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The Minimalists

Too much stuff in our lives. We’ll talk to “The Minimalists,” who say throw it away, and don’t look back.

The minimalist (Yann Audras/Flickr)

The minimalist (Yann Audras/Flickr)

Black Friday and its cousins Cyber Monday and all crazy shopping days do not exactly show us at our most Zen.  Out there grabbing and clutching and scrambling and shopping.  At midnight, in lines, in mobs.  My guests today say goodbye to all that.

They don’t shop ‘til they drop.  In fact, they’ve given a lot of their stuff away.  Simplified their lives down to the essentials.  Tagged themselves “minimalists.”  And they say they feel richer, freer, more focused, more alive.

This hour, On Point:  Goodbye to all that junk.  We’re bringing in the minimalists.

-Tom Ashbrook


Matt Townsend, reporter for Bloomberg News.

Joshua Fields Millburn, an essayist and author, he writes at theminimalists.com. You can find one of his articles on becoming a minimalist here.

Ryan Nicodemus, an essayist and author, he writes at theminmalists.com. You can find one of his articles on minimalism here.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Minimalists “This Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year: Black Friday. Retailers prepare months in advance for this day—preparation that’s meant to stimulate your insatiable desire to consume.”

ABC News “Two people were shot outside a Walmart in Florida today, one of a rash of fights, robberies and other incidents that have cropped up on one of the most ballyhooed shopping days of the year. ”

Video: Minimalists Interview

Check out this Youtube interview with The Minimalists.


Let It Go by Chris Smither
Simple Life by Casey Abrams

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  • Deb Akey

    The point is not “How much can you afford to give up?” like it said on your facebook page, but rather “How much can you afford NOT to give up?” The true cost of the life of consumerism that we are romanced by these days is much higher than the number on the price tag. We have to work excessive hours not only to purchase the items but also to maintain them over the years we own them. Is it worth your health? Your family? Your happiness?  Your life??

    Like many others who realize that we’ve been had, we said enough. We’re selling it all and moving onto our 400 sq. ft. sailboat with no address. Everyone has to find their personal comfort level in the life of minimalism, some will go to extremes, others will simplify their lives some, but whatever the level I’m truly excited by the amount of people that are finally opening their eyes and pushing back.

    S/V Kintala

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    Simple? Yes.
    Poor? No.
    Bin there, done that.
    We need higher wages, single payer, more vacation, shorter working hours, more education, more travel, and so much more meaning and achievement in our lives. If we can’t have that because, that’s all there is.
    Then let’s bring out the Peggy Lee
    Let’s keep dancing, break out the booze and have a ball !

  • ttajtt

    pull back the rings, slow down doggie, get a grip, keep your head on, be cool, don’t panic stay calm, eye ear smell taste touch heart mind thoughts 

    three things can prepare for.   

    1 freeze, froze, stay still, hide.

    2 duck, cover, blindly “role with” the punches.

    3 your choosing.

    tooth and nail.

    used to be

    beak and talons. 

    birds have no arms, doing the time of just sticks and stones

    • Shag_Wevera

      Cool man.  Scooby dooby.  Snap snap snap snap…

  • Gregg Smith

    The last thing I want is a bunch of stuff. I hate stuff.

  • ToyYoda

    I love books, I love to read.  If you come to my apartment you’d be horrified by the number of books I have on shelf and stacked on the floor.  It’s embarrassing for me.  I want to get rid of them, but I’ve written in margins in a lot of them, they are like journals for me.  Many are technical math books.  I’ve been finding eBook versions of my books and slowly getting rid of the physical ones, but it’s clear to me that it would take forever and lots of my books have badly converted eBooks so I don’t throw those books out.

    Am I a pack rat?  I’ll throw out my magazines, food, old clothing, CDs and I’m tidy with everything else.  But it’s too painful part with my books!  Help!

    • Gregg Smith

      I had an uncle who lived alone all his life in a very tiny house in the woods. He died 3 years ago at the age of 64. He had one chair and literally no standing room. Bookshelves went from floor to ceiling on every wall and freestanding bookshelves filled the floor. You had to walk sideways to fit between them. He had books on every religion, sports, novels, classics, medicine, screenplays, journals, dictionaries, encyclopedias and every topic imaginable. He had every cubic inch of a back room filled with magazines including complete sets of Life, Look, National Geographic and Sports illustrated. He had newspapers with HUGE headlines like “Kennedy is Dead”. Like you, the margins were written in, there were yellow highlights and bookmarks everywhere. I have no doubt he read every page of every book.

      We ended up donating most of it to a library but truth be known there was a small fortune that we gave away. That’s fine as the couldn’t stay there and we were overwhelmed with the unexpected death. I kept some Illuminated works by Blake and a 20 volume set of Oxford Dictionaries but that’s about it.

      Sorry for the rant but your comment hit home. My advise is to move them along to those who will value them as you do while you still can. It was so sad for us to unceremoniously pack truck load after truck load of books as if they were sardines. They meant everything to my uncle but such is life… and death.

      • ToyYoda

        Thanks.  Your description of your uncle’s place sounds like mine.  I’m in the process of getting rid of the older books.  Magazines I don’t keep, and that’s mainly because I have digital versions which I can reread and they don’t take up any space.  I can’t write in the digital margins, but I can hyperlink to the places I need.

        As much as I love to read and digest science, math, music and architecture, etc…. there are family members in my life that need me more than I need this knowledge.  I need to spend more time with them and now I view my books more like obstacles.  So I plan to whittle down all my books so that moving is manageable.

        Anyways, thanks for your thoughtful story.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       I would not be horrified.  Your home sounds like mine.  Stop listening to these losers.

    • J__o__h__n

      I’ve tried to cut back by using the library but I still have books stacked on the sofa as the bookcases are quite full.  I’m always amused by photos of bookcases in furniture catalogs that aren’t crammed with books and have lots of space and decorative objects instead. 

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        The furniture catalogs are providing us with images of a neater living space we can dream about. It’s pretty clever, selling us the idea of less.

        Wow. I guess it’s time I started cleaning for the holidays, isn’t it?

        • J__o__h__n

          I’m not planning to add the minimalist scold books to the piles. 

    • nj_v2

      I suspect many people share your situation. I remember a little sign in a local, used bookstore (remember those?): “When I have some money, I buy books. When I have a little more money, I buy food.”

      I just cleared out my parents house after my mom passed recently. Going in, i knew i didn’t want to keep a lot of stuff. “Just a few things, i told myself.”

      Well, here i am, looking at stacks of boxes jammed into my already-too-small living room, wondering what i’m going to do with it all.

      Like  Bruce Coburn—”I never live with balance; Though I’ve always liked the notion…”—i like the minimalist idea, but it remains elusive. 

      Carlin may be illuminating…


      • sickofthechit

         I live with a lot of stuff and had an epiphany this morning that one possible reason I don’t have the energy or desire to be in a relationship anymore is that I am already “balancing” (literally) so much stuff already in my life that I just can’t hold up the “weight” of it anymore. The future is more hopeful with this realization, but it is a long path I must tread because there is much of value scribbled here and there and everywhere (including the walls….) that I hesitate to throw it out willy-nilly.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Books? Isn’t that what the library is for?

      For me the only more meaningful thing than reading a book is taking out a small pile of them and not worrying if one isn’t any good for me. (And paying any overdue fines cheerfully for this privilege.) And knowing that someone else will read it later.

      • sickofthechit

         Libraries don’t like it when we write in the margins and fold down pages.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          That’s just making the book better for the next fellow. I mean, isn’t a DVD better with a director’s commentary?

          • J__o__h__n

            No, it is annoying to have other writing distracting you from the author’s.  The director’s commentary is often interesting but that of the previous viewer isn’t likely to be so.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            (Can’t you tell when I’m kidding yet? I thought you knew me better than that.)

          • J__o__h__n

            You caught me on this one as library books with writing by someone other than the author enrage me. 

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Yeah, reading a library book is not supposed to resemble the proverbial crapshoot of buying used textbooks and finding the previous owner’s notes in it. (Or who and who else are going to be 2gether 4ever).

    • Roy-in-Boise

       eBooks are a good way to make the shift. Also donating to a library is better than just selling them off.

    • TinaWrites

      ToyYoda, I wouldn’t be horrified, I’d be mesmerized and yet thrilled!  I’d probably ask you if you’d thought about turning your rooms into a bed and breakfast where people could stay overnight with all the wonderful connective intellectual tissue that your mind and books have created!  Maybe you possibly have a tendency towards what I call “spiral thinking” (I have that tendency and I’m very pleased with it, especially now that I’ve given it a name).  Spiral thinking is where you do not think in straight lines, but where everything leads to everything else idea-wise, or imagistically!  I’ve found that books that I’ve had for decades mean even more to me now, now that I’ve learned even more from other books OR from living, be that historic references, or indications of why I, personally, have been interested in a certain realm of creative pursuit or intellectual endeavor.  Until I got sick and medicines started to effect my memory, I could tell you where ANY of my books was (were?) in the various piles; I also did tons of other things that were physical rather than intellectual (body surfing, biking, dancing, exploring neighborhoods — for the architecture, visiting with friends, etc.), but I’d always have a book with me to read or a sketchbook to draw in or write in if I wound up eating alone.  There is NO reason for you to be ashamed!  I do the same thing with writing in the margins, and I agree, the books then become like diaries, but that only makes the books more meaningful, personally, until, decades later, when you go back to any given book, you might find you understand the book from a far more universal POV, because your personal forays thru the book before opened up parts of the wider world for you, and when you came back to the book, you  read it from a wider perspective.  Couldn’t have happened if you’d thrown the book out.  Instead, you get to see your own growth!  I sometimes chide myself for older POVs I used to have!  Yet, sometimes I think I was a prodigy!  You KNOW the answer:  you “love knowledge and creativity”!!!!  Keep going with that responsive, deep , fluidity you’ve found!  Don’t worry about being a pack rat, just keep riding the wave! 

      The only part of “stuff” that I have that I hate is the “schemes” that corporate American sends to my doorstep.  I cannot tell what I’m really supposed to respond to, and what is just a scheme to get me into debt.  I also hate all the computer upgrade notes I have to take, because I’m not computer literate enough to “just fool around with it until it downloads”, because I get into deeper trouble.  I think it would be easier to be creative and intellectually curious with everything stored inside a computer, but there would be no sensate textures book to book, yet there would be all those notes to self about upgrades:  boring!  Give me my sketchbooks, instead!  

      Don’t disparage yourself!  Ride the wave!

    • d clark

      No, you epitomize the words of Erasmus- “When I have money, I buy books. If I have money left over, I buy food”.

      • ToyYoda

        Yes, would characterize me quite nicely.  I think my books are telling me to buy a bigger place.  :)

  • ttajtt

    I was 22 when i lost memory then 85% of something.   now dec. 30 years later 75%, a bouts.  the rest all needed to be redoing…
    then 25 years later bamm what i’m not 23 now.seeing hash brown and eggs on a menu, remembering  yes i ate this very day growing up.  then the next day looking at the stove in what to do.   look look look look.  i did not know what “process, steps” to do.now they say i horde, pack rat, get to much if not why?what ever happened to collector, nicknack, hobbyist, i’ll fix that one of these days, days. its a no win situation day.the only thing worse then failure, is not trying.”Together”Chuck Berry  

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Too much stuff in our lives?  Fine, let’s start by throwing away the minimalists.  That should be enough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/garret.woodward Garret K. Woodward

    I’ve been a minimalist for a few years now, and I absolutely love it. I just moved to Western North Carolina with a philosophy of “whatever doesn’t fit in the truck, doesn’t come with me”. And, I must say, I stuck to that and I haven’t needed one thing more since relocating. The less you own, the more you own your life.

  • HanaPeg

    A Minimalist’s Train of Thought

    Less money spent means more money saved

    More money saved means the longer you can live in financial peace and security

    Financial peace and security comes from owning less

    Less stuff owned means less to carry around, move or have to travel with

    Less responsibility for your stuff also means less maintenance and more time

    The more time you have, the more relaxed you will feel

    The more relaxed you are, the less you will care about stuff

    If you care less about stuff, it means you’ll care less about image

    If you care less about image, you will care more about experiences and memories

    If you care more about experiences and memories, you will be happier with less

    If you are happier with less, you’ll never want or need for more

    The less you want or need for more, the more you will feel free

    - The Everyday Minimalist

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MWNZAPU2H5ZH4C2QTATDJK7VV4 Democracy

    Over the past few years, I have tried to live by “Simple Living, high thinking” philosophy espoused by Gandhi. I must not have bought any new clothes for the past 5-6 years- not much, but I do what I can. 
    I try to teach that to my 3 year old daughter when she wants more toys etc.
    It is difficult to live like this tho’ when your friends and family don’t share the same values.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      It is difficult to live like this when your country doesn’t share the same values.

    • Mike_Card

      Can’t remember his name, but I believe it was the Prime Minister of India who complained of Gandhi,  “It’s costing us a bloody fortune to keep him impoverished.”

  • adks12020

    Minimalism….aka the well off person’s way to see what it’s like to be poor.

    • sickofthechit

       Not bloody likely.  They can’t know what it is to be poor until you live for years and years two to three months behind on your mortgage and other bills, without health insurance, with the end of each month a juggling act to see if you can once again avoid bounced checks because you sure can’t afford to flush $35 down the toilet again….

      • adks12020

        I know, it’s like being poor without the stress.  I know what it’s like to be poor. I just don’t like how they make it seem like this amazing philosophical breakthrough. Ever since I was extremely poor I only buy what I need. I donate or give away what I dont use any more; I don’t get rid of things until they aren’t functional anymore (eg. 12 year old car) I don’t call myself a minimalist. I call myself practical and not wasteful.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/LIG2IHWGSLBSXRNCM2OL44HZUM Sarah

      I’m from a lower class family, and don’t make much money myself. I kind of combine being poor with minimalism, I can’t afford things, but don’t desire them either. It’s not just rich people who are interested in this lifestyle. Also, poor people have plenty of money management problems, and could benefit from living simply.

  • atakemoto

    None of the truly wonderful things in life can be purchased.
    I’ve met many wealthy people in my lifetime; none of them were happy.

    • OnPointComments

      I’ve met many wealthy people in my lifetime, and most of them were happy.  By far the happiest among them were the ones who were exceptionally charitable and philanthropic.

    • Robert Berube

      That’s what they want you to believe. People who’ve money tend to be happier than people who don’t. There is plenty of empirical literature on it. 

  • Yar

    The most valuable resource is time.  Once spent it can never be recovered.
    Look at Material World, by Peter Menzel, published by Sierra Club Books.  “A must have coffee table book.” Satire intended.

  • Roy-in-Boise

    Black Friday starting at 8PM on Thanksgiving Day just demonstrated how unbridled consumerism is a moral and cultural dead-end!

    (Hollywood Director Tom Shadyac of Pet Detective fame just examined this philosophy in a very good film called I am.)

  • areming

    I experienced the benefits of “forced minimalism” when I was single and living in a small Shoe-box studio apt. in the city. While it was an adjustment, I grew to appreciate the simplicity.  

    Now, in the suburbs, two children later, somehow “stuff” (mostly kids’ things) has overrun our house.  While we avoid gadgets and try to spend as much time outside as possible, we still have a ton of books, building toys etc.  I find myself perpetually stressed about keeping everything organized and clean. Even though I’m aware of the benefits and wish to simplify/eschew materialism – in theory – somehow we’ve creeped to the point of overload.  Luckily, my kids’ understand that we like to pass their toys/clothes on to others – we just need to give away more and buy less.  

  • IsaacWalton

    Hmm. Interesting subject. What blows my mind is how many college age children patterning after their well-to-do parents who instill a sense of entitlement to their kids (entitlement to cars, clothes, phones, etc…all plural). When I grew up I had barely 1 of everything I needed..maybe 2 pairs of shoes! As an adult (doing well) I’ve learned to buy fewer but higher quality items—items that last. 

    Also, what about hobbies? Again, I’m amazed at HOW MUCH STUFF some people have and they DO NOTHING more than watch TV and work. They have no hobbies. What do they fill their homes with? 

    Family come into our home and think we must be poor because we have about 1/3 of what they have in their homes! We buy what we need as it’s needed.

  • ttajtt

    when you do nothing.
    there is nothing to un-do

    chinese proverb 

  • Steve__T

    Funny thing is I’m doing it now, I don’t have a lot of stuff but I have a lot of stuff that has been given to me, I hate to throw away gifts, and I have way to many books, so I’m taking a bunch of stuff to the Salvation Army and the local book store. And I wont miss any of it.

  • CourtneyEVT

    Last April I moved from a large house shared with friends, to my own 380 square foot apartment. In doing so, I had to downsize by getting rid of at least half of my possessions. Purging all that stuff was scary at first, but then I felt more and more unburdened as I went along. Now, everything I have, I have consciously decided to keep, everything has a place, aesthetics and function are blended to conserve space. It feels great, and I don’t miss anything I got rid of!

    • OnPointComments

      I did the same thing, and there is a kind of liberation in getting rid of stuff.  Now I live in a neighborhood where the houses have large two car garages with lots of storage.  I guess that more than half the people in the neighborhood have to park their cars in the driveway instead of the garage because they’ve filled the garage with things they no longer use.   It is better to give stuff away and have it be used than to let it sit idle in storage.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QMDZ3LH5U2B4GAT7J2HS4TCP6E Jim

    I try to be a minimalist, but it is hard. i have the right ingredients to be one too. first, i am quite cheap and i care less about the shopping… i especially despise the thanksgiving midnight shopping.

    However, my first move to being a minimalist is to give up my news source… such as the wall street journal, boston globe and new york times. then i need to give up my childhood collection. 

    giving up my TV is going to be quite quite difficult… but i think these guys in this programme are right. TV must be given up to be a bare minimalist.

    i really like this programme. i hope americans in this time of the holiday season would take heed. 

    • IsaacWalton

      Give up the MEDIA side of your time (fewer catalogs, fewer advertisements, infomercials) you’ll find you buy less. Try it. We dumped cable TV (so much money for NOTHING) yes, we pay more for each episode on itunes but we get NO COMMERCIALS. We get our news from sources that don’t have lots of ads. We get off mailing lists for catalogs. Stop the stream in and you’ll stop the flow of stuff in!

  • HanaPeg

    You wrote 6 books about this? Minimalists, really?

    • nj_v2


      I remember a photo in a book of a sign that said, “Church parking only” that was captioned, “How very hard it is to be a Christian.”

      • J__o__h__n

        A church in my neighborhood plows their parking lot but not the sidewalk. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YPD5OIQ3MX5LEW4YSBMC6XVFBE Daniel

    I understand their feelings, but I don’t quite buy how they’ve explained it for themselves.  The feelings they describe have more to do with time management or really what’s important for them to accomplish.  For example, it’s not the video game machine.  It’s the addictiveness of the video games and the fact that finishing a game is often not a real accomplishment for most of us.

  • IsaacWalton

    Buy fewer things farther in between—buy quality items. You’ll value those items (and take care of them) more when you have fewer of them.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    “Simplify, simplify.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

    • nj_v2

      I believe the immediately preceding line is, “Our life is frittered away by detail…”

  • ToyYoda

    Question for your author.  Da Vinci kept tons of stuff in his studio.  He had volumes of sketchbooks, canvases with unfinished paintings, various clays, metals, and other scraps intended to make statues, or to test an invention.  He had corpses of people, animals and such that he dissected (although he probably didn’t keep corpses around)  Doesn’t look like Da Vinci was a minimalist (in fact many artists are like da Vinci), would you consider him unhappy and not living in the moment?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001804323670 Nicole Gee

    I live with the minimum. If I am not going to use an item, I don’t buy it. Period. We should all learn from the movie “the gods must be crazy” If there is something in your life that is going to complicate it, get rid of it!!

  • yogawithcarol

    Purging stuff is so cleansing.  One of the biggest problems with all the stuff is thinking that it will bring you happiness.  Happiness comes from the inside and the stuff is just stuff.  Having it or not doesn’t make you happy!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DQ7DFDLGLAA2JGC5DGBI6ACEUM Julia

    How about the holidays as a GIFT GIVER? When people EXPECT gifts FROM YOU? I would love to be minimalist, but certain family members or friends who attach VALUE to GIFTS do not agree, as a minimalist do you continue your philosophy when consuming FOR FRIENDS?

    • DrewInGeorgia

      If someone gets offended because you didn’t give them a gift, that’s their problem.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      If someone gets offended because you didn’t give them a gift, that’s their problem.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DQ7DFDLGLAA2JGC5DGBI6ACEUM Julia

    How about the holidays as a GIFT GIVER? When people EXPECT gifts FROM YOU? I would love to be minimalist, but certain family members or friends who attach VALUE to GIFTS do not agree, as a minimalist do you continue your philosophy when consuming FOR FRIENDS?

  • nj_v2

    “Six-month rule”? Huh?!

    Winter clothes? Snow blower? Summer shorts? Sandals?

    Many of my work tools are only used seasonally.

    • IsaacWalton

      You have a point. People who make 6 figures probably don’t even mow their own grass, so don’t need a mower or tools to fix it. My father’s tool shed can attest to years of having the right tool for the myriad of repairs he had to make on the few items he had to fix. My mom on the other hand filled the home with figurines, pottery too much stuff that doesn’t need fixing!

  • Craig Koebelin

    If you want to train your mind to minimalism, try backpacking.  First you have to go to the store and buy more stuff, that is true; backpack, tent, sleeping bag, stove, water purifier, but this is the baby step.  Experience sleeping deep in the woods with only the things you have carried in, the limit for your stuff will be the strength of your back  You will appreciate the food you have, the water you can find, the few extra pieces of clothing you have brought.  Try to stay in the woods for three days.  This is not a long term way to minimalism, of course, it is just a way to retrain your mind to appreciate all of the little things, and to learn to disdain the extraneous.

    • Robert Berube

      I had a backpacking phase. I bought all that stuff and went maybe twice. Now, it’s sitting in my storage room.  

  • sustobey

    I am in spirit a minimalist, in other words, a work in progress! I try to go by the old adage – who said this??? – “have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” for me, this has helped pare down.

  • Michiganjf

    Twice in my life, I sold nearly everything I owned to help fund three month trips to Europe… both times I kept only what would fit into a medium-sized trunk, which I left with a friend.

    First, I think this helped me enjoy my travels better, as it was hard to be homesick when there was really nothing to which I could return.

    Secondly, when I did return to the States, I felt utterly free to pursue my most immediate whims, which sort of allowed me to reinvent my life after both trips (not myself, which I’ve always been quite comfortable with, but rather my circumstances and pursuits).

    Thirdly, there’s a wonderful freedom which comes with a lack of attachment, and a spartan existence lends itself to easily achieving a fresh perspective and not feeling “trapped” or bogged down.

    I certainly don’t think this sort of “jump” is for everyone, but for some, it may be just the right thing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.myers.7503 Andrew Myers

    To Julia’s point… do the minimalists then reject offers of gifts from others?

    If so, does it offend the gift giver when refuse to accept it?

    If not, do you simply turn around and regift or donate it, with the gift giver being none the wiser?

  • Ellen Beberman

    “Oh, I am a poor and simple man

    And my favorite dream of any
    Is that faster shall my spirit rise
    With my hands and pockets empty”Written by Jeff Deishman

  • bettybou

    How much is enough? I love clothing – and I am a thrift store devotee, so even if I don’t spend much on any one item, I still buy a lot of items. I get satisfaction from finding a shirt that cost someone $70 for $1. And I stave off acquisition guilt by rationalizing that I am not buying new stuff, so I’m not adding to the stream of stuff being introduced into the universe. HOWEVER, a key idea for me is that the more you own, the more time you need to manage that stuff. Hence my current paring down efforts.

  • ttajtt

    what about those who will not servive… but store up for those that do?

  • Dan Rencewicz

    As much pleasure as others derive from the accumulation of material goods, I derive equal if not more pleasure deriding them.

  • OnPointFan

    Hi guys. Great show. What’s up with the blurry photo on your website?  What the heck is it?  Thanks.

  • apdpalmer

    You just asked “What do you give?” for the holidays. One of my friends for her 50th birthday, I gave a $50 donation to a breast cnacer foundation- a cancer she fought and won. She said it was one of the best gifts she got. Think about the person you’re buying for and make a donation to a charity in their honor. How could they get mad about that?

  • OnpointListener

    Can you be a minimalist and have two dogs and a cat and a teenager????

    • Michiganjf

      Ha! Good point!


    • ttajtt

      but ARE you?

  • dsnows

    One of the problems I have with getting rid of stuff, is what to do with it. I despise wastefulness, and don’t want to throw things in a landfill. Many things I no longer need or want might be useful to someone else. I lived in Germany for a while and they would put stuff out by the curb one week-end a month for others to take, kind of like free yard sales all over town. 

    • Isernia

      Just back from six weeks in Germany.  I like their lifestyle.  I, and others in our neighborhood here in a US town put “stuff” (i.e. large toys, furniture and other items) on the curb Sunday mornings) occasionally.  All is taken by midday Sundays! Local university students setting up their dorm rooms and apartments at the start of each semester definitely scavenge.  Similarly, people with young children find a rocking horse or bicycle thereby saving money.  Waste not, want not. 

  • bettybou

    Hot minimalist:  James Spader’s character in Sex, Lies and Videotape…the guy who only has one key…the key to his car. Sexy!

  • s g

    My sisters and I went in for a year-long “subscription” to a cheese of the month club for my folks (actually it was a few cheeses every 3 months).  They enjoyed sampling the various cheeses and got a new gift a few times over the year.
    My kids have been thrilled to receive gift cards to gamestop – which they save up until they have enough to purchase a video game they really want.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Go to Figi, skip the designer shoes.

    The “problem” with minimalizm is: if everyone goes minimilist, the current bad economy will look like “the good old days”

    • ttajtt

      good to say? thats the spirit, 

    • allison l.

      That just means that our current economy isn’t sustainable and we need to find new ways of doing things.

  • Maureen White

    I learned how little stuff I really need when I decided to travel around the world for two years.  After living out of a suitcase for that long, I came back and purged most of my possessions.  It definitely gave me more of a sense of freedom not to be tied down by things.  I also encouraged my family to stop exchanging Christmas gifts, and now we spend the holidays enjoying each other’s company instead of running around the mall.  The key is to practice non-attachment and examine the fear that comes up when you think about giving up a possession.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=404650 Anne Sargent

       Maureen, I had a very similar experience after getting back from two years of living and working overseas.  At the time that I left, it felt impossible to imagine living without many of the books, clothes and other things I’d grown so attached to.  Then, I came back to the U.S. and found that not only had I not missed those things but I also felt a strong impulse to eliminate at least half of my belongings from my life for good.  Whittling down is a continuous process but it feels great!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZL5SPAHZEBOKHTGDEOJVP4VWBI Libb

    My mom grew up with a Depression mentality: keep everything “just in case.”  The result is her four bedroom house full to the rafters of outdated clothes and used toys. 

    I have tried to respond to this by doing the opposite.  I would not consider myself a minimalist but I limit my spending by buying few things and buying used.  I adopted the one-in/one out mentality for clothes.  Two years ago I had over 50 pairs of shoes.  I pared that down to 15, which is still a lot by many standards.  I don’t miss the rest.  I also now don’t buy limited use items, gadgets or clothes, that can only be used for one purpose or with one outfit. 

    I also limit my spending by doing without cable, spa services, etc.  I want to avoid life-style inflation so that I do not have to constantly get a higher paying job.  I too value my time more than money.    

  • apdpalmer

    You just asked “What do you give?” for the holidays. For a friend’s 50th birthday, I gave a $50 donation to a breast cnacer foundation- a cancer she fought and won. She said it was one of the best gifts she got. Think about the person you’re buying for and make a donation to a charity in their honor. How could they get mad about that?

  • Annie Pitts

    I am a former military member and now a military spouse.  With 8 moves in 10 years, it gets easier and easier to be a minimalist.  Every year or two, we get the chance to consider all our “stuff,” and decide whether or not it’s important enough to lug it along across country or across the world.

    I strive to keep junk and clutter out of the house, however, if something is lovely and timeless, and makes the next duty station feel like home, then it’s worth packing!

    • ttajtt

      good for decease flying worry bug outs but what is there for to improvise adapt over come IF your not ok? 

  • envirogirl12

    what about the environmental impact of the things we needlessly consume and hold onto? aside from the emotional and lifestyle impact of over-consumption, or living to consume, it also has measurable destructive effects on the environment. my consumption patterns have change because i recognize the serious irreversible consequences of my consumption.
    however, i am married to a first generation immigrant and the notion of not accumulating things in his family is unthinkable-a rejection of the american dream of success. there is an evolution of consumption which for people who grow up without things, desperately want to participate in. we bring 100s of pounds of clothes and gifts when we visit his family in bolivia. i think it is a hard balance to encourage people’s desire for the comfort of material possessions and cherished items while minimizing their destructive environmental and social impacts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1054171463 Courtney Egan

    The best thing about the minimalist lifestyle that your guests advocate is the effect less consumerism will have on our environment.  The flip side to this is it’s effect on the economy, of course

  • http://twitter.com/thesharona Sharon Koltick

    I keep things minimal by allowing physical space for new ideas; even though ideas only need mental space, I find that leaving actual room in my life, on a bookshelf, or on a tabletop for a new idea to take shape, I am more able to create them.  

    This helps to keep my life and home moving forward, as opposed to only serving as a resting place for my past. 

  • siskoe

    There is a social stigma of chosing this lifestylye, not caring about clothes, cars, iphone, i pads, etc is overwhelming..I have no tv, no phone, work to keep things simple..I do have to have internet as I work from home, when I go to the office and hear the conversations re: buy buy buy there lives revolve around it there are no conversations about anything else…and most people feel I am abnormal…it is not easy to find people who have any understanding of this…

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    I doubt someone who is even leaning toward minimalism would  be particularly attracted to someone who is a “gotta have stuff” person.

  • rick evans

    A true minimalist woman doesn’t need a handbag.

  • bangkokmichael

    Moved from Boston to Bangladesh for a job… donated 3,000 books away after realizing I had not looked at them for years.  All our remaining home possessions went into a 8×13 storage room; after two years away, we got rid of tons more from storage.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DQ7DFDLGLAA2JGC5DGBI6ACEUM Julia

    Re: Christmas/Holidays: Are you forced out of minimalism, due to expected gift-giving for people who don’t share your great minimalism attitude? Do you deny gifts offered to you? Most of those Black Friday folks are stuck in lines getting “stuff” for family and friends. I personally agree with you, but people I know “expect stuff”! How do you change their minds?

    • Maureen White

      You can give lots of gifts that aren’t “stuff.”  You can offer to babysit their kids, take them to a free concert, cook a homemade meal and spend time chatting.  I don’t deny gifts given to me, but if I don’t want or need it I give it to someone who does.  What it also comes down to is this: do you want to live your life by other people’s expectations, or do you want to be true to your own values? 

    • Yar

      Try Chocolate, nobody can resist good chocolate.  If you are on a tight budget, make your own high quality chocolate by mixing nuts with Hershey’s and bakers chocolate.  It has a hand crafted look and tastes like it cost a fortune. 

    • hopeful61

       The last couple of years I have barely participated in Christmas and feel such relief.   Trying to find “perfect”, affordable gifts for many people is exhausting and after many years, rather pointless.  Thankfully the adults in my family all decided to stop exchanging gifts, it was getting ridiculous.  We drew names for a number of years but we even stopped that.  My mother is someone we always have to get “something” for and I’ve given my four nieces and nephews either gift cards or money, but this year I”m considering donating to a charity or Hurricane Sandy victims in their names.  Not sure they’ll like that but they have way too much “stuff” as it is. 

      I think it’s OK to just announce that you’re not participating in gift exchanges, that you’d be happy to bring a dish and a bottle of wine (or whatever) to a family or friends gathering and/or participate in a Yankee swap (where everyone wraps a small gift, can be a gag gift, it’s a game) but you’re not going to be buying stuff for people that they don’t need.  You can also nicely announce that you would rather they don’t give you any gifts as well, but that you’d love to share a meal and time together.

  • Susan Vogt

    Minimalism (through living more lightly) has been a direction that I’ve been pursuing for many years. I’m certainly not down to nothing – and that’s not the goal – but I’ve recently completed a year of giving away at least one thing a day for a year. For me, leading a less cluttered life has freed me from unnecessary stuff and emotional baggage. I followed it up with a stint of eating on a Food Stamp Budget for 6 weeks. Next Lent, I’m going to try to see how much garbage and trash I can eliminate from my life. I blog on Living Lightly and Eating Lightly (not dieting) at: http://www.SusanVogt.net/blog. 

  • ttajtt

    ART to jury rig, would be a good book to have.

  • ttajtt

    this is capitalist consumerism, xx – money.    

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1076034704 Amy Martin Sutton

    Thanks for this great discussion.  I think there is such a pull in our culture for more and newer stuff.  It’s so pervasive that we don’t even realize it half the time. This is a welcome reminder to be aware and to FIGHT IT!  Perfect timing because I was thinking of purchasing a newer TV, which isn’t truly needed, just because this is the time of year for good prices… guess what, not going to do that now!  Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.fluet Lisa Fluet


  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.fluet Lisa Fluet

    Intriguing that your show on minimalism featured two men with former 6-figure salaries who decided to experimentally pack up all their stuff and prove the blatantly obvious–that we can all actually live on much less stuff–while clips from “Fight Club” and shrieking, female-sounding, Black Friday shopping voices can be heard in the background. I’m a female, five-figure-salary professional, and never shop for holidays if I can help it, let alone on Black Friday. But these calls to a kind of pseudo-Thoreauvian minimalism also frequently sound like calls to embrace minimalism-as-specifically-upper-middle-class-masculine-value–in defiance towards a consumerism that is perceived as lower-class, feminine and feminizing (witness Edward Norton, before being “saved” by the all-male fight club, pondering the Ikea catalog). It’s very easy to pay lip service to anti-consumerism, particularly when one has already consumed quite a bit, but I’d hazard a guess that Black Friday shoppers are NOT 6-figure salary makers, and are in fact people caught up in trying to approximate some form of the (admittedly hollow) American dream myth. Although I object to all this buying of mostly useless crap, I object even more strongly to the holier-than-thou attitude of those who perceive an outward, performed minimalism as a kind of virtue. Um, hello?– if you live in the United States, you are already consuming far, far more of the world’s resources than a much, much larger percentage of the world’s population. Not shopping on Black Friday, or packing up the things you don’t immediately need–so your living space gives the impression of minimalist living to visitors–does not alter that basic fact. 

    • Guest

      I’m not sure what the militant feminism has to do with consumerism. This sounds holier-than-holier-than-thou.

      • allison l.

        You think this is militant feminism?  Wow.

    • HealthEdu

      Well stated, and very true, “if you live in the United States, you are already consuming far, far more of the world’s resources than a much, much larger percentage of the world’s population.” I agree with all you wrote. Thought of all these points while listening, but, also, enjoyed the story since I am always trying to clean up and clean out.

    • Erica Montano

       I have to say I agree with every word you are saying here. Especially “Although I object to all this buying of mostly useless crap, I object
      even more strongly to the holier-than-thou attitude of those who
      perceive an outward, performed minimalism as a kind of virtue.


      “But these calls to a kind of pseudo-Thoreauvian minimalism also
      frequently sound like calls to embrace
      defiance towards a consumerism that is perceived as lower-class,
      feminine and feminizing (witness Edward Norton, before being “saved” by
      the all-male fight club, pondering the Ikea catalog). It’s very easy to
      pay lip service to anti-consumerism, particularly when one has already
      consumed quite a bit, but I’d hazard a guess that Black Friday shoppers
      are NOT 6-figure salary makers, and are in fact people caught up in
      trying to approximate some form of the (admittedly hollow) American
      dream myth.”

      Well done!

  • Erica Montano

    I was making $50,000 a year bartending and going to community college at the age of 22 when I realized that money doesn’t buy happiness. The “idea” of only unpacking things as you need them sounds like it was born out of the guest’s laziness and depression, and not some inspired action. The guest speak of “money not buying happiness” like some sort of unknown that these two magically figured out. SURPRISE! We figured it out before we had two living rooms! If I can’t listen to authentic, of-the-people shows on public radio, where can I find them? Any suggestions?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/LIG2IHWGSLBSXRNCM2OL44HZUM Sarah

      Sound like you’re the one patting yourself on the back. “I had it figured out FIRST, without calling myself a minimalist! I’m better!”

      • Erica Montano

        I was implying that most of the world has already figured this out and most of the world lives far more simply than the guests who happen to pat themselves on the back for living simply.

  • Erica Montano

    Also, I don’t have a TV, a luxury car, or two living rooms. The only difference between myself and the guests is they are self-proclaimed minimalists and I’m just living the way the majority of the world lives. Most of the world worries about food, shelter, and taking care of their sick. But these people pat themselves on their back for being “minimalists”. These people should travel to one of the many third world countries and learn humility.  

  • Erica Montano

    Also, I don’t have a TV, a luxury car, or two living rooms. The only difference between myself and the guests is they are self-proclaimed minimalists and I’m just living the way the majority of the world lives. Most of the world worries about food, shelter, and taking care of their sick. But these people pat themselves on their back for being “minimalists”. These people should travel to one of the many third world countries and learn humility.  

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/LIG2IHWGSLBSXRNCM2OL44HZUM Sarah

      I didn’t read a “higher than thou” attitude from either of them. They made it pretty clear that it’s a personal undertaking, and you can approach it however you please. They also spoke about traveling, how do you know they haven’t helped other people? No one is forcing their lifestyle on you, settle down.

      • Erica Montano

        The story was about a couple of American guys who were making six figures at jobs they didn’t like. Who wants to hear about this stuff? It’s “Eat Pray Love” for men. The person who commented above under  “31047″ sounds like a real minimalist and not someone who cut down on their consumption or property so they can travel Europe.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.fluet Lisa Fluet

      Thanks–I like what you have to say too!

  • Pingback: The Minimalists | Clearing House for Environmental Course Material

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1637060729 Annette McNamara

    This is the hardest thing I will ever do. Just can’t get my head around letting go of my book’s. Any Idea’s how to let go without going out and buying more? Thanks for your great show. Made me think, a different way. As a grandma of 8 babies, it would be nice to let go of the stuff that is holding me down. I have saved everything from 4 kids till now. Wow I am tired of even thinking of having peace and freedom from it all.

    • Susan Vogt

      I am also a grandmother and have been pruning stuff from my closets for several years now. Indeed BOOKS and CHILDREN’s CLOTHES have been 2 of my biggest challenges. I always figured I’d pass the kiddie clothes on to our grandchildren, but styles and tastes have changed. You can read how I handled these dilemmas on my Living Lightly blog, http://www.SusanVogt.net/blog. Click on the tags (bottom right column) for BOOKS and OTHER’s STUFF to read how I handled it. Perhaps it will give you some ideas and courage.

    • Susie Foster

      Aren’t books in a different category from, say, tchotchkes (sp?)?  Books hold our intellectual and cultural heritage. And you can use them over and over, lend them, gift them… definitely not in the same category as kids’ toys or clothes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alicia.quella.1 Alicia Quella

    After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa I have tried to live more simply.  Now, after having three boys who like ‘stuff’ that lifestyle is more difficult. We recently moved across the US and had to fit everything we owned into a POD, needless to say we made a lot of trips to Goodwill.   It feels good to be generous, I always encourage my kids to give away nice things so someone else can enjoy it.  I am inspired to keep striving toward the minimalist lifestyle.  I would love to skip the materialism of Christmas..any suggestions??

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2DBCEYAOQLZLDREUV23UWOEWZI Appledore

    Hi, all three of you would benefit greatly from reading and carefully studying WALDEN by Henry David Thoreau(1854).  Minimalism and living simply are hardly new subjects and Thoreau covered them thoroughly and to perfection ..I’m honestly surprised his definitive book was not mentioned….!

  • MordecaiCarroll

    Interesting topic.  Haven’t listened all the way through yet, so apologies if this gets addressed later in the segment, but what about kids and clutter?   I can weed out a whole lot of my own stuff and still have scads of toys and tchotchkes to deal with.  And my kids aren’t always to amenable to weeding out stuff or throwing things away.  I’ve tried the yard sale route and that helped a bit, but I’m still swimming in clutter (and random lego pieces).

  • MordecaiCarroll

    Good call later in the segment addressed my question.  I still think it can be tough when kids are bombarded with messages (from the media, from their peers) about having to have the latest new thing..

  • Chiching21

    One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite thinkers today: “And so we can say that the industrial economy’s most-marketed commodity is satisfaction, and that this commodity, which is repeatedly promised, bought, and paid for, is never delivered. On the other hand, people who have much satisfaction do not need many commodities.”

    – Wendell Berry, excerpted from The Art of Commonplace

  • 31047

    These ideas are increasingly essential, but by no means are they new.  In the early Seventies, after returning from the destruction of the Vietnam War, I was associated with a few of my undergraduate peers here in Wisconsin, and we were discussing “minimalist” life styles as a small part of a much larger “eco-cultural” (my phrase) set of values and conditions.  Since then I have been working on putting these ideas into practice in my own life.  (To paraphrase Confucius in “The Analects,” start with yourself.)  For the past 23 years I have lived in a very modest log cabin in the west central Wisconsin woodlands.  I grow organic food, hunt deer for meat, cut wood for heat, etc., and I have no TV, no microwave, no air conditioning, etc.  I have owned a business for 29 years and understand there must be a period of transition, personally, nationally and globally.  What your guests have discussed is a step in the right direction.  If you have fear, then I recommend you walk beside Fear, occasionally giving it a wink and a nod to let Fear know you know Fear is always there.  The rest is work and the joy, even ecstasy, of the experience.

    • Erica Montano

      I would have enjoyed to hear your experience on the show.

      • 31047

         Thank you, Erica.  Unfortunately, “On Point” is rebroadcast in the evening in west central Wisconsin, and in any case, I doubt the program could have given the time to my lengthy overview.  Truly, I have devoted years to my evolving practice of frugality. By the way, I AM Nature . . . and so are you. I assure you, joy and ecstasy are still possible.  Yours is the first response I have had to a comment, and it would be interesting to have the opportunity to discuss this important topic further.  You may wish to read the classic, “Living the Good Life” by Scott and Helen Nearing, the works of Wendell Berry, and the poetry of Gary Snyder, and Sam Hamill’s translation of the “Tao Te Ching.”  These things are essential.  Thank you so much.  If you respond again you may call me “Alan,” it is a Celtic name, meaning “harmony.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4E2MZA2Z3QDR5R6UOACKJATJ74 Partha
  • ds2015

    We have rented our house as a vacation home for one week every year. Each year, I empty out the “stuff” we’ve accumulated and look for ways to make the house seem fresh and new. This involves cleaning, touch up painting, hanging pictures, etc.  When we move back in after the week, I am thrilled to live in such a spacious, minimalist, clean atmosphere. I only put the things back in my closet that I will actually use.  The rest of the stuff remains in boxes. After a few months, it is easier to get rid of the stuff in the boxes because there is less attachment to the stuff. 
    This annual house rental not only brings a bit of income, it also feels amazing to live in a fresh house depleted of STUFF.

  • Regular_Listener

    We New York City residents have been minimalists for decades now.  When you have to pay $2000 a month for a 400 square foot apartment, you start getting minimal pretty fast.  Whenever someone offers me a well-intentioned gift of say, a table or chair (or even a book or video), my first reaction is a groan.  Where will I put it?  Will I have to get rid of something?

    But I think there is a trend growing here, and I have seen it with people I know and at work.  Certainly people are throwing out stacks of old books and records (and tapes and discs) and doing more with computers.

  • YourStageMom

    Our route to Minimalism was from a more environmental angle. I’ve been grateful for the freedom that the eco-choices I’ve made have given me.  More resources are available to me immediately (money, time, food, energy), and hopefully I’ve preserved some resources for the future.  
    The Story of Stuff was a big motivator for me a few years back, I encourage anyone with 20min to spare to check it out!

Aug 22, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

The National Guard and Eric Holder in Ferguson. ISIS beheads an American journalist. Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a mug shot. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Aug 22, 2014
In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

The Ice Bucket Challenge: ALS, viral fundraising and how we give in the age of social media.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

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