Article about extreme lifestyle-minimalists

Kelly Sutton is a 22-year-old software engineer in Brookyln. He says he has gotten rid of all of his possessions, save for "his laptop, an iPad, an Amazon Kindle, two external hard drives, a 'few' articles of clothing, and bed sheets for a mattress that was left in his newly rented apartment." He has a some other items that he is unloading on his website, Cult of Less.

Matthew Danzico of the BBC has an article about Sutton and other extreme lifestyle minimalists who use digital technology to reduce their ownership of physical goods.

 Media Images 48679000 Jpg  48679871 Img 2237 This 21st-Century minimalist says he got rid of much of his clutter because he felt the ever-increasing number of available digital goods have provided adequate replacements for his former physical possessions.

"I think cutting down on physical commodities in general might be a trend of my generation - cutting down on physical commodities that can be replaced by digital counterparts will be a fact," said Mr Sutton.

Mr Sutton sold or gave away most of his assets, apart from his iPad, Kindle, laptop and a few other items

The tech-savvy Los Angeles "transplant" credits his external hard drives and online services like iTunes, Hulu, Flickr, Facebook, Skype and Google Maps for allowing him to lead a minimalist life.

Cult of less: Living out of a hard drive


    1. Depends on the kind of software he’s writing…

      I used to write software for very high integrity systems (we’re talking air-traffic control, avionics, etc), and that’s proper engineering.

      On the other hand, I now spend most of my time hacking perl, and that is not engineering in any sense of the word, although I do my best.

        1. Is membership in a professional organization what determines one’s title? My friend is a member of the Canadian Library Association because she likes the interest groups, but that doesn’t make her a librarian.

    2. “Engineer” literally means “one who produces”.
      It comes from the same root as “genus”, meaning ‘generate’.

      He writes code to manipulate data inputs. That’s engineering.

      1. Haha, sorry, your post just made me get this weird image of my friends/aunts/whatever who are producing infants at terrifying rates calling themselves human engineers. XD Made me chuckle, anyway.

        I;d kind of like Kaden to tell the class what they consider an engineer. I mean, I can point at someone painting and say “they’re not an artist” but I have to back that up. Since being a software engineer is a job title many people use, what makes this person not one of those?

      2. You know, I’ve always wondered why the people who drive trains are sometimes called engineers. Adults used to get really excited when I was a little girl and told them I wanted to be an engineer when I grew up… until I told them how much I loved trains. But really, what’s cooler than driving a TRAIN?!?!

        This isn’t so much a reply as it is an off-topic rant, isn’t it? Carry on.

      3. Yeah and I sit on my throne every morning and produce, that doesn’t make me an engineer. Etymology can only get you so far before you have to concede that meanings have changed since people spoke ancient Greek and Latin.

        And that guy’s a douche.

    3. How do you know he is not an engineer? You don’t know what he does at work… It may be that he just writes software, or it may be that he engineers software.

      I’ll grant you that, unfortunately, those two professions get lumped under the same title, but don’t pigeon hole the man without even knowing him.

    4. are you talking about the dude specifically or writing software in general?
      Software Engineering is in fact a recognized engineering.

  1. While I envy this idea, and have often thought that if many of my possessions were destroyed by fire I would not seek to replace them, I have to say that this lifestyle choice can only work for people whose lives revolve solely around hard drives and circuit-boards.

    For those of us still deeply connected to the physical or analog world (through music collections, recording equipment, FILM, etc), this would be impossible.

    I really can’t fit my vintage motorcycle, furniture, record collection, musical instruments on my macbook. And I really like these things.

  2. One of the trends in journalism I despise: We’ve discovered a few people doing it, so it must be it’s a trend.

    I’d make the opposite argument– that digital technology gives people a yearning for the physical, ie the vinyl LP renaissance.

    There’s nothing wrong with owning stuff. There’s nothing wrong with not owning stuff. As long as you are genuinely happy, who cares?

    1. Please show me two other examples of this trend in journalism you describe. Then I will believe you.
      Old journalism joke, “Got three people doing it, it’s a trend.”

    2. Scifijazznik speaks the truth.

      One person has a harebrained idea, the net picks it up and viola…. instant trend.

          1. Fantastically, I read this comment just as Pandora played Israel “Iz” KaÊ»anoÊ»i KamakawiwoÊ»ole’s fabulous “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.”

  3. I have a similar apartment. In fact a stasis pod with sleep gas would also work. Perhaps with a built in shower.

    You can work on the go.

  4. A “laptop, iPad, Amazon Kindle, and two external hard drives” is not exactly a minimalist approach to technology. I’m betting he also owns at least one cell phone and I believe I see a watch on his wrist. That’s at least five timepieces this “minimalist” has burdened himself with.

    I’ve watched people go through this phase before. Usually in their twenties, occasionally in their early thirties. It rarely lasts.

  5. Only on boingboing would an article about technology and a minimalist lifestyle turn into a pissing contest about engineering bona fides….

  6. As long as you are genuinely happy, who cares?

    I don’t think I know many of these “genuinely happy” people.

    If wither buying stuff or getting rid of stuff could lead us there, I imagine we’d have a real trend on our hands!

  7. I see their points regarding digital media replacing some kinds of physical media. But I think this will last for them about as long as it takes for instinct to take over and the desire to settle down and reproduce kicks in. Not everyone could do this. Babies require loads of stuff. And what if their friends get sick of them couch surfing?

    1. truly, babies don’t require lots of stuff. other than diapers & some bedding, they need nothing except someone there to care for them. If this person has boobs that can feed them & arms to hold them & clean them, they are done. if this person needs to feed them using formula, their list grows but little.

      Their parents, on the other hand, need loads of stuff. their parents need monitors & appliances & strollers carriers & toys & bags & gadgets & safety stuff to protect them from the parents stuff. The baby needs none of it.

  8. …also, I guess the issue I have with the assumptions of this kind of thing: It’s all about entertainment and information, as if that’s the only thing that exists, or the only thing that matters.

    “As long as I can spend a whole bunch of time electronically consuming entertainment product, who needs anything else?”

  9. yeah-but… show me his kitchen.

    Remembering the Wendy’s ad: “without us some guys would starve”.

    1. “Remembering the Wendy’s ad: ‘without us some guys would starve’.”

      That was Carl’s Jr., not Wendy’s.

    2. I had the same thought! I could do every bit of this lifestyle EXCEPT not having stuff to cook with… that is just not ok.

  10. This week throughout America recent college graduates are working to live simple lifestyles as part of their commitment to the four principles of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
    This group has been doing this for over 50 years.
    The other principles are: Social Justice, Community and Spirituality.
    A life where your possessions don’t own you can be very freeing.

  11. @Rich Keller: Yep, that’s what popped into my mind right after I read about these guys – any of them parents? Cause I sure as heck don’t see how an iPod is going to help me with cleaning-up a soiled diaper.

    I do miss the days of getting by with a single carry-on piece of luggage … but hey, I wouldn’t trade my son for all the digital goods in the world.

  12. It really is liberating, and is probably the best therapy available for your inner hoarder.

    Own your stuff, not vice versa.

  13. Does this guy eat out for every meal, or does he own any utensils, dishes, and/or food preparation equipment. A refrigerator? Food itself?

    And is he a hygiene minimalist, or does he own any toiletries? A shower? A shower curtain?

    Then there’s one of the other guys in the article:
    “The DJ has now substituted his bed for friends’ couches”

    So, he’s not using less stuff in that regard, he’s just taking advantage of other peoples’ hospitality.

  14. Seems weird to me to think of someone this young having to get rid of junk in order to live like this.

    This is how you start out as an adult. You have enough clothing to fill a suitcase, some kitchen items, books and music. Maybe a cat.

  15. Minimal in the sense that he lacks many physical things. But in the sense of not having much, no. :P

  16. Designer clothing (presumably bought new every season), friends’ couches (presumably rented), online access, digital content (presumably paid for), eating out all the time (can’t cook KD without a stove)… sounds like you have to do pretty well financially to afford to get rid of everything.

  17. Meh, if he’s happy good for him. Me my walls are covered in art made mostly by my friends and no way a Kindle compares to the feel of good hard cover in your hands powered only by the sun even on a cloudy day.

  18. It seems like a weird redundancy to have a laptop, kindle and iPad when just the laptop would cover that.

    On engineering vs. not, you’re arguing about the definition of a word and claiming the other guy is wrong because it’s “semantics?” This is like claiming your estimate of the area of a triangle is better because you’re not using geometry.

  19. Interesting that he got rid of so many things and still feels a need to own a laptop, an iPad and a Kindle. It seems like he should be able to get rid of at least one of those.

  20. LOL. This idea is so 1970’s.
    My brother, John, had this idea 40 years ago.

    Nothing in the apartment – whatsoever!
    Not even any appliances. Only one small, plastic trash pail in the middle of the floor.

    THAT, my friends, is true Minimalism! :)

    1. LOL. This idea is so 1970’s.

      It’s a lot older than that! Monks and ascetics of various faiths have been doing it for thousands of years, but it’s interesting to see how each new generation has its own take on the idea.

  21. @ boondocker:
    exactly what i wanted to say.

    maybe i overlooked something on his website, but this guy did not really make his point to me about not having things.
    yes, he has few things. but he also has few means to react to problems. so he either has few problems or much money to get them solved alternative ways.

    making the assumptions that not all prolems stem from things (personally things were never responsible for my need of personal hygene, food, the fact that i want to entertain guests in my house or be able to help out a friend with somthing he migh need).

    is this all about not wanting to pack much when he moves?

    as much as i like the sportive challenge of it, he would be better off trying to get things for free, check his needs and finetune his belongings to it and so on.

    also, by not using craiglist, ebay or anything – it might as well be prank of some kind.
    i could easily put a pic online with me in an empty room and say “look, all i have is the stuff i wear, 2 gigs of onlline data and some apple products!”

  22. Should it really be necessary to point out that Software Engineering is a recognized profession? This isn’t exactly terra incognita:
    Wikipedia, Software Engineering

    There are different designations and accreditation procedures in different jurisdictions. A little outfit called the IEEE Computer Society participates in professional certification in Software Engineering.

    The University of Waterloo degree program in Software Engineering

    (Full disclosure: I am not a software engineer. I am also not a retail clerk or a dentist but I can tell you those are real jobs.)

  23. I’m confused. There seems to be a lot of excitement about getting rid of one’s things and crashing on the couches of others. But if all of your friends got rid of their stuff too, whose couches would we all use?

    This seems like a great idea until other people go along with it.

    1. @mccrum 42 : “But if all of your friends got rid of their stuff too, whose couches would we all use?”

      Given the generation under consideration, I’d say the answer is, your parents’.

      1. Zing! Excellent point.

        Does it make me a maximalist if I don’t really use The Cloud for anything other than e-mails I don’t care about and keep track of my own physical hard drive backups?

      2. “Given the generation under consideration, I’d say the answer is, your parents’.”

        Oh so close to “Damn kids, get off my lawn.”

        Maybe if your generation didn’t tank the economy my generation would be able to afford to move out.

        1. @85 Oh so close to “Damn kids, get off my lawn.”

          With that sense of humour, you’ll be there pretty quick, my boy.

          — A service provided by the generation that destroyed all your chances to grow up, by continually sprinkling you with fairy dust*

          *Try to be gentle with us, since we did this while we were creating the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, the anti-war movement, the nuclear disarmament movement, the space program, calculators, the internet, video games, string cheese, the Ramones, R. Crumb, Lego, and some other things that I’ve now forgotten.

  24. so… the average possessions of the average single college student in basically every on campus dorm in the United States is now worth news coverage?

    How about all those Food Minimalists – take CK at NYU “I only eat pizza and top ramen. I feel that reducing my food intake to the two items that you can put any type of other food on top of will revolutionize the way our culture demands endless consumption of infinite food combinations. Plus regular food is really expensive.”

    Or how about the Sex Minimalists – like Grobert here the the UofO – “I’ve reduced my sex output to pretty much just myself. It’s reduced my carbon footprint by over %300 (driving to dates kills the earth) and all I need is my Laptop, my iPad, my Coppertone spf 30 banana scented lotion, and Kikuro my japanese body pillow”

    wow- creating new “trends” out of average behavior is fun!

  25. This type of lifestyle is great until someone steals your small, easily carried amount of expensive gadgets. Maybe if you don’t really have any photos or music or…. anything remotely personal in your possession it wouldn’t be a big deal, but for us humans it seems to me a bit too risky to put all of your eggs in two or three baskets.

  26. Sorry guys, but thinking that flight control etc is the only “proper engineering” for software is an idiotic mindset. From a guy who designs pretty buttons to a guy who writes a driver, engineering is required at all levels of application and device design. Are there still alot of programmers that are just that rather than engineers? Sure there are, but you can’t call out specific arenas and make broad statements about whether or not engineers exist in them…

    Funny story, I worked developing aviation control for 3 years, and all of the code for engine control and navigation was auto-generated with code generators based on requirements that took teams of 10-12 “engineers” to come up with, then reviewed extensively by a bunch of unit testers with little or no degree. I think that’s pretty hard to pass off as “real engineering”, yeah? High integrity? What about someone who designs an entire object model on his own to represent a complex system in a manner that is maintainable, testable, and easy to understand for a user? He clearly isn’t an engineer because his product has a GUI and his methodologies aren’t locked in the 80s!

    Can ignoramuses with arrogant opinions on what makes someone an engineer or not sense sarcasm?

    @Paul #3: BTW, if you took the time to learn perl instead of spending your time hacking, maybe you could engineer a superior solution with your limited toolset…

  27. +1 to Kaden.

    While I have yet to obtain the credentials to become a professional engineer I do have a BS in electrical engineering…so yeah I kind of get where he is coming from.

    I’m not trying to stoke the fire or anything, just saying…

  28. If I trusted computers not to destroy my books and music, my life would look a whole lot more like this guy’s.

    But people who don’t put pictures on the walls are basically depressed. At least from my personal experience.

  29. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of junk and put it in digital format. Lots of paper records, probably a dozen shelves full of magazines, more than half my books. My movies are all MKVs sitting on a RAID NAS box, the original DVDs in a box in the basement.

    I still have a TON of junk though. Just less than I otherwise would.

    And I don’t buy some things anymore except in electronic format. Most music, and books.

  30. If you look at the list on his website, he owns a lot more stuff than the article says. And yes as was mentioned earlier it seems basically like the contents of a dorm room. Big surprise for someone just out of college. Wonder how much more “stuff” he’s got at his parents’ house.

  31. I hate the idea that a mid-20’s computer geek getting rid of some books constitutes “minimalism”. What he means is that he has replaced his consumption of physical entertainment media with their digital equivalents, which sounds much less “sexy”. I mean unless he has no personal hygiene I am betting he owns a shaver, a towel, a toothbrush & toothpaste. Likewise, unless he’s decided that its more minimalist to eat out for every meal and buy lots of bottled water I’m guessing he owns some crockery and kitchenware.

    I could go on: what this article should be titled is “young computer geek lives in city without much furniture” which is hardly shocking or revolutionary. Not that I am knocking the idea of trying to reduce the clutter in your life or live with simplicity, but it does seem to me that when your idea of minimalism can find the space for an iphone, ipad, kindle and macbook – but not a simple pen, you may have misunderstood the point.

  32. I consider myself fairly minimalist, but I still need a lot of stuff to get through the year. Not just my kitchen full of stuff for cooking, but tools for my garden, clothes for work and play, backpacking equipment, a fishing tackle and a small boat, a telescope for stimulating my mind and a guitar for filling the quiet times. Hell, I think my dog has more stuff than this guy does. But everything I own is either useful or beautiful, that’s all that matters to me.

    And the degree on my wall says ‘Software Engineer’, so that’s what I’m calling myself, whether someone else likes it or not.

  33. There are claims to the effect that President Obama has a button which, when pushed, could drive this guy totally up his bare walls.

    1. the living out of a suitcase guys sez:

      “# Pack two weeks of socks and underwear to keep on a 12-14 day laundry cycle. Take a pair of shorts which can also double as swim wear for lounging around. Also, for lounging around or working out, a basketball trainer top is perfect.
      # About 10-12 t-shirts, and 3-4 pairs of pants would do for spring/summer attire.”

      wtf? that’s already more than i have at home. 10 socks, 5 boxers, 5 shirts, 2 pants, one of which the legs zip off of.

  34. I work with hardware – I have a small business in my guest house. It seems to acquire electronic components at an alarming rate. I bet there’s 300 different types of components in bags just for the products I make, not to mention the 300 drawers of small parts I use to fix things for people or build Saturday projects with. And the 3,000 Nixie tubes.

    Then there’s the tools. And the Teletypes.

    Take that, minimalist!

  35. “I mean unless he has no personal hygiene I am betting he owns a shaver, a towel, a toothbrush & toothpaste.”

    He does own a towel. A $50 towel.
    I don’t know if I’d really consider toothpaste a possession though.

  36. This is really strange – it’s kind of like a reverse minimalism. He jettisoned all the things which normally make people feel like they are comfortable and at home, and kept only the things which complicate one’s life and divide one’s attention! It’s no wonder he feels comfortable living in what is essentially a cave – he has more electronics than I do, certainly enough to bathe himself in internet juice 24/7. Imagine if Odysseus and his men had escaped from the vale of the lotus eaters, but decided to bring along some of these nice plants for the road! I hope he manages it better than I have.

  37. Huh, I take it y’alls don’t own too many books. I do, and damn if they aren’t heavy, numerous, a bit smelly, dusty, and generally everywhere. I’d jump at a chance to “minimalize” and convert them–texts whose physical entities I invested in, and which same entities are a damned needless pain for 90% of them (save for the heavily annotated, valuable, rare, or purty ones). Had the tech existed when I was this young man’s age, I could have saved myself a lot of moving costs, a lot of biblioclaustrophobic nights, and even a thrown back. Kudos, faux-minimalist young man!

  38. It was easy not having anything after I moved out of my parents. The only things I brought with me to Los Angeles were books. Slowly I started gathering…..steady paycheck……laptop, electric guitar…..acoustic guitar….monitor….bbq…table saw…. then I got creeped out and sold most of it. Just left with furniture and random house stuff….a year or so later….”wow I really miss the guitar”…..then its a keyboard and guitar…..then I think I never really committed to owning things… a new Couch and a big TV……then I got creeped out again and sold everything. I now rent a furnished apartment in France. I gave most of my stuff away to friends right before I moved. I have 2 boxes with a friend in LA, one of memory type stuff and the other clothes and hard drives. I left with a single suitcase: Clothes, a flashlight…an awesome one, 2 backpacks packed into it…awesome ones….an iPad and an iPhone 3G. Already I am dreading the slow buildup of stuff….I get these urges… “I can try again” like I am somehow trying to buy, for the “first” time, the right stuff.

  39. I agree with Kaden.

    When I was a software engineer, I found that the engineers from other disciplines that I had to work with were generally over-focused and almost completely uninformed outside their narrow specialities. Engineering highly reliable software for six-story spinning machines meant I had to know more than all the mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers did, since I was controlling all their equipment and processes and managing their interactions dynamically without human intervention.

    Software engineering is too complex and open-ended to be categorized with the other engineering disciplines. It needs to be called “super-engineering” or something. Comparing a software engineer to a mechanical engineer is like comparing a machinist to a farrier.

  40. Not sure this is “a trend” but I’ve been doing this for the last few months, slowly but not-too-surely.

    Books, CDs and old video games up on Amazon – though their commission fees can be ridiculous. I pocket about 60-70% of my asking price.

    Bigger textbook-types go up on – these take a little longer to sell but I make more in the long run. Textbooks sell well just before school starts up. Like now.

    eBay is good for everything else.

    The only downside is that I have to buy padded envelopes. I’d love to recycle old paper and cardboard but I really only have newsprint and that doesn’t protect items well during shipping.

    I DO still have all of my DVDs which are just too hard to part with.

    Baby steps… baby steps…

  41. Moving media onto a hard drive just gave me more room for other crap. It’s a zero sum game for moi.

  42. In theory maybe something to consider. In practice, it’s not very practical. A “virtual existence” just strikes me as constrained, myopic, and pathetic.

  43. from my own experience of living out of a suitcase (or two) for the last two months, i gotta say that it kinda sucks. yes i’ve learned that i need a lot fewer possessions, but i’ve come to understand that i would be lost without my laptop. i would lose my professional tool and my main communication device. i’ve become more dependant on the fewer pieces of technology. and i really miss my own bed.

    if you can be happy in a nomadic existence, more power to you, but these gentleman are entirely dependant on having others maintain the intertubes for their benefit. ‘homo wifi’ will not be the new dominant species.

  44. Some faith-based minimalist music of surpassing beauty:

    Minimalism as to personal possessions is fine, so long as not forced by others: but one ought never to minimize one’s contacts with one’s fellows, nor cease to engage, as vigorously as one can sustain it, with society and all its many problems, and all its many joys.

    This “electro-minimalism” seems to me to be very different from the “minimalism” of those who withdrew into desert wastelands to contemplate their empty bellies (and minds?) in primitive solitude: and thus became lost to society.

  45. The first thing I thought on seeing this was, “sounds like a voluntary challenge on NetHack.”

    You know–use only your starting equipment, or use only racially-appropriate gear (only elven daggers for your Elf) or drop everything on the first turn and only pick up the items you need to complete the game, etc.

    “Inventoryless” is especially difficult and if you pull it off all the other geeks on the server will say ooooooh.

    So that’s how it’s similar. Now, if I could just figure out how this is different

  46. Just as having a lot of possessions around you can give the illusion of abundance and plenty, “extreme minimalism” can give the illusion of a spare and ascetic life.

    Frankly, what I see in the article is not so much the freedom of not having a lot of stuff (an admirable goal, to be sure) but externalization taken to a new level.

    Your bits and bytes are on someone else’s server in the “cloud”, housed in a server farm located somewhere other than your stylish, minimalist apartment. Worker bees who you never see ensure its continued operation.

    Your empty apartment is maintained by a crew that keeps all of its tools elsewhere. Paint, window cleaner, a finish for your nice hardwood floor, plumbing supplies. Good thing you don’t have to take responsibility for any of that nasty stuff. Not to mention the sweaty fellows and all their crap who, thankfully, don’t live in your building.

    Let’s not even get into the production of food and drink. Tractors, irrigation, smelly trucks and equipment to deal with tons of manure. Talk about a lot of stuff! Who’d want that around?

    Look, ruthlessly managing your crap before it manages you is part of living a good life. But please, don’t think that by not owning the things that make your modern existence livable that you are somehow free from them. Don’t confuse not taking responsibility for the upkeep and storage of stuff that is used for your benefit for minimalism.

    If anyone wants to get all Diogenes with their life, what’s not to like? Just be honest about it and not insufferably pretentious and self-conscious, as the subjects of the article strike appear to my eyes.

    1. Your empty apartment is maintained by a crew that keeps all of its tools elsewhere. Paint, window cleaner, a finish for your nice hardwood floor, plumbing supplies. Good thing you don’t have to take responsibility for any of that nasty stuff.

      If someone buys all their own tools then more stuff gets manufactured to meet the demand and the tools spend 99.9x% of their time sitting around unused. If that person instead rents or borrows rarely-used tools as needed then it does have a net impact on how much stuff is out there and how much requisite storage space is needed to keep it all.

      The “living with very few physical possessions” thing isn’t for me either, but I don’t see where all the anger directed at the lifestyle comes from.

      1. I think I know; it’s threatening to the norm and reflects a light on those who feel like they couldn’t live that way. In my mind this is the same kind of anger living car-free generates and I believe it’s related to car-bike rage.

        I can see how it would totally threaten those people who try and fill a “spiritual” self-esteem hole with a 4200 sqft McMansion, complete with Hummer, pool tables, bar, plasma televisions, luxury bathrooms, jet-skis, whathaveyou.

        A lot of people have that stuff because it makes them feel successful, and worthwhile.

        So then they’re confronted by some “hippie” that doesn’t need it, doesn’t want it, feels no envy for not having it. It’s a total affront to people who have bought-in big time to the American Dream(TM).

        For example, after spending half a mil on toys and playhouses, likely going nearly half a mil into debt, just to prop up your self-esteem, wouldn’t you find this type of cultural anomaly almost insulting??

          1. In the context of this discussion, perhaps “Thoreauvian” would be a better term than “hippie”, in Anonymous #83’s comment, above.

          2. Sorry; my usage of “hippie” is actually used from the perspective of the American Dream defending reactionary. I’ve heard hippie bandied about a lot when alternative lifestyles come up, no matter what the content of the lifestyle is. Thoreauvian is likely much more accurate, but the average Rush listener has never heard the term.

    2. I’m with st vincent. I’d be more impressed if his apartment was full of equipment to grow his own veg / homebrew gear, sewing machines etc.

      He has outsourced everything, that’s wasteful in itself.

  47. Does he not own toilet paper? Toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bar of soap? Oops, just named 4 more things, Mr. Minimalist. And by the looks of your picture, you use hair gel and own glasses. That makes 6. And he must be pretty well-to-do if he eats out every meal, every day. Because at the very least, he’ll own a can of Spaghettios or a loaf of bread.

    I understand the point of the article — this guy does not buy vanity items, house decoration, and is extreme in that he only has a few pieces of clothing to wear.

    But, it’s misleading for the article to insinuate he lives off a laptop, a kindle, and a few hard drives.

  48. For all those moaning about the “software engineering” title, look at this.

    It’s currently possible to be a software engineer in Canada, one of the countries with the strongest laws regarding the use of the word “engineer”.

    I know this because I went to school for software engineering. Although I’m not a professional engineer, because it’s almost impossible to find employment experience that counts as real software engineering.

  49. funny, i used to call this lifestyle “living on minimum wage”. While i do appreciate people cutting back on the obscene amounts of stuff there’s a certain point where it feels like stunt minimalism.

  50. I am not going to give up my trees.
    Are these guys making a virtue of necessity?
    Not that there is anything wrong with that…but I love my trees.

    1. “If you’re not driving a train, you’re not an engineer.”

      You win one internet. Please use it wisely.

  51. I have a couple of friends who are pursuing the live-out-of-a-backpack lifestyle, and I guess that’s what works for them. I’m certainly against stuffing my tiny apartment with lots of useless things, but I do like the things I keep.

    It just seems so sad to give up all the wonderful sensory experiences that come from having a well-designed and comfortable space full of nice things. Not to mention… does he eat out every meal? Because I know a bunch of minimalists who preach about sustainability and technology replacing tangible items, but they spend all their money eating processed crap. I love my kitchen gadgets.

    1. I ought to warn you younger ones that this kind of “backpack” lifestyle can get awfully tough as you approach retirement age.

    2. stikes me almost like performance art, to go that far.

      Myself, I have a couple couches, some decent pots and pans, a car i own but drive very little, and this here computer. Oh, and friends. I still have those.

      Just doing my part so the Jones’ can keep up, they come over occasionally, i think they’re getting it, finally.

  52. Epic hatred on this thread, kind of surprising.

    Every time I move house I purge. I’ll go down like Prospero to the last with my books, but STUFF just seems to accumulate as I get older. Work stuff, schwag from conferences, just stuff. Getting rid of that stuff feels good for a lot of reasons.

    More room to live. I’m not moving stuff out of the way to make room for people or worrying about stuff getting knocked over, damaged, bothered, stolen.

    I don’t like dusting things I never use, or not being able to find the one thing I NEED in a pile of things I don’t.

    There’s a very real clarity to feeling like you can just pick up and GO. Outside of my books, I could pack my apartment into one small-sized u-haul trailer and have room to spare. If I really needed to GO I could get that down to about 3 duffel bags.

    I’m a librarian, so I think a lot about space and organization, which is why I dwell on this subject. I don’t feel superior to people with a home full of stuff. My goodness, House on the Rock is a magical place. But for me less stuff just works.

  53. I kinda like the old European custom of having everybody burn their old furniture & household junk in a big bonfire in the town square once a year: so this “cleansing” is also an opportunity for social get-togethers, a large civic party, and for people to generally clean their houses.
    Of course, IMHO, the local gleaners ought to get a chance to look & to pick over the pile to perform any ‘salvage’ they can, before it’s fired.

    And then…we dance!

  54. Oy, vey with the arguing about what an engineer is.
    Maybe someone’s head will explode: My official job title is “server engineer”. I do OS builds and support physical and virtual Windows servers.

    Anyway, my favorite minimalist is the Jack Reacher character in books written by Lee Child. He carries a tooth brush and an ATM card.

  55. Replacing all the clutter in your life with smaller clutter is not being a a minimalist. How many apps dose he have on that iPad.

  56. >22 years old

    When I moved to San Francisco at 22, my efficiency studio was furnished with a mattress, a folding chair, folding table, my laptop, some dining utensils, and a pot to cook in. It only took me 9 months to go and get (find) a couch so that I could have people over comfortably, and I could never afford to eat all my meals out like this guy must be doing.

    Let’s see if he’s still doing this in a year.

  57. People have to make their own happiness; it seems that some require fewer construction materials than others.

    PS How did we ever get by without the internet(s)?

  58. Well I’m gonna to go then! And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need you.

    I don’t need anything. Except this. And that’s the only thing I need is this ashtray. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray… And this paddle game.

    The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need… And this remote control.

    The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need… And these matches.

    The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball… And this lamp.

    The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that’s all I need.

    And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one… I need this.

    The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I’m some kind of a jerk or something!

    And this. That’s all I need.

    The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair.

    And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.

    [dog growls]

    OK, I don’t need my dog.

  59. Since when does owning close to $10K in computer hardware come even remotely close to minimalism? The guy has enough computing power in his poorly decorated apartment to put a man on the moon. And sure, he likes to stream his media from the Internet rather than purchase hard copies on disc but the infrastructure to do so isn’t anything close to what one would call minimal either. He’s not getting by with less stuff, he’s just made it intangible and stowed it away on the Internet. And what he has decided to do without is all the signifiers of a personality.

    He’s a sad shell of human being, who has excised anything that would suggest a past, aspirations or an emotional connection to anyone or anything. He dresses like a corporate drone and “lives” in a sterile apartment devoid of any personal or even human touches. He’s imitating a monk, but not out of any personal conviction, because that would require an investment in something besides computer hardware, but because he simply can’t find anything that stirs his passions or arouses a desire.

    1. “He’s a sad shell of human being…”

      Pretty harsh there, Keith. Your opinion is noted, but to each his own… right?

      What is it about this choice, or experiment, that arouses so much vitriol in the comments? Is it too close to home? Do people feel that it attacks their own consumer/collector lifestyles?

  60. I really don’t get the snark. Okay, these guys are a little on the extreme side, but in this economy, you have to be seriously flexible, and this is how you go about it.

    It’s weird that they claim not to have any kitchenware, but if I were in their shoes, I would find this easy to fix: spend $20 at a thrift storee and you have all you need to prepare a meal for yourself and a friend. Then when it’s time to relocate, give it all right back to the thrift store instead of taking it with you.

  61. Chupacabra #99 posts the only thing that really matters in this thread.

    Hey BB, how about something new, 6 hours later?

  62. William Morris: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

  63. I think many on this thread are missing the point.

    Niggling over each item he owns, remarking on the number of apps he has on his iPad (?!), or bickering over each spoon, bottle opener, and paper clip to determine if he’s serious or authentic, does not address the central issue, which is he’s trying to live with less to focus on experience over STUFF.

    It’s entirely valid and never more topical than right now in a world drowning in crap and the waste material generated from that crap machine.

    I give him credit for taking stock of his life and genuinely and sincerely assessing value. It’s not just a “spiritual” thing, it’s entirely practical. Not some amorphous and narcissistic hipster vision quest or fad. First worlders have WAY too much shit and it’s killing us all. That’s not hyperbole. It’s not an abstract concept or theory.

    A lot of things that are dismissed as the domain of hipsters, trendoids, and eccentrics have moved into the mainstream. Recycling, vegetarianism, organics, different forms of meditation or exercise. It was all hippie-dippy until the masses figured out, several decades later: “Oh, hey! This stuff works.”

    I’m old enough to remember when tacos were considered exotic (for those who didn’t live in the Southwest) and soccer was “that weird European thing.”

    Not everyone lives like Americans. In fact, most do not. This man is living closer to how most humans live today and have always lived. He is much more normal than the “extreme” hoarding and wasteful possession accumulation that most Americans consider sane.

    Here is an excellent book that demonstrates quite starkly and brilliantly in photos how people around the world live with their possessions.

    It’s a fascinating read.

    1. No I’m not missing the point. He has just as much stuff. I have book shelf, he has a kindle, I have a TV he has an iPad. He has all the same crap just in a different package.

      1. >> I have book shelf, he has a kindle, I have a TV he has an iPad.

        I bet you look silly carrying your book shelf on the train. Or watching your TV on the plane.

        Also, I recently got rid of thirty boxes (donated to local library) of books because of moving overseas. Trash the iPad or Kindle if you must, but transporting or storing those books would have cost me $1,000+ easy. And that’s just taking them one way. If I ever decided to move back overseas, I get to pay that amount again.

        Not only is there a difference, there is HUGE difference.

  64. Minimalist in possessions, maybe. But financially? Eating out for every meal can make you broke and fat in short order, unless you’re rich and naturally blessed with a great metabolism and the will to resist the suggested serving size that prevails in the US.

    While I think it’s a laudable impulse to reduce consumption/possession, outsourcing responsibility for one’s most basic needs doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  65. Odd that a guy looking to minimize clutter would have three devices (laptop, ipad, kindle) that could all be handled by ONE (laptop)

  66. The other thing is that most Americans subscribe to the credo of “more is ALWAYS better than less” or “if I can (barely) afford it, I should get it.” Have a car, but can afford a bigger one? You’d be a fool not to buy the bigger car. Buy the biggest house you can afford. You’d be an idiot to take less. What’s the biggest TV you can swing? Get it.

    We hold it as gospel that people who have Less simply cannot afford More.

    Living large as they say, but basically we hold that losers take less. The winner/loser paradigm dominates. Mates are chosen based on bling. We approach meals the same way. Why not get the most for your money? Why say no to a massive feast?

    I think it’s becoming clear to even the most deluded at this point that our model for health, well-being, and financial, and emotional security is deeply, deeply flawed. We’re standing in the wreckage of our decades long orgy.

    People are losing their jobs, facing bankruptcy-inducing medical procedures, and they’re looking at their expanding gut, their mountain of stuff, and their empty wallet and asking: “What is any of this actually worth?”

    The checklist of essential things for a successful life in the American model runs something like this: 2 cars, house, vacation house/timeshare, 3 TVs, 3 computers, 3 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats, boat, RV, trampoline, pool, basketball hoop, ATV, and that’s just the minimum. Then you have to pay all the monthly fees to have content delivered to your sweet TV, gasoline for your motorized toys, food and medical costs for your pets.

    Your life becomes an endless carousel of shit-bagging (dogs, cats, kids), lawn mowing, pool cleaning (or paying someone to do it), 90-minute commutes (with NPR!) from the beige deep-burbs to some equally beige office park in some other deep-burbs, all wrapped up in a tight, little bundle of HDTV, and once-a-week handjobs from your equally listless spouse.

    Now who’s sane?

    This guy is only smart if he’s replaced all of the clutter of the American dream with nights out with drinking buddies and banging chicks in his empty room.

    Get fit, get lit, and hit that shit. Life.

    1. Too much of anything, eh?
      A song about that very thing (which for me catches some of what I personally feel about this topic):

      RIP Keith Moon 1946-1978

      1. Too much time, too little memory.

        How could I forget?

        RIP John Alec Entwistle 1944-2002

        What a rhythm section that was!

  67. One more thing… this guy lives in NYC.

    Minimal is not a choice. The price you pay for living in one of the most compelling cities on earth is you have to live in a broom closet. Broom closet in Brooklyn or McMansion in Omaha. For me that’s no freaking choice at all.

    1. ….Broom closet in Brooklyn….

      One person’s “compelling city” is another’s pressure cooker from hell.

      I’ll take my 80 acres in West Virginia any day.

        1. West Virginia?
          A song for West Virginia, for I too very much appreciate country life, forests and clear flowing waters:

          That said, I have ever had one foot firmly planted in the City, and have been fortunate enough to have had some small experiences on the open waters, both lake and ocean, as well: I prefer to alternate and change my surroundings from time to time, as they each serve to highlight what’s good about all of the others.
          That is to say that their differences, for me, serve to highlight their own particular virtues: which would be less apparent to me, had I not had the benefit of experiencing their contrasts.

          1. Oh…another thing: life on the open water means life out of a duffel, in a tight, perhaps shared, space: what you’ve got, is what you need. You hope.
            Nothing superfluous is best, when you’re in a hostile and alien environment.
            Some places by their very nature enforce minimalism.

        2. It doesn’t have to be West Virginia. It could just as easily be rural Maine or Massachusetts.

          I came late to this discussion, and I think that some of the upthread comments nibble around what I want to say, but don’t quite nail it.

          IMO, the more you live a “stuff-free”, digital life, the more dependent you are on industrial/technological society to always be there.
          Unless you want to live a mendicant lifestyle, which is another thread altogether.

          Making a decision to live in NYC brings many benefits, but it puts you way, way too much at the mercy of support systems’ continuing to function for me to handle.

          Of course plenty of people have tons of stuff and still are not self reliant in any way….I feel sorry for them.

  68. I dunno.

    I remember seeing pictures of Steve Jobs back in the day- living in this huge house with next to nothing. A square of carpet, a cup of tea, a stereo, and a lamp to read by.

    Honestly, I think this kid is a fame whore. You sold some stuff. Congrats, that’s… great.

    And here I am adding an addition of shelves to my library room this weekend…

  69. “I have more things than you. Therefore I am a better person.”

    “I have fewer things than you. There for I am a better person.”

    You’re both wrong, and your priorities are messed up. Stop thinking about things so much.

      1. Snakedart’s onto something: and I agree that vanity may be based upon ostentatious poverty, just as much as it may be based upon ostentatious wealth.
        Modesty would serve to moderate either.

    1. “I don’t succumb to the false assumption that leading a minimalist or maximalist lifestyle makes me better than you. Therefore I am better than you”

      1. Non sequitor.
        The stated conclusion does not follow from your statement: that is, even granting the truth of your statement, the conclusion stated does not follow.

  70. I got a lot of stuff. Not much of it is new, and some of it isn’t particularly useful or beautiful, and very little of it is very valuable to anyone else, but most of it lingers on for what seem to me as adequate reasons. I have twice as many cars as I need, but the older ones are a hobby and a joy to me. I have a basement full of mementoes from my wife’s family, most of which really only mean anything to her (and potentially to our children), so there they stay. I can never bring myself to throw out spare nuts, bolts, and assorted hardware, and that particular hoarding habit has paid off often enough where I don’t regret it. I’m a bit of a packrat who likes a bit of clutter, but few would say I’m in need of an intervention.

    But my hat’s off to those who get by with minimalism. I’ve lived a fairly spartan lifestyle before, but not by choice. If a guy can be happy doing that, great. More room for all of us in this wide world.

    Guy doesn’t have to be all show-offy about it, but what the hell. He’s 22 and apparently has time to itemize and price every last thing he owned, and offload most of it. If he thinks that’s blogworthy, who am I to say otherwise? I’ve wasted time reading stupider things online every working day of the last decade.

  71. Reminds me of an absolutely fabulous episode. Eddie brought a bottle of wine to her minimalist/ artist hippster friends. They didn’t know what to do with “things”, So they put it on the floor in a corner.

  72. Hope his two hard drives are for regular double-backup of his stuff, or one day a power surge may delete his entire existence.

    Also: no stuff? Where do you hide the bong?

  73. What a lot of piss and vinegar this has generated.

    This guy’s 22. I don’t think he’s going to find it a sustainable lifestyle. But I think when he gets over this phase, he may have learned a thing or two about stuff that others take decades to learn, or never do.

    Speaking as someone who has too much crap, and am now dealing with aging relatives who have a houseful of too much crap, yet who don’t quite attain the horror hoarder stories you see on reality TV shows now, I see that too much stuff is a problem. That our landscape is dotted with storage facilities for even more crap we can’t fit in our houses is even scarier. I don’t think this guy has found the solution, but it’d be interesting to see where he goes with it over the next decade.

    I would be interested in seeing a minimalist who’s a little more minimalist. Somewhat off the grid without being a complete luddite.

    For example: the person who has replaced most of this guy’s electronic devices with a library card.

    George Carlin on stuff:

  74. So this guy has no non-digital hobbies? He never rides a bike, never paints, never cooks his own food?

    Basically he spends 18 hours a day in front of a screen, coding and consuming digital media?

    What a depressing existence…

  75. I think we’d all have less stuff, if we all shared what we had, more. Wait…what’s that?
    OMG the RIAA are breaking down my door!

  76. “So this guy has no non-digital hobbies? He never rides a bike, never paints, never cooks his own food?

    Basically he spends 18 hours a day in front of a screen, coding and consuming digital media?

    What a depressing existence…”

    Spot-on! But surprising common with the MyFace generation. I also don’t feel like he’s really eliminated as much as the article implies, he’s just converted everything to “pay as you go” or hired. Which is way more expensive. But then again, he’s not trying to buy a house or feed kids.

    And as is too often the case, the CondeNast headline is sensationalist and deliberately misleading.

    I also live in NYC, and the effort of changing apartments, and the cost to size ratio, is another reason I’m moving in the same direction. Moving the crap every 1-3 years is a trial, and rents are insulting here. If I could stash piles in a basement or attic, I would accumulate more. Have, when conditions allowed.

    Regardless, it’s a great place to experience!

    But I’d say, downsizing is still a worthwhile goal for everyone, regardless of degree or purpose, or location.

    I don’t have a yard to maintain, there goes a whole garage of crap. I don’t own a car, sold it. There goes another pile of crap. Apartments can’t hold much furniture; can’t accumulate more. Got two bikes in storage I want to sell, to be replaced with a folder.

    Lack of more than a toolbox of handtools, is what I miss the most. I can do nearly any repair or construction I want to, but without the tools and materials, I have to hire the labor.

    Getting rid of a workbench of parts, means when I need one nail, I now have to buy a box, and then… start accumulating stuff again! Or you buy in smaller portions, which is more expensive.

    1. pay as you go–that could be, but he could also be doing a digital version of “steal this book”, especially with the truckloads of freeware, shareware, legally free movies and books (public domain and other) and music sites, low cost membership online movie rentals, free game sites, non license equivalents of photoshop (gimp), ms office (openoffice), 3dimaging (blender), various video and music editing programs of all shapes and colors. compliment this with a library card and metro pass and a knowledge of good galleries and museums and you have quite a tiny package jammed with free free free (relatively free) stuff.

    2. >> So this guy has no non-digital hobbies? He never rides a bike, never paints, never cooks his own food? Basically he spends 18 hours a day in front of a screen, coding and consuming digital media? What a depressing existence…

      >> Spot-on!

      What the fuck?!

      I just read his site twice to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Where does he say he doesn’t bike, paint, or cook his own food? While you’re just pulling things out of thin air and attributing misery, dysfunction, and a pathetic existence to this guy, let’s go full tilt. Why not say he’s a serial killer or sleeps with alley cats? Or locks himself in a closet for the weekend with his sex doll made from shopping bags and dirty sweat socks.

      This guy didn’t say anything about being a loner or shut-in. He says he has reduced his possessions and that’s it. Then the pile-on begins.

      That’s disturbing enough, but where did you get it into your head that one cannot ride a bike, paint, or cook without OWNING things? Have you ever heard of sharing? How crazy is that? Perhaps this gentleman has an extensive network of friends and in exchange for his technology assistance, he is able to use a bike or paint. Just because your town doesn’t have bike sharing or community art resources doesn’t mean NYC doesn’t. Wanna play basketball? It’s not unheard of to show up at the park for a pick-up game. Take a walk? Feet + shoes. Lots of great places to walk (and run) in NYC.

      If you want to swim, do you own a pool?

      If you want to play volleyball on the beach, do you need a beachfront condo?

      There are lots of things that people can and should do together that don’t require each participant to own every last piece of equipment. Our nation would be a better place if one person owned a soccer ball and twelve people met in the park on a summer evening for friendship and exercise instead of each of them owning a television or eight pairs of rollerblades that they never use.

      Why are so many on this thread becoming so judgmental when someone indirectly questions the value of possessions? While you’re at home watching your rhino-sized AV rig, this guy is out and about in Brooklyn drinking microbrews with his pals.

      What’s pathetic about that?

  77. a lot of assumptions, declarations, reducto ad absurdapeptobismodums, etc being made about what i would just describe as a highly focused life. there is such a thing as choosing wisely to live well, and there are different forms and versions. this guy will develop his own tricks and guidelines in the end. (i lay odds his next big purchase will be a portable video projector for his laptop’s home consumption just because it’s the right thing to do). and yes it can be sustainable. and yes, it can be done without living off others.

    another interesting angle that could be incorporated into this:
    “possum living”
    not the same,
    but similar

    but then again, this is an extreme only for those who know how to find happiness in living itself.

  78. We’ll see who wins after the cosmic EMP hits!

    I grant, however, there is a feeling of relief when you give up stuff that is difficult to transport. Hundreds of pounds of CDs, or a pair of hard drives weighing 1 pound?

    When you are living in apartments, not yet able to afford a home, every time you move to a new location you have to pay AGAIN for every pound you are moving. The resentment against heavy objects grows.

    That said, some objects are works of art that should be appreciated in 3-D. A classic table fan for example, is both useful and beautiful in ways a digital representation is not. And some action figures never hurt anyone.

  79. I’ve done this a few times. Binge Purge.I gave away almost all of my stuff in June. A car, a really nice couch, a 46″ TV, Xbox 360, pots pans etc. I own a laptop/ipad/iphone/Native Instruments Maschine/Ukulele/ 3 pairs of sneakers/a dozen or so items of clothing…and thats about it.

    it’s only a matter of time before I collect it all again. I’ve wasted so much money burning through impulses. I hope to refocus that money on lifestlye and skills instead of posessions. It backfired before but living abroad is forcing me to do it. The concept of “moving” in Paris sounds like a nightmare.

  80. And he kept the mattress left in the apartment… is it any wonder there is a plague of bed bugs…

  81. Can´t imagine to live like that, but it´s a great idea to get rid of all the stuff we don´t really use. But I can´t carry the rest at once, so I have to stay in my house, I think.

  82. Barry Commoner pointed out in The Closing Circle that in urban, industrial societies the consumption of what I’ll call vital goods — food, fiber and the like — had risen at about the same rate as population, whereas “pollution” (I’m paraphrasing loosely here) had risen by a much greater amount. How many shirts can one have, or eat, after all? But separate people from where their food is grown, and soon the wondrous accoutrements of moving and selling all of that stuff abounds.

    In contrast, a couple of billion people still live via intensive subsistence agriculture. They live a kilometer or two from their food, tend it, and consume most of it themselves. For them, there is no agri-industrial infrastructure, or transportation industry, or any of the gewgaws that go with moving food hundreds of kilometers to city dwellers: packing, shipping, marketing. Much of the efficiency of industrial societies is efficiency of only labor, and is profligacy in every other regard.

    I believe that the gentleman mentioned in the post has simply externalized the last shreds of the superstructure that support him: short hoes, 2 km long coal trains from Wyoming, server farms, the neat lawns of college, corporate and military campuses, the aircraft carrier called Iraq, and the rest.

    But it’s all still there, humming in the background, nevertheless.

  83. When I first moved out on my own at 18, I had milk crates full of records, shelves full of books, massive amounts of “stuff.” In those days I was relocating a lot and every move was a nightmare because of all my possessions.

    Sometime in my early twenty’s I got rid of all my possessions with the exception of a naval deployment bag full of clothing and a large boot locker full of necessary documentation, some tools, mementos, hygiene items and other random stuff.

    I started to only live in furnished rooms rented from older MILFs so that I didn’t have to worry about dragging furniture with me. And here I am 25 years later and I am still a total minimalist. All of my worldly possessions can easily fit in the trunk of my car.

    A minimalist lifestyle is not for everyone but it has served me very well over the decades.

  84. The problem with stuff is not the stuff. This should be apparent to anyone who thinks for a couple of seconds, as the stuff doesn’t get up to criminal (or even annoying) hijinks when there are no people around. The problem is people. People buy things because they either legitimately need them, which isn’t a problem, or because they want to be the sort of person who needs them, which is.

    I used to have a relatively large collection of books. It’s still relatively large compared to some people I know, but I recently got rid of the books that I wasn’t planning to read again. The reason I did that is that I realized that there is a distinction between being the sort of person who reads a lot and the sort of person who has a lot of books. I like reading, I don’t like carrying heavy boxes when I move, so the choice was pretty clear.

    It seems to me that the secret to decluttering is to look at each thing and say “Is this for something I do, or something that I’ve been sold the idea of wanting to do?” I have a lot of electronic parts, because I build electronic stuff. I have more pans than I use because I like the idea of cooking, but rarely do any really complex dishes. I owned skis, but got rid of them because while I like skiing, I’ll probably never like it enough to justify the amount of space skis take up. I’m an electrical engineer, an occasional cook, and not a skier. I’m not really any of those things, though. I’m a self-refining process with a physical instantiation that requires certain support gear and that is capable of refining the gear requirements.

    The guy in the original article appears to have the right idea, but takes it to an extreme that my current state wouldn’t support. One thing I like is to have friends over and cook for them, so I need furniture for them to sit on and enough plates for them to eat off. If we all ate out together, I wouldn’t have that need.

    I guess the end of all this ranting is this: Own only those things that you need to do the things you actually do. If you don’t touch something for a year, you don’t need it (medkit excepted, naturally!)

  85. One thing that keeps me from subscribing to this sort of ultra-minimalism is tools. I need tools. Lots of them. And hardware. Screws, bolts, nuts. Just the car stuff takes up a couple of boxes. I can’t imagine I’d be content if i knew that I was helpless to fix or build things.

  86. I don’t know many people who work *exclusively* with software that think like engineers. Some do, of course.

    There’s too much certainty and too few consequences for failure in most software. That’s a gross simplification of how complex software lives and breathes, but there’s often this underlying assumption that if the logic works, it works. Run the code in all the ways the code can be run and you’ve found all possible outcomes.

    That’s _very_ different from traditional engineering.

    Engineering is about dealing with the fuzzy shit that happens in the physical world. All engineering comes down to “gee, I think that should hold together.” It’s more about predicting and preventing failure than it is about actually making stuff.

    1. I don’t know any NON-software engineers that still think that way. It’s really got nothing to do with what you are engineering, it’s having an engineering mindset – a rare thing anymore.

      The county built an enormous rainwater containment chamber uphill from me. I asked the principal design engineer what the failure modes looked like – did it send all the water in one direction, could the chamber rupture if frozen solid, etc. and he said “we engineered it so it would not fail”.

      I said “but if your parameters were exceeded, say by unprecedented rainfall, heat, or cold, how would it break?”

      He said “we built it so that it could not fail given the rainfall and temperatures in this area.”

      I repeated, “but if it did fail, HOW would it fail? I know how everything I ever built will fail, because I understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of its construction. The old grist mills used apple-wood teeth in the big iron pit wheels to provide a clean failure mode. What is your failure mode?”

      He became enraged and shouted that it was financially impossible to do more than the minimum required by law, and that no one needed to know the answer to my question, and it could not possibly fail. I thought he was going to hit me!

      This man had the TITLE of engineer, and even the college degrees and fancy society memberships, but he did not have an engineering mindset.

      Off-topic, what we now call engineers used to called mechanics. Engineers were guys who drove things with engines, like trains for example.

  87. I guess I’ve always been a minimalist of sorts. I call it ‘being cheap’.

    Why anyone would buy a DVD of a movie is beyond me. Who watches the same movie more than a couple of times? Are the jokes in “Old School” that timeless?

    In the age of internet radio and Pandora, why own music when you can get tailored streams that fit your mood or interests?

    Entertainment media is the first place for minimalism, not the last. I’ve never bought an itune and haven’t bought a cd in years, but I listen to music all the time without even bothering to pirate the stuff.

    Real minimalism is having the sense to either not buy stuff you don’t need (like DVDs) and to get rid of things you no longer need (like baby toys when the baby is no longer a baby).

  88. I underwent a similar transformation myself, starting about four years ago. Every time I moved apartments I found myself wanting to move less and less, so I found myself selling or giving away more and more. I then thought I was going to go in to the Peace Corps for two years, and that prompted me to relieve myself of even more possessions.

    The Peace Corps didn’t pan out, but I was working for an airline and traveling a lot, and felt like I no longer wanted to pay rent on a place I wasn’t staying at full time. By that point I was already down to only the items that would fit inside my ruck sack (laptop, approximately a week and a half’s worth of clothes, basic toiletries, water bottle, nothing too major), as well as my bicycle (I didn’t have a car at the time).

    The hardest thing for me to part with was not CDs and DVDs, but literature and art. The digital version of those items will never compare to the real thing for me.

    I lived houseless for almost eight months, sleeping on floors, couches, in gazebos, and wherever I found myself at the end of each night. I found that during this period of time I learned the most about myself, formed the strongest bond with my friends, and really just enjoyed life all around.

    I’m now in an apartment, but still maintain the same minimal possessions. All my apartment’s furnishings belong to my roommate, and I have my rucksack in my closet waiting for my next adventure.

  89. If all his former possessions have been replaced with their digital equivalents, what’s he going to do if the power goes out?

  90. He is a software engineer.

    There is a difference between a software engineer and a software writing monkey

  91. This kind of feels like veganism. Also, what does this guy do when there is a power outage and it’s storming outside/can’t go to a wifi cafe? Light a candle? To look at what?

  92. Everyone who is defending this guy and getting all butthurt over the perceived “snark” dont seem to realize the issue most people has with this “minimal” dude-

    He has a lot of shit.

    Was that so hard to understand?

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