Open Thinkering


Tag: minimalism

Maslow and the minimalist movement

I’ve been reading Paul Stamatiou’s blog since he was an undergraduate. After a couple of startups he’s now working for Twitter. Yesterday, he posted this about his new-found minimalism:

I sold or tossed a ton of stuff I didn’t need, use or wear. I stopped wearing all those free startup shirts I gathered over the years and moved on to button-ups. I use Laundry Locker to deal with ironing them so I don’t spend my Sundays doing this. I buy toothpaste, shampoo and the like in bulk on Amazon so I don’t have to remember to make monthly errands. I moved to a slimmer wallet and carry less stuff with me everywhere. I cancelled unnecessary monthly billed services so there’s less to think about when I see my statements.

This is great. This is something I’ve tried to do. This is something to which I aspire. But the trouble is that it requires money to do this. And I’m guessing Stammy’s new found outlook on life is helped by the fact he’s probably not earning peanuts at Twitter.

Here’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s not perfect, but let’s use it as a convenient hypocrisy:

People don’t need money to be happy, certainly not. But there’s a level of financial security that allows you to say “screw you” to the world. It’s easy to forget just how soul-crushing money worries can be. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest causes of strife in relationships.

The trouble with minimalism, as others have pointed out, isn’t the message but the messenger. It’s rich, successful (mainly white) males saying “I don’t need all of this stuff to be happy!”. That’s great, but we should be mindful that people not so well-off sometimes need stuff as a just-in-case. They haven’t got the financial resources to just go and buy whatever they need there and then.

I completely accept Leo Babauta’s point about minimalism being a constant critique/mindset rather than a lifestyle. It’s just that two seem to be rather conflated at this point in time. For rich people a spartan aesthetic means iPhones and white furniture. For less well-off people minimalism looks very much like poverty.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Essentials? (#divest12)

Following on from my ‘stripping back’ post I’ve been thinking about what I need in life, over and above those things I share with my family. What are my bare essentials?

Everyday bag

I suppose it’s kind of like zero-based budgeting:

In zero-based budgeting, every line item of the budget must be approved, rather than only changes. During the review process, no reference is made to the previous level of expenditure. Zero-based budgeting requires the budget request be re-evaluated thoroughly, starting from the zero-base.

So if I was starting again, knowing what I do now, what would I need?

Everyday bag

  • Laptop (+charger)
  • Mobile phone (+charger)
  • Kindle (+charger)
  • Headphones
  • Notebook
  • Pens
  • Bank cards, library card, gym card, passport, etc.
  • Card case


  • Shoes
  • Trainers
  • Thick socks
  • Coat
  • Underwear x7
  • Jeans x2 (+belt)
  • Trousers (+belt)
  • Shorts
  • Shirts x3
  • Jacket
  • T-shirts x5
  • Swimming shorts (+goggles)


  • Towel
  • Sports towel
  • Contact lenses
  • Glasses
  • Flannel
  • Migraine medication
  • Inhalers x2
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Multivitamins
  • Deodorant
  • Moisturiser
  • Razor/beard trimmer (+charger)

My aim with #divest12 isn’t to go ultra-minimalist, but rather to reflect upon what is absolutely necessary to maintain my current lifestyle.

58 items, I reckon.

Have I missed anything?

Stripping back: #divest12

I like the idea of minimalism. I always have done.

Just look at this:

Minimalist apartment

But it’s difficult, isn’t it? You collect things that are necessary at some point in your life (or that you desire) and then end up hanging on to them. Usually the reason we do this is because they have monetary and/or emotional value.

Back in 2009 I decided to spend a week ‘divesting’. Amongst other things I got rid of hundreds of CDs and books as well as really focusing on the software and hardware I use day-to-day. It was a liberating feeling getting rid of so much. I realised that, in effect, I was a librarian for my books rather than a reader of them. The relationship was the wrong way around. The same went for CDs, DVDs, and other stuff I owned.

Now fast-forward to last week when I ready about Andrew Hyde’s extreme minimalism. Never mind 100 things or 50 things, he owns 15 things. Yes, fifteen. Here’s his ‘floorderobe’:

Andrew Hyde's 15 things

If what I’m doing is the thin end of the wedge, this is very much the thick end of it!

I suppose the question everyone wants to ask is What counts as ‘one thing’?

The “rule” of ownership is the express-lane checkout rule. If you were checking out in a grocery store, what would be counted as one item in your bag? A six-pack of beer would be one, right? I count my things as resellable items I would be pissed if someone took.

Coffee cup? No. Jacket? Yes. iPhone and headphones? One thing. Simple enough?

Whilst 15 things is not my ultimate goal, I am making a conscious start to declutter and divest. Yesterday alone I took two bin bags full of clothes to the recycling bank, identified 52 books from my study to get rid of, and made an inventory of my electronic gadgetry with a view to consolidating.

I’d like to:

  • Reclaim some physical space
  • Feel less of a ‘curatorial’ burden
  • Be less concerned about the monetary value of my stuff

Want to join me? Add a comment below, write about it on your own blog or just use the #divest12 hashtag on Twitter or Google+!

Image CC BY Andrew-Hyde