tom’s story


we find inspiration in stories of everyday folks who have decided to begin living a minimalist life. 

recently, 18-year old, tom, shared his story with us:

I am Tom and I have found minimalism early in my life. I am only a freshman in college, but I have finally realized what that nagging feeling in the back of my brain was.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough, it was always that I had too much. My memory is short and so is every day of my life; I don’t have the time or patience to sift through a thousand items just to get something for school. I needed to clean my room of all the stuff and papers and ideas and documents and things that didn’t matter to me. So I threw it all away. Recycled, excuse me.

In my three months since I started acting on my newfound philosophy, I have stripped my room down to my essential items. Now, finally, my room reflects me; this wasn’t something I ever could say before. The few items that are there reflect me, because they are the most important. Having this new focus and desire has spurned me through turbulent times in the family, and it’s been well worth the hassle to the point of exponents.

I have understood the need to stop buying and consuming. I no longer buy needless “things” and “stuff.” My media library of games and music has been whittled down to the select few I can replay without losing my mind. My shelves are bare, and I like them that way. My bank account has been relatively stagnant, aside from food and gas, and waits for me to use it on tuition.

I have understood the need, when there is an item that is absolutely necessary, to buy one thing that just works and does what it is told. My computer, for example. I consolidated into a single laptop. In a few months I will gather up the funds and buy a Mac rather than try and deal with weaker hardware and Windows Vista. For a computer science major like myself, this is uplifting.

Even the little things, like hooking every electronic item in my room (now lowered to only three things: a clock, a pair of speakers, and a small lamp) to a power strip, and flipping it off as I leave the room. It brings peace to my mind, and I can finally breathe freely.

to read more stories or submit your own, visit share your story.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Tom, you phrased it perfectly: “The few items that are there reflect me, because they are the most important.” That has been a goal of mine within my minimizing adventure. I like that the few things I choose to keep reflect who I am. And I appreciate them more because they aren’t drowning in a sea of junk!

    Best of luck to you!

  2. says

    Great job! I am on CS too and think that you have a great beginning if you have already achieved this lifestyle.

    If I were you I would give a chance to Free Software: try and Ubuntu or Mandriva and use the for a fortnight. Having a Mac is _NOT_ minimalist no its own: when I see my fellows using it I get bored because they are so slow. And using some kind of Linux will give you a step forward and it will pay the effort since in less time than you think you will have a better grip on computers. I say this from experience: there is no Mac user in my department as good as the median Linux user!

  3. Tom says

    Thanks for posting my story!

    paurullan, I’ve been using Ubuntu on this PC full time – aside from Vista when I have to for school – but having two operating systems confuses me. I’d love nothing more than to be able to use just Ubuntu. Not feasible, however.

    I think my best position is to trade in this rented laptop (which the campus forces us to accept) for the Mac. even if I don’t like Mac OS X, it will be better than Vista. Ack!

  4. Mneiae says

    I’m a college freshman as well who has relatively recently discovered minimalism. I also had that nagging feeling and I’m glad to have found what it meant. I’m in the process of exploring it, though I haven’t gotten there yet. For one thing, Tom has actually done something that I keep saying that I’ll do but haven’t: purging my room at home of everything useless to me. This is complicated by the fact that my mother and sister use my fairly empty room as a storage room.

    But I think that something few people have considered is that college freshmen pack up everything that they need into the back of a car in a kind of forced minimalism. The majority of the things I have serve a real purpose. And when I move out of my dorm room, it only takes about 2 hours to get everything done.

    The list of things that I own in my room is less than 100 items, if you don’t include clothing, which I don’t because I just spent 3 weeks without a) spending money on doing my laundry here and b) washing anything. When you don’t wear dirty clothing and you choose to only do your laundry at home, where it’s free, it’s a good thing that your clothes last you for a while. I notice that laundry doesn’t seem to be on this minimalist list of expenditures.

    I applaud Tom for having so few expenditures, though I will confess that I spend nothing on gas and a lot more than he probably does on food. I’ve grown up in a family where dropping 150/person on a casual dinner is not unusual or horrifying, so I’m working on it.

    I also have a power strip that spends most of the time turned off. I turn it on every once in a while to charge my computer, phone, Kindle, or Livescribe pen. I don’t have a TV. I don’t use iTunes. My room is generally silent and when I feel like listening to music I will go to youtube or Lala.

    I got my Mac for free via one of my scholarships and I am very happy with it. Props to Tom for recognizing how awesome Macs are!

  5. Alix says

    You guys don’t have any purely sentimental or comforting possessions? I do veer towards minimalism, but sometimes I think people take it to an extreme, and it sounds rather sterile and sad. Just my impression… am I wrong?

  6. coco says

    great story tom. i’ve never been a packrat and have always tended toward minimalism. in the last year or so, i’ve been whittling my things and household things down even more. i do live with a husband and 2 kids so it is a bit of a challenge. luckily they are pretty on board with me.

    my kids (boys) are 9 and 11 and don’t have “toys” per se. they have a shared TV, computer and Xbox in their shared room and a football. lots of people think this is unusually cruel for some reason… these same people are either drowning in debt and or clutter…

    • di says

      My girls had 3 small boxes of toys as well as few games, puzzles and favorite books. We went to the playgrounds, park, beach and visited with friends. They always had plenty to do.

  7. Mneiae says

    Speaking for myself? No. It’s not sterile and sad; I have everything I need and thus everything that I want.

    I will admit that the clean white that dominates my room bothered the girls in my dorm a little bit, so I bought a humorous poster. A poster that I don’t care a fig about but still fits on my list of 100 things that I own.

    • di says

      My daughter’s room mate had clutter and decorations covering her entire side of the room. My daughter’s side was bare, neat and orderly.

      When you’re studying, it helps to be free of distractions.

  8. says


    My home isn’t barren – I still have things that I love! I have an immense CD collection (music is a big part of my life) and I collect some other items as well. I just no longer keep things I don’t love/use. But as far as all of those books I no longer had a use for, clothes that didn’t fit right, and shoes that hurt my feet? They’re all gone. But I am in no way an extreme minimalist, nor do I have any desire to be! I can agree that living in an empty home would be really depressing. I like to be surrounded by things I love!

  9. Alix says

    Well kudos to everyone, then! Sometimes it’s hard to tell, from a description of what’s been purged, just what’s left! I’ve realized over the years that I buy/keep so many things that I simply never, ever use. To release those and start using what I do keep is really so freeing, and so pleasurable.

    You know what the best thing is? These students are going to save themselves literally thousands of dollars over the years, by not buying things they don’t truly want/need. If I’d woken up to the clutter trap when I was in college, I’d be far richer today!

  10. says

    Instead of going the mac route, you could alternately keep your current hardware and switch to Linux, learning to embrace the extreme simplicity and customisability of Open Source Software.

    I use Arch linux with a Tiling window manager (Xmonad), a text editor(Gvim), a GUI less Firefox(Vimperatior) and a whole host of command line applications. No desktop icons, no `start’ bar, no dock, no window decorations. Just a pure, bare minimum, keyboard driven(fast) computing experience with no visual clutter at all.

  11. Gina says

    Great job — I’ll just echo others sentiments — nothing at all against macs, but if you’re going to be a CS major you’d be much better off consolidating to a linux machine. If you were not going to be studying programming I wouldn’t mind, but I’ve worked in IT for 15 years and have a masters in computer science. A mac isn’t going to cut it. I work on unix machines every day, all day.

  12. stoicsoda says

    Early in life you recognize that everything is a starter deck of cards.

    Then there are all the booster packs for just that deck.

    Cast down the microchip and pick up the pencil.

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