In today’s article, we’re going to talk about extreme minimalism.
If you’re reading this post you’re likely familiar with the basic idea behind minimalism — living a more meaningful life by removing items/possessions that don’t align with your deepest values or spark joy.
Extreme minimalism simply takes this concept much further. As the name suggests, you take the principles of basic minimalism and multiply them by a factor of ten.
As we all know though, the extreme version of an idea doesn’t work for everyone. So in this article, we’re going to dive into extreme minimalism by talking about what it is, the pros/cons, whether or not it’s right for you, and potential alternatives.
What is Extreme Minimalism?
Before we define extreme minimalism, let’s revisit the definition of basic minimalism.
Basic minimalism is about removing excess from your life that you don’t feel like you need.
Adopting basic minimalism might mean removing physical items like clothes, jewelry, and unnecessary furniture. It might also mean cutting out certain goals from your life or reducing your social circle.
Put simply, basic minimalism is about making more room for the things that matter without going to extremes like selling the home that you live in or the bed that you sleep in.
Pretty simple right? Now let’s contrast this with extreme minimalism, a philosophy that takes the core principles of minimalism a step further.
In extreme minimalism, you simply decide to live with very few material things — in the range of 15-100 total items.
When you decide to become an extreme minimalist, you’re doing far more than just implementing a few minimalist hacks to declutter your life. You’re making a commitment to only own the bare necessities that you need to survive and foregoing basically everything else.
One important thing to touch on before we move on is that people who adopt extreme minimalism tend to count their items in different ways.
For example, your wallet typically contains:
- Your State ID/Driver’s license
- Credit cards/Debit cards
- Insurance Cards
So does your wallet count as seven items or just one? The answer comes down to personal preference and how strict you want to be with your counting.
Andrew Hyde is considered one of the most extreme minimalists out there who lives by the “15 item lifestyle,” but his total item count doesn’t include things like credit cards, chargers, cables, bike/gym locks, etc.
Others who practice extreme minimalism count each item individually. This means that they’re still living with the absolute bare necessities even if their item count might be closer to 100 than 15.
The bottom line here is that item count isn’t all that relevant because it’s totally dependent upon the classification system that you’re using
Having 68 items instead of 15 items doesn’t make you any less of an extreme minimalist than someone else if you’re counting every single possession individually.
Practicing extreme minimalism is less about aiming for a target number of items, and more about those items being the bare minimum you need to get by without damaging your health or putting yourself in danger.
What Does Going Super Minimalist Actually Look Like?
Now that we’ve established what extreme minimalism is, you’re probably wondering what it looks like to actually adopt this lifestyle.
To illustrate this, let’s compare the typical living situation for a basic minimalist as opposed to an extreme minimalist.
If you walk into the home/apartment of a basic minimalist, here’s what it might look like:
- Living Room: A minimalist living room won’t look that much different from that of a non-minimalist. You’ll likely see a TV, some furniture, and possibly a few decorations like photos, house plants, etc. One thing you definitely won’t see is unnecessary clutter.
- Bedroom: In the bedroom, you’ll likely see a bed that’s accompanied by basic necessities like a nightstand, and some shelves with minimal decorations.
- Closet: A basic minimalist will likely have curated a minimalist closet that contains far fewer items of clothing than the average person. They will have purged most of the things that they never wear, but they’ll still have enough variety to keep things interesting.
- Kitchen: You’ll likely find basic cooking tools like pots and pans and a sufficient number of plates/eating utensils. Their fridge will likely be well-stocked too, and there will be a dishwasher and plenty of cleaning supplies.
Now, let’s contrast this with what you can expect walking into the home/apartment of an extreme minimalist.
Keep in mind that many extreme minimalists decide to live in a tiny studio apartment where each of these areas are simply a part of one big room.
- Living Room: The space will appear immaculately clean because there will be practically nothing in it. You likely won’t see a TV or a sofa, but you might see…a single chair?
- Bedroom: An extreme minimalist may not even have a bed, as some people opt for alternatives like hammocks. You certainly won’t see things like a nightstand or any other pieces of furniture.
- Closet: Bare bones stuff here. An extreme minimalist might have a few outfits that they rotate through, but nothing more. This means that they’re doing laundry quite often, possibly without the assistance of a washer/dryer.
- Kitchen: Basic necessities only. You’re almost never going to see a dishwasher because an extreme minimalist will probably only have a couple sets of plates/eating utensils. They might have one high-quality pan for cooking meals, but nothing more.
Hopefully that makes things a little clearer in terms of what the lifestyle of an extreme minimalist actually looks like.
And if you’re considering implementing the extreme version of minimalism into your life, those bullet points should give you an idea of how to organize your life in a way that suits your new goals.
What Are The Benefits Of Extreme Minimalism?
Now that we’ve covered what extreme minimalism is and what it actually looks like, let’s talk about some of the benefits of this approach to life.
Benefit #1: More Time For What’s Really Important
When you sacrifice so much of the things that take up your time and attention, it’s only natural you’ll start to fill that space with meaningful activities.
As human beings, we all have a desire to feel stimulated. And when you adopt extreme minimalism, you’ll need to switch up your habits to find that stimulation.
Instead of watching a bunch of TV, you may start spending more time with your friends. You’ll probably find a new hobby that you really enjoy, or start engaging in more spiritual practices like meditation and journaling.
Benefit #2: It’s Harder To Fall Into Bad Habits
One of the reasons people find it so hard to break bad habits is that their environment constantly exposes them to the cues that lead to self-sabotaging behaviors.
Well, with extreme minimalism some of these bad habits become impossible to engage in.
If you have a bad habit of binge-watching Netflix on your couch, how are you going to do that with no TV or couch?
If you have a bad habit of playing video games late at night, how are you going to do that without a gaming system or a monitor?
Extreme minimalism can eradicate these behaviors instantly so that you don’t have to rely on pure willpower to avoid engaging in them.
Benefit #3: You Save Money
By selling a bunch of stuff that you don’t need, you’re obviously going to get a solid chunk of change for those items.
If you decide to downsize your home and move into an apartment, or sell high-ticket items like your car, the financial benefit will be even more significant.
More importantly though, becoming an extreme minimalist will ingrain a new mindset that changes the way you spend money. Frugal living will become your default state because of the massive lifestyle changes that you’ve decided to make.
Many extreme minimalists become much more efficient consumers and only spend money when they absolutely have to.
Benefit #4: Improved Focus & Productivity
Unsurprisingly, extreme minimalism is one of the best productivity hacks that you can ever implement.
With less clutter and almost no distractions, you’ll likely find it easier to get into the flow state and stay there when it’s time to get shit done.
Because you’re not tempted by the productivity killers that most people have in their home, it’s practically a guarantee that the quality of your work sessions will increase.
Should You Adopt Extreme Minimalism?
The ultimate question about extreme minimalism is this — should you take the plunge?
Well, the answer isn’t quite straightforward. It depends on your unique situation, and how much sacrifice you’re willing to tolerate.
I know that no one likes an answer that starts with “it depends,” so here’s the bottom line:
For most of you reading this article, the answer is no.
Look, there’s undoubtedly benefits to extreme minimalism. Perhaps the biggest one being that it facilitates a productive and meaningful life with less clutter.
Yet, the sacrifices required are immense. For one thing, you may have to give up things that you actually care about for the sake of living with as little as possible.
Additionally, it’s possible that when adopting this philosophy, you’ll flip to the other extreme and become obsessive about living a bare-bones lifestyle. And let’s be honest here — there’s always downsides to the extreme version of any idea.
- Aiming for extreme productivity and working 12-14 hours per day can lead to you overextending yourself and experiencing burnout.
- Becoming obsessed with fitness and working out 5-6 hours per day can negatively affect other areas of your life (unless you’re a professional bodybuilder obviously)
Letting the desire for consumption take over your life is not good, but that doesn’t mean that a total obsession with the opposite philosophy is the right alternative.
Yet despite the downsides, there are people out there who’ve experienced significant positive change as a result of extreme minimalism.
At the end of the day, reinventing yourself always feels scary. And if you’re waiting to feel ready to make drastic changes in your life, you’ll be waiting until the day that you die.
So if you truly feel like you’re ready to adopt this lifestyle and accept the consequences, who the hell am I to tell you that’s the wrong decision?
You’ll never find out whether extreme minimalism is worth it if you don’t take the plunge. If you feel that it’s the right path for you, then give it a shot and see how things go!
(Well, maybe do everything except sell your house immediately. You might wanna let extreme minimalism marinate a little bit before you take that final leap.)
The beauty of life is that it’s long, and you can re-adjust your priorities as many times as you need to in order to get things right.
What Are The Alternatives?
The best alternative to extreme minimalism is to step things down a notch and simply adopt basic minimalism to effectively prioritize your life.
Remember, the basic principle behind minimalism is making more room for the things that matter and setting yourself free from excess — literally anyone can use this philosophy to facilitate positive change.
We could all benefit from taking a little time to simplify our lives:
- We could all benefit from selling items that we don’t use anymore
- We could all benefit from getting rid of clothes that we don’t wear anymore
- We could all benefit from letting go of one or two electronics that hamper our ability to be productive.
- We could all benefit from narrowing our focus and cutting out a few goals.
So if becoming an extreme minimalist isn’t appealing to you, here’s a blog post which describes simple ways to apply the principles of minimalism and be intentional without going full nomad.
- Related Article: 13 Easy Ways To Minimize Your Life
Helpful Extreme Minimalism Videos
To wrap things up, here are a few Youtube videos about extreme minimalism that will give you an in-depth look at what it’s really like to live that way.
The first-hand perspective of people who are actually walking the talk should make it crystal clear what you’re signing up for and the potential benefits that you can experience.
I hope that you found this overview of extreme minimalism helpful.
Whether or not you decide to go extreme is up to you. There’s undoubtedly positive benefits that you can experience, but there’s also sacrifices involved as well.
Even if you decide against extreme minimalism, there’s really no debate that there are positive benefits to applying minimalism to certain areas of your life, even if it’s in small ways.