9 Things Even Minimalists Need: Don’t Get Caught Without Them

We see minimalists and simple-living bloggers posting about the things we don’t need, but what about the things we do need? Sometimes it seems like minimalism would have you give away everything, including the kitchen sink and your own mother. Today, I’d like to address 9 things even minimalists need.

tools-625620_1280 9 Things Even Minimalists Need: photo of tools

There are some things that we really shouldn’t go without in this world. What do you do if you need to fix something and you don’t have the tools? What if you get caught in a downpour? What if your power source goes out? What if you run out of money? What would you do in any of these situations? I think it’s better to be prepared than to be sorry.

Some Things Even Minimalists Should Own

  1. Clothes: I’ve seen some blogs that claim we only need one set of clothes. I’m sorry, but that’s just stupid, and it doesn’t promote very good hygiene. I own five or six sets of clothes. I don’t think it makes much sense to own any less than three sets. You also need to own the right clothes. If you live where it rains, you should have a good raincoat. If you live in the tropics, you need shorts and sunglasses. If you live in Alaska, you need extra-warm clothing. But please, have enough underwear to change every day.
  2. Tools: Have you ever had a friend that always calls you when they need something fixed? Often it’s because they don’t own any tools. Let’s use a little common sense. Everyone should have a few tools in their home, no matter its size. If nothing else, have a couple screwdrivers and a crescent wrench. If you own a home, you’d better have a hammer and a shovel, too. You never know when you’ll have an emergency. Be prepared by having the basic tools you might need.
  3. Heat: If you don’t keep warm enough… you will die. It’s that simple. You need a sleeping bag, blankets, or at least a big coat. Don’t skimp so much that you wind up with hypothermia. Have what you need to keep yourself warm.
  4. Light: I always have a flashlight at home, and one in my car. You never know when the power is going to go out. What if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere? Don’t tell me you can just use your phone. I guess you could, until it goes dead. Matches are a must, too. They serve two roles: heat and light. Every good minimalist should have matches.
  5. Food & Water: My brother is a bit of a prepper. He stocks dried food and gallons of distilled water. He might go a little overboard, but we need food and water to survive. It’s not a bad idea to have enough food and water to last you a few days. You never know when there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse.
  6. Storage: Some minimalists pride themselves on not needing to organize their stuff because they have so little. I don’t care how little you have, you need a place for your stuff. If you own a home, like me, you might need more storage than someone who travels the world. But even the world traveler needs storage. 
  7. Music: Okay, this might be my own preference, but we need music. Life is better with music. Whether you listen or play, have music. It might be in the form of an iPod. It might be a battery-operated radio. It might be a ukulele. But for the sake of your sanity, have some music in your minimalist life.
  8. Money: Unless you live solely on barter, which isn’t very practical, you need money. In fact, I’d go one step further and suggest you have good credit. Just because you have a credit card or two doesn’t mean you have to use them regularly. But it’s nice to have backup in case of an emergency. It makes renting a car a lot easier, too.
  9. Memories: This one could use its own future post. I’ve seen some minimalists recommend that we get rid of keepsakes that have been passed down through our families for generations. I think we should limit what we keep, but I’ll never let go of the quilts my grandmother made. Why would I ever want to sell my uncle’s old mandolin? Sometimes, the things our family members and close friends give to us are important. They hold memories. They serve purpose. They connect the generations. Hold onto those things.

Don’t Let Go Of Things You Need

Now that I’ve nearly ruined my credibility as a minimalist, I’d add that we should be reasonable. Don’t own too much of anything. Set some limits. Keep it simple. But don’t be silly and restrict yourself from owning the things that might save your life. And don’t give up the things that truly bring happiness. Otherwise, you may as well give up your very soul.

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  1. I agree, Dan.

    I personally believe “extreme” minimalism is a bit impractical. The ideal behind it is kind of cool but when it comes down to the “brass tacks” too little is , well, too little. Even the most hardcore minimalist living in the middle of nowhere needs stuff; tools, flashlight, batteries for said flashlight (fine no flashlight, oil lamp and oil for said lamp), weapons (at least for food), ammunition for said weapons, sleeping bags, utensils for cooking, knives for butchering your moose, materials needed for preserving the several hundred pounds of excess moose meat from your 800+ pound moose. In the case of the vegetarian minimalist there is need for seeds and tools for planting and storage materials for that bumper crop that is organically grown (don’t forget the need for storing organic stuff for organic fertilization).

    And what about transportation? You will need at least a horse, a mule, a donkey, or a large dog to travel (and feed for said animal) to the nearest town for supplies once every 6 months. Okay fine, no animal and you choose to hike into town, you’ll still need a skid to bring your 100+ pounds (or 6 months of supplies) of stuff back with you and maybe even your sleeping bag because it’s a 2 day journey on foot.

    The key is MINIMIZING what you require and off-loading what you don’t NEED. Just look at history, tools have been developed since ancient times to make life easier … they are NECESSARY. My feeling is the “successful” minimalist will identify what they NEED and take care of those items (but if you need only 1 widget then 1 is all you need). I don’t necessarily need 2 or 3 vehicles but a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, ax, shovel and something to tote stuff around with are a big help …

    1. I love your examples, David. They’re very humorous, but absolutely true. Minimalism is not so simple as some might lead us to believe. It’s much more than getting rid of stuff and living with the absolute basics of life. It’s about critical thinking. It includes detailed thinking and planning. We need to study and justify our own needs. Then, as you thoughtfully said, we need to reduce each need down to the fewest widgets. Thanks for commenting. I always appreciate your view.

  2. Both of you guys made me giggle! I guess if someone is happy with only one pair of underwear…..or, hell, they want to go commando……that’s great , that’s fine. They can go out and kill that moose in the buff with their bare hands in the dark and rip it’s hide off with their teeth and then roll up in the hide and go to sleep. Yeah, not this woman, thank you ever so much!

    Minimizing your carbon footprint is wonderful thing. Definitely a goal we should all strive for. But there are people who, it seems to me, are too extreme. I get irrate with the folks who espouse not owing this, that or the other thing and if you need it, well, you just go borrow it from someone who actually went out, purchased one and stores and takes care of it. At some point, you are not a minimalist, you’re a freeloader.

    1. I love the image in your comment. Made me laugh. I agree that there is a fine line between minimalist and freeloading. I don’t have a cluttered garage, but since becoming a homeowner a few years ago, I have slowly purchased the tools one needs for caring for the yard and home.

    2. Kim,
      I could not agree more with your statement…

      “I get irrate with the folks who espouse not owing this, that or the other thing and if you need it, well, you just go borrow it from someone who actually went out, purchased one and stores and takes care of it. At some point, you are not a minimalist, you’re a freeloader”

      1. I’m not sure all who live with little freeload, but I agree in general. I just think it’s the responsible thing to do to own things that might save your life or may be direly needed in certain life situations.

  3. Does the five sets includes workout clothes? Because I work out more than a few days a week, I need more than just a couple of sets. Also, I think having more clothes keep me from having to run back-and-forth to the laundromat every couple of days. Though I have fewer clothes them this so called average American, I have a lot more than what is recommended for this kind of lifestyle.

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