Minimalism: My Shit Doesn’t Own Me

I am what you might call a hardcore minimalist. I have a limited wardrobe, exactly enough utensils and dishes for my husband and I to eat at the same time (yeah, I’m totally serious), and no knick knacks whatsoever. I like nice things, I just don’t feel the need to have an abundance of them.

After reading this post over at Save. Spend. Splurge. and having my luggage lost by the airline on the way back from Jordan, I felt compelled to write another post about minimalism. It is something I am very passionate about, and not only because I’m lazy and I really digΒ when people give me cash and buy me alcohol.

On S.S.S., Mochimac (Saver Spender? What are you going by these days, lady?) talked about her parents’ hoarding tendencies. They hang on to everything, even when it is broken and/or out of date. The part of the post that hurt my insides the most was this:

My mom actually cried when I sold some old, manual exercise machines they found FOR FREE ON THE STREET.

These stupid machines were taking up a third of the entire kitchen and NO ONE could walk in that area because of them.

They started putting boxes on the machines, and hanging plants off them, and I knew it was time to junk them, because they would NEVER get used.

She was in tears.

She was feeling actual, physical pain when I told her I found a willing couple on Craigslist to come by, pick up the machines and deliver them back to their own house..Β while paying for the privilege of doing so.

How sad is this? Mochimac’s mom grew up very poor, so I understand why it is hard with her to part with things she might “need”, but I can’t imagine being so attached to my belongings they affected my life in such a dramatic way.

But it is easy enough to judge. Would I feel the same way if my own possessions were threatened?

My minimalistic viewpoint was put to the test just recently when the airline lost my baggage. My first thought was, crap, I don’t really own very many clothes outside of the suitcase. My second thought was, eh, it’s just clothes. And I dress like a troll while I’m working anyways. Worst case scenario — the airline will reimburse the cost and I can re-buy as much or as little as I want.

Note: nowhere in my reaction was depression because my possessions were gone.

So I started thinking about whether or not there was anything in my life (possession-wise) I would be devastated to lose. I would probably be annoyed if I lost my computer, just because I need it for work. But then, I could just use Steve’s, as all my docs are saved somewhere online.


I came to the realization the thing I would be most irritated to lose is my birth certificate. Because it’s a pain in the ass to get a new one, especially since I’m in Oregon now. I wouldn’t worry about my clothes, my housewares, my car, even my wedding ring. Why?

Because none of my things matter to me that much.Β 

I feel very lucky to have separated myself from my possessions. They are all replaceable and none of them are important enough to bring me to tears if I lost them for some reason. That’s a very freeing feeling. If I had to start over tomorrow possession-wise, the worst thing about it would be the time it would take to replace it.

I love minimalism because almost everything you will ever own is not actually a necessity. And even the necessities are replaceable. My shit doesn’t own me, because I don’t allow it to. None of it matters.

The only things in my life I would be devastated to lose are not “things” at all. They are people. Isn’t that how it should be?

Minimalism is my homeboy, and not because I dislike nice things. I am very adamant about owning a small amount of nice things, instead of a large amount of crappy things. If I don’t NEED or LOVE it, it gets donated, sold, or trashed, depending on the item.

By the way, my bag was found, but there are multiple items missing out of it (including my only two bras — told you I’m a minimalist!). I’m waiting for the airline to send my claim form. I want reimbursed (it’s like $400 worth of clothing/products missing), but I’m not stressing over the missing items at all. It’s just stuff, after all.

Do you have anything you would be devastatedΒ to lose? Is minimalism your homeboy?

[Image from imgur]


  1. So that’s totally random that bras were among what was missing from your luggage. Did it look like someone intentionally took them? Creepy!

    We wouldn’t likely qualify as minimalists, but we have a lot less stuff than most people and try our best to keep it that way. (Having a smaller house helps a lot in that regard.)

    • Yes! I had a dirty clothes bag and a few clean items (the bras among them, although they needed to be washed as well). All the clean items (plus the bras) were taken along with some hair products. So freaking creepy.

      Minimalism has definite shades of gray and I suppose I probably have more “stuff” than a few other minimalists (although we are pretty minimalist!). My rule is need it, love it, or leave it πŸ™‚

  2. We’re in the process of purging. We’re a bit jammed to the rafters at the moment, but we’re working on it. I’m a pack-rat for clothing – my fiancΓ© is bad for most “items”. I doubt we’ll ever get to the level of minimalist you are Erin, but there is definitely a middle ground that we’d like to reach. I know I would.

    My first step was taking 1 full garbage bag of old clothes out of the closet this weekend… and I can’t even notice a difference! This is going to be a long battle.

    • Haha, middle ground is great! Most people wouldn’t want our level of minimalism, but I really dig it πŸ™‚

      Long battle? Sure. But just like paying off debt or saving, progress happens a little at a time.

  3. I would be pretty upset if we lost the flag the Department of the Navy gave us after my grandfather passed away. I know it is really just a flag but it represents the hard work my grandfather put in to live the American dream.

    Also, getting somewhere with out my underwear is one of my travel nightmares… most because I forgot to pack underwear for a trip…. twice.

    • Understandable. I don’t have family heirlooms to be attached to, so that makes it easier. And I would never label someone as a non-minimalist because they are sentimentally attached to one item.

      I never pack enough! I’m always buying more every time I go somewhere, I swear!

  4. Great post, Erin. The more the days go on, the more stuff I’m okay with getting rid of, simply because I don’t want to take the time to clean it/put it away/deal with it anymore. It’s just not worth it.

  5. I didn’t think I had hoarding tendencies, until I recently packed up my apartment when moving. I was irrationally talking myself into holding onto things that I haven’t used since I moved out on my own over 4 years ago. I still have (some) clothes in my closet with the tags on them. But I couldn’t part with them…

    Since we have moved and are in the new space, I’ve realized that I’ve basically been living out of a suitcase for well over a month now (between the packing/moving/unpacking). I keep meaning to tackle the boxes that have yet to be unpacked, but I can’t bring myself to do so because I know it’s 90% junk. Although, starting from a clean slate is helping me pare-down a lot!

    There are a few things that I would be devastated to loose (like an autographed picture, a painting I bought in New York, and old photos), but the list is a lot smaller then I would have thought.

    • Before our minimalist days, we would move certain boxes from apartment to apartment without ever unpacking them! That’s how I realized how unnecessary the contents were!

      That’s the thing many people could stand to realize, even if there are a few items you are truly attached to, the actual list may be a lot shorter than you think!

  6. I used to care about “things” until I realized I was miserable and it was the acquisition of things that was making me so. Now, the only thing I would care about losing is my phone because it has all of my work and personal information on it, but only because it would be a nuisance to re-load everything and not because I actually need it for my happiness.

    • You sound like my kinda girl, Shannon! Acquiring things gave me a short spike in happiness and then made me unhappy for a long time because I had no desire to maintain these items I no longer cared about. Losing my phone would also be a nuisance, but nothing to cry about πŸ™‚

  7. Family heirlooms aside, I could be talked into getting rid of almost everything I own. My wife on the other hand… I literally sneak things off to Goodwill or the trash when she’s not looking. I know, not the most honest of me, but we’d be swimming in it if I didn’t. She’s also a chronic “over-packer” on trips and I’m sure there’s a relationship there.

    • If she doesn’t notice when you sneak things off to Goodwill, the items weren’t important to her to begin with! Thankfully, my husband digs minimalism and didn’t think I was crazy when I proposed it a couple years ago. We’re happier with less clutter πŸ™‚

  8. I’d be really cranky if I lost my birth certificate, Social Security card or Passport because of the increase threat to identify theft and how obnoxious it would be to get a new one. Outside of that I’d say, computer 100%. Especially because I need to back that sucker up. If I lost photo albums I have from pre-digital era. But none of my clothes or furniture would upset me and I already don’t have a car. Mostly, I would be upset about the loss of anything irreplaceable, like the locket I have from my Grandmother. I still don’t consider myself a minimalist though, despite my sparse living conditions.

    • Back it up, other Erin! I put all my old docs in DropBox and now I work exclusively off of Google Drive so I don’t lose anything I need. I love being able to pick up where I left off on anyone’s computer πŸ™‚

      I define minimalism as only having what you need or love, and purging the rest. And also, reevaluating your stuff regularly to make sure it still fits the need/love rule πŸ™‚

  9. When it comes to knicknacks….. “if it can’t be displayed, throw it away.”

  10. My mom is the same way. She’s is extremely attached to her things. I think it’s because she grew up poor and didn’t have much. So she’s extremely attached. It sucks because she buys me things (decorations) I don’t like. I have a Christmas tree and a huge box of Christmas decorations I didn’t even want but she forced them on me. I don’t decorate for Christmas because nobody comes over and it’s just me and the hubby. Plus, I don’t enjoy it. But she insists we should decorate for Christmas because otherwise we don’t have spirit. Arghh..

    • I have a few family members like that as well. But my immediate family is well aware of the fact that if they give me things I won’t use, they will be donated. It’s not meant to be a mean thing, but it’s a waste to keep items around when someone else could actually get some use out of them.

  11. I’m still very attached to a few things even if it’s irrational, but I make up for it by not owning very many things πŸ˜‰

    • Hmm, what type of things are you attached to?

      I’m there with you on the owning just a small amount of nice things. I’ve had family members make comments about my clothing items being “high end” (only compared to low- to mid-range department stores), but they have easily spent more than me due to high volume of low quality stuff.

  12. I’ve thought about the possibility of someone robbing my house and realized that I don’t own much that another person would actually want to steal! I agree about my computer, definitely would be inconvenient to lose, but certainly not the end of the world. I’m looking forward to purging some clothes this spring. I only wear a few outfits.

    • Haha, robbers would be pissed if they came into my home. There’s not even a TV! And I definitely don’t have any cash! The best they would get is two mid-range laptops and a Kindle.

  13. Moving forced my parents to get rid of a lot of things they weren’t willing to before. I should really say my dad, because he was holding onto a lot of “sentimental” things that were no longer useful or functioning. The garage was a mess and never clear the entire time we lived there because of it. I wouldn’t say I’m a minimalist, but the next time we move I am taking advantage and getting rid of a ton of clothes and other little items. For now, I’ve been making sure things don’t come into our apartment that we’re not going to use.

    • Moving is a pain in the ass, it might make even the biggest pack rat start minimalizing πŸ™‚

      I purge my stuff pretty regularly and I’m due for another purge pretty soon. I have new and old paper docs to go through and I have a few clothing items to be sold/donated.

  14. I have a few things that are like heirloom it’s from my grandma’s and since they’ve passed, I would be devastated if I lost those things.

    I’d be sad if I lost my wedding ring, but I can’t wear it because i’m allergic to silver so I wear my grandma’s.

    If the house were on fire, I’d grab my purse and my dogs and make sure Tim were with me. OFW on the rest. I’d be devastated to lose some of my photo’s. Many are from before digital but there’s also some pictures I’d love to burn but can’t bring myself to….

    • I can understand an attachment to heirlooms. I don’t have anything from my family I would be devastated to lose, but losing the people is devastating and I can empathize with clinging to the things they left behind.

  15. I felt like I had done pretty well with getting rid of things for the past few years. Especially since I’m a house-sitter there is only so much I can take with me to houses and when I get home I like my home to have my things in it, but I’ve found that I need “my stuff” less and less. Especially last week after being gone for a month. I was walking around thinking, “I could sell that and that and that and get rid of all these things” and use that money to travel with more. In 2011 I spent seven months in Alaska with only the things I had in my car and I stayed at 12 different houses. When I realized that if I had less things to carry in and out of my houses I was at it would mean less time and energy I started getting rid of a ton of stuff ASAP. And so getting rid of things continues till this day!

    Hopefully I’ll see you at Blogger Happy Hour on Wednesday! I’m looking forward to leaving my neighbourhood…

  16. I do have some things that I would be devastated to lose – mainly the photo albums that my dad left for me after he passed. I could convert those all digitally, but knowing that his hobby was to fill up photo albums makes me never want to get rid of them! πŸ™‚

    • Totally understandable! We grabbed a handful of old family photos while we were in Jordan and Steve uploaded them on his computer immediately.

      I get the desire to keep them in albums, but if I were you, I would digitize as well in case of fire or flood. Not trying to be doomsday about it, just trying to preserve in case of emergency πŸ™‚

  17. My Raggedy Ann doll that my mom had made for my birthday when we lived in Japan. And my condo. At this point I am very actively downsizing and considering that I live in a 495 square foot place you would think that I don’t have a lot of stuff. Apparently, I do! As I actively downsize I feel SO FREE!! I think long and hard before buying stuff because life energy was spent to make the money. Would I rather-travel?? Or shop. Travel always comes first.

  18. I also only have two bras.

    The only thing is this blanket my great grandma made for my mom that I now have. My grandma and I have relabeled it twice. It’s heavy and soft and lovely. But I use it. I couldn’t just let sit around because it was precious. Someday I may have to give it up but that day is far from now.

    And right now my computer because I’m too poor too buy another one and I’m a writer. I guess I could find a way to build my career without it if necessary but it would be a pain in the ass. Actually. I’d be fine. I take that back.

    • Yay, two bras club!

      I love that you use the thing you are attached to. Many people keep things for sentimental purposes but they don’t use or even look at them. It’s weird.

  19. Call me whatever you want hon.

    saverspender I guess is the best name because at least it goes with the blog versus mochicmac which totally confused folks LOL!

    Thanks for the shout out and I’m glad the post inspired you πŸ˜‰ That’s how I feel at the end of the day as well — it’s just STUFF. It can all be replaced.

    As long as lives are healthy and safe, nothing else really matters.


  20. I would be in serious trouble if I lot my passport and my citizenship certification. They don’t ever issue a duplicate citizenship certificate. I’m not emotionally attached to these, but to keep my life from going crazy, I better keep them safe and sound.

  21. I would say I’m not very attached to things really, I get rid of stuff that I don’t use all the time. I would get upset about losing things that I would actually replace (like the wedding ring) and its not the thing itself, more that I would be spending the money to replace it. I’d rather use that money for other things. I’m certainly not a minimalist but I like the idea of not having stuff just for the sake of having it and I do get rid of things if I’m not using it.

    • That’s my biggest issue — I don’t want to pay to replace things. But most of the stuff I could lose wouldn’t require immediate replacement. If I lost my ring, I’d go without for awhile (evidenced by the fact that my husband lost his a year and a half ago and we haven’t replaced it yet).

  22. I used to ponder over that question a lot: if I loose everything, would I be able to manage? And then I lost it all and had to start over with pretty much nothing… and I’m still the exact same person. And I realized that it’s true what they say: you are not your stuff.
    I still ‘like’ things, though. I’d say my minimalism is a necessity at this point, but I wished I could be one with (some more) money.

    • I guess I technically don’t have to be minimalistic, but it would really hurt my debt payoff if I wasn’t. I love the lifestyle though, it’s so easy and uncluttered πŸ™‚

  23. That’s kind of creepy that several things were gone. Weird. I hate stuff to. Hate it. I’m so fussy about stuff I’d rather give stuff away than take time to sell it on ebay or Craigslist (unless I really think it’s worth something). I just don’t like clutter…it feels so icky.

    • There is just so much unnecessary stuff in the world. I can’t understand why people buy half the crap they do and then use their time and energy to maintain it. Weird.

  24. The only thing I would be devastated to lose would be my family members – which means my husband and my cats. There are some other things I would be, like you said, irritated to have lost because they are difficult to replace, like birth certificates, passports, and other important documents and proof that you are who you say you are and whatnot. But when I lose material possessions, I feel a pang of despair for a moment, but even then I’m mostly despairing over my stupidity and forgetfulness. The last thing I lost was a dress I liked – I left it in a hotel room when we were out of town for a wedding. I was more upset that I stupidly forgot it than I was upset that I no longer possessed that dress. I could be a better minimalist, because I do feel.. I think disappointed is the best word for it, when I lose a thing, but at the same time I think I’m definitely good at not being owned by my stuff because within a day or two I’ve gotten over it and forgotten about it, if it took me that long at all!

    • I can relate to that, being more annoyed about being stupid and losing something you paid for than actually caring about the item lost. (Was that sentence coherent?) But my only real concern is the health of my loved ones.

  25. I think I would also agree with being upset with losing my computer. I haven’t backed it up in ages! Although I do have an iPad, which is the main thing I use, but I don’t really have anything on there that I couldn’t replace like my computer. I think I would also add old photos from when I was little and my great-grandmother’s engagement ring. Although I only take it off to sleep/shower so chances of losing it are slim. I think I have an irrational fear of being robbed and someone taking it though, so I try to hide it when I’m in a less safe area.

    • If I were you, I’d get my stuff into Dropbox and Google Drive immediately! That way, if you did lose it, you wouldn’t lose all your docs.

  26. I’ve separated myself from all of my belongings except for 4 items. And it has nothing to with what they are. It has everything to do with what they mean to me.

    They are:

    – 3 items my two grandfathers made for me with their own hands
    – The U.S. flag from one of my grandfather’s funerals

    The sentimental value far outweighs the actual physical value of these items. They’re gifts from two men that I admired, respected and loved.

    I’ve decided that I can live with being attached to just these 4 things. I’m human. πŸ™‚

    But everything else? Meh….it’s just stuff, and stuff can be replaced.

    • Four things isn’t bad at all. Considering the amount of Americans who seem to be attached to every single one of their possessions for no plausible reason, I’ll grant you those four items (because clearly I’m in charge ;)).

  27. So creepy that someone stole your bras! But I’m with you on stuff. I have a tendency to hoard food to eat (I don’t keep it if it’s bad… I just have a tendency to spend too much money on groceries and then need to give it away before it spoils) but I’m trying to reduce my belongings. My husband is a hoarder of things, especially comic books, so it can be a battle of wills. I know I’m winning the battle against hoarding though when I went to the gift shops at Disneyland and all I saw when I looked at the stuff was the fact that it would just sit there and collect dust!

    • Yeah, I’m a terrible person to shop with. I’m just like “why do you need that?” about absolutely everything. My people understand my minimalist perspective and they humor me, but they think I’m a bit extreme.

  28. Oh man, I would be devastated if my only two bras were stolen…just because it’s taken years to acquire the two that fit perfectly. It’s such a giant pain to find ones that fit my petite figure! But then again, I’d be wearing one of them, so I’d be ok. πŸ™‚

    I’m pretty minimalistic too. My father is a huge pack rat (bordering the hoarding line) and I hated growing up like that. Then with my husband in the Navy we’re moving around a lot so it helps to not have a lot of stuff. While it’d be inconvenient to lose some stuff, things can be replaced. My cats are the only things I’d be truly devastated about losing.

    I do have to admit that I have a separate traveling wardrobe. My whole family smokes so when I go to visit them the smoke permeates my bags, my clothes, even my hair. It’s gross. So I only bring clothes I don’t really like or wear that often. They all sit in the bottom drawer of my dresser and only see sunlight once or twice a year.

    • Haha, I should probably explain that. I keep it comfy on planes so I had a sports bra on (of which I also have two), so that’s what I’m rocking for the time being.

  29. I had the same thought the other day — what would I miss? Aside from my computer, and documents, I guess I would be sad if some of our photos were gone. But really I’m not attached to things. I have an aversion to clutter. My parents are borderline hoarders and I just can’t stand being near so much stuff. I moved to PDX with 2 suitcases. While I have some more house stuff now, I don’t have much else. When I flew to Argentina in 2008, the airline lost my luggage. After fighting with them for 5 months to give me some compensation, they offered me a pithily $75 compensation. I was enraged as it was practically all my clothes, and my electronic chargers. Then after I pulled out the B card, they magically “found” my bag and had it shipped to me within the hour. Interesting, right? To this day, I will not check my bags.

  30. The older I get, the less attached I am getting to my possessions. In fact, I’ve built an aversion to stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no minimalist, but I do value having less stuff (read: clutter).

    I would be devastated to loose digital photographs. I currently have gigabytes worth of photographs on my computer which I back up regularly. If I lost those, I would be really sad.

  31. Love this post. Love this blog. Have you thought about adding a feature that takes the reader directly to the previous/next post after reading the current one? Maybe I am missing something, but I have to go “home” then scroll page one, two, three to get to the next post. I have 15 precious minutes of break time that I want to FILL with your blog, without back page/refresh/do you want to continue running scrips on this page. Thanks

  32. I would absolutely go crazy if I lost my glasses. Try finding things without them! Other than that, I think I’d be heartbroken for a little bit if I lost some clothing items, but it wouldn’t last for longer than a day or so.

    • Haha, that would be rough, Lisa! I’m assuming you aren’t attached to those glasses on an emotional level, but definitely on a functional level πŸ™‚

  33. Pictures. I’ve lost thousands of pictures from a computer before, and it was awful. My own fault for not backing them up, but awful. I still have the hard drive, because when I can afford the $5k to have them recovered, I might (that was the actual quote. I don’t know if I would ever do that. I’d have to be really rich). But most of the other things I own can easily be replaced, and I probably wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t have them anymore.

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