Minimalism and Miatas

I’ve been a die-hard minimalist since about the year 2012. So why is this post car related?

It was 2012 when I had enough with my cluttered, junk-packed apartment in Brighton, Massachusetts. If a person’s apartment is a physical representation of a one’s headspace, I was an absolute basket case. I had a closet full of clothes that I didn’t wear, a moped parked in the living room that I swore I was going to fix, random figurines that I’d collected over time, Guitar Hero guitars, a libary of DVDs that I was slowly converting to Blueray, several hundred books, and all kinds of weird kitchen devices that I seldom used. It was a mess and so was I.

I took the nuclear option. I left it all. I either donated my possessions, gave them to my friends, or threw them away. I quit my job and then moved far away from Boston to Seoul, South Korea. I was thirty years old. It was an inelegant and tumultuous beginning to my journey in stripping life down to the essentials.

I’m still on this journey and it’s gone through many revisions and refinements that included living in a 75 square foot apartment (story for later) to not having a home and living out of one carry on luggage (also a story for later). Over time I’ve gone from thinking negatively about any purchase outside of bare necessity to being more utilitarian and pragmatic.

I live in Austin now in a 500 square foot apartment. I own a bed, a chair, and a table. My life is still minimal but things are starting to add up and I dislike it. I want to say that the accumulation is from people buying me physical gifts (I appreciate the sentiment but please don’t do this) but most of it is from things just kind of creeping up on me the way moss grows on trees. I want to go camping? Buy a tent. Cook Korean BBQ? Buy a grill. Chill in Zilker Park? Get a hammock. Coffee at home? Buy a press.

Don’t get me wrong, I am OK with strategic purchases that meet certain criteria. You meet these points and you are at the intersection of value and utility.

  • It has to get frequent use.
  • It has to improve my life.
  • It doesn’t break the bank.

You’d be surprised by the swathes of shit that do not meet these three simple points and

Now, on to my, as of today, thirty year old first generation 1990 Miata. When I first moved to Austin I was still deep in the grips of my personal die hard minimalism crusade. I think I even made a blog post of never owning a car again. In my near infinite stubbornness I organized a van pool, woke up at 7am everyday, and drove a bunch of commuters to and from work. I sacrificed schedule flexibility and volunteered to do extra work just to avoid purchasing a car. Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds but thankfully I only held out for six months before finding my Miata.

Now let’s see if this purchase meets the criteria I laid out earlier.

It gets frequent use. Very frequent. I drive it nearly every day to the office or to dance practice or jiu jitsu training.

It improves my life. Because of my little Miata I no longer have to wake up to an alarm to drive a van or live my life by a bus schedule. Being more flexible and getting more sleep was a multi-dimensional quality of life boost.

Also, the Miata is a legendarily fun car that is mechanically easy to fix and has a great community of enthusiasts. It’s slow and old but going through a turn at high speed is something that has to be experienced to be understood. The car just sits down in corners and sticks to the road. I have my own personal roller coaster on tap every time I drive and given a curvy stretch of mountain road I can give a theme park a run for its money. Simply put, I get a great deal of enjoyment from driving the Miata that doesn’t seem to run out.

It doesn’t break the bank. It’s rich in character but cheap in price. It was only 5900 dollars. The engine is tiny and sips gasoline and the parts are ubiquitous and cheap. Thanks to its 30 year history and its simplicity every known problem has been thoroughly documented.

You’d think it’s oxymoronic to make a post about minimalism where the focus is a car or some other material object but I think the essence of minimalism is appreciating and maximizing the value of the few things you choose to let into your life.


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