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Interview with My Minimalist Brother

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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 lucky for me, he agreed to be interviewed. Here we go…

Tell me everything you currently own.

Lots of black: a dozen or so black t-shirts (Rag & Bone, Buck Mason, Uniqlo), a dozen or so pairs of black socks and boxer brief (Tabio and Everlane respectively), one pair of black jeans (Levis), two pairs of black shoes (New Balance, Vans), one pair of black boots (Visvim), a black beanie (purchased by my loving sister), a black snapback hat (Braindead), one pair of black sunglasses (Illesteva), one black jacket (vintage), one black hoodie (Lady White Co), one black hair tie which essentially functions as a wallet for my cash and cards, a backpack (Topo Designs), an iPhone, a Mac Book Air, and a few paper notebooks from Japan.

What happens when you need to exercise or go somewhere fancy?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

What prompted the transition to such a minimal lifestyle? How has living with less changed your life?

A few years ago I started traveling all over the world all the time and never wanted to be encumbered by a suitcase, or 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 six 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.

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Thank you, Max! I don’t know about you, but I feel inspired to look at what I own with fresh eyes, and reconsider what I need and want to keep in my life.  I also love the idea of fully embracing a daily uniform and can’t wait to explore it more. Want to get started with your own home and life edit? Click here.

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