Notes From a Minimalist Teen

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Chase Miller.

Everything I own fits in a suitcase, except my surfboards. I love country music and the freedom that comes from owning very few things. My name is Chase Miller and I am a minimalist teenager.

My journey of minimalism began 3 years ago at the beginning of summer. I had just finished school for the year and decided it was time to clean out and re access what I owned. I was sick of seeing my closet full of stuff I didn’t use and clothes I didn’t wear. I made a goal of selling or donating everything that I didn’t use or that wasn’t important to me.

The biggest motivation for me came from reading the various Minimalist blogs. The writers had something I wanted; being content and happy with what you have. You could tell through their articles that they were truly enjoying life with less; not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

It wasn’t that my room was packed full of stuff. In fact I was already the cleanest person in my family; but my way of looking at life changed. I didn’t want to be tied down by what I owned or always be focused on having the latest or greatest. There is something freeing about knowing you could easily pack up and move if needed; that you could travel the world and not worry about your possessions.

It took time to change my way of thinking and downsize what I own. I will be the first to admit that it did not happen overnight, but over time I started to realize how little I needed.

This was my action plan:

  • Clean Sweep – I took everything out of my room and only put back things I used on a regular basis. Everything else got donated or sold on Craigslist.
  • Simplified my Clothing – got rid of clothes with big logos because I didn’t want to be a walking advertisement. I then bought solid colored T-Shirts and basic jeans, which make up a large majority of my wardrobe.
  • Daily Choice – Everyday I make a choice to focus on what I have, rather than what I want and in reality don’t need.

I think the biggest misconception about minimalism is that you essentially live with nothing; from your most treasured possessions to your clothes, everything goes. It’s the complete opposite, its merely being content with less. I am the only minimalist in my family. While they have been very supportive, they tend to hang on to stuff for longer. Personally I don’t mind as I realize minimalism is a personal choice and not for everyone.

Minimalism hasn’t affected my relationships with friends, as I don’t really talk about it. However, many people do notice and make comments about how clean my car is. My parents love the fact that I am a minimalist because they never have to ask me to clean my room or anything of that nature.

How I am different than the average teenager:

  • I buy clothes without emblems or logos because I do not feel the need to be a walking advertisement
  • Traveling is easier because I usually just bring a carry on with everything I need for the week
  • I am not going to a high cost university even though I was accepted because I have decided against taking out student loans. Instead, I plan to take advantage of the great community colleges that are in the surrounding areas.
  • I have more money to spend on important items or experiences because I am not constantly buying unneeded things.

Minimalism shapes your future by helping you focus on the right things in life. I think the biggest thing for me is spending time on things that are important; things like traveling, spending time with friends and capturing life through photography.

If you are a teenager considering becoming a minimalist, I would suggest giving it a shot as it will become much harder if you wait until you are an adult. And if you don’t like it, you can always refill your life with useless things.

Chase Miller is a High School student from Orange County, CA. He loves to surf, travel, tweet and catalog life through photography.

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Comments

  1. Kathleen Moscato says

    What an amazing choice for a teen and even more amazing considering where he is from. I grew up in the OC and materialism is very much part of the culture. I know it is everywhere, but in the OC even more so! Congratulations on a very smart choice!

    • says

      Hey Kathleen!
      Thanks for the comment! Isn’t it crazy how in Orange County so many people focus on materialism? On the bright side, this extreme has also helped me see what really matters in life.

      Chase Miller

  2. says

    Courtney, way to go. I’m 57 now, but when I was your age, I had my head so far up my ass…. Just let me say, that with your way of thinking, you can create a great life for yourself. And that’s what you’re doing–you’re actually thinking for yourself.

  3. Tonia says

    “If you are a teenager considering becoming a minimalist, I would suggest giving it a shot as it will become much harder if you wait until you are an adult. And if you don’t like it, you can always refill your life with useless things.”

    Loved this ^^^^ So true. Wish i was this wise as a teenager.

  4. Jen says

    You are wise beyond your years, what a neat person! You are bound to have an exciting life because you have such a great attitude :)

  5. Fiona says

    WOW! Simply wow! This was so compelling to read! I really enjoyed it & will be sharing it on my website!

    I enjoy clearing out and thankfully when I was your age I had a rule that things couldn’t be sentimental unless they fitted in a shoe box, so I don’t have tones of boxes in the loft, but you’ve inspired me to go a step further and think about what extra things I’m holding onto.

    You’re an inspiration, I’m going to get my teenage sister to read your blog! May your journey hold many blessings, Fiona,x

  6. Sophie says

    When I grow up I want to be Chase Miller! Great article and it has really got me thinking about my own stuff. I ❤ the line “that you could travel the world and not worry about your possessions” I’ve been worrying about my stuff for too long, it owns me and not the other way round.

    I’m going to print that out and put it on my wall and it will inspire me to declutter

    =)

  7. says

    I seriously loved reading this! I was thinking back to my teenage self who kept every little sentimental thing. I’m 25 now, and while I’m not old, I’ve been through a lot that can age your soul quickly. I’ve spent the past nearly 2 years learning about minimalism and loving it. I went through some sentimental cards and letters this weekend, enjoyed the moment of reminiscing, and threw all away but a few of the most precious ones. I’m not quite to the sole suitcase life (and I’m not sure I’d ever want to go that far), but I certainly am purging the unnecessary.

    Cheers to a great start to your adult life!

    I will say that after a couple years of community college, you can probably save up and get scholarships to go to a four-year college, if that’s your thing. Of course, you may not want to go the traditional route, but if you have a change of heart, know that there are options out there.

    Surf’s up!

    • says

      Thanks for the comment! And yes, after community college I am planning on transferring to a four-year college to major in either Communications or Photography which I am definitely looking forward to.

      Best of luck!
      Chase Miller

  8. K Silva says

    Thanks Chase! Hope you don’t mind, but I’m having my seniors read this tomorrow as part of our unit on reflective writing. I think it’s a great example…and hopefully will get them thinking about how they choose to spend their money as they get ready to head out into the world.

  9. Kim says

    I was shocked to see Chase was from the OC. I live in HB and most teens here are incredibly materialistic. I have two young boys that we try very hard to teach the value of a dollar and the concept of need vs. want. I was never prouder when my 9 year old told me he had know idea what he wanted for christmas since he had everything he needed and maybe could we just go on a family trip instead of gifts! Loved it! I am sharing your essay with them this weekend so they can see how full your life is and how much you have achieved by letting go of the unnecessary. Best of luck with your photography it’s beautiful and inspiring.

    Kim

  10. Laura says

    Wow, so impressive to be thinking this way at an early age and I was really stunned when he said he was from the OC! Very inspiring.

  11. says

    Wow Chase, very impressive. I wish I had started at your age.

    You state: “If you are a teenager considering becoming a minimalist, I would suggest giving it a shot as it will become much harder if you wait until you are an adult.”

    So true. I’m 38, and despite having reduced my possessions by at least 25%, I still have too much. I admire your minimalist approach and learned a lot from reading your post.

    Thanks,

    Lars

  12. says

    Great story there, thanks!

    Just a question about ‘the note’. How is different from what we receive with an RSS subscription to your blog posts? I don’t mean to sound snippy, but I’m trying to be minimalist here, and one more thing to clean out of my inbox doesn’t sound appealing! If you could let me know a little more of what it’s about, I’d appreciate it.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Not snippy at all. You can read more about the note here: http://courtneycarver.com/the-note/ – it’s completely separate from the content on this blog. I’m not quite sure how it will evolve, but I wanted a different avenue to connect with readers that wanted to work on what comes after simplifying and living with less. I want to explore other methods of connecting and see what comes from it. Feel free to join me and/or continue to read here. I’ll love you either way. ;)

  13. Mary Blanton says

    Fantastic!! Thanks, Chase, for inspiring us! I can’t wait to share this with my family. Truly, you are an amazing young man.

  14. Denise says

    Brilliant post. Chase, you are so wise to realize the importance of a curated life at your age. Most of us waste valuable time accumulating “stuff” when we’re young and then we spend our golden years getting rid of it. Or worse, our family members become burdened with our possessions. Can’t wait to share this with my teenage son! He’s already on the right track with school by attending a high school & early college program at our local community college.

  15. says

    This was a wonderful post. Chase-you are definitely going places. I’ve learned that the best leaders lead by example. I’m convinced that your minimalist lifestyle will inspire others, even if you never speak a word about it. I also hope you continue to write! Thanks for sharing this post.

  16. Megan LBA says

    Hey, I find this really inspirational as I am a teenager too trying to become as minimalitic as possible, to be able to live a life full of freedom and experience, to spend time with the people I love, and to do things I love.
    I have found the path difficult, to let go of what I am used to, to just experience life as it should be, but this has given me empowerment to carry on and not go back a step than forward, so thank you! :)

  17. says

    Very inspiring, Chase! Great to read. I too came to minimalism through blogs, and still read them frequently to stay motivated and inspired. Reading your guest post today helps. I love the Daily Choice part of your action plan.

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