Happy Herbivore Blog

May 20, 2013

Minimalist Monday Q&A (Part 2): Your Minimalist Questions Answered

You've got questions... about minimalism! This is the second post in our two-part Minimalist Monday series answering your fantastic questions about minimalism.


You and your husband often move internationally. In fact, I am amazed and jealous. Do you take any furniture, appliances or bedding etc...with you? Do you have staples that go everywhere? Once you get there, do you end up spending extra money on needed items you should have kept?

Whatever doesn't fit in the suitcase doesn't go (limit 4 suitcases per person). We try to rent furnished places, so there is very little we would need to "buy" and anything we can't take with us to the next place, is donated to those who need it. I don't see it as a waste, but a gift. We recently gave away all our furniture to a family in need who has sent me several emails about how much they are enjoying our furniture and how it's changed their life. Money can't buy that warm fuzzy!

How do you let go of greeting cards? 

Scan them! 

If being a minimalist is part of the equation to work less, how do you afford health insurance without full-time employment? And, if you don't have insurance, who will pay for your medical bills? 

I don't have medical insurance. Even when I worked full-time (as a lawyer!), it was never offered to me. I rarely need to see a doctor because of my healthy lifestyle, thankfully! The only medical issue I had in the last 5 years was a dental issue and I paid out of pocket for it. My dentist was great about helping me create a cash payment plan. I also went for a routine exam 2-3 years ago, and paid cash. You can get "hit by the bus" insurance for a pretty reasonable rate.

How do you decide what is left out on surfaces, i.e., countertops, bookcases, etc.? I'd like things to look nicely decorated yet simple. Not stark and not cluttered.

I keep my surfaces totally clear, less is MORE! See my kitchen organization post for more detail.


I would love to minimalize our lives. How much clothing, how many shoes? Get real basic for me please.

See my previous MM post about sticking to a color palette and this post about shopping for clothes during weight loss, which has some great tips from Herbies about clothing.

Can you be a minimalist with kids? Kids are bombarded with heavy consumerist messages and until a certain age they don't really understand ideas like "less is more." How can you help kids understand a minimalist philosophy? 

Here are some thoughts from minimalist families, as shared on Facebook:

"I think if they are raised in that way with you as an example, they will appreciate the things they DO have more, while maybe not fully understanding it until they are grown ups. Have you ever heard a kid say, 'I have enough toys, I don't need anything else.'?"

"The toy thing is a constant evolution in our household. I purge toys that the kids (1.5 and 4.5) no longer play with. Anything that is missing a part or doesn't work = tossed. New toys require an old one getting tossed or donated. When family and friends ask what the kids want or need for holidays and birthdays we always recommend experience gifts — a plane ticket to visit, take the kids out for a meal, to a playground, swimming lessons, skating lessons, gift certificates to an art studio, etc. The kids have fond memories of the things they did with their family instead of what they were bought. My family is on a minimalist path - downsizing from a townhouse to a 2 BR condo and the kids are happier than ever. Less space = less stuff = more life!"

"For my step-son, it took a few volunteer hours at the local food bank where he was able to play with kids whose families were 'down on their luck'...some of them living out of their cars. He saw that it was possible to have fun and play all day long without an Xbox or hundreds of toys to choose from and he was able to kinda grasp the idea that not EVERY one has all of the latest and greatest toys... Each time we went he understood more and more. He wanted to rid himself of the excess toys he already had and we were able to have a meaningful discussion about his 'need' for more whenever the topic came up (like while shopping and he felt he just HAD to have something new). We donated a lot of toys and clothing to his new friends at the food bank. We also had the one 'new' item in, one 'old' item out rule."

How do you combine a minimalist lifestyle with holidays? Specifically, gifts you receive. We always get a slew of things we don't need. I'm always terrified to donate that gift my mom will ask about later!! 

I covered this a little bit in my MM post about the the 1-in, 1-out rule. That aside, we've really stressed to our families we prefer they make charitable donations in our names, or to buy us things we actually need. 


Does owning and using overpriced electronics, such as Apple products, run counter to a "minimalist lifestyle" — especially since Apple's "iGadgets" do so much "thinking" for the user?

You don't have to have "cheap" items to be a minimalist. It's more about buying what you need and purchasing more meaningfully. I have an iPhone 5.  Admittedly, it was very expensive, but I need it to do my job to the best of my abilities, so I think that's a more meaningful purchase than, say, $15 on shoes I'll hardly ever wear.

Isn't "minimalism" also performing everyday tasks and duties with the least amount of material and equipment possible, and by using the most basic and simplest of tools and machines, as well? :o)

Not in my interpretation. Minimalism is also about efficiency. A pencil and piece of paper is more minimalist, but not necessarily more efficient. On that note, technology often is more minimalist. Take the computer, for example — we can be totally paperless now thanks to scanning, etc. If we take away computers, and go back to pencil and paper since we no longer have scanners, computers and printers, is that really more minimalist? We all have to find our own balance — and interpretation — with minimalism. For me, efficiency (and the least amount of waste, including waste of time) is a big goal of my minimalism.

What do you like to give to people for gifts? 

I make donations in their name (preferably to a charity of their choice), buy them something they truly need, give them money (so they can buy what they need) or make them food :)


How in the world you can be a minimalist AND a gourmet cook? Don't you need a large kitchen full of fancy equipment?

I don't consider myself "gourmet" by any stretch of the imagination — I'm an everyday home cook at best. I can't afford fancy equipment and have a fairly minimalist kitchen. 

See my former MM posts, Minimalist Cooking Necessities and Kitchen Essentials.

If everyone in the country is a minimalist, do you think the economy will fall apart? 

I'm no economist, but I'm inclined to think our economy would improve drastically if everyone become a minimalist or "minimized" in some way. So many people are living beyond their means putting themselves in debt, overextending themselves, etc. We've seen so many financial crises in the last few years and I have to believe cutting back would help. Plus if everyone became a "minimalist", we would be taking a giant step away from the "consumerism" society and mindset we're currently living in. We'd get away from the toxic attitude that bigger is better, that whatever we have isn't enough and we must always seek more, more, more. I lived abroad for a while and it was wonderful to be away from that. Further, a reduction in waste (not just spending, but in physical waste like unused goods) would also help our environment.

My partner is fretting my "downsizing." Most everything I put in a charity pile he insists we may need someday and absconds with it. What to do?

Read my MM post about clutterbugs (those that can't let go of stuff). If both you (and he) understand why he feels this way, you can work to overcome it and really start to remove, reduce and reuse. 

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