How Much is Really Necessary?


how-much-is-enough_2256291bI have arrived in Vermont for a 7 week stint at the summer camp I run with my wife.  This is always an extremely exciting time for me for a lot of reasons; many of which I will write about over the next couple of months.

The crux of the matter is that my family (and the students at camp) live a life of simplicity and minimalism together for an extended period of time.  There is no technology; most of us walk barefoot; we eat healthy food; we bring our musical instruments and not much else.  The simplicity of the place and the experience is beyond words.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that an ongoing quest for me is to eliminate all that is unnecessary from my life. I am not trying to cut out everything, and I certainly don’t want to deprive myself of things, but I lived a life of excess for many years and it had to stop.

My essential question is always “what does necessary mean”?  What is necessary to live a happy life?  What does “having enough” mean?  How much is really necessary?

I am never more happy than I am over the summers here in Vermont, so let’s start with that.  What is necessary for me and my students to have here?  We have the basics of clothing, shelter and food. I need a great and strong relationship with my wife and kids and I need time with them.

I do not spend a cent while spending time with my family here.  We hang out at the house, we go outside and try to catch newts and frogs at the pond, and we play.  No money is necessary to enjoy our family time.  No movies, no malls, no eating out.

We drive to our home in Vermont with barely anything in our car, and we don’t miss a thing.

Other things we cut out and don’t miss:

  • Going to movies
  • Any type of eating out (we go to a farmer’s market once a week and munch on some goodies)
  • Toys (we go to the thrift shop on Saturdays and spend $2 sometimes)
  • New books (I bring up a pile of “to be read” stuff from home
  • Cable and TV
  • Cell phone (I carry it around to be in contact with parents of my students, but that’s about it)

I feel lucky to have the chance to ditch my stuff and live simply. I always return home and try to bring the simplicity back with me.  I have a lot more to do, but it’s the process that I enjoy, and I’ll keep trying.

What is necessary for you?  How much enough in your world?

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  1. This sounds like an amazing thing to do!

    We’ve eliminated a lot of things from our life already, but it’s work in progress.
    Laura / Move to Portugal recently posted…July 2013 Mini GoalsMy Profile

  2. Very little is “necessary!” There are certain things we’ve cut but others that we keep because they bring more to our lives than they take away.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Deleting Blog Comments is for PussiesMy Profile

  3. Tony! Just the process of asking and learning what is necessary for you is a marvelous journey and shows incredible initiative and mindfulness. Most of us never bother to ask. But since you did, I need Tammy and I to have a lot of time together, my guitar and scores (some of the scores, not all), and the basics of which you speak earlier, not steak dinners and yachting.

    And holy cripes, I love newts!!!

  4. This sounds so nice, Tony. Barefooted and little but the instruments you all love, each other, and nature. Do you have tambourine lessons? I want to come, but I am sorry I didn’t get past 9th grade trumpet playing. Your lessons are well taken, though. It takes so little to truly be happy. What if everyone asked themselves your question several times a week or even every day? I wonder how little waste we might have.
    Tammy R recently posted…Guest Posting at Reach Financial IndependenceMy Profile

  5. The more we strip away from our life that we thought was necessary the more we realize, it was not. It’s not until we give it a fair chance by removing what we deem not important that we can actually find the way. I think the camp sounds great and living the simplistic life would be fun if not only just to unplug from the world to get back to the way life used to be when we were younger. I look forward to your posts Tony.
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted…New Canadian ePassport is around the corner for CanadiansMy Profile

  6. Tony, great to hear you’ve been able to cut down on unnecessary expenses while keeping necessary expenses like Vermont. I used to think I needed to do a lot of things and most of these activities weren’t cheap. But as I find more satisfaction in God other activities became a bonus and the unnecessary expense went down.
    John @ Fearless Men recently posted…When to be Assertive | Stop getting walked onMy Profile

    • Long time no “see”, John! You look like your site is doing extremely well. Your faith has guided you to what is necessary..that is wonderful!

  7. For us, what is a need are the things that make life easier and comfortable. But also take note that these doesn’t have to mean spending a lot also. There are ways to cut the cost on thins you need if you only know where to look.

  8. I would love to just get away from everything for an extended period of time with a pile of books. Nothing would delight me more….
    AverageJoe recently posted…Planning Your Future? Sketch Out Your GoalsMy Profile

  9. I would say that most of what I have is not necessary to a point. Do I need clothes yes but do I need as much as I have currently the answer is no. I think when you pull yourself from the comfort of your environment you see that a lot of things you think you need are needed or at least not in the amount you thought. Some of the things we think we need are just things we really really want since they make life seem easier and more fun.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted…Damn Kids Are Expensive and Eating All My FoodMy Profile

  10. Sounds like a magical place Tony! I live with little as well, but enjoy going back to France and eating out, living the city life… once in a while. Although after a month in Paris I was glad to go home.
    Pauline recently posted…Couchsurfing vs Airbnb, cheap and free holiday accommodationMy Profile

    • Pauline, I cannot wait to go to France for the first time. I will save up my money just for the food (totally contrary to my blog!). Hope you are well!

  11. I love your concept: Less is More! I think everyone should try that, at least once in a while. I would say ditching our cell phones and cable would be the greatest idea of all, because then we would find time for everything that we need. Thanks for sharing!
    Elena @ Blog Giveaway recently posted…Terrific Summer Blog Giveaway – Enter Now!My Profile

  12. Welcome back to my home state buddy! What area are you in? North? South? If you’re gonna be here for 7 weeks then we definitely need to hook up.

    I mean it.

    Hell, I’ll even bake you some homemade bread . . . I was an artisan bread baker for over a decade you know.

    Trevor recently posted…Harnessing Pavlov’s Theory to go from Worrywart to a Fucking SuperheroMy Profile

    • Trevor, I may take you up on it…but it’s crazy here. Come to a concert and bring that bread, though! I am South in Weston.

  13. Enjoy your time in Vermont, Tony–sounds very serene! Coincidentally, and quite apropos to this post’s question, I’ve been working on a blog post based on this quote from a man named Ben Zoma: “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with what he has.” I think that means very few Americans feel rich but are actually doing just fine!
    Joy @ Joyfully Green recently posted…The Bridges We CrossMy Profile

  14. We’re also trying to eliminate more unnecessary things. For me, it’s mostly working through clutter that I’ve carried around with me. It’s kind of ridiculous, but there are literally boxes that I’ve moved from place to place and not opened. I’m slowly working through them. Other than that residual stuff that I’ve been stuck with, there’s not a lot that I really need!
    CF recently posted…Recipe Idea: Simple Oil and Vinegar ColeslawMy Profile

  15. Great post. I also struggle with eliminating as much of what’s unnecessary in my life as I can. There are things I don’t want to give up just yet (gym membership) that can optimize my life. I think what sometimes happens is our habits are so ingrained in us it can be difficult to change.
    Kevin Watts @Graduating from Debt recently posted…The Student Loan Average Loan Jumps to $27,000My Profile

  16. In life, not much is really necessary, it is just our bodies telling us it is necessary. Us as smart consumers need to break those financial habits that will end up costing us money and use it wisely.


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