Thoughts on Minimalism

"Minimal Duck" by origami_madness is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Minimalism is different to each person. Someone's minimalistic lifestyle could even be considered by someone else as maximalistic. Some people who don't consider themselves as minimalists are actually more so than those who do. Certainly, my minimalistic lifestyle is more about the idea and the mindset of having enough and get rid of things that I don't use.

Growing up in China, my grandparents and I didn't have a lot of things, but we had the essentials, such as food, shelter, and clothing. We were happy. When I came to America, I was culture shocked by the many things in stores. For my first Christmas, I must have received about 20 presents, mostly toys. I was not aware of the concept of minimalism at that time and certainly didn't practice it.

It wasn't until later in my adult life that I realized I was surrounded by things I didn't need. In late 2015, when I was moving into a space that's the size of a closet in an apartment in Lower East Side, New York City, I realized that I must survive on just the essentials, the stuff that I can only fit into a sedan. Later, I learned that living in such a small space wasn't good for me, either. My ideal living space is somewhere between a closet and a four bedroom house.

Right now, I live in a one bedroom apartment that's about 735 square feet. I feel this is just about as perfect of a space as it can get for me. I feel some spaces are still being wasted, but not that much. I'm still sorting out some things I have and selling them on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. A good candidate for such item is if I didn't use it in the past year, then most likely I will not use it ever. If I do need it later then I'll just buy it again.

There are some things that have deep sentimental value for me. One thing that I regret selling was my 1999 Cannondale bicycle that I rode across the country in 2018. However, I must deal with the fact that a bicycle is just another tool for living, even though I had gotten that bike as a Christmas gift from my parents. I must remind myself that I was giving that bicycle a new life to someone else when I sold it. I can only hope that the new owner will treat it just as well as I did with it.

One of the most important aspects of my life is the memories I have made with my possessions. I have taken photographs of the things that I'm selling or have sold. They remind me of the past when I thought those things were valuable. If the item will be repurposed by something else then that's great. I should be happy for that.

How do I know if my space isn't fitting for me anymore or that I have too many things? If I can't find something in my living space then it's an indication that I either have too many things or my space is too big. If I have to buy things to just store more things then it's another indication that I have too many things. To me, keeping my space simple and uncluttered is a reflection of my current state of mind.

Minimalism is more about a mindset than just having fewer things. At a certain point, minimalism will produce pain and inconvenience. I think finding a balance between what I need, what I use, and what I want is essential. I always think about to the days when I lived with my grandparents. They were among the best years of my life. Life was simple. And minimalism is one way to achieve that simplicity in this modern age.


  1. Hiatt, you are wise beyond your years. I’m different from most Americans I suppose. I never sought to have a big house or buy things just to have them. I like your philosophies about having things you need and space to store them. I do have trouble letting go of items with emotional ties. I have trouble understanding why my son and daughter-in-law don’t want things that have been “passed down” in my family, but they don’t. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I think the materialism of our culture is destructive.

    1. Hi Anne! I understand your concern about things being passed down. I'm dreading the day that I will "inherit" my parents' things. In the end, no one is taking anything with them to the afterlife. I suggest just to continue use those things to your delight and not worry about passing things down. I also feel that your son and daughter-in-law will come to their own feelings about accepting some of your things in the future. They might not want your things now, but they might want them later.


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