Essentials

by Frank Martin

Often, when people talk about minimalism or simple living, the idea of what is really essential comes up quickly. What are essentials really? Most minimalists, even Leo Babauta, the most well known, does not consider minimalism equivalent to renunciation or living a monastic lifestyle. What is essential is of course food and water, clothing, and shelter, but cutting back to only these things would likely result in a pretty miserable life for most of us. It certainly doesn’t sound overly appealing to me. Essentials, in relation to minimalist living, therefore, must be more open ended than that. With all this in mind, and purely as an example, I’d like to offer the list of my essentials, which, by no means is meant to apply to anyone else. You’re mileage may vary:

1. What I wear: T-shirts and button down collared shirts, in solid colors, jeans, and a couple pairs of shorts. I just like the simplicity of it. I do have a small collection of dress clothes, but not that many as I really don’t need a ton. I only have maybe three pairs of shorts, but given the weather in the northwest, this has never been much of an issue. Best of all this makes getting dressed in the morning a breeze: Everything I have goes together.

2. What I eat: Plant foods. Fruits, veggies, rice, grains, etc. I still eat meat in limited quantities, but cut red meat from my diet entirely. These days I’m mostly pescetarian verging on vegan. There are a number of reasons to make this change, but for me its mostly personal: I feel healthier and more energetic without gluten and animal products in my diet. However, living in the northwest, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up seafood.

3. What I use to exercise: My yoga mat and a handful of props. Yoga has been a major transformative force in my life, and a powerful spiritual practice. I started practicing in college to work off the freshman 20 and address some other fitness issues. After practicing for three years I’ve decided to train to be a teacher, and develop an independent daily practice so I can share my passion with other people.

4. What I also use to exercise: sneakers. In addition to yoga I walk everywhere. Quite possibly the greatest, most minimalist form of exercise out there, and just about everyone can do it. I’m also lucky enough to live near a green belt, and a short drive from a man made lake, so there are plenty of opportunities to walk in a natural setting.

5. What I use to create: A basic text editor, and a notebook. All I really need is a word processor that has a single font, can go full screen, and save my work. For example, every post you’ve read on this blog was written entirely in the Wordpress text editor. I’m also training to be a yoga teacher in a tradition that plans out classes in detail beforehand, so I also need a notebook to put together sequences, which is becoming more fun and less work the more I do it.

6. How I hydrate: Water. Most of the human body is made up of it, and its the best way to hydrate. All those sports drinks are really unnecessary unless you’re exercising unusually hard, or are dangerously dehydrated. I also enjoy coffee in the morning, a cup of tea in the afternoon, and an occasional beer if I’m out with friends, but a couple bad experiences in college pretty well cured me of drinking much at all.

7. How I entertain myself: Books. There are a couple web shows I watch, but I stopped watching almost any TV long ago when it seemed every show I liked even a little got cancelled. Whether I’m outside, or in front of a blazing fire, reading is a great pastime. I read mostly non-fiction, specifically relating to yoga and eastern philosophy, with a healthy dose of fiction mixed in. The sizable library I had in college has shrunk to about a hundred volumes and continues to shrink as I let books go. I’m finding I’m not as attached to paper books as I used to be, and although I’ll always have a small collection of physical books, I’m enjoying ebooks more and more.

At this point I ran out of things. Its slow, but I’m realizing I don’t really need anything more to be happy except maybe some close friends/family. Some of the above even do double duty: walking has slowly become a great form of entertainment, for example, and there is so much to yoga beyond the physical that it, walking, and reading have largely taken the place of Netflix and similar forms of entertainment for me.

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