Embracing Minimalism

This post discusses my inspirations to adopt a minimalist lifestyle and my financial plans for the future after my recent divorce. I reflect on the past, the future, and the present.

Reflections on the Economic Past

I’m in the middle of reading Snow Falling on Cedars which is a historical fiction based on San Juan Island. The people back in that era had so little, and had to work so hard for it. In a way, it makes me feel spoiled and petty considering all the money that has flowed through my hands and comparatively how easy I’ve had it.

It also feels like a wakeup call. Stories of the economic past really bring the relative luxury of modern life into focus for me. It’s taking the status quo for granted that feels wrong. Most people are aware that our financial and political infrastructure is sick, even if they don’t care to research the extent of it. If and when our economic growth imperative crumbles, what will life look like?

One thing I know for sure is that embracing a minimalist lifestyle is the best form of insurance against any future outcome – positive or negative. By keeping my life simple and my expenses low, any future income can either be saved or used to pay down debt. At the same time, any financial calamity will be minimized. The people in the book lived very minimalist lifestyles. Thrift and hard work was how they got by. I can’t help but think that may still be the best course of action these days.

Looking to the Future

minimalist bedroom

My spartan bedroom.

Now that I’m on my own, I plan to embrace a spartan and minimalist lifestyle while actively fostering the tenets of Plenitude. At present, my focus is on finding a good job. After that, my focus will be on rebuilding my savings and outfitting the sailboat – making it dry, insulated, and well heated; ensuring that I have good motors, good sails, and good ground tackle. Once debt free and with a good boat, I can go wherever I want. Stay here, go to Alaska, sail to Panama. It’s all open to me.

I hope to accomplish all of this in two and a half years. Thirty-three months to be precise. I would love to achieve it by June 2015, but I think May 2016 is more realistic. It all comes down to financial offense and defense: How much money can I make? How much money can I keep?

Over the last couple years I’ve been inspired by the lives of Chris McCandless, Ken Ilgunas, Dan Suelo, Mark Boyle, Alan Oberlander, and Peter Lawrence. I think a life of extreme voluntary simplicity and spartan minimalism is exactly what I need and want. I’d like to focus my life like a laser beam on my goals. I am happiest when I am sailing in the islands, so I will focus my life around that, removing superfluous ‘stuff’ from my life.

I’ve already moved all my belongings into my new room. My bed started as a foldable army cot, but I’ve upgraded to a mattress. My desk is a folding table. Ninety percent of what I own fits into a series of Rubbermaid 18 gallon toats. I spend the majority of my time on four activities: spending time with friends, working on my boat, practicing guitar, and playing financial offense (which at present means looking for a good job).

Using the Present to Gain Perspective

minimalist posessions

This is pretty much everything I own at this point. Storing everything in Rubermaid containers makes it portable and easy to go through.

Last night I took my sailboat out to Eagle Harbor to rendezvous with friends from out of town. They borrowed their parents sailboat for a week and have been island hopping.

On the way back I reflected on my love of nature and the San Juan Islands: It’s my love of being in nature that I share with the men I mentioned above. I also realized that I am now free to pursue my love, unlike the thousands of men who are trapped by the obligation of family, children, and mortgages. I haven’t exactly managed to dodge those bullets, but for the first time in a long time I am free of them.

I certainly hope that most men with these obligations don’t feel that way, but it is the way that I feel, or would feel. I hope anyone reading this doesn’t project my unique approach to happiness onto their life. Happiness is a personal thing, and it must viewed through the lens of your own personality. Know thy self, that is what I’ve been struggling to do the last few years.

I grew up spending most of my childhood days in the woods. The love of being in nature came to me innocently, naturally, in a way that was easy to take for granted. Now that I have studied philosophy and thought deeply about happiness and what it means to honestly pursue it, I realize how fundamental wilderness is if I am to have any chance of living a content life. Knowing that I can hop on my boat at any time and be surrounded by solitude and beauty makes every problem and worry in my life surmountable.

If I reach my financial goals, I will sail alone up the inside passage. After that, who knows? I may just sail to Panama and/or circumnavigate North America. Embracing a minimalist lifestyle will help me not only reach my financial goals, but help me prepare for a journey over the horizon.

I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead. The youth may build or plant or sail, only let him not be hindered from doing that which he tells me he would like to do. …We may not arrive at our port within a calculable period, but we would preserve the true course.
– Thoreau

Despite all this serious discussion of embracing minimalism, it’s always important to be able to laugh at yourself. It’s hard to be a cliche, but I guess I managed to pull it off! I take solace in the fact that I hate Apple products. 😉 Thanks to Stormy for finding this!

Related posts:

Heavy Weather Sailing
Making Blackberry Wine
Nomadic Families
One Response to “Embracing Minimalism”
  1. Alan says:

    Hi Cris
    Good luck with your minimilism experience. Some of my best times were when I had just what I needed and not more. Just wanted to mention that since you have an audience you might want to say what kind of work your looking for. You can never tell when a connection will be made. Good luck.
    Alan in PA

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