life in a tiny apartment.

August 2, 2017

minimalist in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

Survival Tip #155: Call yourself whatever you please.

Over the weekend, a morning walk to the farmers’ market got us a basket full of fresh vegetables and a dusty wooden crate that a neighbor filling a moving van had abandoned to the curb. There’s a world of wonder in the things that folks leave curbside. Why abandoned? Where from? Who wants it, anyway?

In places where abandonment of household items on stoops isn’t commonplace, there are other similar points of exchange: church basements and thrift stores and old fashioned tag sales in summery driveways and backyards. Thing is, you can scrawl FREE on a piece of white paper and tape it to a formerly serviceable item and chances are that eventually someone will scoop it up.


Back home, we dusted off the crate. There were cobwebs in the corners. Faye was the first to notice that in places the nails had popped. She scampered to her room to find her wooden hammer and with impressive accuracy, she thwacked them back into place. We sprayed down the crate in the bathtub and left it up on the building’s roof to dry in the sun for the day. Nothing a bit of sunshine can’t cure, is the theory. (Nothing that a bit of sunny bleaching doesn’t improve.)

All dried, the crate will slide under our bench and hold our collection of cookbooks. It will replace another crate, one with less charm and more spilled wax that was my sister’s in college and mine after that. We’ll shift that one to a spot under the far corner of Faye’s bed and use it for keeping a small collection of toys that we’ll cycle in and out of rotation on her bookshelf. So it goes in a small apartment or anywhere. Cycle in, cycle out.minimalist in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves


Minimalism is a word that I tend to squirm against. It’s mostly been a word that’s used by other people to describe my lifestyle, but it’s not a word I particularly enjoy using to describe myself​.​ Thrifty, yes. Clutter-phobe, okay. Aiming for sustainability as best I can, where I can, yes. But for as many books (including my own) or blog posts or magazine articles as there are extolling minimalism’s virtues, in the past year, I’ve also read a half dozen articles that rail against minimalism. These pieces generally discuss the class implications: that being minimalist is a privilege disguised as an ethic. The critique includes the observation that a minimalist aesthetic—like any aesthetic—can become yet another kind of conspicuous consumption.​

And there’s truth to this. In this space, part of the work I do is to share thoughtfully made things that I admire. Many of these products are inaccessible to lots of people. I’d never suggest that the only path toward so-called minimalist enlightenment is through purchase of a costly good. So much more often than not, it’s through making no purchases at all. ​

Still, by reducing ​the tradition of practicing simplicity, or even acesticism, to a rich person’s pastime, we ignore a much humbler intention​. Under a dozen different names, centuries of people have been compelled to live simply; to carve out a path that is unconventional in a world that idolizes material goods. And while the voices of the folks who are not elite might be less often cited or celebrated in popular media, their quiet, personal endeavors have their own place in the conversation.

In my view—in fact, in my personal experience, minimalists are not only wealthy people hoping to ease the burden of their overconsumption or winnow their belongings to the perfect minimalist gadget, but people who have, out of a sense of moral, spiritual or environmental concern, or, yes, personal aesthetic, decided to set a path apart. They’re no more snobbish or privileged than anyone with the gumption to make a bold choice in an unconventional direction. Or maybe, they’re people who just like the small joy of cleaning up a cluttered corner or finding the perfect old crate on the curb outside their door.

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  • Reply Mary Kate August 2, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Lovely little personal essay.
    I feel as though I fall somewhere between minimalist and non. I insist on reading physical books, and if I like the book, I keep it, and I love the look of filled bookshelves around my apartment. (I could never do a tiny house for this reason.) I don’t like bare walls; I like a comfortable, lived in feeling in my home with enough personal effects to make it clear it’s mine. On the other hand, I hate owning things I don’t need (which is why I’m currently stressing about what to do with the recent gifts I got that I don’t need from people who went off-registry and did not leave me with a gift receipt!)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 2, 2017 at 11:12 am


  • Reply Jennifer August 2, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Though our little 1940 home outside of Pittsburgh is very different from your tiny apartment in New York, you have a kindred spirit here who also finds joy in taking things out, sweeping out the dust, and only putting back in what is good for us. This applies to more than just the baby clothes and wooden spoons, of course. Thank you. I was wondering when this post would come.

  • Reply kelly August 2, 2017 at 11:13 am

    I love love love this time of year. The curbs and sidewalks all around Boston leave little treasures for our neighbors to enjoy. The best time of the year for rummaging is on Labor Day weekend when the massive (annual) move in and move out of college students occurs. Yesterday, I collected a stack of kids books and (unopened/new) travel games for my sister’s kiddos. I, too, find it fascinating taking a peek inside the boxes and paper bags left out with their handwritten “FREE” sign.

  • Reply Alyse August 2, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Your latter comment about minimalism as a privilege resonates with me. I can’t afford many of the items you have linked to in the past, but I still like to see them. It is still interesting to me to see how people approach an intentional lifestyle, whatever that might look like. For instance, my grandparents, children of the Depression, took that time with them for the rest of their lives. My paternal grandmother knew great hardship, so as an adult, on a moderate income, she collected anything she found beautiful, mostly from garage sales and antique shops. I remember drawers and drawers of lace gowns and nighties, shelves crammed with countless sets of dishes, cabinets filled three deep with rows of porcelain figurines, linens hidden in boxes everywhere. But the house never looked cluttered, strangely, because she had everything arranged just so. Her bedroom could only have been called a boudoir, and this in a little wooden house in east Texas. On the other hand, her husband, who slept in the other bedroom (that was just how they did things), kept his space as spare as a monk. A radio next to the bed and his boots were the only things in the room besides the furniture. All this is to say, both had exactly what they wanted and nothing more, and I find even my grandmother’s maximalism admirable in its own strange way. Anyway, sorry for the ramble, your post was thought provoking. Would love to read any of the articles you mentioned if you’d care to share.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 2, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Hi there! Your grandparents sound fascinating! Such good imagery in their story! Will see if I can round up a few of the pieces I’ve read and link to them in the comments!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 2, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Hi again! Here are three I’m remembering off the top of my head:

      + Minimalism is Just Another Boring Product You Can Buy

      + The Class Politics of Decluttering

      + The Oppressive Gospel of Minimalism

      There are more! Will add if I can manage to remember who wrote them!

      • Reply Alyse August 2, 2017 at 12:03 pm

        Thanks so much!

      • Reply Sarah August 11, 2017 at 11:14 pm

        Thank you for posting these links 🙂

    • Reply Jennifer August 2, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Your grandparents sound marvelous. What a great alternative to relationship squabbles. This is definitely something to keep in mind with my husband (who is my opposite).

  • Reply Tamara August 2, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I’m totally with you. I’ve always understood your work to be about personal style combined with a desire for sustainability and wanting to make good choices, for the sake of your family, your community, and the common good. And while some minimalists blogs, books, style gurus, and what not are often completely oblivious (or don’t care) about the fact that most people don’t have a 5000$ rug in their decorating budget, you’ve never been one of those people and I so appreciate it. I love how thoughtful you are and how you ask questions and prompt others to ask questions about the choices we make and then also give complete freedom for people to land where they will with their answers. And as a maker of handmade goods myself, I totally get the struggle with the cost of the labor versus wanting to provide affordable alternatives to mass produced items and I so appreciate that you champion thoughtfully made things. Keep it up, whatever you call yourself. 😉

  • Reply Janean August 2, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Labels are labels no matter the label, right? I too cringe at them and use it as a reminder not to do the same — even to myself! We are all so varied, paradoxical and far more beautiful…

  • Reply Michelle August 2, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Well said, particularly in regards to class when it comes to minimalism. I have found myself hesitant to talk about minimalism because it has developed such a negative connotation and seen as a privilege, and because I am fortunate enough to have certain means I feel I am going to be lumped into that stereotype. My goal for minimalism is largely for environmental reasons, with the addition of my leanings towards that aesthetic. I appreciate your shining a light on how to use that which is already available to us, finding beauty in the worn, and not making the default to purchase from large mass-production organization stores.

  • Reply Sarah E August 2, 2017 at 11:42 am

    This is something I think about often, too. I do think there are major class implications, and that it’s not uncommon for the trappings of poverty or other cultures to become fetishized by the mainstream. A major factor I see, though, is how many folks in the Millennial generation are economically worse off than their parents, or whose economic futures are uncertain. So yes, it’s important to be aware what while some choose to shop second-hand, others can’t afford anything else. But also, some of these revamped practices– simple living, second-hand goods, preserving food– come from the acknowledgement that the future IS uncertain, that capitalism has not served us well, that our earning potential may be way more limited that what we grew up to expect.

    Anyways, thanks for the thoughtful consideration here. Coincidentally, over on A Practical Wedding, there’s a very good discussion on the class implications of weddings, and many commenters are positing how class affects conspicuous consumption sometimes in unexpected ways. A good addition to your thoughts here, for sure.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 2, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Loved that piece on APW! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Sarah August 11, 2017 at 11:16 pm

      Very, very well said 🙂

  • Reply Lauren August 2, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    I appreciate your affirmation of the role of NOT purchasing as equally (if not more!) important to purchasing thoughtfully made goods, in the pursuit of sustainability (in this and past posts). This brings to mind the idea that the best indicator of carbon footprint is income. Certainly there are exceptions, but limiting consumption is a necessity for so many and a privilege for others. I think it’s important to take joy in our day to day choices and activities but also important to acknowledge how consuming less can feel carefree and joyful (and be celebrated) when it’s a choice but can be a stressful reminder of the bills unpaid when it’s driven by necessity.

    • Reply Carol August 2, 2017 at 5:34 pm

      Agree with Lauren’s comments and the dynamic around choice and necessity. Also aware from your early postings (and reading your book) that limited income may have been part of your own experience. There are similar discussions on some of the sewing/knitting makers groups.

  • Reply Kate August 2, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Minimalism is a new endeavor for me but I feel as though it’s help me grow and care less about aesthetics. Mostly in the way I see other people. I will admit I am judgmental when I see someone with a certain type of bag, or style. Now I am to the point where, ok, that’s what you like, this is what I like. I don’t need what you have to make me happy or feel better about myself. Minimalism has also started to show me what I truly love and helped me purchase items I love for their practicality as well as their style.

  • Reply SEM August 2, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Great insights here. I too struggle with defining for myself what I’m ‘doing’ (and whether it’s ‘minimalism’ or some other project). I’ve read both types of articles too and they all make valid points. I think for me, my biggest source of angst is finding contentment whilst ‘checking my privilege’ and realizing so much is truly out of my control. That privilege question has created a lot of guilt/shame as I navigate my role in consumer culture. Sometimes my behavior gives me pride and other times I’m appalled. I’m seeking comfort in being invested in my relationships, values, and experiences because as much as I’d like to make perfect choices/purchases, I’m an imperfect person. Investing in the value-centered aspects of my life helps me get closer to my intentions but doesn’t punish me for learning and growing along the way.

    • Reply Sarah E August 2, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      I totally reckon with a lot of the unearned financial privilege we currently have, too. Like you, I try to use that to make purchases that support my values (ethically/locally/sustainably made, as it applies) and also to support the generosity and hospitality that we share with others. When I can use extra funds to invest in my friends- whether that be physical gifts, or hosting barbeques or whatever, I feel like I’m using my privilege in ways that support a better community.

  • Reply sid August 2, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for having such a thoughtful response to these recent articles. I will say though that, like feminism, I actually think it’s important for people like yourself to identify openly as minimalist. As someone who comes to (my version of) minimalism from a perspective of trying to live ethically and minimize the harm I inflict on our planet through my consumptive practices – in addition to feeling healthier both mentally and physically when I live a simple life focused on the things that really matter to me – I think that minimalism needs visible, moderate people to counterbalance the charges of class-ism/elite-ism/privilege/etc. Those charges are valid criticism but they certainly aren’t a complete picture of the kinds of people who practice minimalism. I also struggle to understand how, as an admittedly very privileged person, it’s somehow wrong for me to attempt to use that privilege to “put my money where my mouth is” in respect of purposely consuming fewer and/or more ethically made/sourced items. Minimalism doesn’t require that someone spend $300 on PJs but if someone has that kind of money, I’d be much happier knowing they cared where their $300 dollars went rather than spending the money without regard to the impacts of their consumption.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 2, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      Interesting point! I think for me, it’s partially that “old groucho marx quote” and not wanting to be part of any club that would have me as a member, and partially that I tend to shy away from anything that feels too dogmatic, or too much like there’s a way to be “good or bad,” “right or wrong”. That said, I’m definitely all for there being a moderating voice!

  • Reply Allyson August 2, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you for this essay. My husband and I fall at the very low end of the middle class, and among our socioeconomic peers, and even those who are more firmly middle class than us, there is a sort of huffiness about our purchasing choices (e.g., that we primarily shop at the local food co-op instead of discount grocery stores). It’s frustrating, in my opinion, because it undermines their own agency. We each have a right and responsibility to make choices for how to use whatever financial resources we have available to us. Regardless of what we choose to purchase, I think the important thing is to acknowledge that it is a choice. No family is forced to buy a 10 pound Styrofoam package of meat, but for some families, that might be the best choice.

    Besides, poor people were minimalist first. See also: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do with out”. I’d just add onto the end of that saying: “and then, if you’ve got money to spare, use it to buy something that will slow down that process next time and/or make the world a nicer place for all of us to live”.

  • Reply Jen August 2, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Yes! Thank you for this post, it’s something I think about often and appreciate reading about here. Not only your thoughtful words, but all the smart, kind conversations happening in the comments, too. Thank you for creating and fostering this community, this little corner of the internet that manages to by cozy and comforting, while also not afraid of difficult discussions around which there are many varied opinions.

    • Reply Danielle August 3, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Jen, I agree with you in that I’ve enjoyed reading these thoughtful comments just as much as Erin’s essay itself. Lately, I have been contemplating how rare it is to embark on thoughtful, considerate dialogue just for the sake of exploring differing views. Too often one party or another sees offence in differences and prevents the openness in conversation I find here. It’s wonderful!

  • Reply Sonja August 2, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Yes to all of this. So timely as I’ve been giving this quite a bit of thought lately. I think the ties between minimalism and class/privilege/access would be an incredible research study. For example, I am looking for a rug for my son’s room and I’m picky: natural products only, high quality, fairly traded or made locally, etc. Before my pursuit of intentional purchases (and minimalism as a result) I would have bought any old rug. Now I want one that meets my standards for quality and safety. And it’s absolutely an exercise of privilege which is a tough thing to reconcile. Not all minimalism is about privilege but I see where that argument comes from. However, in my privilege I strive to put my money where my mouth is and ensure that the brands I buy from are making the world a bit greener, etc.

  • Reply Rachel August 2, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    I love this piece and really appreciate your thoughts, photos and words. Keeping rocking it.

  • Reply LL August 2, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Your last paragraphs about “minimalism” were very, very cathartic to read. I’ve recently become fatigued with other blogs that I read that blast out the gospel of minimalism, show off their sterile and sparkling aesthetic from their moral high ground. It’s exhausting and I need to reconsider what kind of content I use my time and energy to consume.

  • Reply La Shell August 2, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for this post. I only this week did a post of something similar in my blog. I have read about minimalism being for the wealthy, but for me I’d have to disagree with that. I’m not wealthy and I pride myself in having things that I actually use and enjoy. I have had so many things in the past that day and collected dust and just made my space heavy. Now, we have stuff but think very hard about bringing new stuff into our space. Whenever we do bring, it’s because it’s replacing something, or it’s something we would really value. I’m a true fan of your blog. It gives me so many ideas! I love your week in objects and my tiny apartment series. It’s so well done! Oh an you insta is great too! Have a great day! You can check out my post if you like.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks so much, La Shell!

  • Reply La Shell August 2, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Made a few spelling errors as I’m on my phone! Sorry!

  • Reply Susan Crane August 2, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Beautifully said!!!

  • Reply Heather August 2, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    The minimalism is for the privileged argument kinda leaves me scratching my head. In part, I get it. Those of us who are in a good or ok financial position need to remember that others are not and be thoughtful of how we approach public discussions of spending habits. Erin, I think you do a good job of that. I find your simple space, and the fact that it was carefully (and thriftily!) made, inspiring. I don’t call myself a minimalist either even though the idea of minimalism, or more particularly simple and sustainable living, appeals to me and has shifted my approach to consumption. I don’t like the dogmatic version. But, I think there is value, whoever you are, in messages that counter the predominant consumerist ones we are all bombarded with. I see these messages, however you want to label them, as a reminder that there’s more than one way to live, and as a challenge to reconsider what the culture tells us we need.

  • Reply Schuyler August 2, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Lovely post, Erin! You may have already read it, but I thought you might enjoy this piece:

  • Reply Kate August 2, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece of writing. Very refreshing! I am a longtime fan of your blog and truth be told it is now one of just two lifestyle blogs that I visit nearly daily (the other one being A Cup of Jo) to provide inspiration and insights. I would be curious if in a future post (or maybe a series of posts?) you’d be willing to expand on the idea that “Many of these products are inaccessible to lots of people.” Because in some cases yes, it really is a matter that one simply does not have the income to purchase a $24 bottle of shampoo or a $200 nightgown as essential bills like food and rent need to be paid, but in other cases one might have the income to make such discretionary purchases, but is choosing to put their hard earned money towards other things like saving for/paying off a mortgage, funding retirement and/or college savings accounts, or saving up for international travel, etc. So I would be curious to hear how a variety of people (woman in particular, both single and partnered/married and both with and without children) approach their budgets and come to decisions about where to invest their discretionary income on the path to a “minimalist” lifestyle. I imagine it could be quite fascinating to see how some prioritize long-term savings while others prioritize things like buying local/organic produce and good quality clothing, while still others might fall somewhere in between.

  • Reply Amelia August 2, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Love this idea! Would be fascinating and inspiring for sure.

    • Reply Amelia August 2, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      And by “this idea” I mean Kate’s suggestion of blog posts about different paths and ways to budget on the road to minimalism. Not sure that was clear!

  • Reply Dana Leigh Lyons August 2, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Such a beautiful, thoughtful post, Erin – thank you! I live a very simple life and have very few belongings – this has stayed constant over the decades, as my income level has ebbed and flowed. Far more than a trend, it is choice that brings me spaciousness, ease and clarity.

  • Reply Carmella August 2, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    This. And can I say, how about the privilege we all enjoy of being able to look at beautiful workmanship of any kind, in any medium, and take from it education, refinement, and inspiration, so that when opportunity and our pocketbook align, at whatever point on the graph that may be, we might instantly know and select excellence, because we’ve seen it.

  • Reply Jess August 2, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    I love reading your beautiful words to Henry 🙂

  • Reply Lanen August 2, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Erin,
    I grew up in poverty, and I’ve rarely lived above the poverty line, despite being the first person in my family to attain a college degree. I grew up with very little, and yet, we were surrounded by an abundance of cheap, badly made plastic junk and the house was always cluttered. As an adult I’ve become a minimalist who embraces voluntary simplicity and sustainable living partly in response to that. Most of your product suggestions and many of the beautiful things I covet (thanks, Pinterest) are far beyond my price range, but I take solace in the fact that any secondhand thrift store find is more sustainable than anything purchased new. Being able to afford very little of what I find to be both beautiful and useful has the benefit of limiting my consumption to what I truly need, and adding on bit by bit. I think many folks with more means could learn something from that.

    • Reply Susan Magnolia August 3, 2017 at 12:19 am

      The last part resonated so much with me. I never quite have the funds to afford new things but thrift and consignment shop have always come through for me. Just recently I found jeans that fit my body perfectly and an APC coat that just made my jaw drop at our local Out of the Closet. I find images that inspire me and i think about what I actually need and usually discover pieces that are gently used versions over time. I do not want things that are not beautiful and useful to me, and I cannot stomach the high price tags unless it is ethically created.

  • Reply Nicole August 2, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Such a lovely, thoughtful essay, Erin–I cannot call myself a minimalist (either in terms of stuff or square footage), but have learned that my house has the storage to absorb considerably more things than we need. I’m trying to be more mindful about what we bring into our home and edge away from materialism; you and your gentle, non-dogmatic approach are an inspiration.

  • Reply T August 3, 2017 at 4:06 am

    Thank you for a thoughtful and inspiring text.

  • Reply JPB August 3, 2017 at 5:31 am

    Thank you for adressing this topic, it certainly is on my mind, when I read yours and other blogs about living with less stuff.

    Many commenters bring up the question of what you buy, but I think it is also so much about what you keep (I think one of the articles you posted mentions this too). If you do not know wether or not you will be able to afford to buy the thing new if and when it breaks (and almost everything does, no matter how expensive it was), you will keep the spare you have or the older version or whatever might replace its function. I was surprised how much I regretted giving away the spare stupid plastic salad spinner when me and my partner moved in together, because a new one was just not in the budget a year later, when it broke.

    To be honest I don’t really read the things you post about products, since I don’t live in the US it’s no use to me anyways. I think so many of you tips about simple living are fun to read, even just to realize that I do most of the things anyway. It sometimes makes me feel good for ‘being good’, but more often it shows me how things which are so logical to me – because of the socio-economic background I have – are maybe not so for people who had or grew up with more options and in a different culture.

    I think minimalism, simple living or anything else, is the best when it is not just a dogmatic numbers game, but leads to people talking about the daily choice they make, because many of those are tied to specific social groups which and therefore we all benefit from peaking into each others daily routines.

  • Reply Anna Gerard August 3, 2017 at 9:19 am

    I just read this post that is more about slow fashion garment sewing/knitting and creating but I think can be applied in many other things. Thought I’d share:

    • Reply Nina August 7, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      Yes, I think Felicia’s question – “Do I have enough?” – gets to the heart of the matter far better than any label or ‘ism’, particularly because it allows for the understanding that some (many) people don’t have enough.

  • Reply Brady August 3, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    What a beautiful little post!

  • Reply Nina August 3, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    I am by no means a minimalist as my overflowing bookshelves will tell you but I try to resist and increasingly resent the notion that more (space, things, money) is always better. I do realize that this notion requires a certain standard of living since I too remember a time in my life where more income would certainly have been better as it would have increased the quality of the food I could afford at the end of the month.,,

  • Reply Theresa August 3, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you for your balanced perspective, Erin. While I am the first to enjoy whitewashed walls, made-to-last items and clutter-free living, I have admittedly become a little disgusted with what I call the “minimal aesthetic.” All too often it seems unattainable, expensive and downright cookie-cutter.

  • Reply Kari August 4, 2017 at 12:58 am

    Thank you for your thoughts. The thing that drives me up the wall about the minimalism craze is the aesthetic. I love the way those bare walls and few perfect accessories look, but I can’t see past the brand new products that fill each room. I always think, “Where did everything that they had 3 years ago go?” As someone who has downsized about half my family’s possessions, I am haunted by the piles and piles of things that left my home. Truck loads perhaps. I’m no one’s minimalist, but I have turned my world upside down in pursuit of a simpler life for my small children.
    I can’t afford even a tenth of what is linked to on this blog, but I can look for items that serve a similar purpose and were made a lifetime ago. Without thrift stores and furniture corners, my home wouldn’t have the character or the beauty I adore.
    Minimalism as an aesthetic is dangerous because it requires new, better, more. Minimalism as an understanding of what a human actually needs to live safely and comfortably brings clarity and sustainability.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 4, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Yes, I think it’s this kind of perception around minimalism that makes me shy away from the term. For my part, there was never a huge purge of beloved items, just a slow build of things that I love, almost all of them purchased secondhand, over time. I think shedding the idea that minimalism *requires* anything at all helps me to come around to it. And totally agreed: for me it certainly doesn’t require new or better or more.

  • Reply Barbara August 4, 2017 at 6:25 am

    A thought-provoking post. Honestly, I’ve been thinking about it and the articles you linked for two days now. I thoroughly enjoy the well-rounded space you’ve created here. It’s inspiring. Your offerings span a variety of topics, both interesting and yummy to think about – like some of the goods supporting your blog which are fun to “make believe” about, but yes, out of reach. I like to look at pretty, functional things. Your blog is fun, fresh, well-written, smart, and one of my first stops when I’m out and about on the web. I admire who you are, Erin, and your lifestyle choices, as well. All of that comes through in everything you write. (Loved your book!)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 4, 2017 at 7:28 am

      Thanks so much, Barbara. I’m so glad to hear that.

  • Reply Sally August 4, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Loved this post!

    Also, couldn’t help but think of this article, which is amazing (as are most Reductress articles):

  • Reply sam-c August 4, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Love the way you so thoughtfully addressed this. Thank you! 🙂
    Sometimes I find the minimalism as an aesthetic eye-roll-worthy and sometimes I nod in agreement with the sentiment.
    Maybe it depends on my mood or the person posting it. But I always look forward to reading your posts.

  • Reply Phuong Vuong August 4, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    I really appreciate this post Erin and your comments following it too. I want to just push a bit on the idea that minimalists are people who “make a bold choice in an unconventional direction.” This too depends on location and culture. It may be a bold choice in our Western culture, but all of the world (i.e.– developing countries) our mothers and grandmothers have been minimalists. I grew up with it as an Asian American.

  • Reply Shelbi August 5, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Being a minimalist is something that really helps me with my anxiety. I have a husband who loves to hoard and it’s the only way it works living with him, along with my 3-year-old son in our small apartment in San Francisco.

    If we have too much stuff, I literally have panic attacks and mood swings. Call it a form of OCD, or hey, you could even call it OCD. I don’t really know. All I know is that I don’t like a lot of stuff. And it’s not like you can take the stuff with you when you die anyway. Right?


  • Reply Jessica August 6, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    I really appreciated this post! I love your blog and I’m so inspired by it. I am trying to live more intentionally and simply. However, my husband is a student so we often can’t afford to buy lots of those high quality and beautiful “minimalist” things as you mentioned. We do try to shop secondhand and splurge occaisionally on handmade and high quality things. I love the thoughtfulness in this post and the reminder that not buying and making-do can be my way of living simply. ❤️ I will keep admiring the gorgeous products you link to though!

  • Reply Jo Simpson August 7, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Hello and thankyou for your beautiful blog and book – I’ve found them both inspiring. I especially like your observation that we don’t need more space-saving storage devices (a concept I used to pursue) but less things to store. I’ve recently found myself actively looking for things to purge from my home – extraneous clothes, kitchen utensils, children’s toys, furniture. Have you ever felt that it’s possible to take the simple approach too far? And do you have any advice for finding balance in managing mindful acquisitions?

  • Reply Asaake August 11, 2017 at 10:08 am

    This article changed it all for me. Reminds me of similar article I read but one focusing on slow fashion and how it is a movement specifically for the privileged. There’s some truth to that. I think for me I’ll focus less on being minimalist and more on embracing simplicity.

  • Reply Sarah August 11, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    This post really resonated with me and reaffirmed why my family choose to live simply. You raise a good point about how minimalism/slow fashion/eco conscious living tends to target a more affluent group of people – I find this especially prevalent in ethical fashion and organic/whole foods – but a slow and simple lifestyle is really available to all, no matter your economic status. I feel it comes down to discovering what is really vital in your life (food, clothing, shelter, simple pleasures) and what changes you are willing to make in your life to achieve this. I love how that is highlighted throughout your blog 🙂

  • Reply Michaela August 23, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    I loved your blog and the lovely comments that followed suit.

    I am so in agreement with everyone…. Sending everyone a big hug!!
    I call minimalism ‘a way of life’. Take it from someone like my parents and grandparents. We had to recycle clothes by inheriting our cousins’ shirts and dresses. We had to dry our linen outside as we did not own a dryer. We had to opt to buy better quality and fixable as we could not afford replacing household items every so often. We had to learn how to clean with a very few chemicals as we could not afford bleach. We had to learn how to do our make up and nails as we could not afford the salons. Our aunt cut our hair for the first 10 years of my life (I have 4 sisters). You see where I am getting with this?
    Please look at the label before you purchase (second hand). Stick with natural materials. Dry outside. Cook from scratch. Eat real food. Make time. Let go. Donate. Love. LIVE.

  • Reply Mackenzie @organicbutterflyblog September 18, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Stumbled across your blog Erin and I am so glad that I did! Your posts resonate with me at this stage of life that I am in (small apartment, one child and pregnant with our second). Thank you for sharing your thoughtful words with us 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 19, 2017 at 9:21 am

      So glad you did, too!

  • Reply Gemma April 3, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    I discovered your blog after reading your book and I love it. I’ve been reading your old posts particularly on the topics “BABY PROOF” (I have a 10-month-old son — congrats on your 3rd baby!) and “LIFE IN A TINY APARTMENT”. Reading your blog is such a nice extension of the book, which I was super sad to finish, and makes me feel so much calmer in these crazy times. Wishing you well. And wanted to say thank you!

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