorly. After I read about some minimalism techniques (specifically Leo’s book The Power Of Less) I started removing ‘time clutter’ from my life.

Appointments, needless driving, I grouped together my clients so I had less work appointments too. I found a bare minimum, the least I needed to do to work and exist. From there I added back in projects and things I enjoy doing. I also left large chunks of free time so I can do things like walk or ride my bike places.

Right now I am limiting myself to just one project per month. As a result I am more focused and have been completing these projects much faster with less stress.

I will be curious to see how much I will have done when I look back at the end of this year.

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Neil Kane January 30, 2013 at 10:43 am

A couple of years ago I heard Dave Bruno speak. He’s the author of the “100 Thing Challenge”. I actually found the book quite wanting, but the concept intrigued me. Here’s his website for those who want to pursue the minimalist life: http://guynameddave.com/100-thing-challenge/

I’m still a centrist guy with a heavy tilt toward “I probably don’t need it…”.

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Sukie Baxter January 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I love it. Last fall, I took a 10 day vacation to visit a friend who has moved to Mexico. She went through a huge purge over the course of three years to move down there and live in a town that stole her heart. It was the right thing for her – she’s blissfully happy – but I had harbored some dream of selling it all and living out of a backpack, doing crazy cool things like hiking to the Mayan ruins and trekking through Vietnam.

I discovered, unequivocally, that I need a home to return to. After dealing with overwhelming humidity, scorpions, crabs, bats and spiders in the house, mosquito bites galore, and frightening traffic, I was ready to return to my hermetically sealed American dwelling and recharge. It’s not that I don’t want to travel and see the world in all it’s buggy, steamy glory, but I am a girl who needs to know her sanctuary awaits when she is ready to return.

And this realization was empowering because it freed me to start pursuing a goal I’d subtly believed was wrong or indulgent – owning a horse again. I used to ride and show growing up and I miss it like crazy. But you can’t really own horses if you’re out gallivanting around the globe on a shoestring budget. Now that I’ve freed myself from the minimalist fantasy, I can really create a life where I have it all – a home, a horse, and the freedom to travel whenever I like.

Brilliant article, Peter. I’m new to your site and already a huge fan.

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Peter Shallard January 31, 2013 at 7:00 am

Hey Sukie!

Thanks for stopping by. I love your comment – you so eloquently capture one of the points I was trying to make. Sometimes a bit of A/C is the perfect foundation we need to build things on. ;)

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Sarah McNicol March 20, 2013 at 8:15 am

I’ve just been introduced to Peter today and I’m thoroughly enjoying discovering web site content, blogs and thoughtful comments, what an interesting place to spend a couple of hours. Thank you.
I’m taking some time for rest and relaxation, lying under a special (inherited) patchwork hand knitted blanket in my beautiful modest and minimal home. I moved into this new build a year ago bringing with me only things that I actually use or that are precious to me. Many of my remaining possessions are created by artists makers and friends. They carry meaning. I delight in using and seeing them daily. It may sound a bit strange to some but I feel inspired, upheld and motivated by this “stuff”. I also regularly celebrate the freedom I feel i gained having moved into a smallish eco new build with no gardens. I get to spend time in the beautiful park down the road without having to worry about lawn mowing. I get to lock up and leave whenever I want, provided I find a cat feeder. Importantly with reduced responsibility for material stuff ( I’m also car free currently) I have created an opportunity to start a new business venture. The lack of distractions is encouraging me to invest my energies into it. This semi minimal context has freed me up and is sourcing me to deliver this start up in a bigger more ambitious way than I might have achieved in my previous, more stuff filled phase of life.

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Norma May 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm

My son left New Zealand with a back pack, and came back twelve years later with a 20-foot container! If he returned to Australia now, with everything he owns a 20-foot container wouldn’t contain it! He’s blissfully happy! My daughter left a large income and a beautiful Auckland home to go and live on the smell of an oily rag with her man in the back-blocks of the King Country. She’s blissfully happy. And me – I’m trolling the internet, re-buying books that I gave away a few years ago. I’m not sure what all this says, but it must say something!

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Renee May 30, 2013 at 2:35 pm

“Everything in moderation including moderation” Julia Child

I consider myself a well balanced minimalist. I was terrified of buying my house as I knew that my wish list would quadruple from what it was while living in an apartment. Now I wish for things like a sprinkler system! and the list goes on.

To keep this overwhelming list from making me crazy, I wrote every single thing down. Once on paper, I organized it into 4 levels: Need and High, Medium and Low wants.

Then, I had an epiphany. The higher the level of want, the higher the price tag. I realized I’d have to do without the instant gratification the “lower” items provided being more easily obtained, to obtain the items I REALLY want.

I live by the quote “To have what we want is riches; but to be able to do without is power” – by George MacDonald, It does make me feel powerful and disciplined. However; I was feeling very depressed as well.

It stemmed from not having a compelling future, as Tony Robbins would say. Due to my unrealistic desire of having a functional supportive biological family, and knowing no matter how much money I make I will never get what I want. Needless to say I was completely depressed.

I was saving money by doing without because my day job wiped me out and without a compelling future I had no extra energy left. I had no fight in me after work or on weekends to earn extra money or start my own business ‘on the side’.

So I had to motivate myself some other way. I HAD to recreate my future to make it compelling. The only thing I found I could latch onto was wanting more material items! Now I have something to work for. Things to look forward to. It gave me a huge boost.

To want material things, gave me the drive to start my own business when I lost my job a few months back. My job is going to be helping other entrepreneurs, who had the guts to start a business, get organized so they can work like a well oiled machine and stop bleeding money.

So wanting material things caused me to get off the couch and help others!

Thank you so much for the article and everyone who commented.

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irs tax lawyers July 3, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Hello, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this article.
It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

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Ike November 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm

And here is to a Flat-Tax so that we can simplify and minimalize the tax code!

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Alan July 23, 2013 at 11:10 am

Peter,

you are so ignorant and dumb.

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Peter Shallard July 23, 2013 at 11:40 am

Perception is Projection Alan!

hugs and kisses,

Peter

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Steffen Krogmann August 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

What about meaningfulness instead of minimalism?

I have been almost at the suitcase level (besides my kitesurfing stuff).
It was a part / try of finding out what i want. It is fun and tempting, but does not work.

But for me it is more about owning the right stuff.
Example: I sold my nintendo wii. not for the sake of owning less. but because i do not value it anymore. It does not get me there where I want to be.

But I am not afraid of stuff I care about. That can be useful things, but also art. I care about art. Art is awesome!

Although there are lots of guru guys talking about owning less.
, this might not be the only definition of minimalism.

The book “Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life” helped me a lot. But the term “minimalism” is actually wrong. The book is about meaningfulness, not minimalism.

Whatever. Do what works for you. If it does not work, change it until it works. Simple as that :-)

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Joe August 26, 2013 at 11:55 pm

This article is the perfect example of the straw man argument. Sure, minimalism can be taken to an extreme (i.e. living out of a suitcase), but it does not actually have to be. All your post does is create this stereotype that *all* minimalism is like this. It isn’t. Minimalism is a highly subjective and personal concept.

I fail to see the connection between it and not saving for retirement. Maybe some people decide to become travelers as minimalism, but that is not necessarily what it’s about. It’s about getting rid of the excess and clutter in one’s life and only owning what is truly necessary and meaningful. The keywords being “necessary” and “meaningful.” And when you cut out the clutter in your life, including “activity clutter” you can actually save *more* for retirement.

So, your whole article is a straw man. It would have been more on target if you called it “Why extreme minimalism is toxic for you and your business.”

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Peter Shallard August 27, 2013 at 11:12 am

Hey Joe!

I wrote this post to deliberately deconstruct the concept of Minimalism. When a concept like this rises to popularity, it’s important to discuss the ideology that sits in the background. And the thing about ideology is that it ALWAYS comes across as ideological. I’m aiming to test the boundaries of the concept by looking at those who push it to the extreme.

Of course, if we define minimalism as “meaning whatever you want it to mean” (which is a little bit what you’re doing) then there can’t be any intelligent discussion – everyone just gets to say “MY definition is perfect. So there!”

Thanks for your contribution !

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Steffen Krogmann August 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Obviously there are quite some theories of minimalism.

To move a little bit away from the context of physical stuff….

Would you say that simplification is a good thing or a bad thing? Especially regarding to work, tasks, productivity etc.

I guess simplification might have been the starting point or main aim of this movement. Not owning almost nothing.

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Peter Shallard August 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hey Steffen:

Your question: “Would you say that simplification is a good thing or a bad thing?”
… refers to such a vague and massively nominalized concept that it’s almost impossible to answer properly. I would simply say that simplification is good when it’s useful and bad when it isn’t. What else is there to say haha?

The whole point of this article is to criticize what the minimalism movement has become… doubtless it started with fantastic intentions around incredible concepts of simplification (and more!) … but it’s what it has swelled to that is the problem. IMO.

Most movements (religious, political, philosophical) start off with incredible purpose, passion and clarity of intention. Over time, as the movement is co-opted by various other groups (each with it’s own set of separate objectives) the original clarity of vision is diluted and dogmatic thinking flourishes.

It’s valuable, is it not, to at that point begin applying critical thinking to such dogma?

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Steffen Krogmann August 28, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Ok, I admit, my question was stupid :-)

It’s just very interesting to read through the comments, since some people are defending (including me) aspects of minimalism, that you did not even criticize.

You forced people to critically rethink what they are doing and believing. Your post works^^

I learnt from it.

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Ike November 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Peter. Thank you for your blog and view. I have seen both sides of the “debate”. I once had the view that you paint and was a very driven, successful RE broker. Then one night, I had that “Jerry McGuire” moment. I felt empty and wanted more; more freedom! Accumulating more stuff is great for our current system of crony-capitalism. It keeps the mindless machine going. Working for and accumulating more stuff keeps our mind on auto-pilot and away from deeper meaning. I know you don’t understand and will try to label me ….. that is okay, I have been you so I get it. I am not here to judge. You are not ready yet. The masses continue to be brainwashed by Madison Avenue, TV, and Pop Culture. It is comfortable. Have a great day and hoping you find inner peace.

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DaveBGray November 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

This is an interesting take on the issue, but I think that the mistake the author makes here is that he treats minimalism like a destination, rather than a journey and he also too clearly defines what he feels it is for the rest of us. But minimalism is different for everyone and in most “minimalism communities”, you’ll find support for whatever your brand of it is. Simply put, minimalism just means removing the things in your life that don’t add value so that you can concentrate on the things that do add value. In some extreme cases, sure — you see people living out of a backpack and sleeping on a mattress in the floor of an empty room. But for most of us, it means some form of dialing back to better focus on things we enjoy or find productive, to stay cleaner, to save money rather than get caught up with buying the latest and greatest. Usually, you’ll find people who are looking to be some combination of minimal, frugal, “buy it for life” (quality, long term goods), and environmental. Just choose your own level of involvement.

And to your main point, I think that minimalism encourages entrepreneurship, I was only able to start my business because of how little I had. My life allowed me to take a risk.

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Dani November 21, 2013 at 9:10 am

Your cynicism is very sad :(

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Garcia November 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I don’t think you need to label a style that has positively changed many lives as “toxic.” You are definitely talking about “extreme minimalism” in your piece, but the point of living a minimalist lifestyle is you get to define what minimalism is to you. It does not have to be living out of a backpack. I just don’t understand posting a negative rant, when you could just say it was not for you. You don’t need to knock down thousands of people and say their lifestyle is toxic. There are far, far, far worse things going on in the world that are most definitely toxic.

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George December 29, 2013 at 12:09 am

Nice example of an ignorant writer who knows nothing about a topic piecing together some drivel from his own limited point of view to get people talking.

Minimalism is basically reallocating resources so that they can be used to their full potential. It’s realizing that more “stuff” doesn’t make you happy and clearing away all the clutter so that you can use all of your focus, time and effort to create, do, work towards something that is meaningful. It’s also about keeping only the stuff that is meaningful.

Just these lines indicate that you haven’t got a clue what you’re writing about:

“Owning the superior piece of flint (cherishing it, even) is vastly more efficient than finding a new flint each day. More efficiency creates more breeding opportunities (less time looking for flint equals more time making babies).

This means we’ve all evolved from the proto-consumers who had the best tools. Our ancestors loved their stuff!”

That’s minimalism! The best flint rather than a new one everyday. Minimalists love their stuff because they only keep the stuff they love rather than hording a bunch of crap they don’t need. And there really isn’t that much that you need.

The rest of your article has more nonsense but I’ll stop there, it’s all along the same lines.

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Peter Shallard December 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Heh, thanks for taking the time to support this article with a comment! :)

I think you’re missing the point that this article is a criticism of “Minimalism” in practice. Of course, any ideology can be easily defended – that’s the thing about ideology… it all makes sense in theory. The actual implementation of a lot of minimalist principals like “Rent instead of Own” is what I’m questioning. I won’t repeat the argument (because it’s in the article) but if you read the paragraphs surrounding the one you quoted, you’ll get the idea.

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Hugh January 28, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I appreciate your point of view and agree that human self-improvement is based on a certain level of ambition. However for me, minimalism is about quantity – not quality. I think there is a decided difference between minimalism and settling for something inferior. My minimalist philosophy dictates that I should try to obtain the very best while shedding all that is superfluous and inferior.

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Jesse February 17, 2014 at 12:26 am

Love the post Peter – obviously a provocative topic. Have you ever read or heard the story of siddhartha guatama? It may point to some deeper aspects below the confusion of ‘rational mind,’ which – through its overactivity is quickly destroying our earth.

Some questions for you and your supporters:
-do you see/sense any value in living without comfort and security?
-what is it about the ‘absence of meaning’ that is so scary/painful for you?

With warmth – in support of your inner power,
Jesse

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Peter Shallard February 17, 2014 at 11:58 am

Hey Jesse!

Interesting questions.

I think living without security – in the Maslow’s hierarchy sense – is a problem because it prevents us rising to self actualization. Community groups constantly threatened seldom produce the types of leaders and intellectuals the planet needs to move forward. So security is important, as a foundation for human potential.

Not sure what you mean by “absence of meaning”, but I don’t think it has to be scary or painful. Millions of people perhaps, live without a powerful “purpose”, and still experience happiness AND sadness (the whole gamut of human emotion) in their lives.

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Daniel February 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

Peter, thank you so much for saying everything I’ve always felt about minimalism and the arrogance of many of those who defend it. I love how, according to them, it’s an all or nothing deal. If you are a capitalist and have a passion in your life that involves collections you can’t have a meaningful life. Or, the only way to travel and experience the world is to drop your possessions. Really? At the age of 30 I’ve visited 11 countries (excluding the USA) in four different continents (North and South America, Europe, and Africa) and some more than once. Also, I take great exception to the argument that only a minimalist has a meaningful life. I don’t know, I am an Eagle Scout, do a lot of volunteering and charity drives, contribute a column to a local paper pro bono, I sponsored a child from Mozambique, and go on a trip each year. And, despite working full-time, I still devote time each day to write my book. To me, minimalism says, because I’m happy being an underachiever, so should you. It’s glorified anti-ambition.

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Peter Shallard February 23, 2014 at 11:31 am

Daniel, you absolutely nailed the post I was trying to get across. The self-righteous attitude of “there’s only one way to live meaningfully!” is total BS.

I do admit that a LOT of people are miserable in the mainstream consumerist lifestyle they embrace… but it doesn’t mean that there are not people (like you) who have built lives they love without throwing everything away.

One of my greatest friends is an artist who doesn’t enjoy travel (finds it interferes with his work) and collects…. art!

I find it somehow ironic that pretentious minimalists don’t really have room in their definition of “success” to include supporting artists by accumulating their incredible works! That’s a definition of success that I aspire to.

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Mewi April 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Forget what philosophical beliefs Minimalists have… Minimalism is just bad design, horrible art and devoid of imagination. Sorry kiddies, theres nothing artistic about a splash of white on your walls and black furniture.

Add some color into your lives.

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Peter Shallard April 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Ha! I agree with you if we’re talking in abstract terms, although this article is about Minimalism as a lifestyle philosophy rather than a design principal.

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Remy May 2, 2014 at 2:40 am

It seems you’ve defined minimalist as a really extreme version of it. I think of minimalism as only owning what you love. This gives you the ability to focus on what and who you love rather than sorting through your mountain of junk all day. I had owned far too much to properly enjoy what I had for years and before embracing the simple concept of owning mindfully what I love.

Is owning next to nothing advisable? – I don’t think so. – Would it teach you something about life – Probably.

At the end of the day the concept of minimalism merely keeps my want to own everything at bay. I learned to appreciate what I had because I actually loved and had the time . Maybe I just hate clutter but I think you fail to understand the strength in a concept that has been around far longer than any definition of “minimalism” –Less is More…

I realize Minimalism is nothing more than a word that can really be defined in any way you see fit that involves owning less as used here. Picking apart an overly fashionable concept is always fun. At some point minimalism becomes its own version of consumerism – Bragging about how little you own rather than your brand new boat. It still a concept that got rid of a lot of crap in my life and gave me access to figure out what I love in life and that mindful self awareness is priceless to me.

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Lucía June 19, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Late to the party, but damn I agree with you. It grinds my gears when I see people saying things such as how driverless cars will allow us to stop owning cars and rely on public transportation, or how we’re the streaming generation, yadda yadda yadda… I can’t wait to buy my own driverless (or not) car, I can’t wait to own my house. I do stream entertainment, and I love experiences, but you do need to have control over at least the essentials of your life.

Seems to me that this minimalism/own nothing thing actually promotes consumerism, since you have to borrow everything and depend on the big corporations etc. for absolutely everything.

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Julie June 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Why does it matter to you how people choose to live? Maybe a minimalist mindset would help you shed a bit of your anger.

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Peter Shallard June 28, 2014 at 12:39 pm

It doesn’t matter how people choose to live Julie. But when choosing minimalism interferes with someone’s ability to build a successful business, that’s when I care. Because that’s my job. :)

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Daniel July 24, 2014 at 2:36 pm

And, Julie, apparently it matters to minimalists how other people quite a bit, so much so that they’ve devoted whole websites and seminars to it.

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Andy r August 11, 2014 at 10:04 am

I enjoyed the article. I’d have liked to see more emphasis on the idea of “the aquisition of quality goods”.

Whilst I don’t like minimalism, I do like the idea of minimalising our impact on the environment – and that’s achieved through efficiency. E.g. buy a quality set of knives and a sharpener that will last a lifetime instead of buying and throwing away a load of cheap and nasty junk.

I like being outdoors and gardening, and sometimes dream of a life spent away from the office chair surrounded by green growing things all day. But I’m also a realist. I don’t want to live in a pre-industrial society and have no access to modern medicine. Or refrigerators, showers, laundry etc.

I think the dream of the “simple life” is often really the dream of “I’ve won the lottery with enough to retire on, so I’ll tinker with a few tasks and do only the work I want to”.

I think what’s better than minimalism is miniaturisation. It says that we can have a wide screen TV that hangs off the wall and doesn’t cluttter the room, or a PC with hugely greater power that fits in the palm of your hand.

It would be nice to think that the same thing would happen to today’s smokey industrial factories – i.e. that our industry can be massively scaled down in physical size and environmental impact whilst still giving us the stuff we enjoy having, and that we can knock down the ugly buildings and replace them with trees and green spaces.

Ah well, we simple pastoral types can dream.

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Peter Shallard August 13, 2014 at 9:14 am

Hey Andy! I thoroughly approve of this vision and I think it’s a real possibility – the only thing preventing it right now is that the rapid rate of growth in technology means we’re creating new (smaller/faster/better) devices every year and chucking the old ones. It’s part cynical marketing cycle and part genuine adaptation to Moore Law… but it is an obstacle.

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Daniel August 18, 2014 at 9:18 pm

I practice minimalism because owning the right amount of stuff makes me focus on the things that matters more to me, like my family, friends and my community.

I think whats really toxic for any business is a wrong focus.

I usually don’t bother making comments and I pride myself in having a open stoic mind, but this article really hurt my feelings, someone bashing in something I really believe in, but what you label as minimalism isn’t the same as mine so I guess you’re really not bashing what I believe in…

Your passion to hate something has moved me, huzzah.

I think, a typical story of people going minimalistic is their dissatisfaction on owning more and more stuff. So they decide to own less, thinking that it will make them happy, so they start owning less and less until becomes unpractical. Happiness, I think, is more than owning or “unowning”.. That was my story at least, and I did realize it was unpractical to own next to nothing, so now I experiment.

This article has reminded me the importance of moderation, thank you…

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