For the last five years, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a highly mobile and deeply fulfilling lifestyle – not only living in Sydney, San Francisco, and Seoul, but setting foot in more than 30 countries on five different continents. Hectic as modern life is, with its ballooning demands on time, energy, and money, I’ve found increasing degrees of satisfaction and independence in my international existence by embracing a philosophy of minimal living.
While minimalist living usually conjures up images of people obsessively paring their lives down to a rigid austerity, living without electricity and deeply involved in projects concerning things like composting toilets, it needn’t be anything so drastic. The idea of a ‘minimal home’ doesn’t have to be an oxymoron, and there’s no reason to sacrifice luxuries in the quest for simplicity.
Instead, in every new home I’ve made, I’ve put the things that I use every day, the things that bring me joy, right at the centre of my household, and greatly reduced the clutter around them. Morning meditation, for example, is a big part of my life, so having a quiet, comfortable, and well-appointed meditation space is always job one. My girlfriend, on the other hand, loves to cook, and so investing in quality kitchenwares for her is always a good bet.
Rather than having all your “good” things (whether crockery, furniture, or bed linens) always put away because they’re too nice to use, it’s much more fulfilling and practical to invest in good ‘dailies’ – good-quality things that see regular use – which prevents the contradictory impoverished feeling we sometimes get from having nice things that we’re afraid to use.
As Dr. Phiona Stanley at the University of New South Wales writes of experiments in voluntary simplicity, making a mental inventory of your rooms and cupboards will help you figure out what’s really central to your home life. If you can’t think of the last time you used a particular object (my barbeque has, come to think of it, gotten quite rusty), it’s probably not essential. If, on the other hand, you’re filled with fond memories of entertaining on your patio, or hours experimenting in the kitchen, these spots might make a worthy focus for your home.
In the end, minimalism is all about having to think less about the stuff you don’t need in your life, so you can have more time, energy, and money to enjoy the things that are truly important to you. “Simplicity,” as the writer William Gaddis said, might really be “the ultimate sophistication”.