I recently bought the new iPhone Pro.
Not looking for applause, just setting up the story.
I went to the Apple store, pulled out my Apple Card and walked out with a $1,400 phone. A new purchase, two years after paying 1,500.00 for the iPhone 10.
“But wait,” some friends might say. “You talk about being a minimalist. What’s minimalist about always buying an expensive phone!? After all, you can get a better Samsung phone for more than half the price and you are replacing a perfectly good phone.”
It’s true. There are less expensive and really great phones. And I did resell my old phone to avoid creating waste and clutter around the house.
However, avoiding the purchase of costly things is not what minimalism is all about.
That belief is confusing minimalism with frugality. Frugality is an act of being economically efficient about purchases. Which is an admirable trait to have, but it’s not minimalism.
So what is minimalism?
Minimalism is also not about being a monk that is forsaking pleasures and worldly possessions. It’s about avoiding clutter and product distraction driven by careless or ego-driven consumption. Minimalism helps to avoid that consumption clutter overwhelming your attention and stealing true joy and goals in your life.
When you’re buying and filling a home full of clothes, cars, and stuff in order to look the role others expect from you, then fitting in is your true motivation and your happiness ends up being managed based on how others see you.
If you are chained to a job you don’t like and forced to constantly pay for all these mass and expensive purchases, you’re probably not happy either. Neither is your bank account. As Tyler Durden said in the movie Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.” Like a magnet or a gravitational force, your collection of things pulls you from contentment.
In my pre-minimalist days, I felt the burden of all that clutter on moving day. Lifting and carrying all the junk I bought literally weighed on me and made me contemplate my purchasing decisions. It’s one reason I spent over a year throwing many things I owned out or gave them away.
At first, I thought I’d miss all those things, especially those items with sentimental value. But honestly, I never looked back. Except back to the Apple store for that iPhone.
A minimalist works on keeping thing things that are optimized (a focus on what’s important to me) and brings them joy. My “expensive” phone brings me joy.
With that iPhone, I can talk to my girlfriend and my family. Traveling a lot, I like taking a variety of media that works with my Apple ecosystem at home. The esthetics, the touch, and the feel of the phone give me joy. I can take better pictures.
That’s important as capturing experiences is becoming more valuable than capturing things. Wow, that just sounded like an Apple ad, and I didn’t get paid for it. But because of my phone and shifting to using digital to capture my life experiences more than bookshelves all over the house, I’m happy and less cluttered.
Because of those things, that joy is worth $1400. But at the same time, buying a Tesla isn’t worth its price to me (least not yet). Nor is buying a home simply because others have. They are not a value to ME. So having them would take up more space than bring joy.
So is a $1400 iPhone minimalist? Depends on what you are trying to buy. Your joy or someone else’s admiration.
Why big or expensive purchases don’t automatically disqualify you from being a minimalist and what true minimalism is all about.