Extreme minimalist living

Voluntarily living in less than 175 square feet is a skill. It is not a skill I possess or wish to possess, but I have respect for the people who do and am inspired by their way of life. They find a way to do without traditional conveniences of a home. They sacrifice a great deal of comfort to pursue whatever it is that matters to them more.

This week, I’ve been mesmerized by two articles on extreme minimalist living I want to bring to your attention. The first article from Salon is about a graduate student named Ken Ilgunas who attends Duke University and has chosen to live in his van instead of an apartment:

Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.

I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.

Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Ilgunas continues in his article to describe how he cooks meals over a propane stove, doesn’t clean his dishes, and has no friends at school so that his way of life won’t be discovered.

The second article from the New York Post goes inside the $150,000 175-square-foot condo owned by Zaarath and Christopher Prokop:

The couple wakes up every morning in their queen-size bed, which takes up one-third of the living space.

They then walk five feet toward the tiny kitchen, where they pull out their workout clothes, which are folded neatly in two cabinets above the sink. A third cabinet holds several containers of espresso for their only kitchen appliance, a cappuccino maker.

They turn off their hotplate, and use the space on the counter as a feeding area for their cats, Esmeralda and Beauregard.

“We don’t cook,” Zaarath said, adding that their fridge never has any food in it. “So when you don’t cook, you don’t need plates or pots or pans. So we use that space for our clothes.”

Once in their running attire, the two change the cat litter box (stored under the sink) and start their small Rumba vacuum — which operates automatically while they’re out, picking up cat hair.

They then jog to their jobs in Midtown, picking up along the way their work clothes, which are “strategically stashed at various dry cleaners.”

Be sure to check out the amazing photo gallery that accompanies the second article.

My immediate reaction to both articles was that I wanted to purge everything I own and give extreme minimalism a try. Then I remembered that cooking is a passion of mine and I would be unhappy if instead of pots and pans I had workout clothes lining my cabinets. I am incredibly impressed by all three of the people in the articles, however. I have more than a few things I can learn from them.

(Image by Angel Chevrestt at the New York Post.)

67 Comments for “Extreme minimalist living”

  1. posted by Cathy on

    These are great reasons to try a minimalism…

    “I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs.”

    I guess if it works for them. But really? Storing Drano with their food stuff? Wouldn’t work for me.

  2. posted by Andrew on

    Interesting, I feel a bit sorry for the cats unless they take them outside now and then!

  3. Profile photo of

    posted by MsDasha on

    Having lived in less than 250sq feet with my husband and cat for three years, I can say that its definitely doable. But the problem is that I missed having empty space. I would prefer to have the same amount of stuff but in a reasonably sized apartment, so there is some space around my stuff. For example, if I was the people in the second article, I would get a roll up futon that got put away during the day to create more space.

  4. posted by Mike@pvl on

    Ken’s story is showing up on a lot of blogs and what I fail to understand is why a) he didn’t choose a less expensive school than Duke if debt was such a high concern and b) why he didn’t delay entry into graduate school in order to save up for a 1 bedroom apartment so he could have friends and hygiene.

    Seems to me that he fell in love with the pretentious idea of being the new Thoreau. His need to describe himself as adventurous and daring is every bit as damaging an attachment as owning a dishwasher. Rather than being inspired this kid just makes me annoyed.

  5. posted by lavidamd on

    I see that the New York couple has what appears to be a Cuisinart Griddler.

  6. posted by Alexandra on

    I looked at the photo gallery in order to figure out how the Prokops managed such a tiny kitchen and not cooking. The photo gallery says that, other than espresso, they eat out. While their $150,000 apartment seems inexpensive, the cost of their lifestyle, both in financial and (most likely) health terms is prohibitively high and border line irresponsible. I am sorry that Unclutterer is holding these people up as an example of extreme living done well.

  7. posted by Rick Roberts on

    I live in 378 sq. feet with two dogs, two cats, and a small parrot. It’s a lovely little space with a small porch and private little garden. Life is better than it has ever been for me.

  8. posted by Recyclican on

    I agree about the Duke student and his poor choice of trying to “make a point.” Even the Spartans would have washed their dishes and cleaned their sleeping quarters from time to time.

    If I had to choose a minimalist home, I would choose a tumbleweed: http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/

  9. posted by Keira on

    I have to agree with those expressing skepticism about these two lifestyles.

    The Prokops’ situation sounds unhealthy. Eating out every meal? Dry-cleaning their clothing instead of washing it? Keeping 2 cats cooped up in a little closet of an apartment? PAYING $150,000 TO LIVE IN A CLOSET?

    And what about Ken and his unwillingness to accept help or even to form friendships in order to maintain his lifestyle? Is that healthy?

  10. posted by Mike on

    The student doesn’t impress me. He just reminds me of half the mooches I knew in college who would rather crash on your couch, and eat your food, rather than pay for their own. The only difference is that this kid is unhygenic in a van instead of someone elses house. A friend of mine in Boston said that a fad over the last few years is for well to do students to live homeless for a summer “for the adventure.”

    The Prokops doesn’t sounds almost like it boarders on obsessive compulsive minimalism. What would the opposite disorder be to Hoarding?

  11. posted by Louise on

    Fascinating how folks are reacting to these stories. When Unclutterer ran an article about how we live in 300 square feet, the comments were much more positive. Perhaps that is because I chose not to share the details of our eating habits, finances and hygiene!

    http://unclutterer.com/2008/05.....se-hornor/

    My husband and I often discuss how our bus is really larger than we need, and we agreed that we could easily live in the 175 sq ft apartment because it is in New York. One of the great advantages of living in a dense urban area is that you don’t have to provide everything for yourself. In the suburbs, most people feel they must have their own car, washing machine, full kitchen, etc. In the city, you can outsource transportation, cleaning and food preparation. The subway, dry cleaners and restaurants have economies of scale that individual families do not.

    So if you feel that cars, dryers, and frying pans are clutter, that’s just a personal preference. Not right, not wrong. Just different.

  12. posted by Rebecca on

    I agree with Mike — the “living in a van down by the private school” reminds me too much of Into the Wild. I guess it’s romantic until you die because you are poisoned and/or freeze to death. Having said that, I dig the tiny apartment. I would require either a small closet or a very small wardrobe among my furniture choices, since I can’t fold all of my clothes (given my profession).

  13. posted by Lu from The Rich Pageantry on

    I find these stories utterly fascinating, perhaps because there are four of us living in 800 square feet, which is a challenge. The NYC couple, however, don’t keep their food or work clothes in their apartment, but seem to have plenty of space for alcohol. Hmmmm…It’s interesting, and revealing, to see people’s priorities!

  14. posted by Loren on

    I was all for the kid in the van until I read the ‘didn’t wash his dishes’ thing…
    I completely understand the appeal of being the ‘new Thoreau’ and searching for adventure when you feel trapped in an establishment like the American Educational system, and the desire to be ‘civilly disobedient’ even while you are largely being responsible (at least financially). But seems to me, his resume is going to be pretty sparse without talking to anyone or having any extracurricular activities.

    As for the other couple, eating out everyday doesn’t have to be unhealthy you just have to learn to order well. And if they are jogging to work in the morning seems like they are exercising more than 80% of Americans. I however would rather have an extra 10sqft of closet space to avoid dry cleaning everything.

  15. posted by Dale on

    Living in a box-shaped room only goes so far, no matter how you arrange your stuff. For $150K, better to buy a 30-35 foot sailboat and enjoy real efficiency. Visit a local marina and talk to the liveaboards there. The cats would be happier, too.

  16. posted by momofthree on

    $150K for less than 175 sq ft? Are NY people nuts spending that much money for, as noted above, a CLOSET? and I thought we were spending ALOT when we bought our
    920 sf home in 1990 for $100K. (our neighborhood, for most of the 1990’s, was called the last of the truly affordable areas in the northwest burbs of Chicago)
    I also noted the lack of coverings at the window…so much for privacy.

    My house may be small, but I really feel like we got our money’s worth, despite the failing economy.

    We have closets for our clothes, we are a family of 5. We have a kitchen so that I can cook all our main meals and we have most of the standard trappings of home owners.

    This space is small enough,,,,that that NY apt is way too small for me!

  17. posted by Celeste on

    These stories make me feel claustrophobic.

  18. posted by Andy on

    A $150,000 mortgage is about the same as paying $625/month (assuming a 5% rate). So add that on to their $700/month “fee” and they are paying the equivalent of $1325/month for a 175 sq. ft. apartment. Even for Manhattan that seems extremely overpriced.

  19. posted by Mike@pvl on

    Louise, the difference is you say “None of these decluttering techniques seem like sacrifices to us” and Ken the smelly Duke student wants us to all be very clear on how much he’s sacrificed to have this “adventure”. It’s all affectation and pomp. Your post’s substance might have been similar, but the tone was very different.

    Also, maybe Ken annoys me because I went to graduate school in Fairbanks, Alaska and many of my friends lived without running water. It’s not that big of a deal, but this kid and Salon.com seem to think he is Buddha, Jr. or something

  20. posted by Ginger on

    These stories are facinating! It’s not for me though. I’m all for living in small spaces, but I feel that the rooms need to be separated. The kitchen is for eating and the bedroom for sleeping. To mix the purpose of these things and the lack of privacy would feel chaotic to me.

  21. posted by gerette on

    While I’ve purged more over the last few years than ever before, I could never strip my life down that much. First off, I have two small children, but second, there are things that I enjoy having around me, whether useful, beautiful, or both. I thought it somewhat sad when she dismissively referred to their past lifestyle as frivolous. I don’t want a life that isn’t a little frivolous. Life can throw some serious curve balls at you, and sometimes it’s those things that others might deem frivolous that ground you. (I also agree with others who’ve said that much money for that little space, no matter that it’s in NYC, is ridiculous.)

  22. posted by jerret on

    I wouldn’t share my house/apartment with a cat if it were the last living organic species on the planet :-)

  23. posted by Christine on

    I think that, like with everything, people take things to the extreme. I was reading the first story with interest until it mentioned that the guy doesn’t want friends because they might discover his lifestyle. A life without friends? What a lonely existence.

    As for the second story: Storing clothes in the refrigerator? Not cooking? Strange to me, but to each his/her own, I guess.

    To me, this isn’t minimalizing. If I had to live in filth (not washing dishes??) I wouldn’t be very happy. I also need open space, so a 175 square foot apartment wouldn’t do it for me. I live in a 700 square foot apartment now, and that sometimes is pushing it!

  24. posted by Katherine on

    these are interesting tales. while i respect their personal choices, i feel like in each case minimalist living is the end, as opposed to a means to an end.

    not sure that works for me. there are some things that i need to have around for me to be happy – like my knitting.

  25. posted by Alison on

    Not having friends.

    Not cleaning your dishes, so you are eating off dirty plates using dirty forks.

    Not COOKING?!

    This is taking minimalism a bit too far for me.

    I’m a parent, with 2 boys, age 6 & 7. They are loud. I don’t want to constantly be telling them to be quiet. It’s nice for them to have a space where I can shut their door. It’s also nice for me to have a space to work where I can shut my door, too. Makes for a much more harmonious household.

  26. posted by Courtney on

    I think we have to ask ourselves, why do so many of us want to be minimalists?

    It is because we recognize that we are limited on time and resources, and we want to make the best use of what we have. We don’t want to spend what we don’t have, we don’t want to waste time maintaining a complex life we don’t fully enjoy, and we don’t want to hurt the environment or our health by consuming more than we need and enjoy.

    At some point, the scale tips in the other direction. The NYC folks are hurting the environment (and their wallets) by dry-cleaning all of their clothes and throwing away takeout containers every day. They’re wasting money by choosing to live a premium-priced area. The college student is sacrificing his emotional and physical health by living in a van and refusing to make friends. I agree with the other posters that he is a needless martyr. Both are wasting priceless time by relying on other people for necessities (like travelling to the gym for a shower or storing clothes at the dry cleaner).

    Oddly enough, by trying to be super-minimalist, these people are actually being wasteful.

  27. Profile photo of

    posted by s on

    Just goes to show you…there are always at least 2 sides/perspectives to the story. And everyone thinks they’re right. =)

  28. posted by Mike on

    I was most intrigued by the “we just dry clean everything every day” bit than the rest, and that raises an interesting underlying point: doesn’t it seem wasteful to wash clothes for every wearing?

    I’m not suggesting people wear filthy clothing, but let’s face it, if the general social convention were a bit more tolerant of personal odors, there would be significantly reduced caustic chemical usage (from detergent to deodorant). In many other parts of the world, body odor is not seen as being as offensive. I am no exception… I shower every day, twice daily during the hot Arizona summers, and I clean clothing after a single wearing in most cases. But is it necessary?

    I wonder how much more efficiently and minimally we could live if we just wore the equivalent of military fatigues all the time, and wore them for 3 to 4 days (unless they got really badly soiled, of course, in which case you go ahead and change). Beyond the efficiency, there would be functional advantages from comfort and adaptability.

  29. Profile photo of

    posted by s on

    I’d guess that “dry cleaning” in NYC might just be a term for wash & fold service, so it might not be as chemically and finacially painful as it sounds.

    @Mike – wearing any kind of uniform might be good for some, but might be torture for others. Some people get great pleasure in their wardrobes. The uniform might not be appropriate for all situations, and could look pretty sloppy.

  30. Profile photo of

    posted by Amber on

    I just read the first article – at first I was monumentally irritated with Ilgunas. Another relatively privileged white kid slumming it for his “art.” You are afraid of a security guard finding you? Why don’t you talk to a family of four who lives in their van because they HAVE TO and are afraid they won’t survive the night, buddy – THAT’S REAL FEAR!

    But by the end of the article, he’d won me over. It seems like he’s pretty clear about what he’s truly given up and what he’s truly gained. And I think he appreciates that his lifestyle is a choice for him – he’s no martyr. I agree with the person who was reminded of Alexander McCandless from INTO THE WILD. I hope Ilgunas doesn’t avoid human relationships forever. No amount of net financial worth in the world is worth living life alone.

  31. posted by SN on

    I agree with Mike above – this is reverse-hoarding, and I would say probably just as unhealthy.

    How is this different than a hoarder who doesn’t make friends so they won’t see how he/she lives?

    How is this different than a hoarder who eats out every day because they have no usable space in their kitchen?

    I think it is theoretically possible that these people are actually happy and well-adjusted in their situations, but I would never encourage anyone to emulate them. (I’d probably say the same thing about hoarders!) It’s one thing to strive to be less materialistic, but I don’t feel like that’s what’s going on in these cases.

  32. posted by Mike on

    @s

    I don’t mean a “uniform” as in everybody wears the same thing. I mean the TYPE of clothing that fatigues are. That is, clothing made out of resilient but flexible and comfortable material, worn loosely enough that wrinkles aren’t a concern, but tightly enough to allow for great freedom of movement and precision, with enough modules to be adaptable for warm or cold climate, and so on. You could wear yours in a dazzling array of colors and prints and still be consistent with the underlying principle of the clothing being functional and very low-maintenance.

  33. posted by Suzyn on

    Erin, I had the same reaction – just as I do when I read about Tumblewood houses. I’m not sure I could do it, but man is it appealing!

  34. posted by Christine on

    I agree with you, SN, wholeheartedly. “Reverse-hoarding” is the perfect term to describe it. I also agree that while these people may indeed be happy, it’s not necessarily a lifestyle I’d encourage others to follow. It seems empty.

  35. posted by chacha1 on

    The living-in-a-van guy? Duke University? The cost of a shared apartment would seem to me pretty negligible next to the cost of tuition. And the validity of this as an “adventure” seems pretty negligible too; he’s still in an urban area, with all the resources of the university and the city. He knows perfectly well he has a huge safety net.

    I would be interested in a follow-up story: if he makes it through his schooling, what happens next, does he ever get a social life or have his social skills completely atrophied?

    And what is the point of it anyway? Personal vehicles are less efficient, in every way, than shared transportation and housing. You still need land to park a car on. He’s not saving the environment, and he’s only saving money because he’s (probably) trespassing on a daily or nightly basis. Well, it’s none of my business, so whatevs! Interesting, though!

  36. posted by Magchunk on

    Reading these kinds of article makes it very clear to me that I’m an unclutterer, NOT a minimalist! My sister did the college-age live-in-a-van thing but she was actually driving across the country.

  37. posted by Amandine on

    Both articles were fascinating. Thank you, Erin.

    I admire these people for thinking deliberately and practically, and not blindly conforming to societal norms. The Manhattan couple in particular, seem to know what they want, and are simply pursuing a different sort of lifestyle — putting their money into services rather than material goods. I agree with that philosophy.

    The dirty dishes, though……hmm. The smelly van, the ants, the lack of personal hygiene…. I wonder if the lack of social interaction was starting to affect his mental health. Didn’t he worry about getting sick?

  38. posted by Caroline on

    I found it extremely hilarious that Prokop’s minimalist existence requires not one, but TWO cans of Drano. Good to know what the absolute essentials are. (And here I thought food was one. Silly me.)

  39. posted by Lisa on

    I don’t believe I would make ANY lifestyle choice that requires a high tolerance for living in squalor. What kind of a “choice” is that??

  40. posted by gypsy packer on

    $150G for something only a few square feet larger than my bedroom? America is full of towns and cities where you can get a 3-4 bedroom house in great condition and in a good nabe for that price.

    And really, how can Duke admit someone who doesn’t know how to wash a dish? I once lived in a pickup truck topper for two years, and it can be done without filth and squalor. All it takes is antibacterial dish soap and a little water from the stash of chlorine bleach bottles to keep clean. Bathing can be done the same way, with two cloths, one soaped and the other rinsed repeatedly. Laundromats exist everywhere, and many have appliances large enough to sanitize the sleeping bag. A van would have looked like prime and spacious real estate in those days, but women who live in vans are routinely accused of prostitution and that was never my field of employment.

  41. posted by April on

    The van? Definitely not for me.

    The tiny condo? If the price was reasonable and I lived alone, I could do it. It’d take some getting used to, but once I got the place set up the way I like and figured out my daily routine, I could be happy there. I wouldn’t live their lifestyle though (I’d still cook and spend time at home). Besides, that’s about the size my dorm room in college was that I shared with a roommate (if you replace the shower/toilet room with a closet and took out the kitchen, almost exactly the same).

    But since I’m married, I doubt we could do it. If my husband was as optimistic as I was about trying it, we probably could. But knowing him, he would be a grump about it and hate it, so no, we probably couldn’t. ;)

  42. posted by Brit on

    Funny how small details leap out and seize one’s attention: the odors bursting from Ken’s van when he opens the door, and the two cans of Drano in the Prokops’ cupboard….

    Cats can find contentment almost anywhere, but can the Prokops’ kitties find any place to hide when they need or want to?

  43. posted by Kalani on

    LOVED this post! These articles are so fascinating, not because I want to run out and live just like them, but because they make me think about all sorts of things — what we take for granted, the difference between wants/needs, our priorities as a society, the meaning of debt, what we consider “home”…. all kinds of fun conversation starters. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share these articles with people too.

  44. posted by Greg - Live It with less on

    This was great reading but a bit extreme for my liking, my vice ( dont laugh ) is car detailing products so I like to keep a nice shelf full of waxes, polishes etc.

    Btw, If you dont mind Erin I would like to see your comment or any your readers interpretation of what minimalism is to you in may latest post – http://tinyurl.com.au/4o

    Cheers
    Greg

  45. posted by Gina on

    To each his own, but for the tiny apartment it just doesn’t look comfortable. That’s my issue with it.

    There is a website http://www.apartmenttherapy.com that runs regular contests to see how well people can make tiny spaces work. They could do so much more to make this space liveable.

  46. posted by Alix on

    The Prokops may live a minimalist lifestyle, but they have reduced things past the point of simplicity. They are ruled by their lack of things/space as much as a clutterer is overwhelmed by too much of both.

    That apartment is meant to be, at best, a pied-a-terre for someone who needs to stay in the city for work, or for someone who can afford the luxury of an away-from-home studio or atelier. I doubt they’ll be as happy with their arrangement a year from now.

  47. posted by Mary C. on

    It’s funny. The 2 cans of Drano popped out at me as well. I use baking soda and vinegar to clean the drains. No toxic brew for me!

    I’ve been living in small spaces too long. I have bruises from constantly bumping things. I’m sick of small spaces. My next place will have at least 1,000 square feet.

    I love the feeling of minimalism. I love Georgia O’Keefe’s house in Abiqui. It is a dream, but it isn’t me. I don’t know if that is good or bad! LOL

  48. posted by Jude on

    I’ve lived out of the back of my pickup before for 6 weeks at a time. It’s really no big deal.

  49. posted by lf on

    As a single person, the Prokop’s apartment actually seems kind of wonderful to me. I’d allocate a lot of space differently — and I certainly wouldn’t be able to share it — but I like it. It *does* seem that the fees are a bit excessive, though, even for Manhattan.

    But I do not understand the grad student living in the van. I’m a grad student, so I certainly understand how incredibly financially tight that can be — but, well, there are limits. Hygiene, for me, would be a dealbreaker there. There’s frugality, and then there’s faux-poverty designed to make a point. No doubt he thinks this is an “authentic” experience of some kind…

    I’ve also got to say that the social isolation troubles me. I couldn’t do it, for sure. Missing out on the bonds that you can form with fellow grad students seems, frankly, pretty tragic to me. Those friendships he’s forgoing could be tremendously important, and run a lot deeper than those with undergrad peers.

    And professionally, this is a bad choice! Does he think that his professors and fellow students don’t notice his social withdrawal, etc.? Some are no doubt concerned, but others likely question his fitness for, say, classroom teaching. He’s also no doubt sacrificing a lot of valuable networking. If he’s pursuing the grad degree for personal edification, that’s one thing (and a totally valid thing…) but if he’s aiming for a longer-term academic career, this seems like an extremely bad way to start. (And might, long term, have financial consequences, in terms of career delay.)

  50. posted by Freddy on

    The 175 square foot apartment was very much overpriced and the maintenance is very high for that size apartment in that location.

    Also it is nowhere near the smallest apartment in Manhattan, that is ridiculous, I have been in an apartment that was 96 square feet (8×12) plus a small bathroom.

    If you Google the van guy you can see that he has finished school is not at all socially isolated. He has a job and still lives in the van. He also states that he was healthier because he dropped meat, dairy, and beer from his diet due to lack of refrigeration. If you think about it, he does more “living” in his van than the couple in their apartment, in some ways.

    Bottom line, in both of these instances, these people live in better conditions than most people in the world.

  51. posted by Emma on

    Great articles, and so interesting to read all the comments! One thing that hasn’t been mentioned already: To me, Ilgunas saying that he “has no friends at school so that his way of life won’t be discovered” implies that he knows he’s doing something wrong.

  52. posted by Diana on

    This strikes me as an adult form of “dorm living.” In that light, it’s merely unusual.

    It also makes me wonder what the actual square footage that a person inhabits. For instance, if you use an 800 square foot laundry facility once a week that is utilized by another 800 people over that week, then you add another square foot to your living space. Similarly, you add space for each restaurant, grocery store, work space you use. Count your garage/storage areas too. Is it feasible to calculate this out? Is it of any use to know?

    Ultimately, from my point of view it’s not really minimalist living if you are inhabiting in a small dorm-sized space but living extravagantly otherwise.

  53. posted by Shalin on

    W-O-W!

    That is impressive to the point of nearly freaky… I don’t think I could deal with picking up work clothes that are at “strategically located dry cleaners”…

    But hey, 10 points for being happy, clever, and the follow through ;)

  54. posted by Héctor on

    I agree with some commenters. I am also surprised by them, but I feel really sorry. That guy having no social life? A van?! And, does that couple save any money by eating out every day? I would be pretty concerned about their health.

    From my experience (I’ve lived for a year on a 95 sq. ft room (the catch: shared kitchen)) and is totaly manageable, no need to make that kind of “sacrifices”.

    I admire, however, their conciousness about consumerism and minimalism.

  55. posted by Kimberly Collins on

    I noticed with the couple that they have a space where the cat condo is where they could put a small closed shelving unit to store a crockpot, toaster oven and some food. They could cook all kinds of things that way, especially since they have a pannini press too wich can be used to grill fish, chicken and steaks.

    Also, a loft bed with a built in futoncouch below would be great for that space so the bed wouldn’t be their only option for sitting. You can store things under the futon couch like pull out containers for storing clothes thereby freeing space for food in the kitchen.

    They could move their cat condo and put it where their bar is, and get some sort of hanging shelving unit above the cat condo for their bar. I know they are trying to live minimally, but eating out all of the time is unhealthy and expensive, especially in NYC. They aren’t utillizing that space very well.

  56. posted by DW on

    people like this make me want to throw-up! its always some rich yuppie just trying to get attention!

  57. posted by Heather on

    @Mike: it’s not necessary for your average non-manual-worker to shower and put all of his/her clothes in the laundry every day. I alternate showers with sponge baths and wear pants more than one day (sometimes shirts, too). If I hang a previously-worn item in my closet, I slip an empty keyring over the hanger so that I know that the item needs to be washed sooner.

  58. posted by Simple Living News Update on

    […] Extreme Minimalist Living […]

  59. posted by Julie on

    From one extreme to the other. From clutter to deliberate void. This couple has to be rich. $150K for a closet (our first 4-bedroom house cost us $125K 9 years ago), eating out everyday (not ecofriendly) and having their clothes drycleaned (idem). I sure hope they don’t plan on having kids. They’ll be in for a rough awakening. Anyway, extreme minimalism is living in the woods or the forest, just like aboriginal peoples. Those examples are no models for me.

  60. posted by WilliamB on

    Avoiding debt is a wonderful goal. On the other hand, so is basic hygene. The lad could have washed his dishes, his person and his clothes. I feel badly for the students who had to sit next to him in class. And while it’s true that some people prefer solitary living, it sounds like this guy doesn’t. He didn’t say that he prefered to be alone, he said he avoiding making friends so they wouldn’t discover his literally dirty secret. Bleck.

    I have no problems with the couple in the tiny apt, although as someone living on the same planet they do I would prefer they didn’t dry clean so often.

    PS – the article wrong about their having only one appliance. There’s a grill and a food processor in that photo as well.

  61. posted by Bonnie on

    I agree that both articles seemed to showcase people who were uncluttering to the point a severe degradation in lifestyle. It’s not really sustainable over a long period of time.

    To me, being uncluttered isn’t just a physical thing but also a mental thing. The first guy seems to be doing it at the cost of his physical health and the second couple haven’t really decluttered.. they just have elaborate workarounds as to where outside their home can they stash their stuff. I wouldn’t want to deal with the stress of having my stuff spread across multiple places over town but that’s just me ;p

    I live in a 258sf apartment and I love it. I am able to have friends over, dinner parties, entertain and share it with a puppy. My tiny home is still a haven :-) (http://www.apartmenttherapy.co.....-23-082031).

  62. posted by ms. brooklyn on

    Different strokes for different folks. I could live alone in 175 sq ft (I know because I have.) But if I had to share that space with another, I’d throttle him in about 3 days.

  63. posted by Tara on

    Wouldn’t you think the people in the tiny apartment would want to do *something* to make it more visually interesting — some paint, some artwork, a photograph — something?

  64. posted by Katrina on

    They don’t cook? Um, maybe they should take all the money they spend on eating out and get a bigger place so they can eat nutritious meals. This is stupid!

  65. posted by Linda on

    Yikes — too small for one person, let alone two people and cats. I couldn’t do it.

  66. posted by Scott a Minmalist on

    Actually, cooking is a HUGE part of the sort minimalism myself and like minded others close to me practice. The whole idea is to not be strapped down by goods and services. As much as I admire that couples strategy, it doesn’t jibe with the what I consider minimalist. No matter how small your living space is and how few resources you use in the home, patronizing restaurants and dry-cleaners on a regular basis is not very minimalist.
    Restaurants are beacons of waste. I know first hand from working in many. They use a lot of resources to stay open and they source produce and meat in the worst way possible. In addition to that, restaurants are more expensive than cooking at home. What you spend on one meal at most restaurants could yield two or three meals at least at a grocery store, depending on your diet.
    Dry cleaners use chemicals to clean clothes and are a generally lazy way to do laundry. A big part of minimalist living is not being lazy. Our culture of laziness and convenience is why people like myself choose minimalism.

    Three Easy Ways to Act Like a Minimalist:

    1) Don’t buy shit. Just don’t buy it. If you see something you want to buy refuse the urge. Then in time if that thing becomes a need, buy it. I lived in my apartment for 3 weeks before buying a shower curtain liner, because mopping the bathroom floor after each shower was not as effective as I had hoped. Always try the hard way before you buy something to make things easier.

    2) Don’t drive. Ever. For any reason. No matter what you think, you do not need to drive. I live in L.A. and I do not drive. If you live in a decentralized community find ways to initiate car shares and get local politicians to put together a public transportation plan. Cars and gas will not be around forever. Take the steps now.

    3) If it is broke, fix it. This can be applied to almost anything you own. Shoes, computers, lamps, air-conditioners, pots, pans, refrigerators, ect. Even most electronics can be repaired and refurbished if you contact the manufacturer. Try it.

  67. posted by Minimalist lifestyle – six steps to unclutter | Three Thrifty Guys | Helping you keep a few more bucks in your pocket on

    […] a minimalist lifestyle and I came upon this article on living an extreme minimalist lifestyle. http://www.unclutterer.com/200.....ist-living. This blog is very well designed and gives some great tips on decluttering your lifestyle, which […]

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