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A Minimalist Challenge to My Fellow College Students: How We Can Make the Most of the Next Four Years

Even if you’re not a college student, this post is still relevant to you.  I have geared it at college students for two reasons:

  • Today, I began my first day of college.
  • The transition to college life is one of the most opportune times to make major lifestyle changes.

That said, the lifestyle I am about to advocate is one which anyone can adopt, and be all the better for it.

A good portion of the past couple of days, aside from numerous distractions, has been spent packing.  The great, yet frightening thing about college is that minimalism is somewhat of a necessity.  Back at home, I had plenty of space.  Whenever space in my own room became tight, I knew there was another closet just around the corner that was up for grabs.  It’s something I have always taken for granted.

Times have changed.  As I packed, I had to consider my new space limitations: A room roughly the same size as its predecessor, plus another person, minus the additional space.  Unless chaos and filth is your shtick, us college students are left with no choice but to begin taking a minimalistic perspective.  What do we really need in our lives?

Whenever faced with that question of need, I find myself oddly dumbfounded.  Many of these limitations, such as space, were in existence but negligible until now, rendering me unprepared to determine what I truly need, and what is only a waste.

Below is a ballpark list of what I’m bringing with me today:

- 12 T-shirts
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair of dress pants
- 6 pairs of shorts
- 5 pairs of athletic shorts
- 4 pairs of shoes
- Macbook
- iPhone
- PlayStation 3
- Dualshock 3 controller
- Television
- Battlefield 4
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II
- The Iliad
- Start Something That Matters
- Kindle Paperwhite
- Car
- Pens, pencils
- 5 notebooks
- 5 folders
- 1 lamp
- 1 set of bedding
- Hygienics

:: Minimalism by Experience, Not Impulse ::

The above list is far from minimalist.  I know I don’t need a PlayStation 3, a television, many clothes, and a number of other items on the list and even more that I’ve omitted.  In the age of consumerism, it is easier than ever to amass a goldmine of items that are nothing more than distractions.  I’m far from immune to this, and I still drop gobs of money on things I absolutely don’t need.

Minimalism, once experienced, is far more attractive than consumerism.  There is something beautiful about living with less, and needing fewer things.  It’s more sustainable, more efficient, and allows an individual to focus on what is truly important to them.  A minimalist finds it much easier to exercise and eat well than someone sitting in front of a television all day, ordering every weight-loss supplement whilst downing their second bag of Cheetos.

This transition shouldn’t be made impulsively.  In the heat of the moment, it is also tempting to purge the overflowing wardrobe, to toss everything we deem unnecessary in that moment or realization and inspiration.  Enthusiasm is great, but it can often blind us and cause us to make decisions we will later regret.

Instead, slowly embrace the change.  Live with more than you need for a little while, and slowly reduce the amount you own.  Have you not worn a particular shirt for two weeks?  Donate it.  Becoming a minimalist slowly, by experience, is much more likely to yield success in the future.

:: A Minimalist Challenge :: 

The challenge I pose to myself, and to my peers, is straightforward:

Throughout the first month or so of college, pay close attention to what you use and what distracts you.

By doing this, you will have a much clearer understanding of what your true necessities are, what you use, what is a distraction, and what could be better used in somebody else’s hands.  From there, you can begin tossing aside your possessions with more confidence, and reap the benefits of being a minimalist.

In case you didn’t catch it, there are plenty of reasons to do this:

  • Your grades will go up.  Being less distracted by all your possessions will mean you can focus more of your energy on what’s important to you.  This allows you to tap some of that previously neglected academic potential.
  • You make better friends.  Possessions are a distraction, and thus can often hinder our relationships with other.  Let go of your artificial and superficial needs, and you’ll be able to better develop and enjoy your relationships with others.  This is particularly important to new college students.
  • You’ll enjoy yourself more.  Ever seen a stressed-out college student?  So have I.  In my experience, unnecessary clutter and other distractions only exacerbates this issue.  Clear it all away, and the task at hand will appear much less overwhelming.

Minimalism takes some getting used to, and is a very counter-intuitive mindset to adopt these days.  I can’t claim to be a minimalist myself, and will probably struggle with it for years before I can truthfully claim such a title.  For now, like you, I will push against the tide and strive to own less, rather than more.  Then I can be truly wealthy.


Today is, more than ever, a new beginning.  Time to make it worth something.  I'm very grateful for everyone who has helped me up until this point, especially my family.  I've always been an introvert, but words cannot describe my appreciation for everything they've done to get me here.  I'd be lost if not for all of their help and support.  The same goes for my friends, whose role in my life up to this point can never be underestimated.  

Did someone you know just start college?  Do them a favor and share this post with them.  The more students who embrace a minimalistic mindset, the better a college experience they will have, and a better world we can collectively create.


  1. I took this approach to my college life. See I flew to college, so I only had 50lbs and a carry on to take with me.

    1. Some might see that as a major downside to going to college out of state, but frankly I think that's a wonderful advantage. Makes you truly consider what you need rather than throwing it all into a suitcase and saying "meh, I'll figure it out later". Good luck at college, Nick.