Minimalism is freedom

 

There are a lot of advantages to taking a minimalist approach when making international moves. I’ve mentioned some of these in a previous post. But minimalism can have an impact that goes beyond the practical, and if fully embraced, can help us reach our goals of financial freedom and location freedom. In fact, I find that both goals become far more likely, and require far less effort and fewer resources, when a minimalist approach is taken.

 

Tailor your choices to your goals

Being location independent and financially independent both seem to be goals to which many people say they aspire. But when faced with making some unconventional choices in order to attain these unconventional goals, they may protest that they could never do X, Y, or Z. There’s nothing wrong with that. One choice is not a rebuke of all other possible choices. However, it’s only fair to take a clear-eyed view when examining the trade-offs. Whether a life of location independence, financial independence, or both, is something you’re interested in, you should consider what you’d be willing to do differently to get there. After all, doing things the way everyone else does will logically only lead to the results everyone else has. And again, that’s perfectly fine. No one should be made to feel badly for living life the way that suits them best. But if having more control over your time and physical location are important to you, some lifestyle tweaks will serve you better than others. Minimalism is one of the most useful.

 

Fewer burdens, more freedom

There are a few statements that are seemingly obvious in their simplicity, but nonetheless must be clearly stated and fully understood: Financial independence is easier the lower your expenses are. Location independence is easier the less stuff you have. Being flexible with both categories (expenses and stuff) makes both even easier. Easy is good.

 

The easy way or the hard way

The hard way to pursue location independence or financial independence would be to have lots and lots of rigid expenses that you’re not willing to adjust, and to have loads of physical possessions that you absolutely cannot live without, and then carry those expenses and possessions around the world with you. That doesn’t sound fun or productive to me, so I’ll stick with the easy way. It’s eminently possible to do things the harder way, of course, but to be perfectly honest, that’s never been my style. Maybe it’s a sign of a deep commitment to minimalism, this inclination to avoid wasted resources, including time and energy. Maybe it’s laziness. Maybe they’re one and the same. I don’t really mind which. I’ll assume that most people are like me and, quite sensibly I must say, prefer to do things the easier way.

There is a lens through which even making an unconventional life choice like pursuing location independence or financial independence (or both) is actually easier than the more conventional alternative. Living in the same place for too long, or working a standard job for 40 years, sounds really hard to me. Accumulating lots of stuff and lots of debt sounds hard also.

 

The less you own, the freer you are

Here’s where minimalism shines. The less you own, the freer you are. The more basic your needs are, the lower your expenses. The process only refines and clarifies even further with repeated iterations. Over time, you realise you need less to be happy, and naturally, the right level of minimalism emerges. It will ultimately serve to advance your freedom in any areas that matter to you.

In yoga there is a concept of aparigraha, my favourite translation of which is non-grasping. This dovetails perfectly with minimalism, in that it reminds us to work on being less dependent on any particular thing, be it a material possession, a habit, or a particular outcome. Keeping this in mind as a virtue to strive for, we can move lightly through the world with fewer encumbrances.

Be minimalist with everything except pictures of succulents and cacti against white backgrounds

Don’t own stuff, own yourself

Don’t own stuff, own yourself. Self-ownership is the clearest definition of freedom I can come up with. It’s the simplest, most minimalist, yes, even the laziest way of explaining what it is I’m seeking. If you’re seeking that too, in whatever shape or form that looks like in your life, consider how minimalism can serve to further that goal.

 

4 thoughts on “Minimalism is freedom

  1. Steveark says:

    I understand why it fits your lifestyle and many others but once you’ve achieved FIRE by a good safety margin then I think it is strictly optional and is not the best choice for everyone. It seems a little strange to have amassed a degree of wealth and not to spend it on things that give you the experiences you have a passion for. I hear the argument of spending on experiences rather than things but that’s a straw man argument to some extent. Let’s say your passion is flying. Well that is an experience but it also can’t be done without purchasing or renting some very expensive things. If you can easily afford the things that provide that experience then I think that’s a great choice for you but it doesn’t really fit with minimalism. If you love doing Ironmen then you are going to need a $2500 bicycle and a lot of other gear in terms of clothing, nuitritional aids, maybe a coach, etc. Or if you are like my wife and me and are good tennis players you need a half dozen racquets, a membership somewhere to play, team and tournament fees, dozens of $50 racquet stringings per year, six pairs of shoes each per year, hundreds of cans of balls every year. None of that is for the joy of having some stinky shoes in the closet or to hold and fondle some tennis racquets, they are just things needed to play at a high level. Same thing for my wife and my bass fishing addiction. I don’t really care to own the boat and tackle but it is impossible to get the fishing experiences we love without them. Some of our passions, like extreme hiking and endurance running are pretty low priced except for the road trip money to get to a particular place to do them but some experiences require costly stuff. And I maintain that the stuff doesn’t matter to me, just the experiences. It is kind of like a boat is like the airline ticket to get to have the experience. Does that make any sense? I have nothing at all like a Rolex watch or a piece of art that I own just to own it. There is zero appeal to me in that. But I do have stuff that I own because I can’t really have the quality experiences I love without the stuff.

    • Grace says:

      Thanks for your comment, and those are great points. One of the huge benefits to having reached FI is having the margin to make those kinds of choices to find the lifestyle that suits you! And I actually think that having the right tools to do what you love isn’t necessarily in contradiction with the heart of minimalism… it’s the excess that doesn’t, as The Minimalists love to say: “add value” 😉 that should be minimised.

  2. Steveark says:

    Thank you for that reply, I’m not arguing with minimalism but am just having trouble defining what it means for someone once they’ve achieved their financial goals. I feel guilty for spending much money on anything after a life of frugality and also struggle with the difference between worthwhile experiences and mere distractions that don’t have much value. So I ask questions of people who have embraced minimalism because I think they/you are the experts and I honestly think there is some real truth in what you are doing, just haven’t figured out what it means to me. I appreciate your taking the time to respond.

    • Grace says:

      I think that’s a really interesting perspective, that I actually haven’t seen directly addressed as such. What role do (or should) minimalism and frugality play once financial goals have been attained? Probably for many of us, that may sound like a very nice problem for our future selves to ponder at their leisure. But it’s worth thinking about!

      From a more philosophical (or even, dare I say, spiritual) perspective, I find a lot of wisdom and intrinsic value in the teachings of the Stoics, and as it happens, one of the more prominent Stoic thinkers was one of the richest men of his time (https://dailystoic.com/seneca/). So beyond the practical uses of minimalism as a tool to reach our goals, there may be something in the idea of consciously putting limits on the role wealth plays in our lives, just as a practice in pursuit of a good life.

      It’s something I plan on thinking and writing more about, so thank you for the food for thought!

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