How Minimalist Should I Go?

Minimalism is catching on. People are trying it out. Everyone who does it, loves it.

I’ve been headed in a minimalist direction for a couple years now.

But there is a big question with minimalism that often goes unanswered…

How Minimalist Should I Go?

Of course the answer will vary for different people, but I think I’ve discovered what the right level of minimalism is for me and many others. It is a pretty significant line to cross over.

I want to be about to wrap my mind around my possessions. I want to know every item I own. This means not finding something buried away in my closet 2 months from now. It means knowing I have exactly 8 short sleeve polo shirts right now (all of which I will wear).

The problem with stuff is how useless it is in large numbers. If you have 50,000 useful items, 49,000 of them will still be useless by function of excess. But when you look at item #32,492 individually, you see it as useful and decide to keep it (ignoring the big picture). In reverse, if you have 4 things, you’re probably going to use them a lot and “squeeze” all the value out of them that you can.

bright colored minimalist living room

Less is more because you can do more with less.

Yesterday I began to purge clothing with the goal to define what I needed and I picked the best clothes to meet that general quota. I worked through my shirts and now I have about 40 of them. This is still too many, but I’m really liking my progress! I got rid of about half of them.

Now when I look in my closet, I only see clothes that I’d wear. It’s amazing. I don’t want 500 good shirts – I want five AMAZING shirts.

Does Your Stuff Own You?

As they say, your things CAN own you. I feel like mine do and compared to most people, I don’t have much stuff.

I can fit everything I own into my Honda Civic. But still, I have noticed something very interesting. My productivity is tied to my environment. If my room is messy, it invades my mind. When my room is clean, I’m focused, excited, and motivated.

It’d be easy to keep it spotless if I only had a few things.

I know that if I could account for every item I had, I would thrive. I would feel free.  I would gain so much control. Control is often talked about in a negative tone, but it is generally very good to have control in your life.

When you look at your shelves and see stuff on them, do you wonder why it’s there because you never use it? I’ve found it isn’t so much the physical space that junk takes up, but the mental space it occupies.

I’ve read about guys who can fit everything they own into a backpack (by choice). I’m extremely jealous, even though I wouldn’t take my minimalism that far. But seriously…Can you imagine being able to mentally process your possessions in an instant? Can you imagine being able to “pack up” your things in 5 minutes and move or travel to anywhere in the world?

Note: It is wrong to look at minimalism as a rigid dogmatic lifestyle, because that is not the intention. The intention is the opposite – freedom. Only having things you need is freeing.

Today I am going to continue to purge clothing and other things.

(there was a book giveaway, but it has ended!)

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Scrollwork: Quirkyisms from a Tropical Transplant

Preach it, baby. We need the minimalists to purge so those of us who are upcyclers can pounce. I haven’t bought any new clothing or shoes for myself in years and years, but when I tire of anything in my 3-closet lavish wardrobe I make it into something else and put it up for sale in my upcycled clothing shop. No, I can’t account for every single item I own, but that doesn’t stress me out at all. I am detached from it all. If the house burned down, heaven forbid, I hope I have my laptop and passport safe with me. And the rescued giant Norwegian Forest cat, of course.

Stephen Guise

That’s really cool what you do in your shop.

I’m happy for you that you don’t get stressed out about your items. I wouldn’t say I get stressed about it, but I want to have fewer things so badly that it distracts me when I notice I’m not there yet. Being detached from items is good regardless of quantity.

Norweigian Forest cat? Is that a real creature??

Are you entering into the drawing for one of the books?

Chris Jones@soundspott

The concept of minimalism is awesome. I still don’t know how much shirts or trousers belongs to me,I don’t put much on my clothing, cuisine and others. I just want to use what I have in the best way. What I want is a macbook, Wi-Fi and hot coffee. I’m satisfied with that.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing

Hey Stephen, it’s so funny that one of the books is Buzz Marketing – I was talking to Derek Halpern last week, and he was raving about it! I’ve Tweeted, shared, and +1ed – I want Buzz Marketing! 😀

Stephen McCoy

Minimalism requires a counter-intuitive increased commitment to to ones lifestyle. Reducing possessions is not as simple as giving or throwing away what you don’t need or want. It requires an assessment of what is essential to ensure happiness in the lifestyle you choose.

In your example you cite the need for media equipment. In my case, I would require my books and tools. So as you can see, minimalism may actually make ones life more complex and require a greater effort to maintain a more “simple” lifestyle.

Martyn Chamberlin

Heh, hitting “plus one” does nothing other than show a tiny link on an obscure tab in one’s Google Plus profile. I still think it’s crazy you and Copyblogger are pushing it. 😛

I really want BuzzMarketing. Believe it or not, I don’t own a copy. Lol

Scrollwork: Quirkyisms from a Tropical Transplant

“…but I want to have fewer things so badly that it distracts me…” Maybe our definitions of stress diverge? But I totally get how the sight of extraneous things weighs heavy on the creative psyche. We have walk-in (more like Quasimodo’s walk) storage under the stairs that my Mom dubs “the dungeon.” Things disappear in there until I think to retrieve and use them. If you need a vaca from the basement, we would be happy to accommodate you rent-free! You might require chiropractic care after bending over so much, just to warn you.

Yes please, I’d like a chance to win a book as long as it isn’t the one on the stock market. hehe. We invest in gold. So if that’s all that’s left after winners have picked it over, um, thank you for your generosity, and do spread it out to someone else. : )

Now, the cat: While friends with Snufflelopagus, Bigfoot, and Puff the Magic Dragon, he is most definitely in the realm of the real. Observe:
Juxtaposed against a human, see lower pic on my post:
So glad you asked!

Carla Ensink

I agree that only keeping the things that you really love and use would be wonderfully freeing. And clutter definitely effects my mood and energy negatively. So why then is it so hard to let go of things? I have an especially difficult time giving away things that were gifted to me. I have collections of knick-knacks that I’ve had for years (and don’t particularly like) that well meaning friends and family gave me. I feel guilty about even thinking about giving away.

Stephen Guise

Wow, that is one beast of a cat! We have a 17 pound mammoth cat, but he isn’t as fluffy as yours.

Heh, thanks for the back-breaking offer. 😛

So you’re one of those gold lovers, eh? Understandable with all the financial chaos that’s been going on. For now, I’m still a believer in (a few) stocks.

Stephen Guise

If you take your Macbook into a Starbucks, you’re in the perfect situation.

Stephen Guise

With only 6 people in the running so far, you have a solid chance of winning it. It really is a great book. I think you would love it (and utilize the information well since you’re a man of action).

Stephen Guise

Oh believe me, I know it isn’t simple. I know some hoarders very well. Psychologists say that hoarding is one of the most challenging psychological problems to overcome.

I see your point about maintenance. If you only have a few things, you’ll run into more situations where you have to go and get something, which is a consequence of living “lean.” Still, I strongly prefer the benefits to the disadvantages (and there are some).

It may take greater effort to live the lifestyle, but I know it would also improve my quality of life in several areas. It’s worth it to me.

Stephen Guise

Well, I don’t know Copyblogger’s excuse, but I’m mainly interested in the search implications of Google plus. When I plus something, it increases its relevancy in my networks (I think).

As I told Danny, odds are 1 in 6 now of having the first pick!

Stephen Guise

Hi Carla,

I once struggled with holding on to gifts and things like that. One day I realized that I cared about the person behind the gift and not the gift itself. In fact, I think it is somewhat insulting to the relationship to put so much weight in a gift. What happens if the gift is lost or stolen? Does that hurt the relationship?

If the person cares about you, then they’d rather you have less clutter and be happier. How do you think they’d feel if they knew their gift(s) contributed to your stress and negative energy? If you look at it in this way, it doesn’t make sense to NOT give it away.

I throw away all birthday cards I receive. It isn’t because I’m not thankful, but because I don’t associate the value of my relationship with the person with any item. It doesn’t make sense to do that and it isn’t healthy.

That said, I think it’s ok to have a few special things/gifts. After all, the wedding ring is a great example of a symbolic gift that doesn’t clutter up your life.

In the end, it all comes down to your perspective. You can justify keeping junk or you can justify throwing it away. I do the latter now!

Chris Jones@soundspott

I think G+ can act more than twitter. Look at Darren Rowse he got much +1’s and comments- it will be a good traffic generator soon.(It’s good to see that they give away more characters than twiiter, sometimes capable to handle a whole blog post)


In Denmark this is a closed chapter, know old things are in, and second hand.

Justin | Mazzastick

Great idea. I enjoy physical things that are useful and practical. I gave away half or more of my stuff in the past five years. I am a person who likes the basics and not much more.

Martyn Chamberlin

That’s actually incorrect, alas.

When you hit the plus button, that’s not the same as hitting it for a link in a Google search.

Currently, I’m afraid Plus One isn’t affecting search results.

Stephen Guise

How do you know that? Google hasn’t revealed that either way. I bet it does or will have an effect on ranking (though a small one).

Is It Down

A friend of mine recently had a close relative pass away, and she told me something that really helped me gain a more minimalist perspective. She said that her grandma hadn’t had much to leave them in terms of money or possessions, but that she was glad for that because the only thing she’d be leaving behind would be a fight between the younger relatives over who gets what. It just really made me realize that we can’t take anything with us, so why do we *need* so much stuff now?



A minimalist needs to have means of contribution otherwise they are effectively just taking advantage of others that have stuff.

Douglas Prater

Stephen, Stephen, Stephen…I admire what you’re doing. I love “free stuff”, but I’m not entering in your contest. I don’t need that kind of clutter either. Not only could I take your minimalist advice in my home, but I don’t need thousands of garbage pages littering my digital reading list either.

You continue to be one of the most insightful young minds (you’re only a few years my junior) on the web, and I always look forward to seeing how your journey unfolds. Minimalism (letting go) is a difficult and profound step. To freedom, Stephen…To a burden lifted!


Angus Finlayson

Hey Stephen…

Great post and I agree with you wholeheartedly! Especially the messy room…

I would rather clean my place up then get down to work, than work and clean up sometime later. It wanders my mind when I know I have a mess to clean up, so I prefer to get it out of the way and be done with it.

I wouldn’t say I’m a full on minimalist, but I do like order and dislike clutter…

Great idea with the book give away, I’m good for books though (I have at least 2 sent a week for review for another website I run) so please don’t consider this comment an entry…

Enjoy your decluttering…

Stephen Guise

Hey Angus,

It sounds like we’re similar in our views on minimalism, clutter, and work environment. All I know is I want to take it to the next level. So far I’m making decent progress.

Two books a week?! I wish I read that much. Actually, I read a LOT of information online, but books are probably better and in greater depth. Honestly, a book has to be really good for me not to fall asleep reading it.

It’s great to hear from you Angus.

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