I have one bag of clothes, one backpack with a computer, iPad, and phone. I have zero other possessions.
Today I have no address. At this exact moment I am sitting in a restaurant and there's no place for me to go to lie down.
By tonight I will find a place to lie down. Will that be my address? Probably not.
Am I minimalist? I don't know. I don't care. I don't like that word. I live the way I like to live no matter what label it has.
At any moment, you are exactly where you want to be, for better or worse.
A lot of people get minimalism confused.
This story is from James Altucher's website. He let us run it after we asked nicely.
It's not necessarily a good way to live. Or a free way to live for many people. It's just the way I like to live.
I like to be a wanderer. Without knowing where I am going to end up. To explore with no goal. To love without expectation.
For now. Maybe not for later. Maybe not yesterday.
"Does minimalism mean not having a lot of possessions?"
No, not at all. I think minimalism means having as little as you require. That means different things to everyone.
For me, having little means I don't have to think about things that I own.
My brain is not so big. So now I can think about other things. I can explore other ways of living more easily.
Some people don't like that. I know many people who love roots. Who love being sentimental towards items. This is fine. Who am I to judge?
The other day I threw out my college diploma that was in storage. I threw out everything I had in storage. The last objects left in my life.
At 48 years old I have nothing and nowhere. Other than the people I love and the experiences I love.
A friend asked me, "You worked hard for that diploma. Are you sure you want to throw it out?"
Yes. I've worked harder for other things since then. I don't keep all of these things around either. They are gone.
Society tells us a diploma is a special life achievement. It isn't. It's yesterday. I don't hold onto all the things society tells me to hold onto
"How do you deal with kids if you are a minimalist?"
Like 50% of Americans or more, I'm divorced. I have two beautiful children with my first wife. I love my children very much.
I miss them almost constantly. I'm not minimalist if minimalism means having zero attachments. I'm attached to my kids.
I see them as much as I can. Sometimes they visit me (wherever I am) and sometimes I visit them. And some times they stay with me for an extended period of time.
I hope to talk to them every day for the rest of my life. If they lived with me I probably wouldn't be able to live the way I do and I probably wouldn't want to.
But life has delivered me to this shore. So I pick myself up and explore the jungle on this new island.
"Do you have to get off the internet to be a minimalist?"
Sometimes. For four million years we were "disconnected." For 20 years we have been "connected."
I have 238,795 unread emails in my inbox. Emails are a suggestion but not an obligation.
Love and spirituality and gratitude are found in personal connection. Not in an email response.
Sometimes I might return an email ten years later. Those are fun. I pretend like I just got the email a second ago and I return it, "Sure I'll meet you for coffee tomorrow!" I get fun responses.
I never answer the phone. I have no voicemail. My phone number is 203-512-2161. Try it and see.
I go on Twitter one hour a week to do a Q&A every Thursday from 3:30 – 4:30 EST. I've been doing that for six years.. I post articles on Facebook but don't really use it for anything else.
I have a kindle app on my iPad mini and read all of my books there.
I understand real books are beautiful. So I go to bookstores for hours and read them. But I won't own them because they won't fit in my one bag.
I never read random articles on the Internet unless they are by people I know. Mostly I read books I love.
A friend asked me, when he heard all of this, "But aren't you afraid you're going to miss some information?"
I asked him, "What information?"
99% of information we read, we forget anyway. The best way to remember is to "DO."
Otherwise, I look at nothing online.
Experiences happen when you disconnect. And I choose experiences over goods or information.
"Does minimalism mean having few emotional attachments?"
I love my friends. I love my children. I love talking to people at a party or a dinner or an event and learning from them.
Love is minimalism. Desire, possession, and control are not minimalism.
Minimalism of things? No. Minimalism of fear, anxiety, stress, mourning.
I don't like any intrigue. I don't like to gossip about people.
When I do that, I feel like I am carrying those people in my backpack. So the more I gossip, the heavier my baggage is.
I don't like feeling bad if someone doesn't like me. That's also baggage. I try to leave that behind.
And we're all different. You never really know why someone is doing the things they are doing.
Sometimes its for deeply sad reasons. Sometimes they are projecting. Sometimes they had a bad day, or a bad life. Sometimes It's for reasons we'll never understand.
"Why did they do this?" or "Why is this happening to me?" won't fit in my one bag.
Did I check the box on physical health, emotional health, creativity, and compassion today?
Those items don't need to fit in my bag. They are gone by end of day. I'll find them again tomorrow.
How do you get rid of an attachment that is in your baggage? I don't really know.
I certainly carry around extra baggage. So I just get back to the four items I said above starting with physical health.
Then I always find my baggage is a little lighter.
"Does minimalism mean having no accomplishments?"
No. If anything, the more you accomplish, the more you can afford to get rid of the things society uses to hold you down.
Or, the reverse. Either way.
"Is minimalism healthy?"
Yes. Sometimes. For instance, I don't like to eat more than I need. Although going extreme on that becomes an obligation to carry around.
I don't like to have experiences that are unhealthy.
For me, experiences are always more important than material goods. A story is more important than a gift.
A material good might not fit in my bag. But a joyful experience is lighter than an atom.
I get to look forward to it beforehand. I get to have it. I get to remember it forever afterwards and learn from it and love it. And it weighs nothing.
What if an experience is not so joyful.
One thing I know: joy is a choice inside and not an emotion given to you.
Sometimes I make the wrong choice. I can't help it. But sometimes I make the right one. I hope today I will.
"What are minimalist emotions?"
Love, joy, wonder, curiosity, friendship connection. These are things you give away. Not take from others.
Emotions that can't fit in my bag: possession, control, anxiety, fear.
I don't include anger. Anger is just fear clothed. When I'm angry I try to find the underlying fear. Get naked with it.
Am I good at this? Not really. I try to get better.
If I judge myself for something I did wrong then I just did two things I don't like to do: the wrong thing, and the judging.
Minimalism is about not judging yourself or others.
"You have to have goals to succeed! How can you be a minimalist with goals?"
Goals are ways the mind tries to control you. "I need X to be happy."
When I feel like I need something outside of me to be happy, I have to make room in my bag for it.
I don't have enough room. I have some shirts and pants and toothpaste and a few other things. Goals don't fit.
I have interests and things that I love to do. If I get better at those things each day (or try to) I feel good.
When I have less things in my bag, I feel more free. Did I get 1% more "free" today, whatever free means?
When I spend time with friends, I find joy in the connection. Sometimes the only thing we need in life is not a goal achieved but a hand to hold.
These three above items catapult me to achieve every goal I never had.
"Should I sell my house and get a smaller house?"
No. Or…I don't know. Don't do it for a label. If you like your house, keep it. If you like your job, keep it.
Figure out the 10-15 things you want in your bag before you die tomorrow.
"What's the first step I should take? Should I throw things out?"
I have no clue.
This is the problem with self-help books. They seem to be written by someone on a pedestal giving advice without having any blemishes.
I have too many blemishes to give advice. I am a homeless man with no address, with some failures and some successes and no possessions.
Today I can start over. Or today I can ask too many times: "Why?"
But there's one thing I can do: I can always help someone else. That makes my day and life lighter.
Anyone can have miracles in their life.
Miracles don't happen. Miracles are given.
"If you are a minimalist how come sometimes you have really long articles?"
Because I don't care what you think about me.
[Read James' follow-up post, where here reflects on the feedback he's received so far on this essay.]