When does minimalism go too far?

This article was written by Katy Wolk-Stanley of The Non-Consumer Advocate, a blog about frugality, food waste, environmentalism, simple living and finding thrift-store bargains. She describes herself as a “mother, utility bill scholar, laundry hanger-upper, library patron, frequent napper, and Buffy enthusiast.” When not blogging (or napping) Katy works as a high-risk labor and delivery nurse. Katy’s blog has been featured in many major media outlets, including The National Enquirer, which featured Whitney Houston suffering from “Cocaine and Booze Binges” on the cover. She couldn’t be happier.

The subject of minimalism (and blogging about minimalism) is currently hotter than Megan Fox before her last round of plastic surgery. And if the plethora of minimalism blogs is any indication, it’s just a matter of weeks until we all live in spartan homes surrounded by our 100 lovingly-chosen personal items. And as much as I joke, there’s nothing wrong with being deliberate and thoughtful about the things we surround ourselves with, but I have to wonder: When is too little, too much?

I mull over the “is less more?” quandary on a regular basis, but I began over-thinking the subject when Naomi Seldin of Simpler Living posted a piece about the wit and wisdom of Nate Berkus. (Berkus is Oprah’s protégé and personal decorating guru.) It included this quote:

For a long time I was hell-bent on clutter-free living. I was a ruthless editor when it came to my possessions, to the point where my homes were very sparse, very minimal. Then I realized that’s not who I am. I wanted to be surrounded by things that moved me. I wanted to have tabletops piled with books and shells and candles. But it took me a while to let go of this very rigid idea I had, of what my space should look like. Once I started letting stuff in, I really started making a home for myself.

I live in a 96-year-old craftsman-style house and have garnered great pleasure fixing it up and filling it with appropriate period Stuff. At the same time, I’ve fought a constant battle with clutter and excessive belongings. It’s not a monetary issue (as I am the thrift-store goddess), but apparently I lack an organized brain. That, plus I’m just one of four inhabitants in this house, all of whom possess differing ideas about what should stay and what should go.

I read a few of the minimalism blogs, specifically Rowdy Kittens, Simpler Living and occasionally Zen Habits. I also enjoyed reading Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade my Life and Regained my Soul. But even Bruno is not shy to admit that he’s upped his belongings number now that his official yearlong experiment is completed.

Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens and I are friends, and I’ve been to her apartment a number of times. (In November, Tammy wrote about pedaling toward financial freedom here at GRS.) She and her husband Logan both practice a 100 things challenge, and their home reflects this choice. There are no shelves crammed with books and knick-knacks. There’s a dearth of rugs, extraneous furniture, collectibles, and the other ephemera that clutter typical American homes. It may sound impersonal, but it actually works perfectly for the space they’ve chosen for their home.

My 12-year-old son’s room used to be filled with so many toys, games, stuffed animals, art supplies, books, pillows and Legos that it made keeping it tidy an impossibility — and often a hazard. But he and I have gone through a few rounds of decluttering that have transformed his room from war zone to peaceful meadow. I’m happy that my son now has a room where play and study can happen, but I worry that he was too ruthless in his quest for order, and that he will later regret his decisions.

I’m currently amassing a garage sale stash in my basement, and plan to recruit his services when it comes time to order the mayhem. I expect (and frankly, hope) that my son will re-appropriate a few of his personal possessions. Going from too many to not enough without a middle ground seems too fast, too soon, too much.

My older son’s room is more typical of what one would expect from an American teenager, with strewn clothing, papers, knick-knacks and miscellaneous crap littering every horizontal surface. I let it go, as it’s not my room.

I asked my Twitter followers if they had any thoughts about minimalism going too far, and this was the response:

  • DakotaGale: “re: minimalism, focusing on the # of possessions accomplishes little. Focus on the quality of the possessions – not <50!”
  • MarianneKthleen: “When you have given up so much you have lost the joy in some things.”
  • FeathrdFriendsy: “I think it’s a great topic. Taking any behavior to the extreme can be damaging and unhealthy. And nobody ever seems to address taking healthy behaviors too far.”
  • gleanorganics: “Making everything yourself all the time so that your passions become chores – no point in losing happiness over it.”
  • mile73: “Thoughts on that. Favorite old clothes? Baby blankets? Keep? Or is empty space (mental physical) as valuable & important?”

Extreme minimalism is akin to extreme frugality: It works for some people, but robs others of life’s dear enjoyments.

I wouldn’t be comfortable living in a home without my cool Stuff. I’m drawn to the William Morris quote that Claire shared in her reader story last weekend: “Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” And I guess it turns out that I see beauty in a lot of stuff.

Do you think minimalism goes too far? Or does the minimalist movement appeal to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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There are 126 comments to "When does minimalism go too far?".

  1. LifeAndMyFinances says 28 April 2011 at 04:28

    Yes, minimalism can go too far, but frankly, I think it’s pretty tough for us all to get there. A few decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a child to only have 2 or 3 toys, and they were just fine! Today, if a child only had 2 toys, you may get them taken away by some child rescue mission or something, and you’d be charged with neglect….

    My wife and I recently moved across the state and sold many of our belongings – enough to fit our entire life in a 5′ x 8′ trailer. Honestly, it was great! With fewer belongings, we actually felt MORE satisfied, because we realized that it wasn’t the stuff that made us happy, it was the experiences we had with one another.

    So at what point is minimalism taken too far? If you live in a house or an apartment, I don’t think you’re there yet. But, if you are scouting out a cardboard box for shelter at night, I think it’s pretty safe to say that you’re there…..you’ve gone too far.

  2. Moneycone says 28 April 2011 at 04:39

    It is all about balance. Some take it too far and even make it work! When blackberry was all the rage for their awesome keyboards, Steve Jobs decided his phone won’t have any buttons at all!

    Frankly at that time had he pitched this idea to anyone, he would’ve been laughed at! But hey today BlackBerry is releasing models without buttons!!

  3. Nicole says 28 April 2011 at 04:39

    I think this video on the subject is great: http://www.getoffthiswheel.com/2011/01/07/the-minimalist-part-i/

    I agree with you, each to his or her own. And I would like to keep my books, kthnxbai.

    • El Nerdo says 28 April 2011 at 06:20

      that was hilarious

    • cerb says 28 April 2011 at 06:48

      Totally worth watching, thanks for the chuckle!

    • olga says 28 April 2011 at 06:57

      That was totally worth to start a day with!

    • MutantSuperModel says 28 April 2011 at 08:59

      YOU! Beat me to it :/

      • Nicole says 28 April 2011 at 09:09

        Gotta get up early to beat me!

    • KSK says 28 April 2011 at 09:06

      Thanks for a great chuckle! This totally made my morning.

    • kim says 28 April 2011 at 09:18

      That was awesome. Thanks for sharing!

    • stannius says 28 April 2011 at 11:12

      What everyone else said. Funny video

    • Anne says 28 April 2011 at 15:11

      This made my day!

  4. Chad says 28 April 2011 at 05:05

    My family lives in a modest sized home. Not big by any means and not too small. We use every square foot of our space (even outdoors: we have a large garden, an orchard, and a sizable berry patch on .3 acres). If we bring something home, something else usually has to go. That is not a rule, it is because the house feels cluttered otherwise. As many will say, it is all about balance.

    There has to be room to think and breathe, if you have that, the amount of stuff does not matter. Everybody must find what works for his or her own situation.

  5. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife says 28 April 2011 at 05:13

    I’ve been trying to write a post about my concern with extreme frugalism for a while and this has hit many of the same issues.

    Sure, stuff has a mental, physical and financial cost but so can stressing about decluttering (and staying possession free) to achieve an arbitrary number. The same can be said for (opt-in) extreme frugalism – I’ve read a number of tales recently about people’s diets and health suffering while trying to be extremely frugal.

    While I do think cut-down challenges are useful occasionally, the emphasis on quantity – amount of items, how little you can live on each week – seems wrong to me. Like DakotaGale, I’d prefer to focus on quality than quantity.

  6. Elizabeth says 28 April 2011 at 05:19

    Hmmm. Definitely food for thought. When I’m decluttering, I ask myself “do I use/enjoy this, or would someone else get more use and enjoyment out of it?” That’s helped me strike a balance.

  7. Pamela says 28 April 2011 at 05:22

    Yes, minimalism can go too far. But it is a reaction to out-of-control consumption.

    I’m in the contemplation stage of moving onto a boat. As I walk around my house I look at things I own now and think about their value to me and what it will feel like to give them up.

    It’s amazing to me how few things I’m finding that would really hurt to let go of–including antiques, books, photos. I feel like I’m moving toward something that’s even more important to me than memories and things.

    I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I own. And I’m a very light consumer compared to the average American–no tv, stereo, cell phone etc. But it’s still too much.

    As @Life and My Finances pointed out above, it’s probably only the homeless in this country facing too much minimalism.

    Check out the book, Material World: A Global Family Portrait. it features photos of families all over the world standing outside their homes surrounded by everything they own. It’s a wonderful graphic depiction of what is “enough” and what is “too much.”

    • Bareheadedwoman says 30 April 2011 at 05:27

      re “Material World”, only when putting western families and all their stuff outside their house equals a “what not to do” reality TV show i.e. Hoarders, Clean House, How Clean is Your House (UK). ~chuckles~

  8. Beth says 28 April 2011 at 05:26

    I’m confused. How can there be such a thing as “extreme minimalism”? Minimalism means stripping things down to their basic qualities. Either something is minimalist or it’s not.

    I think people can go too far in their efforts to live with less, but I think most of us could do with less than we have. It would be a boon to the environment, but perhaps a blow to the economy (which relies on people constantly buying stuff!)

    I think I’ll like your blog, Katy! I’m going to check it out 🙂

    • Lauren @ Pineapple Pizza says 28 April 2011 at 05:54

      When I think of extreme minimalism, I think of things like owning 2 shirts and washing them all the time, or not keeping the sentimental things (even when you want to) because you don’t need them. You don’t *need* pictures on the wall, for example.

      • Tanya says 28 April 2011 at 08:05

        I had this discussion with someone just the other day. You don’t “need” pictures on the walls, books, etc. But beauty is important. Having things around us that inspire and comfort us – books, shells, candles, comfy chairs etc. – does a great deal for our mental health. While you don’t have to have a home stuffed with “stuff,” leave room for the things that are meaningful and beautiful, that will feed your heart and soul. You might be able to exist in a spartan world – but would you want to?

        • xysea says 28 April 2011 at 09:43

          ITA.

          Right now, my new hubby and I are discussing this. He likes a really stripped down existence, but even then he compromises this belief when it comes to his books or CDs – which he has tons of (we both do, that’s the hardest cull for us both). He also likes plain everything – white walls, plain floors, simple furniture and no texture or patterns.

          I am more tactile and engaged with my environment and I like textured fabrics, art, stone, metal and ceramics and personal mementos and inspirational things to surround me for comfort and well-being.

          Where I have benefitted from his point of view is that I seriously question now whether I am using something, or if it is good quality or necessary.

          Where he benefits, as I understand it, is valuing the beauty in certain items (like personal pictures) and how that can be inspirational and that comfort also has its place in life, too.

          We’re not completely simpatico yet, but we’re getting there. I gave up one full closet of clothes for him, and half the bureau drawers. (It must be love lol). But it helped me focus on the things I truly enjoy wearing, too.

  9. Steve S says 28 April 2011 at 05:46

    Arbitrarily picking a number of things to own and throwing everything else out turns minimalism into just as much of a game or contest as anyone trying to “keep up with the jonses”. It seems like it becomes more about telling other people about your minimalism (and bragging about it) than about the joy you gain from having such a simple life.

    We look down on both obesity and anorexia. It’s the same pattern here. If you’re doing it for outward appearances you aren’t doing it for the right reasons in the first place and you will ultimately end up sad.

    • guinness416 says 28 April 2011 at 09:16

      Totally agree with this Steve. I know not all “minimalists” are playing a game but this stuff seems to me like hipstery online one-upmanship – 37 folders! 100 pushups! 100 things! (but buy my ebook!)

      Moving around a lot will make you minimalist, just as living in small homes will. It was always amazing to me how much junk I’d accumulate every summer spent in the US when I was a student.

  10. El Nerdo says 28 April 2011 at 06:06

    Having lived amid clutter most of my life, I love my newfound minimalism. It gives me tremendous serenity to know that I am taking good care of everything in my life and nothing is falling through the cracks. I have also found that I can do more with less and I can focus on the things that really matter to me.

    I don’t think I’d take minimalism to the extreme of getting rid of my books and records and other things I value. As long as everything is organized and taken care of, it is not clutter as far as I’m concerned.

    I don’t think I have experienced “extreme minimalism”, and I do not feel in the least deprived of comfort– if anything, I enjoy life more and appreciate more the things I have since I have started simplifying. I don’t think I’d start counting possessions though, which seems absurdly arbitrary; an attitude of continuous streamlining works better for me.

    The fact is that most American homes are up to the gills with useless stuff and people keep buying bigger houses just to keep all the stuff. Which reminds me of this awesome George Carlin routine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

  11. Dan says 28 April 2011 at 06:25

    I’m not familiar with the minimalist movement, so I really can’t comment. TBH, I didn’t get much more out of this post other than “I know some people who are decluttering their house. What do you think?”

    FWIW, I live in a sub-800 square foot apartment, so by construct, I have to limit clutter.

  12. Geek says 28 April 2011 at 07:02

    I think that minimalism goes a bit too far – it’s great to not live a super consumerist lifestyle but we have wonderful technology for comfort and productivity, so why not use it? Just not all of it. I think not watching cable helps more than anything, no commercials saying buy buy buy.
    Lately I’ve been frecycling a bit and that feels pretty nice 🙂 since I never used my coffee pot or the Foreman grill anyway.

    Although – having minimalists around (even just on the internet) helps me declutter by comparison. But so does going to my parents’ house and seeing all of their stuff.

    • Amanda says 28 April 2011 at 10:27

      I totally agree with u about ads and parents!

  13. indio says 28 April 2011 at 07:03

    I’ve always admired the Japanese aesthetic of minimalism and not having my life cluttered with too much stuff. When I was in college, it used to take other kids 3 or more trips home to pack up and move out of their rooms at the end of the semester. I was usually done in 4 hours. Now with kids, work, volunteering, hobbies I have very little time to keep the clutter to a minimum. The rule “one bag in, one bag goes out” isn’t always followed and I find myself spending days of my life, when I could be having fun, sorting through an overflowing closet or basement.

  14. amber says 28 April 2011 at 07:04

    I find it impossible to be both minimal AND frugal. Frugal to me means having things on hand that I can make do. Minimalists “throw that crap out”. I come from a long line of frugal women, so I tend towards the “I might need this blue mismatched button for something someday” even though I long to be a minimalist in a sleek home with nothing crammed under the bed. I do not see where the balance point is between these two world views.

    • El Nerdo says 28 April 2011 at 08:01

      The balance point is the cost/benefit ratio.

      If your mismatched blue button is easy to retrieve and it truly gives you an economic benefit, then all is well. If costs more to keep and maintain than the benefit it provides, and it takes you longer to find than it would to make money to buy a new one, you’re doing it wrong.

      People don’t think of hidden costs, but real estate is one of the most expensive things we pay money for, whether you buy or rent. How much are you paying in rent/mortgage for the things you keep in order to maybe save a few pennies in the future? How much are the utilities you pay every month for the extra storage space? How much time and energy do you spend cleaning and caring for the space and the stuff in it? Is it really worth it?

      I moved from a 3 bedroom house to a 1 bedroom apartment and with the money I save every month I could buy thousands of buttons, plus a lot of fun stuff– not to mention the chance to invest money for future returns. Cleaning the new place takes an hour instead of a whole day, which means more time to play–or work productively.

      • Geek says 29 April 2011 at 18:53

        I just really like buttons… 😛

    • stannius says 28 April 2011 at 11:56

      There are articles out there about how avoiding clutter can be frugal. A couple arguments I recall are that it costs money to have space to keep all your stuff; and that if you have too much stuff, you might accidentally buy duplicates of items you have but can’t find or have even forgotten you own.

      If you think of time and happiness as resources, just like money is, it starts to make even more sense.

    • Barb says 28 April 2011 at 12:10

      I’m very mcu with amber on this-I’m frugal (bordering on extreme) because of necessity. However I am not a minimalist in probably any area of my life. Being a frugal person means using what I have from my home. It also means that if I change my mind and get rid of something, for me theres an unaffordable cost in replacing it. So while my house is neat and organized, I have Stuff-heck, I even love my stuff….I have no problem with folks who want to be minimalist-but simplicity and frugality are very often different things.

  15. Sheelah says 28 April 2011 at 07:17

    I posit that minimalism or voluntary simplicity are not the same as the “100 items challenge.” Voluntary simplicity should be about being mindful of your possessions and life choices. You should evaluate if each of your possessions add value to your life. If they do, then keep them. In that way, the total number of possessions will differ from person to person, but each person will be living their authentic thought-out life. Adhering to a strict number of possessions for the number’s sake is antithetical to living a consciously simple life. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

  16. Alyssa says 28 April 2011 at 07:23

    As with any lifestyle change, balance is key. Each person has their limit for minimalism. For some people, owning 100 things or less is their comfortable limit. For others, it could be 1,000 things. As long as you appreciate what you have and it brings joy and/or function to your life, that’s what matters. I try to manage my home by the quote mentioned:

    “Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

    I definitely can get rid of more stuff (and I frequently do). I enjoy looking at things and deciding if they’re worth keeping. It’s a slow process, but makes me feel like I’m making a better decision. A whirlwind weekend of getting rid of most of your possessions will leave you with a hangover of sorts. Slow and steady; decide what works best for you.

    • Michael says 28 April 2011 at 07:58

      “Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

      What if you feel that an empty corner is uglier than that statue you don’t particularly like?

      • Alyssa says 28 April 2011 at 08:26

        Hard to believe I could find a corner ugly.

        If I hated it that much (along with the statue), I know I have something around my apartment that I could put in that corner to spruce it up (I definitely have more possessions than necessary, hence the frequent purging).

        I’m still wrapping my head around the idea of not liking a corner…

        • Megan says 28 April 2011 at 09:52

          Oh we have an ugly corner..the carpet is stained and bulging and the walls aren’t clean either (even after trying to make them that way). I put a lamp in the corner. We rarely USE the lamp, but it hides the corner and pulls the room together.

          I just don’t know what to do with the rest of the Stuff that doesn’t serve a purpose – sell it or take to goodwill??

        • Amanda says 28 April 2011 at 10:35

          Megan if the time it takes to sell and the amOunt you’ll earn are compatible sell. If u itemize goodwill. If neither, freecycle.

    • Méla says 28 April 2011 at 08:58

      This William Morris quote is one of my favourites! One of my great pleasures in life is occasionally–usually with the change of the seasons (I live smack-dab in the middle of Canada so we definitely have 4 seasons)–is to make subtle changes in the decor of my house. Usually means bright lemon yellow and sky blue cushion covers with sea shells scattered round in the summer to slipping cranberry covers on the same cushions and spreading some black wrought iron and candles around in the winter. To do this I have accumulated a fair number of “things” but these things are stored away and regularly culled–if they haven’t seen the light of day in a 2-year cycle they will likely be sold or otherwise disposed of.

      Books–I love books. I use the library on a regular basis (inhouse joke is my spouse seeing me come in the door from the library and saying, “You know, you’re supposed to leave some for the other people, honey.”) but still there are books I enjoy owning. But yes, there are times when after the 10th read I will find keeping a given book is no longer useful to me, especially if those “reads” are becoming further and further apart.

      We live a very frugal lifestyle (pair of artists, both with part time jobs so we can pursue our passions) that sometimes means holding on to things “just in case.” But if that “just in case” occasion doesn’t rear its head within a year or so, out stuff goes.

      Minimalism is a matter of balance. Balance and what works for you in your particular situation. I have timeless, formal/dressy clothing that can go for 2-3 years without being worn, but that’s only because our lifestyle doesn’t require us to go much beyond a good pair of jeans and a sweater most of the time. It wouldn’t make sense for me to toss the perfectly fitted wool blazer just because it hasn’t been worn in the past year because it makes less sense for me have to go out and purchase a new one for the business meeting I may need it for every 2-3 years.

      Sorry this has been so long but I sometimes think we forget that all lifestyle options are just that–options–and to be happy and true to ourselves we have to think with our guts and our hearts sometimes.

    • stannius says 28 April 2011 at 11:45

      Rules like “100 things”, “one in one out”, and “you used it in the past 12 months” can be useful as tools to help yourself keep your possessions in balance. Applied willy-nilly they are just rigid and arbitrary. Applied deliberately they can be a way to help yourself think through the pros and cons of a possession or set of possessions in a concrete manner.

      At least in theory. In practice I can’t get my wife to use any of them :/ And I’m a little too lazy to work hard on them myself.

      • Amanda says 28 April 2011 at 19:30

        Maybe your wife needs to see a therapist that specializes in hoarding/disorganization-type issues.

        I know my mom does. Now… How to get her there?!

  17. Holly says 28 April 2011 at 07:25

    I agree with what others have said — it is hard for most of us in the U.S. to get rid of “too much” stuff, but that if we start to get rid of stuff that is important to us, then we have gone too far.

    For myself, I measure my approach to minimalism by how I feel when I walk into a room — If I walk into a room and breathe a relaxed sigh, then I know I’m “there” — I have a room with just enough stuff. So far, I’m only there with the guest bedroom and dining room, but I’m working on the rest!

    • stannius says 28 April 2011 at 11:48

      The only way to know your limits is to exceed them.

      • Tyler Karaszewski says 28 April 2011 at 12:24

        No, the only way to know your limits is to attempt to exceed them and fail.

        • Ash says 29 April 2011 at 09:49

          Tyler, you make me laugh.

    • bekka says 30 April 2011 at 16:54

      Great attitude, Holly. I’ve heard different lifestyle experts say that you should envision how you want to use each room, then declutter or conversely buy what you need for your dream. Homekeeping ideally is about enjoying your home, using efficiently to free your time and finances, and live the way you want to, not to some ideal of the smallest house possible or the least number of possessions. We have a relatively large home for just two people and our dogs, and enjoy the spaciousness of being relatively uncluttered.

  18. ap says 28 April 2011 at 07:27

    Cutting down on possessions, when used as a tool to curb an out of control spending habit and debt, can trigger a lifestyle change where you prefer having less.
    Opting for quality over quantity to save natural resources is a good thing.

    Wanting to change your lifestyle and needing to do so are two different animals altogether. It is fine to want a materially simple life, even when motivated by what is considered trendy.

    Of the different lifestyles you can afford, choose the one you prefer.

    Taste is a different matter. A collection of mass produced movie memorabilia is in my opinnion probably not the best use of anyones money. Buying a beautiful, even expensive lamp, is ok, if you use it. A collection of beautiful expensive lamps, collecting dust in the basement, is however pointless.

  19. Lo-Wa says 28 April 2011 at 07:31

    I’ve read a number of minimalist blogs and watched the video about the Zero Waste Home and I always come away scratching my head and wondering …what the heck do these people do for fun? From what I can tell, they don’t have any books, games, sporting equipment, musical instruments, art supplies or visible tools to pursue any type of hobbies.

    I seriously wonder what they do in their empty homes when they’re not at work.

    To each his own, but I can safely declare that I will never be a minimalist. I have 5 curious, active kids who love to play & create and I’ve been happily married to a pack-rat for the past 25 years. We watch very little tv and my kids do not play video games, but our house is full of fun & useful stuff that enriches our lives. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Alyssa says 28 April 2011 at 07:39

      Many without the possessions you listed (books, games, etc) use them, they just don’t own them. Borrow books, movies, even games from the library. Play games with their friends. The minimalists I follow all have hobbies and supplies for them. They just don’t have unnecessary possessions.

      Your clutter seems to work for you, and in the end, what works for each of us is what matters.

      • That Other Jean says 28 April 2011 at 09:37

        So people practice minimalism by relying on other people’s stuff? There’s a flaw in that, somewhere. . .

        • J.D. says 28 April 2011 at 10:21

          Have you never read Thoreau’s Walden. I know a lot of people love it, and there’s some great stuff there, but it’s hard to take him seriously sometimes. “I am so virtuous because I live a simple life in the woods. I grow my own food — though I do have to go borrow all the tools and implements from people in town. I invite people to my cabin — though I don’t have any furniture, so they have to stand all night long.”

          Walden is inspirational, but Thoreau took minimalism too far sometimes. 🙂

        • Alyssa says 28 April 2011 at 13:17

          I don’t see a flaw in helping out friends and neighbors by borrowing/lending each other’s/your own Stuff. If your passion is gardening, you will have the tools you will need. Your neighbor or friend may need to borrow them and that’s okay. Their passion may be board games. You don’t play them often, but when you do, you borrow from the friend.

          Also, borrowing media from the library is good for the community, environment, and your wallet.

          Ultimately, if you use the Stuff you own and/or receive joy from it, it’s not a problem. The problem lies in unnecessary Stuff.

        • Anne says 28 April 2011 at 15:35

          J.D., one of my college English professors had buttons made for his students that said “Henry David Thoreau Went Home Weekends.” Apparently it’s true–he wrote about solitude and minimalism but basically let his mom do his laundry!

      • Lo-Wa says 28 April 2011 at 09:53

        Yes, what works for each of us IS what matters, but if my stuff is well maintained and neatly stored, does that still make it “clutter”?

        This is what I reject about minimalism: the notion that “stuff” is the same as “clutter”. “Clutter” is “stuff ” I don’t want….”stuff” is “crap I like to have and use”.

        This reminds me of an old George Carlin routine where he talks about a home being a place for “my stuff”. Does anyone else remember that?!

        • El Nerdo says 28 April 2011 at 17:20

          see post #11 🙂

        • Lo-Wa says 28 April 2011 at 19:17

          Thanks, El Nerdo. I missed that link earlier!

          Thank goodness for numbered replies!

    • Mary H says 28 April 2011 at 07:42

      “I seriously wonder what they do in their empty homes when they’re not at work.”
      I’ve wondered that myself. I like to stay home and play with my stuff.

  20. twist says 28 April 2011 at 07:48

    I understand exactly what you mean about the arbitrariness of extreme minimalism. I sometimes feel like the minimalist movement is the sour grapes of a group of people too well off and too used to wasting that well being. My family has never been well off (honestly near poverty), but I have a book collection that I started when I was four years old and started saving change in piggy banks. Now its large enough that I regularly weed through and remove books that aren’t getting a lot of use, or don’t like but have snuck in in the form of gifts, or can now be replaced by an extensive search for the hard cover because I can now afford it.

    I’ve never had the money to spend on books I hadn’t read first and a lot of the books I own and continually re-read would be near impossible to find now or cost me an arm an a leg to replace. I still read books at a pace of around 5 a day. I certainly can’t see how arbitrarily deciding that I needed to hold onto only 50 of those books out of the close to 900 would make me happy when what I value is the experience of continuously re-reading them. Of course I could make do with a smaller library, but it would be disingenuous to say that I’d see myself as happy with a smaller library.

    • Lisa says 28 April 2011 at 09:10

      5 books a day? Holy cow. Do you sleep?

    • Bareheadedwoman says 30 April 2011 at 05:41

      5 books a day would be my ideal; i only manage 5 a week. but thank you for your comment! i’ve been paring down and all i have left of “arbitrary stuff” are my books (and cases…which i don’t care about except they hold my books). My library was built similarly to yours. Somehow I feel better about being stubborn about my books. I don’t think I’ve yet recovered from giving up half of them for a cross country move twelve years ago, even tho’ many have already been replaced by copies.

      I think maybe now I follow your footsteps and start replacing loved ones with high grade editions instead of collecting new ones…as if. 🙂

  21. margot says 28 April 2011 at 07:49

    This post is silly. “Extreme minimalism” or “minimalism gone too far” affects about ZERO Americans, excluding the few who do it for the sake of a blog or a book. Americans do not have a problem with too little stuff. I read the article from which you took that quote from Nate Berkus, which contained photos of his house, and his “non-minimalist” look was still rather minimalist by the cluttered standards of most Americans. It wasn’t as if he’d embraced clutter and “stuff.”

    I don’t know a single person who has purged or minimalized their stuff (again, beyond those who write about it for a living – a rather small population) beyond a degree that their house just looks neat and tidy. Seems unnecessary to write a whole post about!

    • Alyssa says 28 April 2011 at 08:30

      The movement is picking up pace so people are talking about it (even if they aren’t doing it). I don’t know people that have gone that far, either, but I (and you, according to your post) have read about it online enough to know about it.

      I think the general idea of the post is to make you think before you take any extreme action. Much like diet fads. You have to do what is right for you.

      • margot says 28 April 2011 at 10:56

        Yes, but “picking up pace,” only refers to the number of blogs and books. I see zero indication that any regular person is actually embracing minimalism to anything approaching an “extreme.” It seems that, at best, the populace is embracing a very modest version of minimalism. There is no need for commentary on the subject – as there might be with the fad diets that you reference – because unlike fad diets (which truly are a craze that people actually implement by the millions), we aren’t in danger of extreme minimalism.

        There are enough things to worry about, consider and weigh in this world. Being too minimalist is not one of them, so let’s not devote attention span to it.

        • Bridget says 29 April 2011 at 00:57

          My family is slowly going from a 2000 square foot house with a standard amount of stuff, to just enough stuff to fit in a 40 foot sailboat. We’re taking 7 years to do it. The more stuff I take away, the more free I feel.

          I feel like there is a pattern with people who originally espoused simple living and minimalism, to distance themselves from it. Ev Bogue did it. This post does it.

          Why is that? Is minimalism uncool now? Is it a passing fad? Do we need to rename it?

          I haven’t heard or seen anything extreme from any minimalist, except that fellow who wrote a book in the 1970’s about it. It’s just intentional living.

          So when dos it go too far? I haven’t seen where it does.

          I’m tired of people trying to be cool by back-pedaling from what they love and have told other people to do, especially when there is no example of extreme minimalism, just an idea of an extreme form of minimalism.

  22. Kevin M says 28 April 2011 at 07:52

    Yes, it can go too far. The “n things challenge” is ridiculous because it’s completely up to the person counting how they group the items. So even the 100 things guy had over 100 things all along, correct me if I’m wrong.

    Also, at some point, doesn’t maintaining that magic number of items become more trouble than actually acquiring and dealing with a little more stuff?

    I’m all for conscious spending and not just buying something because your neighbor has it, but the minimalist movement is out of control.

    • Trudi says 28 April 2011 at 08:07

      How can a movement that affects a tiny percentage of the population be considered out of control?

      • Kevin M says 28 April 2011 at 11:58

        By out of control, I’m referring to the seemingly endless amount of blogs and blog posts devoted to the subject.

  23. Anjali says 28 April 2011 at 07:58

    This is something I’ve been struggling with lately. In the 10 years since I went to college and moved out of my parents’ 3000 square foot home, I’ve lived in a series of increasingly smaller apartments. Right now, my husband and I live in 600 square foot studio.
    My husband is an architect and he gets a thrill out of the challenge of using space in most efficient way possible and he thinks we could try to pare things down even more!
    We moved out of our last place (900 square foot ground floor apartment with a patio and yard) after we had to put my 16-year-old childhood dog to sleep. We couldn’t justify the cost of living there anymore.
    At first, it WAS sort of a relief to have the freedom of not having any pets/plants/etc. to care for, but this lifestyle is starting feel pretty hollow to me!
    In any case, my husband and I are generally on the same page, and we’ve decided that, while our current lifestyle would be hard to sustain in the long run, it’s worth continuing for now while we pay off my law school loans. Once that’s done, we’ll be “unminimalizing” our lives for sure!

  24. Niterainbow says 28 April 2011 at 08:09

    It is very simple. In my humble opinion YOU ARE RICH when you do not counting pennies over a small every day things.

    Yes they add up, yes you can save money on them. But when you go for groceries and buy what you need and what you want this is good for peace of mind.

  25. Pat S says 28 April 2011 at 08:09

    When you see how people in other parts of the world live, you will understand that “minimalism”, as we consider it, is not minimalistic at all.

  26. mike says 28 April 2011 at 08:11

    When is too little, too much?

    Excellent Katy.

    Minimalism for me is another way of looking at life. I’ve learned a lot from minimalism blogs, and have incorporated some of their ideas into my lifestyle.

    We have too much stuff, that’s all there is to it.

    My wife told me last night she appreciates my frugality, but she said she didn’t marry a cheapo, and she said that’s what I’m becoming. After regurgitating my dinner, I said, “Maybe you’re right”.

    • Alyssa says 28 April 2011 at 08:33

      Good comment, Mike 🙂

      I’ve incorporated ideals of minimalism in my life. I don’t own 100 things (WAY more than that), but what I’ve taken from the minimalist movement is to reassess our wants and needs.

      Did you eat the dinner again? 😉

  27. Well Heeled Blog says 28 April 2011 at 08:17

    I am trying to be more conscious of what I buy and why I buy, but this arbitrary number of possessions rule strikes me as a little counterproductive. Besides, WHY is a jacket a separate item but toothpaste and toothbrush gets lumped into one item? Or, why are “common items” (i.e. items shared in an apartment) excluded from the 100 items list? I’ve seen many a minimalist do that so that they don’t count the pots and pans they have in their shared apartment kitchen.

  28. Mary Arrrr says 28 April 2011 at 08:23

    Last week riding home on the bus, I overheard the following conversation: “No. She cannot sleep over at Mindy’s house. She went to a party there just last month. We agreed we were going to focus on doing things together as a family. We just cannot be encouraging this sort of spontaneous socializing.” I wanted to turn around and ask her if she realized how evil that sounded. I refrained.

    That is minimalism taken too far. I took a Positive Psychology class and one of the most important takeaways from it was the importance of being intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated. I’m decluttering and getting my finances in shape in order to make sure that my home and my money support the life I want to lead.

    Where I see the problem is when people start making their life smaller because of their fear of clutter. They become extrinsically motivated (in a bad way) by the fantasy that if they live a “minimalist” life, nothing bad can happen. If a life doesn’t occasionally have “too much,” it will always have too little. Not letting your daughter “spontaneously socialize” doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a close and happy family.

    • J.D. says 28 April 2011 at 08:55

      Hey! The guest post that I was originally going to post this morning was all about positive psychology as it relates to consumerism, and included a discussion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. You’re a mind-reader. 🙂

      I’ve edited that post, and it’s in the hopper for the next time a GRS writer misses a deadline. (That writer will probably be me!)

      On a tangent: I think I’ve finally solved two management problems that were plaguing me. First, I had way too many guest posts and no time to run them. Second, writers sometimes miss deadlines. (*ALL* writers, even me.) Yesterday I realized that if I have a handful of guest posts edited and ready to go, they can fill in for the days a deadline was missed. What took me so long to figure this out? I don’t know, but it’s my plan for the future!

      • Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate says 28 April 2011 at 10:22

        I guess I should say thank you to whichever anonymous writer missed their deadline!

        Katy Wolk-Stanley

    • Patti says 28 April 2011 at 09:23

      “We just cannot be encouraging this sort of spontaneous socializing.”

      WOAH. That is really nuts. Way to suck the fun out of life. Who knew that spontaneous socializing was even a thing, much less a thing to discourage? I’m going to start working that phrase into my life. As in,

      Hey– what are you up to?

      Oh, just spontaneously socializing.

      • Lyn says 28 April 2011 at 09:41

        Amen sister! I was thinking the same thing. As a matter of fact, some of my favorite memories have sprung from spontaneous socializing.

    • Andrea says 28 April 2011 at 10:12

      You are absolutely correct. I have never heard of not allowing spontaneous socializing because of family time. That sounds really mental.

      However, I have seen people(that I know well) make their lives smaller because of too much stuff- no one can come into their homes-they do not allow it. Their kids cannot have friends over and they will not invite people they know into their homes

    • El Nerdo says 28 April 2011 at 10:44

      I agree with you this behavior is bananas, but I don’t understand how it can be ascribed to “minimalism” instead of (properly) psychopathology.

    • Alyssa says 28 April 2011 at 13:27

      Was she also upset about the wire hangers?

  29. Tyler Karaszewski says 28 April 2011 at 08:36

    Counting items is pointless and ridiculous. For instance, I probably own 100 pieces of silverware. And 100 wrenches and sockets. And 100 plates, bowls, and glasses.

    Who cares? Would my life be better if I owned fewer place settings?

    But that’s not really the thing that bothers me about “minimalism”. The thing that bothers me about minimalism is not the “own less” mentality, but the “do less” mentality. The minimalism movement doesn’t seem to understand the value of hard work, or appreciate what so many people have spent the last 200 years building in our society. And yes, I include things like roads and electric lines and wireless internet service and google and medicine and all the stuff that a lot of smart and hardworking people spent, and still spend, their lives working on.

    Do less indeed, as long as you don’t want laptop computers and indoor plumbing. Or I guess if you just expect everyone else to build those things for you. The fact that we’ve built a society where certain people can get away with being mostly unproductive does not mean that’s an ideal to aim for.

    • Alyssa says 28 April 2011 at 09:19

      What they mean by “do less” is to do less of the crap you don’t care about. Too many of us have WAY too many commitments that truthfully, we don’t give two hoots about. We do it because for some psychological reason, we feel obligated.

      Do less of what you don’t care about. Do MORE of what you do care about.

      • Tyler Karaszewski says 28 April 2011 at 11:33

        Really important things like these:
        http://zenhabits.net/ritual/

        4. Wash your bowl.

        Important!

        • Kevin M says 28 April 2011 at 12:02

          Perhaps his guest blogger missed a deadline and he needed a quick fill-in post.

        • Anne says 28 April 2011 at 12:29

          🙂

        • Mary H says 28 April 2011 at 14:21

          I followed the link but I don’t see what living mindfully through simple ritual has to do with your argument about minimalism.

        • Tyler Karaszewski says 28 April 2011 at 18:31

          The given minimalist philosophy is that we should do less, purportedly “of the things that don’t matter”, so that we can concentrate on doing more of the things that matter. Correct?

          One of the internet’s foremost minimalism blogger is advocating doing this by *spending more time contemplating washing your dishes*. This is the sort of thing he *is* advocating doing. We’re supposed to do less of the things that “don’t matter” (like responding to customer e-mails) so that we can spend more time thinking about washing dishes and sitting on the floor.

        • Anne says 29 April 2011 at 06:04

          Great comment Tyler! In general most minimalism blogs are a dressed up spiritual take take on consious spending/living and frugality. I mean, if you have no tv, you don’t need to replace it. But many seem to have alot of other tech.

          There’s a trend for minimalists to hate on common jobs and advocate working as little as possible. I find both of these odd. Most people who are self employed work much harder than paid employees because they not only have to do the work, they have to hustle for the work. It’s not some magical means to almost never work and hang out all day. (Though if your lifestyle is low, I guess your income goals are low.)

          I often wonder how many of these minimalists have adequate savings or insurance. What happens if they get ill?

  30. Mom of five says 28 April 2011 at 08:47

    Admittedly, we are not minimalists, but we have relatives who are maybe not so much minimalists as true eco believers. They’ll buy lots of stuff so long as its second hand and non-consumable. To my knowledge money is not an issue for them.

    However, when they throw a party, I think they figure out how many people will be there and calculate how much should be consumed in an earth friendly manner and then purchase only that amount. There is NEVER enough food, beverages, napkins, silverware, or anything else that will need to be washed or consumed at their parties. To me, it’s not really a party when I feel like I’m being preached at.

    • Karen says 28 April 2011 at 17:33

      It’s just not a party if you have to ration the pretzels.

  31. Shara says 28 April 2011 at 08:55

    I agree with Tyler and I would add that my problem with the minimalist movement isn’t that it exists but that it’s often held up as a standard that people ooh and aah over like the minimalist is so clever and enlightened in order to live his/her life this way. It isn’t about cost effectiveness and often isn’t even about simplicity, but somehow getting rid of as much as possible is a standalone goal. If I rent a closet and sleep naked on the floor so I can wash my clothes every night and claim only my toothbrush and multitool as non-clothing posessions does that mean I have reached the pinacle or enlightenment? Or do I have to be naked all the time, eat with my hands and never brush my teeth for that?

    I get rid of my excess possessions for the sake of aesthetics and efficiency, not simply as a virtue in its own right. If I want to live life in such a way that I appreciate creature comforts I’ll go backpacking for a weekend and get it out of my system. In that case I am ruthlessly limited to what I can carry and then get to go home to reality.

    • Nancy L. says 28 April 2011 at 16:18

      We’ve been rewatching old videos of “Absolutely Fabulous”, and one of my favorite episodes is when Eddy’s friends Bettina & Max are coming to visit. She recalls their apartment which was so minimal it was basically a white expanse that they couldn’t find the furniture in. Eddy goes crazy trying to make her house perfect for them, but when they arrive, they have had a baby and now have waaaay too much stuff!

      Your description of minimalism reminded me a lot of the white expanse of the first apartment, lol! 🙂

  32. Frugal Living says 28 April 2011 at 09:00

    I think it goes too far when you are living way below your means

    • Nicole says 28 April 2011 at 09:16

      Oh man, I hope that’s not true. Anybody aiming for financial independence is SOL then.

      • Megan says 28 April 2011 at 09:56

        I think he means to the point that you have old clothes, reuse bags or bottles until they are unhealthy, use plates with chips, or broken knives.

        You should live below your means, but don’t make it a health hazard.

        • Steve Dupree says 28 April 2011 at 14:56

          It’s nice of you to give him the benefit of the doubt, but none of that is specified or even hinted at in the comment.

  33. MutantSuperModel says 28 April 2011 at 09:12

    I first heard about minimalism years ago and it referred to very EXPENSIVE, very spartan furniture and interior decor usually imported from overseas. My mom calls them hospital houses/rooms.
    To each their own and in that case, I’m sure there’s no such thing as taking minimalism too far as long as it’s not having a negative impact on someone else.
    Personally, I care about de-cluttering because I have little kids and too much stuff is dangerous and messy. I don’t consider myself minimalist and have no desire to become so. If others do, that’s fine with me. It can be done. Haven’t you seen those tiny little houses in Ikea? 😉

  34. ali says 28 April 2011 at 09:18

    I think a lot of things are about finding what’s comfortable. The main minimalist blog I’ve read is Miss Minimalist and she says she’s been minimalist her whole life – always getting rid of and paring down. Her lifestyle does seem extreme, but she’s happy.

    Personally I always thought I wanted an old house crammed full of things. A library with floor to ceiling bookcases on nearly every wall. A kitchen with gadgets and dishes. Pictures on the walls, keep sakes, knick knacks.

    I had an image in my head.

    But what I realized is that I don’t do well with clutter. I’m messy by nature, I’m easily distracted and I have a tendency to lose things and forget where I put something.

    I’m finding I like having less stuff. I’ve kept the important things but I was honest with myself – do I really need book cases full of books I haven’t read in years or are still on my too be read list? No.

    I got rid of over half my books. Mostly because I just moved cross country and had to have my things shipped. The last time I moved I had 25 or so boxes of books. Just books. And another 3 or 4 of cookbooks.

    This time when I moved I had about 30-40 boxes total.

    I’m currently waiting for my stuff to get to my new place and living with collapsible camp chair and tv trays, air mattresses, and a computer and tv on the floor.

    And I kind of like it. Well I’d like some real furniture but I’m finding I like bare walls.

    I may put up 1 or 2 pictures and a shelf or two for knick knacks but that’s going to be it.

    I feel more relaxed and less stressed with less stuff.

  35. Lauren says 28 April 2011 at 09:23

    I’m currently reading The Joy of Less by Francine Jay (http://www.missminimalist.com/), and while I quite enjoy the book, I don’t always agree with her. She has a lot of strict rules about keeping everything in their place at all times, and keeping a watchful eye over all your things. I think this can definitely be helpful for someone battling clutter, but I do think at some point you have to relax. If you are constantly stressing over where your things are and the family members that put them there, you aren’t going to be happy.

    I am currently paring down my Stuff to prepare for a move across the country, for which my boyfriend and I must fit all our things into the Prius we are shipping. This book is definitely helping me part with my things and how best to do it. I also appreciate that she admits that for everyone there will be a different limits to what for them is “enough.” She realizes that not everyone is going to live as sparse as her, while other may find joy out of it.

    The book has some great ideas and I plan on loaning it to my mom, a notorious complainer-about-clutter-while-simultaneously-going-on-a-shopping-spree-er.

  36. Megan says 28 April 2011 at 09:54

    So my issue is that we try and keep our house the way we like – with some stuff, but never too much. However, other people keep trying to give us things – art, decorations, books, nick-nacks, etc.

    How do you tell people to stop sending stuff when they feel it is important to show love through physical presents? We’ve started re-gifting it to others but I don’t want it in the house to begin with!

    • Rosa says 28 April 2011 at 10:06

      I’ve never found an answer to that, but ruthless regifting and donating has at least slowed it down – my mom asks, now, “if i give you this will you just give it to Goodwill?”

      If you are too delicate with people’s feelings and pretend like you kept everything, they never learn. And NOBODY listens when you just ask them not to, in my experience.

    • Andrea says 28 April 2011 at 10:22

      I don’t know how you stop the physical gifts w/o offending people. I have tried to say and show(with my house re floored. painted and decluttered) that I have given away and am continuing to give away things. I told people about giving about ornamental wedding gifts(I’ve been married 25+ years) that I never used to charity shops or charity auctions(church, school,etc). I also filled 2 canvas bins for the local library book sale before we painted(probably 200+ books). So when I get something, i say thank you and follow the mantra I learned from a professional organizer” Because someone gave it to you, you don’t have to keep it” I understand that in some cases, it might be difficult to do so- but I find mostly it isn’t.

    • Andrea says 28 April 2011 at 11:05

      Last year for Christmas we gave my fiance’s brothers and their wives a date night gift. We gave them a gift card to a restaurant, movie tickets and a bottle of wine. This was a personal gift but didn’t cause clutter. I think if you gave people ideas like this they would be more likely to get you something that is not just more stuff. Maybe they could pay for a day of horseback riding or scuba diving or something else that you would be interested in.

      • Tanya says 28 April 2011 at 11:58

        My best friend and her family moved to a smaller house a couple of years ago. She really didn’t want “stuff.” What she did want was flowers for her garden. So I bought her some as an early Christmas gift. She loved it and just yesterday said to me, “If you want to buy flowers again …” This is even better if you buy perennials that last for years!

      • Kristina says 29 April 2011 at 13:03

        And haven’t we seen the reports that memories make people happy, rahter than receiving a gift? So you have created for them a memory of an evening out, and they will appreciate the memory of your gift even more, as there is nothing to hold on to.

        With my sisters and their families, for teh past few christmases and their anniversaries I give an activity (dinner and movie for the entire family, theater for two, breakfast at their favorite breakfast place which they do once a week alone, sans kids, etc.) instead of an “object”.

        Both my sisters apreciate it more since they have larger families and never have enough money for a “date night” or “breakfast” and it gives them one on one time and an excuse to spend time as a couple or a family.

  37. SL says 28 April 2011 at 10:10

    If you get rid of something that you will have to buy again, it is not just minimalism, it is wasteful. I see people throw things away only to buy a more “minimal” or trendy eco-friendly replacement.

    Often those who lived through the Great Depression were a bunch of hoarders. However, the environmental impact of the hoarders is probably less than the superficially green “minimalist”.

  38. alexinmadison says 28 April 2011 at 10:15

    You may have well been writing about me in this article.

    My home has always suffered from clutter – primarily because I have sentimental attachment to books and artwork and knick-knacks that remind me of people or places. My home will never look like a Pottery Barn catalog but I do need to strike a better balance.

    I’d like to start a new movement. Instead of minimalism, let’s go for “simplification.” Or “sensibility.” I need to be more sensible about the things I hold on to and I need to simplify my life by only keeping things that fit the criteria of the quote from the article: Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. I think these are great guidelines to start with. 🙂

    Good luck my fellow simplifiers!

  39. 20 and Engaged says 28 April 2011 at 10:19

    Minimalism gets you thinking about what really matters to you in life and what you need in order to live. Of course, everything done to the extreme should be reconsidered, but it’s an interesting lifestyle. I’d love to try to implement it but it gets really hard. We live in a world where excess is in.

  40. Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate says 28 April 2011 at 10:55

    Thanks for all the great comments. Finding balance in life is a lifelong struggle for everyone, whether that balance is Stuff, work, family or just life.

    I would actually like to have less Stuff than we currently have, and have a garage sale planned for May, (of course I live in Oregon, so this is weather dependent) and will do an additional sweep through the house at that time.

    Katy Wolk-Stanley

  41. Justin @ MoneyIsTheRoot says 28 April 2011 at 19:27

    I dont know if I would say that minimalism is for me, however, consider a lean blackbelt in a corporate environment, they can often apply their “no waste” strategy to their personal lives…and that I tend to agree with.

  42. Amanda says 28 April 2011 at 19:39

    Coming back later in the day to read again I see the benefit of colors in the posts and live the numbering.

  43. laura says 28 April 2011 at 19:55

    I’ve lived with my mom, whom dad called a “pack rat” most of my life. She was born in 1930 and hated throwing things away. She even went to garage sales and made purchases that cluttered up the home. I never liked any of it and when I moved out, I decided not to be like her. I prefer a minimal environment. My husband, however, came from parents who were minimalists because they hated to dust. Therefore, there weren’t any books or knick-knacks around..

    I still prefer less surrounding me while my husband likes “things” around him. One day, I was getting rid of things in our house and he exclaimed,”You just want to live in a box!” For me, living with less helps me feel less claustrophobic and makes me use what I have. My husband feels comforted by items, however. Maybe because we came from such different homes, we have now become opposites of the way we grew up.

    I think balance is key and what I feel is enough may not be what my husband feels. It can be a struggles at times. Moving is in our future and I think we will definitely need to find out what is really important as we are getting to old to keep lugging all of this stuff long distances.

  44. Ali says 28 April 2011 at 22:41

    Minimalism isn’t for everyone. Too bad, because it’s better for the environment, and it’s probably better for most people. Live with less: less stress, more time for life. I admire minimalists much more than I admire people with lots of things that they don’t need. I think minimalists aren’t necessarily about white walls and white furniture, but more about living a rich life without being tied down by belongings. Do some people take minimalism to an extreme? Who cares? How could anyone possibly have a problem with such a harmless lifestyle?

  45. Money Reasons says 29 April 2011 at 05:31

    Hardcore miminalist really aren’t anything new. They are just the early forms of becoming Misers that we later read about. It’s funny, a lot of misers leave their money to noble causes after they pass away (very Scrooge like, after the change of heart)

    I came to my conclusions after jokingly writing: Minimalist vs Misers, Money Fight Matchup #2. I don’t like including links like this in comments, but I think it adds to your article.

  46. Madeline says 29 April 2011 at 11:08

    100 possessions only?? Well, one shelf in my husband’s garage would take care of that. So I’d have to throw out all my clothes, books and my food processor?

    All the THINKING about possessions is the problem, not the STUFF! My gypsy soul enjoys piles of books, crafts supplies, and lots of stocked up canned goods in my home.I like candles, scrapbooks and garden art.

    I economize, make purchases at thrift stores and I buy my book used.

    Extreme Minimalism is a symptom of some sort of strange guilt,I believe.

    Enjoy your life, CELEBRATE your life, cluttered or not!

  47. Alex says 29 April 2011 at 11:57

    You know what would be funny? Make a show on Discovery that is the opposite of “hoarders”. It takes extreme minimalists shopping and forces them to buy things. I can see the tears now…”I don’t need a couch, I can sit on the floor” haha. Kidding of course but as many have said here anything in extremes can be unhealthy.

  48. Bridget says 30 April 2011 at 13:40

    Okay, please show me one person who is taking minimalism too far, and is espousing a lifestyle without enough stuff. And then show me their cult of followers who are also doing so.

    They don’t exist. Even the 100 thing challenge guy doesn’t do it. It was a challenge, an experience to explore his relationship to stuff.

    There have always been people who did things out of fear, who were stingy of spirit and heart. That’s not minimalism, that’s the behavior of a miser, which, I think, is counter-intuitive to minimalism.

    Sincerely, I think the potential of taking minimalism too far is counter-intuitive to our society, and isn’t actually done.

  49. Riley Harrison says 01 May 2011 at 17:47

    Hi J.D.,
    I am a minimalist by nature. My criteria as to what I can do without is the degree of deprivation I feel. As an example, I drive an older car but lose not a second of sleep over the age of my car. I also love to travel and will always find a way to make it happen. Needless hoarding/saving to my way of thinking is as flawed as obsessive compulsive spending. One must learn to live within ones’ means and an intelligent savings plan has to be included as a necessary expense to enhance the future.
    Riley

  50. Sean says 11 May 2011 at 16:57

    “I let it go because it’s not my room”? I wish I had you as a mom as a kid/teen!

  51. Andi says 02 November 2011 at 12:22

    Too far for whom? If you like frugality & minimalism to the point that you only own one pair of undies, then who am I to judge?

    So I would say the answer is, it can’t possible EVER go too far, cuz if you don’t like it, then don’t do it! And if you do like it, then more power to you!

    For me & mine, we have way to much crapola. Someone wanna come over & gimme a shot at a minimalistic lifestyle by taking all my junk off my hands? That would be so kewl…

  52. margot says 08 February 2012 at 00:14

    Your blog, and the photos of your house, gave me a minor panic attack and assured me that you’re certainly not in danger of excessive minimalism. In fact, I got confused about the title of your blog.

    You aren’t a non-consumer. You’re a massive consumer. You just buy way, way, way too many things cheaply or used. Your blog could be called “Fill Your House With Tons of Crap That You Got at Goodwill or For Free.” Free or cheap stuff that’s clutter or excessive isn’t useful.

  53. sonia clifyon says 24 October 2014 at 06:21

    I think a lot of these minimalists sound like they’ve been brainwashed. Okay, that was mean of me to say. Honestly though it sounds as if some people have taken a healthy choice to a very unhealthy extreme. I understand the decluttering, I understand you dont want to be burdened with so much stuff, I understand financial freedom. I get all of that; but denying yourself a new shirt, or keeping an heirloom piece of furniture because you can’t have more than x amount of things because your minimalist support group would admonish you–sounds like too much worry. You traded physical possesions for mental issues.

  54. caltree says 03 January 2017 at 10:40

    I’m not the judge of what is and isn’t too far for different individuals, but If you believe your happiness and sense of well-being is dependent on living in a clutter free enviornment then I think it goes without saying minimalism will probably be just as stressful as being a hoarder.

  55. Emma says 13 March 2018 at 16:34

    I learned to be realistic in my minimalism journey. I am simply not going to get rid of everything, and live with 100 items because then I would not be living. I would be existing. There would not be enough hobbies to keep me sane! I got rid of hundreds of items including knickknacks, books, things I don’t use, and the space I have is just wonderful! The things that I have left, I use and bring me joy.

    It is important to remember that decluttering can also become an obsession too and I got so carried away at one time that I got rid of several series of books that I often read and cherish, so they were missed terribly and it was not easy to buy them all back. I got so caught up on the “letting go” aspect of minimalism that I sold things that were meaningful to me.

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