Living ‘Minimally Modern’

Fernando Pacheco
January 07, 2016

It’s no secret that paradise is not cheap. Hawaii topped a USA Today list of 10 worst states in America to make a living in 2015. Can money woes affect our health? Absolutely. The US Department of Health and Human Services lists money problems as a cause of long-term stress which can lead to:

•    Mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety
•    Obesity
•    Heart disease
•    High blood pressure
•    Abnormal heart beats
•    Menstrual problems for women
•    Acne and other skin problems

I recently met with a West-Oahu disabled military veteran who is no stranger to living from paycheck to paycheck. With a fixed income and a list of repairs for his 1931 fixer-upper home, he knew a lifestyle change was in order to make ends meet. “Richard” [as he prefers to be called] took a look at all his possessions and asked himself a simple question, “does it make me happy?”

“Minimally Modern” is what Richard calls his current lifestyle – accepting modern life and its conveniences at a minimal level. By sticking to his own money-saving tips, he was able to bring his electricity bill down to $30 a month without a solar PV system.


The first thing that Richard did was unplug his refrigerator, water heater, and stove. The only items he currently has plugged in are his washer, modem and laptop. He charges his smartphone whenever he drives.  An outdoor propane grill is how he prepares all of his meals. Most of his food is eaten the day he buys them. At night, he uses candles and kerosene lanterns for light. Bonus tip: scented candles burn much faster than unscented candles.


Richard said, “Everything I have is really good stuff. I just don’t have much of it.” He believes when it comes to spending, pay for something that’s worthwhile. When making a purchase, he said to be smart about it and do some research – “buy stuff that lasts.”


“If something breaks, learn how to fix it,” Richard said. Thanks to the internet, we are no longer dependent on those TimeLife books from the ‘80s. If there isn’t a YouTube video explaining the repair you’re looking for, there are affordable e-books to download.


“Get a clear definition of need versus want,” is what Richard suggested. After you have all of your “needs,” only make purchases to replace them (if cannot be repaired) but avoid adding possessions to your life.

So are you ready for cold showers and lantern-lit dinners? Don’t worry, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. But if you are in the least bit curious about being a modern minimalist, Richard urges you to try it out:

“You don’t have to go full-blown – you don’t have to get rid of everything. Pick one thing that you don’t need. For me, it was my TV.”

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