Minimalism: Things that I Don’t Have
One of the main lessons I’ve learned about minimalism, decluttering and simplifying is that you just have to keep chipping away at it. Change isn’t always easy. Slow, small steps are still steps in the right direction. It might not be lightning fast, but progress is being made. My unnecessarily large number of clothes tends to feature often on the blog, because it’s something that I personally find hard to declutter (although, however full my closet might look now, there’s definitely less than when I started). In other areas, however, I’m doing much better.
I spend so much time lamenting the failures and the not-quite-there-yet / work-in-progress attempts, but of course I have successes too. I thought I’d change the tone a bit today and focus on the things that I don’t have – meaning the things I’ve successfully decluttered and happily live without.
Things That I Don’t Have
- A car. We are a zero-car household, and use our bicycles or public transport to get from A to B. We hire a car if we’re going further afield on holidays.
A garage. We have an open carport, which we don’t use because we don’t have a car, but we don’t have a lockable, sealed garage. Which means we don’t have any “stuff” stored in the garage either!
A shed / storage locker. Ditto.
A TV. Nope, we don’t have a TV. I’ve not had a TV for the majority of my adult life, and I love life without it. There’s no adverts selling me stuff, no wasted evenings starting mindlessly at the box. With the average Australian adult spending 13 hours a week watching TV, that’s a lot of free time to lose!
A DVD player. Not much point without a television! Nor do we have an X-Box, Wii, Freeview box, VHS player, or any other electronic gaming or viewing device.
A toaster. We use the grill. Not having a toaster saves on kitchen bench top clutter.
A microwave. They take up valuable counter space, they have questionable safety, and I’ve never eaten any food that’s tasted delicious after coming out of a microwave. If we need to heat something up, we use a pan.
A dishwasher. I wash dishes by hand. I’ve read arguments that dishwashers are more efficient in their water use than hand-washing, but if you take into account mining the metal from the ground, drilling the oil, transporting the materials, molding the plastic, manufacturing the dishwasher and shipping it to the store, I’m pretty sure had-washing is the winner. There’s a space in the new house for a dishwasher – it will be remaining empty.
Storage crates. We just sold our last two storage crates (after ridding ourselves of the contents) on Gumtree this week (we’ve offloaded 8 crates in 3 years). I feel it’s quite symbolic – there’s no longer any boxed storage in our home.
DIY tools. Aside from a screwdriver, we don’t have any DIY tools. On the rare occasion we need one, we borrow it. In the last year we’ve borrowed a drill, a hammer, a pedal wrench, a shovel and a rubber mallet.
A printer. We have a laptop but we don’t have a printer. It’s vary rare that we need to print anything, but if we do we can use te printer at work or the local library.
Any music CDs. These were one of the first things I decluttered back in the UK. I sold / gave away or donated every single one of my sizeable CD collection (I was a teenager in the 90s – we had a lot of CDs). I’ve not bought any since.
Any DVDs. I was always selective about buying DVDs, even in my pre-minimalism days – who needs a huge collection of movies they will only watch once cluttering up the house? I owned a few of my favourites (Pedro Almodovar classics mainly) but I sold these before I moved to Australia. If we want to watch a movie, we borrow it from the library.
Fiction books. I’ve sold, given away or donated the lot. I can use the local library – why would I want shelves of paperbacks I’ll never read again cluttering up my home?
A dryer. Yes, we have a washing machine, but no, we don’t have a dryer. We have the sun. Far more environmentally-friendly!
Chemical cleaning products. Switching to green cleaning is not only healthier and safer, it means less bottles rattling around under the sink! I use white vinegar, bicarb and a good scrubbing brush, plus a few essential oils. The first two also moonlight on the pantry shelves – you couldn’t say the same for bleach!
Chemical beauty products. My bathroom routine is pared down to a minimum – bar soap and almond oil for my skin; bicarb and vinegar for my hair. Do we really need to exfoliate, cleanse, tone and moisturise? Have a separate eye, skin and body moisturiser? Plus one for overnight? Or is it just marketing fluff designed to make us buy more? Hmmm. Plus it’s estimated that the average woman applies more than 500 chemicals to her body every day, so there’s more incentive than just fewer bottles on the bathroom shelf.
A hairdryer. I towel-dry my hair, then leave it to dry naturally.
More than 4 dining chairs. This came to mind because we had a few people over for Glen’s birthday in January (there were 6 of us) and we only had 4 dining chairs. We used the char from the office, and a upturned milk crate with two cushions for the 6th. Job done!
Credit card debt. I have credit cards, and use them regularly. There’s a number of reasons, including the security, rewards offered and the interest I can earn on the money before the bill comes. But I always pay the bill in full. Every month. I always have and always will.
Now I want to hear from you! How many can you tick off from my list as things you don’t own? Is there anything on here that you’d struggle to do without? If you were to write this list, what things would you add to it? Please tell me your thoughts and leave a comment below!
I’d say you are a fine minimalist. :-) There are several things on your list that I share with you. I have four chairs no hair dryer, , microwave, TV, storage locker, etc. Where we differ is that I still own music CDs and a small alarm clock with a CD player built in. and of course I have tools, but most of my tools are hand tools vs power tools. They are safer for me plus I don’t like the noise power tools make. :-) Where I have tools I don’t have much in the way of clothes, I can’t be bothered to shop for new “used” ones. :-)
Keep that list close by so when you feel down on yourself you can refer to it to see how close you are to your goals.
Haha, thanks Lois! It’s fair to say that you use your tools often, so it makes sense for you to have them, whereas for me, they’d just be sitting in the shed!
I think your sewing machine must help you have less clothes too, as it’s easier to repurpose or mend them. Or maybe I’m just making excuses for myself!
I will do. I wonder what I can add to it over the coming year?…
Oh I’ve been thinking of you since I saw a book in Powell’s Books (Portland, OR, USA, holidays from Sydney!) about green jobs. It was called “Green Jobs: a guide to eco-friendly employment” by A Bronwyn Llewellyn, James P Hendrix & K C Holden.
Anyhow, I loved this list, I thought similarly whilst. What is always clutter? IMO – those number plate surrounds. And no one needs more than one phone cover. After a holiday you spend (I spend!) a lot of time shopping and browsing… Anyhow. I didn’t have a dryer, but do now, and use it too :( I have had a dishwasher for a number of years, when living alone I seldom used it (ie when I entertained). I, like you, have no DVDs and next to no CDs. I do have one VHS (and something that plays it). I have so few books, at least compared to my hereditary profile! Sadly too, I blow dry my hair, after getting into it living in Europe. Shame on me.
Anyhow, thanks for the post! And the recent comment that I must go reply to now!
The book sounds interesting…did you read it?! I’ll check if my library have it…
Haha, I would argue that you don’t need *any* phone covers – just be careful with the phone! I’ve never had one, and I’ve never had a broken phone screen either. I resent that companies make phones that are so fragile they need covers! The Fairphone is pretty sturdy, and I just try to be careful with it!
As a kid, I used to have to earn my pocket money by unloading the dishwasher. It was a big dishwasher, always stacked to the brim, and because the cupboards we so full everything needed to be pulled out to put things underneath or behind. Big stacks of plates are heavy and awkward, and it was no fun at all. It’s scarred me for life!
It’s interesting how we all have things that we couldn’t live without, and other things we find it so easy to get rid of!
Thanks for your comment : )
Impressive list! I agree, a TV is one of the biggest waste of times! On the few occasions I want to catch something, BBC iPlayer suffices but mostly I just listen to Radio 4.
We can all slim out unnecessary possessions that sap resources and personal energy. The key is to assess what is really necessary. I work from home so a printer is a must. A car, TV, hairdryer, microwave… isn’t. A potting shed-cum-greenhous is one thing I really do miss as a serious gardener – we grow a good proportion of our vegetables – as it would make our tiny garden even more productive.
The one area where I, like many, diverge is books and CDs, for ethical and aesthetic reasons. Libraries rarely stock my obscure literary choices. As for music, I refuse to listen to streamed music or by from iTunes. I know many musicians and have heard too many times the crippling consequences of the paltry royalty payments from e-music. That said, I don’t “consume” music. Each purchase is a considered choice. As always, socially and ecologically kinder living is a balancing act!
I always think it’s really interesting that what is an unnecessary for one person is an essential for another! I totally agree with you – the key IS to assess what’s really necessary. I have several kitchen gadgets that many would consider unnecessary, but that I use multiple times a week. A spice / coffee grinder is far more useful to me than a toaster, for example!
I would love a potting shed – well, I would love a garden!
I borrow what books I can from the library. I listen to the radio. I copied all my CDs onto my computer before I got rid of them, and listen to this sometimes. We don’t use music streaming because we don’t have a good enough internet service, and I don’t buy from iTunes because I don’t feel the need to “own” songs. I think I’ve maybe bought 2 songs from iTunes ever! As a teenager music was hugely important to me, but these days I’m just not that fussed!
Yes, you’re right – it’s all about balance! : )
Great article! You touched on some things that I hadn’t considered before. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thanks Timothy, glad that you enjoyed it.
I enjoyed this post! It helps me re-think about some of the things I use and consider if I need it or not. Some random things I’ve found useful to not have:
– de-clutter paper manuals and find their pdf equivalent online
– essential oils to replace perfume (by diluting with carrier oil), candles and air freshener (in addition to opening windows)
– never bought that blendtec blender (which is awesome, because I find I can do pretty much everything I want already with my kitchen tools — I think I thought I needed it because of youtube and various recipe blogs)
– I am currently phasing out clothing that needs ironing and special care so I can get rid of my iron! (but yea, wardrobe is still an issue for me, and probably nail polish….)
– store bought broth (I found how easy it is to make, just keep scraps of veggies in the freezer)
Thanks Marg! I really like your list too!
The paper manuals idea is particularly interesting. Paper in general is a real issue for me, my desk always seems to be full of scribbled notes on the back of envelopes. I’ve been thinking of alternatives and making progress in decluttering it. I think your idea of finding online manuals is an extension of that! Great idea, thanks!
Essential oils – check! So much more versatile than perfumes etc, and less synthetic chemicals!
Blendtec blender – oooh I hear you on this one! I don’t have one but have been tempted…supposedly they blend so smoothly!!! My food processor is really powerful, maybe not quite as good at blending, but I DO NOT need two similar appliances!
I never use my iron, and it sits in the under-the-sink cupboard. I honestly can’t remember when I last used it. Maybe I should get rid of it…
Broth – I agree! I haven’t made any in a while, but I never buy the salty overpackaged processed ones. I just do without if I don’t have my own. Do you have a recipe you follow or make it up?
Thanks for sharing your insights, really interesting!
I too discovered that it saves so much stuff if you have things digital instead of on paper. So, like marg, I download manuals and throw away the paper version. A few years ago I started to scan any letters/bills/contracts I get in the mail (insurance, tax offices, you name it). The same for papers I read for work. I almost never print anything. If I like a section of a real book, I scan it too (or make a picture of it). In fact, occasionally, I scan entire books if I really like them. I then give away/donate the book. Like Lindsay, I scribble stuff on the back of envelops. I have not found a way to get rid of such written notes. I tried to take notes digitally (with Evernote), but it’s just not the same. I tried scanning my notes for a while, but that did not really work either. So I think from now on I will try to decide at the end of each day whether my notes are worth keeping or not. If yes, I should digitalize them. If not, I will send them to the recycling bin.
The digital revolution is the stuff that mimimalist dreams are made of! I’m still getting the hang of Evernote (I may blog about it!) but I’m liking the fact that I can “type up” all the scrappy, nonsensical notes scrawled on the back of old receipts and envelopes.
We still keep bills, papers etc in folders rather than scanning. Possibly because we don’t have a scanner! But also because I’m not confident in my computer archiving skills yet! Especially when we need documents for tax and/or visa puropses…
Converting more paper to digital is definitely something I’m going to be working on this year!
That’s a good list:)
And the majority on that list I live without eg I have owned a car for one year I my life and now that I’m living in London (from sydney) I probably won’t own one for the foreseeable future. The ones I differ on are my books.. I love second hand book shopping, and love the idea of having a collection of all my old books on a bookshelf ones at after I stop moving around. Guilty pleasure is my tv- I justify it by watching the occasional doco:)
Hi Jordan, thanks for your comment! City living (especially in Europe / UK) really lends itself to living without a car. The only people I know without a car in Perth are the people who’ve lived abroad!
Your take on books made me smile. I can’t think of anything worse than having to haul a ton of books around the place! Then again, I’m not a huge reader. I love how we’re all so different, and have different ideas about what we need and like – it makes life far more interesting!
I have a similar list, except for tools. No tools! We moved house and had as much stuff in the shed as in the house. My husband is a tradesman, so I guess he can be excused for owning tools. We also own a lot of self-sufficiency stuff like a mincer, a juicer, a dehydrator etc, but no dishwasher or microwave. And we are notorious at hoarding things like bits of wood and metal that we might use for something. Probably not very minimalist there either! Thanks for sharing your list, every interesting.
Having tools and using them regularly is very different to having tools because once you needed to drill a hole to hang a picture! I would love to be better at DIY and my lack of tools is more a reflection of my lack of skill and knowledge in that area! Maybe it will change…but better to get the skills, experience and knowledge BEFORE filling up the shed with pricy gadgets!
I have lots of kitchen appliances that make cooking from scratch easier. I have a food processor, a spice grinder and a juicer. I also have a coffee machine that was given to me buy a friend (not a pod one, I should add!). I use it often enough to keep it, but it’s probably not necessary!
I always keep packaging material, in case I need to post things or package stuff. I have a huge tower next to my desk that constantly topples over. Might be useful! So I can relate to your wood / metal hoarding!
A lot of those things on your list we don’t have either. But there are others, like TV. I wish I could get rid of it but the husband objects. And I kind of tend to hoard EarthGarden and GrassRoots magazines though I really try not to buy them. I have tools (I say I, because the husband doesn’t have a clue what to do with them), wrenches and screw drivers for now. I just like knowing I can fix things when I need to and I’m shy so don’t want to go asking neighbours if I need anything.
Other stuff that I don’t have: smart gadgets and beauty products. I really tried to come up with more, but…
That’s a tricky one, when your other half doesn’t agree! Glen had the entire DVD box set of Seinfeld, which I’d never seen a single episode of. It’s the last DVD he held onto, and he agreed to getting rid of it if I watched the entire thing. Three years on, we’ve just finished the last DVD and it’s up for sale. It’s been a traumatic process, but worth it in the end!
We are lucky that our library stocks magazines, although I’m not really a magazine reader. Glen gets several every week. At least we can give them back rather than hoarding them!
I have smart gadgets. I find them useful, but they probably drain more of my time than they should. And definitely Glen’s time! ; p
Our lists are almost the same! We do have a microwave and dishwasher though. Came with the house. We don’t use the dishwasher though. The oven doesn’t work, so we have used the microwave to bake cauliflower pancakes. Worked out well.
I was smiling when you mentioned the four chairs. When we moved to this house two weeks or so ago, we had no furniture. Only boxes with stuff (mostly kitchen stuff, clothes and books), a few bikes, a mattress, and half a dozen guitars. So we went to the second-hand store around the corner to get the very least we really needed: a dining table (which is also my desk), a desk + chair for my husband, and a closet for clothes. The table came with four chairs. We also got plates/cutlery/cups for only four persons. If we get more guests than that, I think we well go back to the second hand store to get some more.
I am now selling/giving away/donating my books. I already got rid of all fiction a year ago, but have loads of books that are relevant to my job However, I realized that despite their relevance, I never open them, because if I do need the information that is in them, I always turn to the internet. Also, I am not always close to my books when I want to look up something, so then, again, I use the internet instead. Although I still feel a little emotionally attached to my books (it even feels a little “naked” not to have any books!) I keep telling myself I am not my books and it’s better if someone else actually reads them instead of them waiting here to be moved again to a new house.
Hope you can find some peace in terms of your collection of clothes! I think the scarf in your wardrobe is a useful tool to help you declutter.
Half a dozen guitars?! Woah!
I love second-hand stores for furniture shopping. I totally agree – get what you need for day-to-day and you can always get more when you need them (and return them after!).
Good to hear you’re offloading your books. I had the same realisation regarding textbooks – I can look up the info on the internet. My personal feeling is it’s far better to donate fiction books to people who will read them, rather than keeping them as trophies. Plus books are a real pain to move from place to place! Even if you keep the ones you love. Or keep the ones you won’t be able to find in the library.
I will find peace with it eventually!
Let’s see, from your list, I have all but #3, #9, and #20. However, we rarely use the dishwasher, I use the TV to stream mostly British and Australian TV shows and movies as well, I only have music CD’s that we really like to play, have just a few DVD’s, save only a few select fiction books, and I am gravitating away from the chemical cleaners and cosmetics.
Whew! That was a really interesting exercise.
All in all, though, I think I do a good job of hanging on only to what I really use.
P.S. Recently watched the series Blue Rose — loved it! — and loved the actresses — Antonia Prebble, Siobhan Marshall, Jennifer Ludlam.
#20 is definitely the best one to be without! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s really interesting hearing how different people make do with or without certain things! Overall I think it’s not about having less, but using the things that you do have, and getting rid of things that serve no purpose and aren’t useful. These things on the list I got rid of because they weren’t useful to me. On the other hand, I know I have kitchen gadgets that plenty of people would find completely unnecessary!
Question re the digital/paper move. I know that it means having less ‘stuff’ on the desk, but, if there’s a way to recycle paper, and modes of recycling or long-term dealing with electronic waste are so bad, is there an argument for the paper notebook after all?
Someone told me once that every google search takes as much energy as boiling a kettle. I have absolutely no idea if its true, but it got me thinking about the hidden costs and infrastructure of electronic paper/waste management. So, just because we can’t see the space that a scanned book takes up, doesn’t mean that its not demanding some sort of cost.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Truly, your blog is one of the only place where the comments section adds to the conversation!
Nora, I love your comment! I’m actually a huge fan of the notebook, of the paper diary, of the calendar you pin on the wall. I’m also hugely wary of “cloud storage” – cos it’s not just sitting in a big fluffy cloud in the sky, is it?! (Even though it sounds like it is…) It’s actually stored on a big bunch of resource-hungry computers that eat electricity.
However, my tendency to write notes to myself on tiny scraps of paper and leave them all over the place creates mess and chaos, plus it makes me stressed when I can’t remember on which envelope I wrote said notes. I’ve found Evernote (an online note system) really useful for this as I can store random disjointed thoughts in a way I can search for them, and get rid of all the clutter from my desk. But I still keep my notebooks for blogging ideas, and recipe testing, because I love working in this way. I think it’s about balance.
I wouldn’t scan my bills if I’m sent the paper copies, as I can’t be bothered creating extra work for myself. I like the idea of scanning a recipe or book page if it meant getting rid of the entire book. But I’m happy to keep books if I find the whole thing useful. I don’t buy iTunes music or download movies anyways so I have no storage needs for these. I love the idea of minimalising but I’m not into extreme minimalism – getting down to a bagful of things. I’d rather find out what works for me and strike a balance.
I agree that cloud storage is still storage, and it’s still possessions and “stuff”, even if it’s electronic. My aim is to only have what’s useful, and let go of the rest. Storing things electronically helps me with organisation, but only up to a point.
I’ve never heard that analogy about Google and boiling a kettle – I really hope it’s not true : /
I hope you didn’t find this response too long! It’s such an interesting concept though. Thanks for asking the question!
Great post! I’m pretty much the same except for a few random Cds, DVDs and books, a printer that I rescued from the rubbish and, most importantly, DIY tools. I do so much gardening in order to grow at least some of my food that a spade is really essential. Same goes for saw, drills etc because I do a lot of DIY recycling, up-cycling projects that save waste and money.
You motivated me to clean out the house last weekend and make a pile of things that need to go! Thank you for the motivation and thought-provoking! :)
Thanks Jana! I like that your printer was rescued from the rubbish! : ) I would actually like to have DIY tools – to have them and to know how to use them an to actually use them! Same goes for a sewing machine…
Oooh that’s exciting! Great work! We are also working on a box of things that need to go : )
Such a great list, I’m currently an au pair living in someone else’s house, so while there are many things I can’t implement now, I am loving learning about all the ways that people unclutter their lives and only use what is really necessary- I can’t wait to get my own place and hopefully start out on the right, minimalist foot!
It is hard with clothes though I agree! I’m rubbish at buying them in the first place, so end up with loads of clothes I never wear, complaining that I have no outfits!! I will be getting to work on this when spring rolls around however ha!
Living in someone else’s house must be a great way to keep the number of things you own very small! Do the people you live with have way too much stuff, or are they clutter-free?
Wardrobe minimalism IS hard, but i keep chipping away at it! I’m sure if you do the same you’ll get there eventually! : )
That’s an impressive list. I’m getting there. Unfortunately in the US, most condos have dishwashers and built in microwaves. I still wash dishes by hand though, because we decluttered our kitchen and just don’t have enough to fill the dishwasher. I do use the microwave to warm leftovers and tea, but when we move to another place, I’m going to try to do away with the microwave. We got rid of our toaster also and everything in the kitchen can now be multi-purposed, except for the coffee machine. We don’t have cable and I went for a year without any access to TV channels, but did have a DVD player. My husband recently talked me into just getting an antennae. So, we now get about 7 channels, but sometimes that feels like too many. :)
A built-in microwave?! Woah, I haven’t heard of (or seen) that before! I’ve read that microwaves are really destructive to our food and leach nutrients – I don’t know if that’s true, but I believe it enough not to use them! I use the oven to heat leftovers, or hot water if appropriate (like rice). Or eat them cold. Depends what it is!
Your kitchen sounds great! I definitely have more gadgets than you’d expect from a minimalist, but yes, I do use them. We have a coffee machine, it was second-hand and was given to us. It’s big, bulky and probably doesn’t get used often enough to justify having it, but it lives in the cupboard rather than on the counter so I don’t mind. When we move I think it will go!
When I was a kid in the UK, we had 4 channels. Once I went to uni I didn’t have a TV, so in my mind 4 is enough. 7 sounds like loads! : p Just try to avoid letting your husband persuade you to get cable!!!
I’ve never had a dishwasher so I’m unsure what all the fuss is about anyways. Seems silly to pay for the electricity to run the thing for an hour or two when you can wash dishes in twenty or less minutes.
As a kid, my job to earn my pocket money was to unload the dishwasher. My parents were NOT minimalists, so unloading it meant unpacking entire cupboards of plates to put other plates behind / underneath. Huge heavy stacks. Ditto for cups, crockery, pots and pans… I’m so traumatized by it I’m not sure I’ll ever use a dishwasher! I’m with you – just wash your dishes!
I bought excellent meat grinder!
And now I do not use sausage from the store.
All meat products and home-made sausage.
In addition, there is a shower heated by the sun.
Article useful, raises questions about the purpose of life.
Thanks for your comment Helena! : )
I tried life without a toaster, but found that heating the electric grill up for a single piece of toast was very expensive. So I bought a toaster and I’m pleased that I did. Just because something takes up space, it doesn’t mean it’s clutter! When I replace an item like this, though, I ask myself: is it made in the UK, are the workers fairly treated, is it build to last, do the manufacturers produce spares, can it be repaired?
Life without a toaster isn’t for everyone! ;) It all depends on how much toast you eat, for a start! I agree – space taken up by things we actually use isn’t clutter. We tend to go weeks without buying bread, and we used to have a tiny kitchen with counter and cupboard space at a premium, so it didn’t make sense to own one. Now we have more space but we are used to the grill and it works for us.
Thanks for sharing! Your first line still makes me chuckle. “I tried life without a toaster.” It just makes me laugh, not sure why!
I’m redoing my kitchen soon as I was contemplating getting a dishwasher but just once extra expense, more ressources used and yes extra space we coud use for extra storage. Thank you!