Is Extreme Minimalism Too Extreme For You?

extreme minimalism


ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

As a minimalist, I’m often asked about what it would look like to push the boundaries of this lifestyle to the extreme. With less than 1,000 items to my name and a mindset that now aligns with my values, I’ve never been more content. While there is no single way to be a minimalist — or an extreme one — I hope my experiences will help you decide if extreme minimalism is for you.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Is Extreme Minimalism?

What Is Extreme Minimalism

Extreme minimalism is a lifestyle in which a person chooses to simplify down to the bare essentials. It differs from the “typical” idea of minimalism in that it radically defies social norms and pushes the boundaries of comfort.

Although extreme minimalism usually refers to the number of physical possessions one owns, I quickly realized that the philosophy behind it often extends to other aspects of life.

What Is An Extreme Minimalist’s Mindset?

Like any minimalist, extremists desire to focus their time and energy on the things that matter most to them. They feel burdened by decision fatigue and the responsibilities that come with ownership, so they streamline their lives in hopes of feeling free and light. To them, the perks of paring down far outweigh the pitfalls.

Extreme minimalists often apply their mindset to areas of life beyond physical ownership. They may strive for inbox zero, a simplified diet, or regimented routines. These changes, coupled with limited possessions, help extreme minimalists remove as much clutter as possible from their lives.

What Are The Benefits Of Extreme Minimalism?

What Are The Benefits Of Extreme Minimalism

Extreme minimalism requires sacrifice, which I think is a big reason why the lifestyle is not necessarily “mainstream.” However, the many benefits of this simplistic lifestyle makes the decision to downsize seem extra appealing.

Extra Money

I’m not sure if I would consider myself an extreme minimalist, but I’ve found that taking great measures to downsize has completely transformed my finances.

save extra money in the bankAfter losing my first “adult” job during the 2009 recession, I had to rethink my approach to money. When I examined my budget and discovered that half of my income was going toward rent, utilities, and insurance, I made the decision to build my own tiny home.

Through this process, I was able to cut my cost of living from $1,500 per month to just $15 per month (yes, you read that correctly). Eventually, I paid off all my debt!

Even without debt, having extra money in the bank can help people achieve goals they had never imagined before. Once I paid off my debt, I found myself with a surplus of money to use however I wished — for travel, novel experiences, charity, or retirement.

More Time

With fewer possessions to manage, extreme minimalists generally experience an influx in freedom. With less surfaces to wipe down, less clothing to wash, and fewer items to organize, they have more free time to explore their passions, pursue their health, and invest in relationships.

A 2018 study conducted by the American Cleaning Institute reveals that the average American spends six hours cleaning their home each week. Whereas a non-minimalist probably considers this number “normal” or necessary, an extreme minimalist might beg to differ.

more time to enjoy life

Less Stress

More money and more time don’t guarantee less stress, but they certainly help.

extreme minimalists can spend more time relaxing
When people stop spending money on excess, they can rest assured knowing they’ll have more than enough to pay for what they actually need. They won’t experience buyer’s remorse because they can no longer afford a bill after making a fun purchase.

Instead of worrying about all the clutter that needs to be tidied over the weekend or at the end of the day, extreme minimalists can spend those hours relaxing and engaging in activities that bring them joy.

the purpose of stuff

What Are Some Examples of Extreme Minimalism?

What Are Some Examples of Extreme Minimalism

Extreme minimalism looks different for everyone — it will manifest itself in a unique way depending on who you are and what your goals are. Below are three examples of extreme minimalism.

An Extreme Minimalist’s Wardrobe

After taking a popular money management course, minimalism vlogger Madisun Gray decided to reevaluate her wardrobe. She carefully chose a few pieces and discarded the rest (about 90% of her clothes). Once described by her husband as an “aspiring fashion blogger,” her miniscule wardrobe now fits on a small rack in her bedroom.

madisun gray

“I feel like paring down, simplifying, limiting my options is what actually gives me the most freedom and fulfillment in my life.”

– Madisun Gray, Content Creator

A few years ago, I decided to opt into an incredibly minimal wardrobe as well. Most days, you can find me in a gray T-shirt and khaki shorts; I call this my “minimalist uniform.” Getting dressed each day has become so easy that I can’t imagine returning to a more diverse wardrobe.

Deciding which pieces to hold onto can be tough — especially for those who like variety. I used these guidelines to assist me in the decision-making process.

An Extreme Minimalist’s Home

Even people who have larger homes can still practice extreme minimalism.

Take Anja of Anja’s ArtWorld, for example. Although she has a decent amount of space in her home, she doesn’t enjoy doing housework and is easily distracted by visual clutter. Because of this, she has intentionally chosen to keep only the essentials.

Her home decor is limited to a few items, including a mirror, a rug, and a key ring holder. Most of her items are purely functional, such as her mattress and her singular bar of soap.

anjas artworld

“This is working out fine for me, so there is no need for me to own any more things. In fact, I’d rather minimize more.”

– Anja, Anja’s ArtWorld

An Extreme Minimalist’s Travel Pack

Some extreme minimalists choose not to have a permanent residence at all.

Over the span of a decade, Rob Greenfield of Exploring Alternatives has decreased his possessions to 47 items — all of which he carries in his backpack. He travels from place to place, enjoying temporary lodging in each new location.

exploring alternatives

“Living with everything in my backpack and not having anything anywhere else has given me a much deeper form of presence. I don’t have things pulling me in different directions.”

– Rob Greenfield, Exploring Alternatives

Are There Any Downsides To Extreme Minimalism?

Are There Any Downsides To Extreme Minimalism

Before discarding items left and right, it may be helpful to consider some potential downsides of extreme minimalism. It’s important to note that it’s not always smooth sailing.

It Can Be An Emotional Roller Coaster

Although downsizing might feel liberating, it can also be emotionally taxing. Letting go can be quite challenging for those who are especially frugal, social, or sentimental. There are plenty of good reasons why people keep things — security, belonging, and remembrance are just a few.

Extreme minimalism may stir up fears of isolationExtreme minimalism has the potential to stir up feelings of fear, isolation, and grief. Once minimalists discard valuable items, they might worry they’ll need them again. Friends and family may ostracize them for their unconventional lifestyle. They may mourn the loss of possessions that meant a lot to them.

These feelings are part of the process, and some people are willing to endure them to experience the benefits of minimalism.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to eliminate certain items from my life when I began my minimalism journey. I don’t regret downsizing, but it didn’t come without an initial cost.

It Can Be Inconvenient At Times

The truth is, extreme minimalism isn’t for the faint of heart.

extreme minimalist lifestyle can be hardHaving a limited number of items can be wildly inconvenient when hosting others. Imagine not being able to give a guest a glass of water because the singular cup is already taken. That would be rather awkward.

This lifestyle can be vexing even without hosting others. If extreme minimalists fall ill but don’t have medicine, get hungry but don’t store much food, or catch a chill without an extra blanket, they could end up suffering more than they have to.

Either that, or they have to make a special trip to acquire supplies. Extreme minimalism requires a great deal of forethought.

It Could Inadvertently Harm The Environment

Decluttering might sound wonderful in theory, but it’s important to remember that just because people no longer own certain items doesn’t mean those items cease to exist.

The irresponsible disposal of unwanted items has the potential to harm the environment. Becoming an extreme minimalist usually involves some level of landfill waste, but the more people can do to reuse and recycle, the better. Items can be listed on a variety of apps, and whatever isn’t sold can be donated to secondhand shops.

Tips To Become An Extreme Minimalist

Tips To Become An Extreme Minimalist

Identify Your Goals

What do you want your life to look like at the end of this journey? How do you want to feel?

Sort And Declutter Your Possessions

Many people assume there’s an ideal number of items extreme minimalists should own, but it’s not about the number — it’s about your individual aspirations. Decluttering can be extremely overwhelming without an organized approach. A 30-day challenge can help keep you on track.

Exercise Mindfulness When Shopping

Try to avoid shopping in general, but when you must, consider purchasing sustainable, high-quality products. The best way to avoid impulse shopping is to keep a running list of wants and needs. Require yourself to wait for a designated period of time before making a purchase.

Adopt New Habits

It’s tempting to fill free time with consumption. Instead, when you feel restless, experiment with new practices like yoga, meditation, reading, or hiking.

Regularly Re-evaluate

Our needs and desires change over time. Part of maintaining an extremely minimal lifestyle is noticing and responding to those shifts. Be cognizant of which items no longer serve you, even after your initial decluttering session. Discard or replace them to avoid the gradual accumulation of unwanted possessions.

how to become a minimalist

Is Extreme Minimalism For You?

Is Extreme Minimalism For You

Although extreme minimalism may be beneficial for some, it is definitely not for everyone. At the end of the day, only you can determine if extreme minimalism is for you.

There is no perfect way to practice it, so you can choose to adopt certain aspects of the philosophy while disregarding others, just as I have.

Regardless of what “level” of minimalism you wish you achieve, the lifestyle should be adopted gradually to avoid feelings of oppression and decrease the likelihood of backsliding.

determine if extreme minimalism is for you

Your Turn!

  • What most appeals to you about extreme minimalism?
  • What are your hesitations about becoming an extreme minimalist?

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