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How Do You Measure a Minimalist?

Minimalism is a tempting trend. It intrigues anyone who dreams of selling everything, or threatens to call the dumpster guys to haul off the entire contents of their two-car garage that hasn’t held a car in years, or watches the tiny home TV shows and thinks “Now that’s freedom!”

Yes, it’s tempting, but how minimal is enough?

To me, measuring minimalism is as tricky as guessing how long a football minute is going to last. Do you count the seconds left in the game, or the commercials, or the flags, or time outs, or even the injuries? Likewise, what’s your yardstick for being a minimalist? Decluttering one room, purging a wardrobe, banishing forty pairs of shoes, emptying a dozen drawers, vacating a garage, dumping an entire household, or maybe only packing one small suitcase for a vacation instead of the usual three?

If you ask me, we can all jump on the bandwagon, and grab a little freedom. Your measuring stick can be straight, triangular, round, even double-edged. The way I look at it, if you travel with only a carry-on duffel bag for a two-week vacation – you’re at least minimal. (A backpack would seal the deal.) If you’ve successfully stripped your closet of anything you haven’t worn in a year, count yourself a blossoming minimalist. And if you’ve goaded your husband into at least finding the floorof the garage, you’ve earned a stripe or two.

As for us, our measuring stick for minimalism: “Stuff, how much do we have?” Moving from our lush California lifestyle to a grass hut -- with only six boxes -- certainly earned us the label. We maintain our minimalist brand, too, and hence our freedom… although, when you realize as yacht crew we lived in luxurious hundred-foot mega yachts, you might raise an eyebrow. But I protest: for twenty years, we’ve lived in cramped crew quarters and owned only a couple of uniforms, two jackets, one dress (me, not Winston), two shades of lipstick (again, me, not Winston) and three pair of shoes. And now we live in a 17’ travel trailer. So I count us in!

I bet you guys are minimalists, too, maybe using rulers much different than ours. Give me some feedback… what makes you a minimalist? Compared to measuring a football minute, this should be fun!

Winston Hovey and Cynthia Zvanut Hovey transformed their desire to simplify their lives and be free of all their “stuff” into a mutual second career in paradise, first running a pirate bar and then as crew on megayachts. Their new book, "There's a Yacht More to Life," spans 25 years of their adventurous career makeover.  For more information contact Winston and Cynthia at

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