Check Your Minimalist Ego (and I Will, Too)

Erin Zelinka
May 24 · 3 min read

When I sold every possession I had accumulated over ten years, it felt damn good. Rid of all that JUNK, I could be free to pick up my 35-liter backpack and travel the world.

We backpackers would sit around hostel tables and declare our intentional sloughing-off of material trappings. But within a short time, I noticed something. A typical conversation might go something like this . . .

“Yeah, I just flew in from Chiang Mai. I got this great hotel there for $10 a night.”

“$10? That’s a lot for Thailand. I got my own single room for $5 a night.”

Or . . .

“I love traveling light; all I need is this one carry-on.”

“Huh. A rolling carry-on, that’s pretty cumbersome. All I have is a 45-liter backpack.”

“Forty-five liters? I just use a day pack. That’s all you really need,” says the guy who hasn’t changed clothes in a week and has his underwear dripping on your bottom bunk after doing his washing in the sink.

Somehow, ego can find its way into minimalism just as rampantly as in materialism. Sure, we aren’t bragging about the fastest Porsches, the latest electronics and the healthiest bank accounts — but the point is, we’re bragging.

Somehow, ego can find its way into minimalism just as rampantly as in materialism.

We’re bragging about how we can do with less than someone else, believing we are somehow more enlightened because we don’t care about all of those material things. And if that’s the case, we’ve just swung the other direction on the same ego pendulum.

My fiancee Tyler and I still laugh about my stubborn and impractical minimalism when we first moved in together.

“We don’t really need a couch, do we?” I said. “Let’s just get some pillows or a hammock. Then we can pack up and move easier.”

“Babe, I’d really like a couch. You know, for sitting on.”

Two years later and we now own a sectional, a recliner, two ottomans, and lots of other furniture that cannot be packed up and moved easily. The backpacker me would have recoiled. You guys, we own a salad spinner. But does having all this stuff mean we’re materialistic, spoiled, shallow?

I don’t think so. I think it means we’re comfortable, and we should be damn grateful every day that we get to be this comfortable. I can also now step back and look at those who have much more than I do materially and think the same: it’s not bad; it’s fortunate.

The truth is, you can own things, even nice things, without being shallow. It’s more a matter of perspective than products, more about thoughts than things.

It’s more a matter of perspective than products, more about thoughts than things.

Regardless of how much stuff you possess, if your attitude and actions are rooted in non-judgment, gratitude, compassion, generosity and presence, I’d say you have all you need to live a full and happy life.

So buy the salad spinner, or don’t. Just don’t judge Suzy for owning a salad spinner (or a Porsche). Check your minimalist ego, and I will, too.

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Erin Zelinka

Written by

Author of A Loss for Words & The Best Reef, a memoir. Words in @OutpostMagazine, The Startup, Noteworthy, @RVMessenger, @Medium. PR Specialist, too.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +524K people. Follow to join our community.

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