My minimalism journey so far

Love people, use things. The opposite never works.

- The Minimalists

The minimalism elevator pitch

For me, minimalism is simply about removing excess and subtracting things from my life that don’t add value/joy/contentment. In the larger picture, to me it’s about not worshipping the material and instead the relationships we have with the world and people around us.

My inspirations

Why minimalism?

To be honest my journey to minimalism started out simply as a desire to pack less when I was traveling. I was fed up with waiting for my luggage, risking it getting lost, overpacking my giant bag with so much stuff that I NEVER even used on each trip, or buying useless souvenirs and gifts that get shoved away to the back of the cupboard at home. I was tired of keeping the endless amounts of “mementos” (read: high school exercise books) that ended up just using up closet space. So I started my journey into light packing/one bagging, then stumbled upon various communities of digital nomads, which then led me onto some blogs I started to read as mentioned above.

Then, towards the end of my PhD I was obviously in this weird stage of my life where I wasn’t sure what I wanted next, considering the past 3-4 years of my life were extremely academically intense. I started looking for ways to be happy without needing to be constantly stimulated.

The last reason was mainly financial. I was buying too many things that I never ended up using or really valuing. After digging further into the minimalist podcasts and blog posts, I realized that it’s really not just about having no stuff, it’s about realizing what’s really important and what you want to prioritize in your life.

The key things I’ve learned

Marketing and advertising exist to sell you things, not improve or add value to your life and wellness.

Being able to buy lots of things also means adding obligations in your life = obligation to make space for your material possessions, clean or maintain them, putting up the various monetary costs to buy or upgrade them.

Minimalism translates to living intentionally and consciously, which I’ve come to believe is extremely important considering we should be directing our own lives, not letting outside influences direct it. Being conscious of our decisions makes a huge difference and helps to ground you.

Our consumer culture and love for the material is ecologically unsustainable.

What’s next

I’m hoping to write more about my thoughts on minimalism philosophies and practical ways of implementing those in real life. I care a lot about the planet and its future, and I think this is one of the best ways to frame our solutions. I truly believe that taking individual actions to live more intentionally can have really amazing effects on the world around us.

Recipes that I use again and again

These recipes use some pretty universal ingredients. Some are healthy, some are more fatty/for moderation, but I enjoy them all-year round! I also believe the best recipe sometimes is NO recipe - so all these ingredient lists I have found to be super flexible - if you’re missing something from the sauce, just leave it out or replace with a similar thing (like sugar instead of any fancy sweeteners) and I usually swap ground meats around a lot!

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini pancakes seem complex and time consuming but I can usually make a batch in under 45 minutes. Ina Garten’s recipe is super simple and easy but sometimes I like to dry out the zucchini shreds a bit more but leaving them with some salt and then squeezing the liquid out with a towel - it makes the cooking a bit less wet!

Chicken larb

So delicious, especially with some Vietnamese style pickled carrot/onion. Can also be eaten with rice/bread/anything. Extra ginger here again!

Buckwheat flatbread

My partner is gluten intolerant, these breads are pretty good in his opinion! And ridiculously quick to make, you just need to buy some buckwheat flour (which I have found even in Polish supermarkets).

Chicken satay

I love a good satay because it’s deceptively simple - satay in the end is peanut butter + soy sauce (and then optional extras!). More marinating time = better chicken! I like to add a lot of ginger to this!

“Crab” salad

(Recipe in Polish) - I’m a sucker for that fake crab meat. When I feel in a mayo mood, I’m definitely making this delicious salad. (warning - a lot of Mayo). You can use tuna for a better alternative!

The rest of the time, I’m often improvising or using tried/tested recipes that have been slowly adapted over years (like lasagnas, pasta bakes, baked potato, stir fries, ramen, chilli etc). I used to think cooking was such a chore, but after living outside of home for a while and getting used to grocery shopping, I’m slowly getting better. I’m still really bad at meal planning and as a result, I still often struggle to come up with things to make, which is something I try to improve at. Any suggestions how?

Working out

I just destroyed my legs at the gym… and it wasn’t even a difficult routine. After a 3 month long break from working out on a regular basis (4-5 times a week) due to a health issue, I returned yesterday with a leg day. Getting back on the wagon was harder than I imagined, because although I had trained this habit, I kept it up about 3 months before my break. Although it was routine for me, I hadn’t tested it throughout all the seasons. In winter, it’s much harder and I needed to account for that.

The soreness I felt last night and this morning were something I haven’t felt for a long time! But it reminded me that as long as I’m challenging myself, I’m making progress, and that’s what counts. No beginner can lift their body weight on day 1, but the fittest people got there by consistently pushing themselves. In the end, what it takes is showing up.

Motivating yourself with a “thinner version of you” or a perfect body will never work because that’s just not how our body biologically works. These changes are very slow and step by step, so focusing on such a long term goal will never satisfy you. Instead I try to focus on things like stress and anxiety relief, the enjoyment of achieving and breaking records, and just feeling more energetic and healthy.

Upgrades

It is consistently impressed on us that it is better to have the latest, newest, most modern version of our items. Whether it’s clothes, TVs, laptops, phones, appliances, etc, new = better. But that inherently inscribes some kind of arbitrary value to some metric we have invented to compare different products with each other. Eventually, what really matters is not how new something is, but how much value it adds to our lives.

I was reminded of this idea when I was checking my MacBook serial number. In the window where it shows this (About this Mac) it also displays which version of MacBook I have. It’s from early 2014, which means as I’m writing this in 2019, it’s nearly 5 years old. Considering the usual reported “laptop lifetimes range from 3-4 years”, I’m quite amazed that it still performs as well as I can remember. In fact, its battery (which is one of the first components of laptops to start dropping off) is still working quite well according to a system check I did.

As usual, after the latest Apple release, I had a peruse of the website to see the new MacBook Air. After a look at the cost and the specs, I decided it wasn’t my time to upgrade. The higher “specs” (aka. numbers) no longer made a strong impression on me (which is their purpose - to make you feel that your current numbers are not enough).

Next time you are thinking about upgrading, whatever it might be, think about the intention behind it - do you want the newest version of it? Have you subconsciously ascribed some value to a 13.2 MP camera over a 10 MP? It’s an extremely easy trap to fall into because this is what advertising is designed to do. It’s hard to avoid being exposed to this, but we can deal with this problem by shopping consciously and with intention. Taking this first step doesn’t take a lot of time and could seriously save your bank account/debt/life from a huge downgrade.

I strongly recommend listening to The Minimalist’s podcast on Upgrades. (available online or on any podcast app).