For quite some while there is one question that it’s not giving me peace. It’s a question the answer of which should resolve most of my problems related to minimalism. The question that is troubling me is: Exactly how much stuff, objects, resources, natural elements a person actually needs to survive, be happy and thrive in the world. I thought it will be cool to list all items you need in life necessary for a modern person to survive in this world. Without any extra comforts. Only the essentials.
If you think about it, every person living in this world can live for many years by only having constant access to these four things: 1) Water; 2) Oxygen; 3) Shelter; 4) Food. Basically, if you have where to sleep, what to eat and drink, and if the air you bread is good, you can last forever – well, at least till a certain age.1 I mean, these four things are enough for someone on the planet earth to live. You may not even have to work and worry about money if you have a small garden where you grow your own food.
Still, very few people want this type of lifestyle, where you’re completely isolated from the world and you only live to survive. To live like a modern person, to create, build, raise a family and shape the future the way you desire, you need a bit more than only the above four things.
Why The Question for The Amount of Things Worries Me So Much?
The world is such a dynamic place, every day there are thousands of new products created, articles published, videos recorded, TV series released. It’s becoming so hard to keep up with all that data that the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) condition is spreading amongst more and more people. Before I thought that this FOMO thing is simply another phony medical condition invented by the pharmaceutical companies to sell us more drugs. But this time I believe it. It’s a real thing. I know because I get that feeling every now and then.2 The moment you open your eyes is a beginning of a decision-making process that in most of the cases ends with regret: “What to have for breakfast?”; “Where to go to have a coffee?”; “What to wear?”; “Should I sleep for 5 more minutes or get up off my ass and actually make a workout?” The moment you order something at the restaurant or you go to a certain nightclub you get depressed and start thinking what would have happened if you actually went to the other disco.
At a certain point in my life, I was consumed by the always wanting more mindset. My thoughts were focused towards a constant desire to acquire things which I didn’t had. I thought that these things will make me really happy and satisfied.
Before I fed my mind with things like: “If I only had a cooler car, everything was going to be perfect.”; “The only thing left to have a perfect wardrobe is a green blazer. Once I have that my life is going to be complete.” Basically, I was pursuing the perfect life and as if this lifestyle was only achievable if you obtain new things – continuously.
I took me years to realize that this mindless pursuit of more things won’t make me happier. Hoping and pursuing more only makes you want more. It doesn’t bring relief.
After all these years, all this time, all this money wasted, I decided to finally create a list of things that are actually required for a regular person to feel complete and happy with what he/she has. The list is not long and it’s achievable from anyone.
Essential things you need to survive in life
What do humans actually need in order to survive in life?
After thinking about it and going through the entire net, I was able to conclude the following list of things that are kind of the bare minimum of items needed for someone to survive in the world and kind of be happy with what he/she has. I really hope the below-mentioned objects will give you a better understanding with what exactly you need and also help you remove the things you don’t.
Ok, let’s start:
Ok, I need to get this out of the way. Even though no one knows exactly when money was invented, it was something necessary in order for people to grow as a species.3
Before the first coin was cut, people exchanged goods in the most logical way: you have iron, you give iron to the local shepherd and he gives you milk in return. But what if your neighbor doesn’t want iron? Or, how do you determine how much iron you should give for a litter of milk? Well, the chance to end up thirsty or hungry were really high.
We all need cash. Or at least all the people who are reading this article. There are still tribes that survive by hunting for food. Clans that use mud and clay to raise their homes. These guys are the true minimalists. These guys own only things they need and use, not like us – people constantly hungry for more iThings.
So, the next logical question is going to be: “How much money is enough money?” The sad part is that no one knows. Both rich and poor people want more money. Both for obvious reasons: Poor to upgrade their way of living; Rich to gain more power. We no longer live for life itself, we live to earn money. Our lives are rarely measured by something else besides how much money we earn.
At the end of the day though, we actually need only a few hundreds a month. The final number depends on where you’re living in the world but it’s definitely less than what we think.
Kind of obvious but we can’t go without it. “But how is this related to minimalism” you might ask? By restricting yourself from consuming more goods you’re helping the mother nature. The more we consume the more waste we are producing. Trash is the byproduct of higher consumption. So, if you’re advocating a life focused towards only the essentials, a life with less, you’re basically helping humanity. You’re producing less waste which is keeping our planet breathable.
I wanted to put this in the beginning on the list because the message which the idea of minimalism sends to the world is not only “by less stuff.” It’s buy less stuff for reasons. And one of those reasons is that you’re helping humanity fight the pointless consumption of goods we don’t actually need.
By saying liquids I mainly refer to water.
Alcohol is highly addictive and can easily ruin your life. We don’t actually need any of the products advertised on TV: Cola, cold tea, tea, coffee, beer, whiskey. We buy coffee from Starbucks only because it tastes good, not because it has a positive impact on our health. Over our mind maybe yes, but it’s surely not giving us any benefits to our health. It’s actually worse.
You only need water to survive.
When you go to a restaurant you’re puzzled by all the choices. It’s especially worse if the restaurant you’re visiting has a large menu. If this is the case you will feel bad no matter what you order because you will think that the other thing – the one you didn’t order – it’s better.
Every person is different and loves different food, but ultimately, you can thrive by only eating a set of only a few dishes through your entire lifespan.4
For example, I know that the Chinese survived back in the days by only eating rice. Even though it’s probably not a good idea to eat only one type of food mainly because we need different amino acids, we can still outlive a lot of people if we dedicate our stomach for only one type of food.
Mother nature can be really hard on us sometimes. Storms and floods are something common. We need a place where we can hide from the burning sun and stay dry when it’s raining outside. This space, however, doesn’t necessarily have to be a three-story building with huge space in front. A studio apartment can basically satisfy all of our biological needs and allows us to raise a family.
The common desire of people to own homes that are as big as a palace is installed in our brains by the modern belief that in order to be successful you need to own a big house with a lot of fancy stuff inside. In reality, you need a single room, or two depending on the size of your tribe, with a small restroom.
The average area you need in order to live is around 24sqm.5
6. Furniture & Kitchenware
Once you have where to live, you will need a couple of furniture pieces to help you arrange your belongings in the best possible way. You can go crazy about what to buy in terms of tables cabinets but essentially, you need only these 6 things:
That’s all you need in terms of furniture. Where to sleep, where to eat, where to work, and where to store your clothes.
In terms of kitchen wear, you need the following things:
- Fork, spoon, knives.
- A cup.
- A saucepan, frying pan.
- Other small kitchen tools.
Think about the above things the next time you’re planning to renovate your apartment.
7. Vehicle for transportation
In part, we owe our success as a nation to our ability to transport large amounts of goods in different areas of the world, quickly. Even though you can live your entire life by only staying in one place, it’s not something a lot of people can handle. For decades our ancestors were wandering the earth and this is surely implemented in our DNA. I mean, if I stay at home for a couple of days I get anxious. I kind of start feeling like I’m a prisoner and I need to go for a walk.
Basically, our modern life obligates us to own a vehicle of some sort – in most of the cases a car – in order to go to work, go to the store to buy goods or something else. Fortunately, smart people have invented different ways of transportation over the years: bicycle, motor, cars, planes, skateboards, rollerblades, scooters, and etc. You can even move around towns with a horse. Nowadays you surely won’t see a lot of people riding horses but thanks to the industrialization basically nearly everyone can afford to own a car.
Still, the question is, do you really need a car?
I recently replaced my car with a folding street bike and I must say that I’m much more happier.6 I now enjoy my way to work. I don’t wait in traffic and I don’t have to get upset every time someone forgets to use his blinker. Of course, a bike won’t be the most suitable solution for everybody. There are a lot of people who live a long way from work and a car is the most practical decision. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think about alternative ways of transportation. A car is a pretty big expense and there are certainly ways to replace your automobile with the public transportation or a bike, like I did.
So, you can basically live without owning a car. The available public transport is quite enough to move us from point A to point B. Still, if you plan to get one, have in mind that it doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive one. A used car is also a solution.
The fashion industry is a billion dollar business. It’s hard to neglect the latest fashion trends and remain unimpressed. Each season there are new cool wears which are taking over the world and becoming a necessity for half of the population around the globe thanks to the heavy marketing of the leading brands.
Fashion gives people something that only very few other things can offer. It gives people the chance to reveal their inner emotions and feelings to the world. Clothes and accessories can make the invisible – the true feelings and desires of a person – visible to the outside world. Clothes are a way to express ourselves. It’s normal to say that if a person wears a shirt and tie you can expect from him to be a responsible guy on who you can count on. Further, clothes keep us warm from the natural elements. Animals have fur that protects them from cold and sun but we need additional coverage. Our bodies can’t survive without proper clothing. What we buy and what we wear is based on the conditions outside and on the latest fashion trends.
How much clothes is considered enough, though?
Let’s see what are the essentials:
- Shoes: Not that you can’t live with only one pair of shoes but you will eventually go to a wedding and you will need something appropriate. Ultimately, you can own only 3 pairs of shoes without counting the flip-flops: Sneakers; Official shoes; Training Shoes.
- Socks and underwear: It will be enough to have 10 pairs of both categories: underwear and socks.
- Jeans/Pants: A pair of jeans and a pair of long trousers will do the work for any type of occasion. Additionally, you will need a tracksuit and probably shorts. Ahh, also a bathing suit. So, 5 items.
- T-shirts: When it comes down to t-shirts people go crazy. My closet was full of all kinds of t-shirts before. I used to keep my old torn t-shirts for no obvious reason. Now, I have only a handful of pieces in this category and it’s still more than I need. Since we’re talking about the essentials here, from my point of view the following number will be enough: 7 t-shirts for going out – one for each day of the week. 7 that can be used when working out or that can be worn in-house. Extra 5 for sleeping.
- Shirts: Unless you work as a lawyer you will probably only need around 3 shirts: For your wedding; For all of your best friends weddings; For every other occasion held in a fancy restaurant.
- Sweaters and vests: Depending on the weather in the country you’re living in you will need more or less of those. Still, the number will be around 2 from each.
- Jackets: Winter jacket, a blazer, a bomber jacket, and a wind stopper for when your hiking.
- Accessories: Of course, you can’t go without the essential accessories: watch; hats for both when it’s cold and for when it’s too hot; belt or two; bowtie; wallet; backpack; travel bag. In total 9 items.
I don’t know if you’re counting but your wardrobe can be composed by only 57 pieces. How much do you own now?
If you’re looking for some extra advice in regards how to dress, you might check my minimalist fashion definitive guide.
If you open Kickstarter now you will find at least 5 things you don’t actually need but you will immediately want. Thanks to the innovations in technology more people are now able to produce interesting products.
Even though I love the idea of supporting creative people who are trying to make a difference, you don’t need more than 95% of the things produced in every category.
Here’s a list of the gadgets you actually need in your life:
- Coffee machine.
- Oven with hobs.
- Washing machine.
- Dishwasher – it saves a lot of time.
Exactly 10 things. You don’t need Amazon echo, Oculus, PlayStation or a Google Home. Hell, you don’t even need a TV. If you ever want to waste your time by watching something you can do it on your laptop.
Think about it for a moment, how many of the stuff you own you don’t use in your home? It’s maybe a good idea to get rid of them.
So far we talked mainly about physical objects or tangible resources that are necessary for our survival. Even though we can survive in the world, live our lives on the planet without any interaction with the other fellow humans – or at least after we’re raised by our parents – the majority of the population can’t have a meaningful life without interacting with other people. We want to experience emotions, sensations, love, loss, sadness, joy, happiness. Even though there is no logic behind it we also need to feel pain from time to time.
Leave a person alone in a hotel room and it won’t take him more than an hour for him to look for some sort of social interaction with the outside world. Whether this will be through social media or through the old-fashioned conversation-with-someone-else way, we crave for experiences that will put a smile on our face or tears in our eyes. We Are social animals and seek emotions constantly.
I enjoy owning things. Especially items that are well designed and help you in your daily tasks. Yet, I don’t find a good reason to desire a lot of things. The less you own the more time you will have for the important things in your life. Like your family, friends, craft.
People spend their entire lives wanting to buy bigger houses, expensive cars or have larger wardrobes. Sadly, when you get what you want, your desire immediately shifts towards the next big thing and you can’t actually feel satisfaction from what you just received.
Get to know what you actually need in your life. Think about how you spend your days. What you use and what you don’t. Our lives are different but you surely don’t need the latest smartphone or a 100-inch plasma to live a good, meaningful life.
I hope this guide will pinpoint the essential things and help you declutter both your physical and your mental space. Which will ultimately grant you with more time and more satisfaction from your life.
How much stuff you own but you don’t use? Can you tell?
- Years ago, the causes for a fatal end were quite different: wild animals, storms, floods. Now, the threats are quite different: suicide, terrorism, car or plane crash.
- FOMO is the abbreviation of fear of missing out. If you look online you will find this detailed description: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.
- I was eager to learn actually when money was invented but even Wikipedia is clueless: “… it is impossible to trace the true origin of the invention of money and the transition from ” barter systems” to the ” monetary systems“.
- I recently stumbled on a guy who actually eats only pizza. You can read his story here: LINK.
- If you don’t believe me? You can check out this micro apartment: LINK.
- You can see my bike on this post: Why I become a minimalist.