Interview with My Minimalist Brother

A funny thing happened. I realized recently that while I strive to embrace minimalist principles, and experiment with capsule wardrobes, my brother, Max, is a real life all in minimalist. Everything he owns can fit in a single backpack. He wears a basic uniform every day. He travels often. He doesn’t let stuff distract him. I wanted to know more and he agreed to be interviewed. Here we go!

SG: Tell me everything you currently own.

Minimalist Max: Lots of black: a dozen or so black t-shirts (Uniqlo), one pair of black jeans (Levis), one pair of black shoes (New Balance), one pair of black boots (Red Wings), a black beanie (some fancy French brand I can’t remember), one pair of black sunglasses (Illesteva), one jacket (Vintage), one black hair tie which essentially functions as a wallet for cash and cards, a backpack (Topo Designs), an iphone, a Mac Book, and a few paper notebooks from Japan.

SG: Wow. So, what happens when you need to exercise or go somewhere fancy? What would you wear?

Minimalist Max: Truth be told, I avoid the formality of both those instances like the plague. Exercise comes in the form of frequent exploring and occasional hiking both of which i’m happy to do in “the uniform.” Fancy restaurants are a much more common occurrence for me, but I can almost always get by with all black fit for that as well. Despite how casual it feels for me at this point, it’s still importantly devoid of branding, distracting (or tacky) design, clean, and always has a vague air of seriousness that gets me by without a jacket and tie. Worst case scenario is that I’ll cobble something dressy together from a friend, but those situations are so wildly infrequent for me it hasn’t seemed like a necessity to own that sort of outfit yet.

SG: Is there any downside to wearing the same thing every day or do you love having a daily uniform?

Minimalist Max: It feels almost monastic to wake up each morning and have a uniform of sorts. There’s no thinking or decision making because what I’ll be wearing is already established. It works when I’m in the kitchen, it works if I have to take a meeting, it works when i’m going out; and it’s so comfortable for me at this point that it’s also what I want to lounge around in at home. No sweatpants, never sweatpants. The only downside that comes to mind is that on a weekly basis I’m mistaken for an employee of literally any given establishment due to my all black uniform.

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SG: Do you ever get bored or crave more variety? If so, what do you do?

Minimalist Max: I really only look for a couple of accessorizing black pieces every now and again. There are a couple of designers, Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto, whose whole collection are focused on simple, clean, monochromatic pieces that feel very timeless and wearable. They’re fairly expensive and I usually contemplate them for a while and end up investing in one special item every two years or so. I’m also keenly aware these items hold a high secondary market resale value so even if I were to change my mind I could easily sell them and get my investment back, sometimes even more.

SG: When you do splurge, what do you splurge or invest in?

Minimalist Max: Almost all of my money goes to food. My life revolves around making food and eating food and spending time with the culinary community at large. I probably eat out 5 days a week, both high-end and low-end, and not just dinners. Travel is the only other constant in my life, but travel is also entirely predicated around eating. Just the other weekend I met some friends in PDX where we squeezed fourteen meals into 3 days–those valuable “pre-dinners” and “first-dinners” and “second lunches.” Also, very high-end whiskey, wine, and beer. I’m obsessive and nerdy about booze and have definitely been using some discretionary funds to purchase pre-prohibition rye whiskey, esoteric white burgundies, and decades old lambic to make meals even more special and memorable.

SG: You used to have a lot of clothes and shoes. What prompted the transition to such a minimal lifestyle? How has living with less changed your life?

Minimalist Max: A few years ago I started traveling all over the world all the time and never wanted to be encumbered by a suitcase or a even a backpacking pack. My goal was to streamline what was in my possession down to what could be carried in one backpack, but without feeling like i was giving up anything I truly needed. It turns out, when I really started assessing what was a necessity a lot of things could be cut. Almost everything could be cut, truthfully. Living with less has made living on the road thoughtless, effortless, and completely flexible. When I do occasionally put down roots here and there for 6 months or a year I get to start fresh every time and continuing cataloguing what does and doesn’t work for when I inevitably have my own proper home in the future.

~

After talking with Max, I felt so inspired to lighten up that I edited my closet again with fresh eyes. I love the idea of a daily uniform and can’t wait to explore it more! What about you? Have you experimented with living with less?

4 Comments

kris

For the last several years, ever since I retired, I’ve also been wearing a “uniform.” It reminds me a little bit of a female version of your brother’s wardrobe. Currently my uniform consists of all black: a cardigan, tee shirt and pants. I have a few different cardigans, 7 or 8 tee shirts, and 4 pairs of pants. My every-day jewelry consists of a few simple pieces in gold: small hoop earrings, a Timex watch with black strap, and a wedding band. (No engagement ring.) For weddings and funerals, I wear a short-sleeve black dress. For cooler weather I add an open-front cardigan. My jewelry for those occasions consists of pearl earrings and a pearl necklace. I also have a few scarves, both solid and printed, that work with black. Also dressy looking black flats. (No heels, ever.)

My “wallet” is a thick blue rubber band that originally held stalks of broccoli. Now it holds a $20 bill, cards, and a folded-up sheet of paper with contact information for the most important people in my life. (Yes, my cell phone has this information as well, but cellphones sometimes disappear or stop working.) Your brother’s black hair tie solution sounds more elegant than my rubber band.

And speaking of your brother, my electronics are similar to his: I have an iPhone and a MacBook Air. (My phone is “vintage,” an iPhone 3, of which I am the third owner.)

But, full disclosure, I am by no means a minimalist. I have lots of old clothes in colors other than black that I don’t want to part with. And I live in a big old house filled with lots and lots of stuff. 🙂

That said, yes, I *love* my minimal wardrobe and my everyday uniform.

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Shira

Kris – I love that. I think having a uniform simplifies life and eliminates decision fatigue each morning. And love your rubber band wallet solution!

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