I’m sorry, but I really do.

I want an iPod Touch. I want Project Natal when it comes out. I can no longer buy books (even used, even at garage sales) because I can’t make myself get rid of them once I’m done.

I also really, really like clothes. And shoes. And jewelry. I guess I’m a sucker for baubles.

In short, I will never be a minimalist.

I know it’s a goal for a lot of frugal people. I guess that minimalism is linked to frugality because it dictates that you don’t desire a lot of crap. Thus, companies have a harder time convincing you to buy their crap. And the end result is a distinct lack of cluttered crap in your house.

All a worthy goal, mind you. Intellectually, I completely agree. Emotionally, I wish I could be one of those people who doesn’t want to bother with a lot of belongings.

But that’s not who I am.

In fact, I sometimes wonder just how many people are minimalist. It’s talked about on the blogs a good deal, but that’s not necessarily representative of its true numbers.

I know that at least a few people who read this blog are lovers of technology, which always seemed to be at odds with minimalism — at least, to me. There are also a lot of people who are horrified by the vast amount of belongings they accrued right along with their debt. So that’s an argument for minimalism.

Still, this society does love its gadgets and doodads and knickknacks. And given overall sales numbers for each new technological innovation, clearly we can’t all be committed to minimalism.

So how many of you do consider yourselves minimalists? How many consider yourselves at least somewhat materialistic?

I firmly believe there’s a healthy median found between splurging and purging. Let’s call it frugal materialism. You still buy things, and you don’t actively avoid acquiring new possessions, but you try to spend carefully. You shop intentionally, rather than passively. You don’t get your kids every toy coming off the assembly line. But you still enjoy having “stuff.”

Anyone fit that? I think I just might.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenna May 17, 2010 at 11:44 am

I think I'm somewhere in the lower part of the middle ground. I don't desire a lot of baubles and knick-knacks. I have a few items I enjoy and I think look great. But I'm careful about things. I am gardening a lot this year. I don't buy every plant I see. I pick carefully. I'm a photographer. I don't buy dozens of lenses because of the neat things they do. I prefer to keep a few favorites on hand. I crochet. I don't buy yarn just because it looks neat. I buy it for specific projects only. I like a bit of space in my house. I hate clutter. I feel stressed when the house is overly cluttered. But I'm not so minimalist that I enjoy large open areas, blank walls and lots of white. I'm always looking around to see where I can trim clutter but I'm not going to forgo something I think would be truly useful in my home for the sake of having a specific number of belongings.

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2 Bucksome May 17, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I agree with you. I like my things but try to only buy intentionally. I no longer go shopping just for the purpose of something to do. We budget for vacations and entertainment instead of spending it first.

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3 Meg May 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I think this post sums up my feelings quite well:http://www.everydayminimalist.com/?p=410 (written by Everyday Minimalist aka Fabulously Broke in the City).

Minimalism isn't about having the least amount of stuff anyone can possibly live with. It's about knowing when to say no. Each person has a different version of minimalism, a different point at which they say no. But what makes them minimalist is that they carefully consider purchases/acquisitions instead of just collecting stuff to collect it.

I still like stuff (at least, certain things), but that doesn't mean that I have to get everything I "want". I consider what I buy/get a lot harder now. I have to need something or REALLY, REALLY want it. I don't just fill space because I can, or buy trinkets because I can. I don't get something just because everyone else has it. As a result, I buy fewer but better things and feel like I get a lot more bang for my buck.

Also, I like to keep my home free of clutter. So, that means knowing when to let go of us stuff that I don't need or REALLY, REALLY want anymore, as well as taking the time to tidy things up. (And having a clutter-free house makes my life soooooo much easier.)

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Abigail Reply:

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that minimalists live in barren rooms .But I just think that Tim and I will probably always have a few too many things to be considered minimalists. He collects a lot of things, and I'm not much better. And at least he isn't a packrat. I'm slowly getting over it but…

Still, I get your point: The overall concept of minimalist lifestyle may need an update.

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Meg Reply:

No apology necessary! I didn't think you meant that. I was just trying to point out that minimalism isn't really about the number of items you have but rather how you approach acquiring new things and keeping the old.

Also, looks can be deceiving and it's all relative anyhow. My family calls my house minimalist and even "Spartan", but it would probably look very cluttered if I had to put it all into a small apartment. Granted, my house would probably look VERY cluttered if we tried to jam all their stuff into it! Then compared to a lot people, especially outside the U.S., I don't feel minimalist at all!

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Meg Reply:

No apology necessary! I didn't think you meant that. I was just trying to point out that minimalism isn't really about the number of items you have but rather how you approach acquiring new things and keeping the old.

Also, looks can be deceiving and it's all relative anyhow. My family calls my house minimalist and even "Spartan", but it would probably look very cluttered if I had to put it all into a small apartment. Granted, my house would probably look VERY cluttered if we tried to jam all their stuff into it! Then compared to a lot people, especially outside the U.S., I don't feel minimalist at all!

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Abigail Reply:

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that minimalists live in barren rooms .But I just think that Tim and I will probably always have a few too many things to be considered minimalists. He collects a lot of things, and I'm not much better. And at least he isn't a packrat. I'm slowly getting over it but…

Still, I get your point: The overall concept of minimalist lifestyle may need an update.

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4 Stella May 17, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I aspire to be a minimalist–but like you I do have a tendency to like "stuff." Not techy gadgets–mostly clothes. I'd love to be one of those people who could make a year's worth of stylish outfits out of five staple pieces and some cool accessories. But alas, I probably never will…

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5 Meg May 17, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I agree! Tech gadgets can be very minimalist. I have a computer and a smart phone that take the place of a t.v., radio, watch, clock, alarm clock, stacks of paper, magazines, phone book, other books…

The only issue is when you don't get rid of the old tech stuff. My husband and I are working on selling off some of our old gadgets we never use, but not fast enough.

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6 Donna Freedman May 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Seems to me that some people make “minimalism” into a synonym for “frugal.” It ain’t necessarily so. I’m frugal, but one look at my apartment would show that I’m no minimalist. Yet I didn’t spend very much for any of it, and a whole bunch of it was free.
I *am* trying to pare down the stuff that I no longer use/no longer gives me joy. Certain things will never go away, though.
Some of the pieces I’ve read about minimalism make it seem like some sort of moral high ground: I have less stuff than you so therefore I am purer in my frugality.
I’ve also detected a whiff of class snobbery: “I have 10 million books but no television set and *certainly* no commemorative Slurpee cups.”
Here’s the way I see it: Those who aren’t minimalist by nature should keep it under control, i.e., don’t be overrun by stuff that you can’t use/doesn’t make you happy and for heaven’s sake don’t go deeply into debt to get MORE stuff.
Otherwise: It’s your life. No one gets to tell you how to live it. If you want to collect the whole set of, well, everything, go for it. If living with just a few carefully chosen objects makes you happy, then live that way and the heck with what other people think about your decor. Or your lack of collectible figurines.

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Abigail Reply:

So… we can totally get more Slurpee cups then?

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Abigail Reply:

So… we can totally get more Slurpee cups then?

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7 a.b. May 18, 2010 at 4:32 am

I'm pretty into minimalism. But I agree with Meg that the concept needs adjustment. I like not having stuff I don't need, but you certainly wouldn't consider our life spartan. I do like functional stuff. In fact, after BofA slashed my credit limits I lost my sense of loyalty to them, and now Key Bank is offering an ipod tough for new accounts. Totally doing it.

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8 paranoidasteroid May 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I feel like minimalism has become almost a status symbol in itself. Instead of showing off your $10,000 Ming vase (note: I have no idea how much Ming vases are actually worth), you show off that there is literally nothing on any surface of your home.

I'm definitely not a minimalist, judging by my closet. I also grew up ina sort of cluttered & comfortable home, so I like having the little knicknacks everywhere.

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9 catseye May 19, 2010 at 3:32 am

I like to think that I've achieved a happy medium between minimalism and materialism. I was raised by a true minimalist of a mother. The home I lived in was anywhere from spartan to barren. No pictures or decor on the walls, very few knick knacks, very few electronics. (To be fair, though, there really weren't that many electronics for the average consumer in the 60's and 70's.) And only three, count 'em, three books in the house! She had no hobbies and didn't collect anything. I hated living like that and thought she was stingy.
My dad, on the other hand, has always liked his toys and loves to travel. And because he made more money, he lived a more middle-class lifestyle. I also thought he was stingy towards me after their divorce. And I still resent the fact that I didn't get more goodies out of him during his visits. I'm sorry, where was I?
So compared to mom, I'm a raging, out-of-control consumer. Compared to dad, I'm positively monkish in my lifestyle. Above the saddle, no rider. Below the saddle, no horse. ;o)

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10 secondchancefit May 28, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I don't think that being minimalist necessarily means that you don't *want* stuff, just that you don't have a lot of it. Or are paring it down. Even as I am cleaning out and cleaning out, there are still things that I want. I just don't buy them. Usually :)

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11 Lovely Las Vegas June 18, 2010 at 1:42 am

Great article! There are many ways of being frugal. Just as there are many layers of savings, investing, etc. Doing what works for you and your family is the most important thing.

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12 NeedaGadget October 7, 2010 at 4:37 pm

This is a nice post ! continue the good work!

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