Sporty and I thought it would be really interesting to shine a spotlight on other minimalists to see what their lives look like.
We came up with a set of 10 questions (the last of which we believe to be the most important) and we’re asking everyone we feature to answer them.
Same questions, different answers. It can only make for interesting reading.
Spotlight On: Want Less
In this edition of Spotlight On we introduce you to Claire (well, her feet anyway) from Want Less, a blog about beating debt and simplifying a chaotic life. The reason we only get to meet her dew-beaters and her Dachshund, Jeffrey, is because Claire is prone to occasional bouts of financial underpanty airing. In these instances she’s found anonymity serves her well.
What Was Your Tipping Point?
What prompted you to say, “Screw it, let’s just sell everything!”?
Ha ha, I love this question! Well, it all happened on a sunny beach in Thailand two years ago this summer. I was on honeymoon with my wife, who is a bit more of a hippie than I am and who had brought along a book called Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn.
Perhaps it was the tropical heat going to my head, perhaps it was my zen-like surroundings or perhaps I was enjoying living out of a suitcase without being surrounded by all my crap, but something about that little book just clicked. I really liked the idea of the calmness and freedom that having fewer possessions promised, and I knew that once I got back to the UK, my cluttered-up days were numbered.
Ironically, although it was my wife’s book, it’s me who has really taken to the idea of minimalism, while she has been more take-it-or-leave-it about the whole thing. She has been incredibly tolerant of my dramatic about-face, though.
Claire’s feet becoming minimalist on a beach in Thailand
How Do You Earn a Living Now?
Is it different than to your pre-minimalist days?
I’m still in the same media-based job as I was before all this kicked off. Some minimalists find they can afford to quit their well-paid but soulless jobs once they stop buying everything in sight but this hasn’t really applied to me because a) I enjoy what I do and b) it’s not very well paid! That’s not to say that the idea of jacking it all in and travelling the world one day doesn’t appeal though…
How Much Stuff Do You Own?
How much of it do you travel with?
Well, I still own a hell of a lot of things. I haven’t counted them because I would surely lose my mind in the process. But on the other hand, I have now got rid of thousands of items. I’m guessing about a third of my stuff in total has gone, while another third I use regularly and the last third is a work-in-progress!
As for travelling, I love travelling light! Hand-luggage all the way.
Is There Anything You Regret Getting Rid Of?
I was thinking the other day about whether I regretted getting rid of my Xbox, just because I do enjoy a cheeky computer game every now and again. Then my wife and I went to an arcade at the weekend and I got it out of my system as we shot baddies with a gun in a silly two-player booth.
What are you happiest about no longer owning?
There was a shelving unit in our living room we affectionately called the five tiers of shit. It looked awful. It was just piled high with stuff that didn’t have a better home to go to – board games, fruit bowls, bills, miscellaneous junk.
Then one day, after months of decluttering, we realised we just didn’t have that much stuff any more and we could just get rid of the whole thing. We took it down to a charity shop and now in its place stands a lovely, big houseplant. I smile inside every time I look at that corner of the room now.
Claire and co’s living room sans the five tiers of shit!
How Do You Handle Gift-Giving?
For each other, friends, family, etc.
When I buy gifts for friends and family, I now tend to ask people what they want, or buy them stuff that they will use up, like booze or food. In terms of receiving gifts, this is really an area I need to master. I have found that asking for something specific, rather than telling people what not to buy me, works best.
Most of my close family and friends know now I’m not as into ‘things’ as I once was, and I can ask for gig tickets or a nice bottle of wine or something. But as for less close friends and relatives, I’m not great at awkward conversations and I do not want to look ungrateful, so I’m now in an uncomfortable place of accepting gifts and then often donating them. I realise this is not the solution!!
What’s your debt story?
Do you have? Did you ever have? How did you deal with it?
Do I have debt? Do I ever?? Yeah, so the debt thing was a really big influence on my decision to change my life. I got in a whole HEAP of consumer debt in my twenties, which reached nearly a year’s take-home salary at its height.
Minimalism has helped me quell my spending habits big-time. I can now go into a homewares shop (my weakness!) and tell myself that just because I like something, it doesn’t mean I have to own it. I still have some debt now, but I hope to have it paid off within the next 12 months.
Sporty and I Eat a Plant-Based (Vegan) Diet
Is this something you could see yourself doing? Tell us about the kind of food you enjoy.
Well, you guys have my utmost respect. I haven’t tried being a vegan but I have tried being a vegetarian before, when my then-housemate challenged me to give up meat for as long as she could give up smoking. I was doing soooo well for a few months, then I cooked a roast chicken dinner for the whole household.
I didn’t touch any of the chicken, until I started the washing up and found myself basically stuffing mouthfuls of the leftovers into my face. So, I learnt something about myself – that I don’t deal well with the idea of certain foods being off-limits. (Unbeknownst to me, my housemate had been secretly smoking when I wasn’t around anyway – scandalous!)
My wife and I are now meat-reducers. We eat meat or fish maybe once or twice a week, and rarely eat red meat. There’s a great TED talk by Graham Hill (a champion minimalist, by the way) about why he’s a meat reducer, in which he argues that if everyone ate half the meat they currently do, it would have the same effect as half the world going meat-free.
What Does the Term ‘Carbon Footprint’ Mean to You?
Something I need to get better at dealing with! One thing I really hate is the idea of waste. During the process of reducing my things, I have sometimes felt so paralysed with dread at the idea of something ending up in a landfill that I put off getting rid of it.
I had this yesterday while looking at an expensive glittery lip-gloss someone had bought me, that I had perhaps used once. Can’t recycle, can’t donate, don’t want but don’t want to waste either – aargh! I guess the thing I need to remember is that I won’t be repeating this wastefulness now I’m buying less in the first place.
Do You Like Peanut Butter?
I will eat peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon if given the chance. We were never allowed it in the house when we were growing up, because my mum hates it with a passion. My dad once hid a jar at the back of a cupboard, but within hours my mum sniffed out the closed jar through the cupboard door and threw it away in a fit of disgust.
I’m making up for all that now. Peanut butter is also a great treat for dogs, so we have a separate jar for our (very naughty) sausage dog, that we can smear inside toys for him to keep him out of mischief for a while. All in all, this is a very peanut buttery household. No palm oil, mind. My wife’s dad, who is very environmentally conscious, has drilled that one into us.
Jeffrey the peanut butter lovin’ Dachshund