If you've recently reduced the amount of stuff around the house because you felt an overwhelming urge to declutter your life, consider yourself on the path toward minimalism. If, on the other hand, your spouse thinks it's OK to chow down at a hotel breakfast bar even when not a paying guest, then you can be pretty sure frugality is at play.
Less is More
Minimalists are inspired by the need to simplify their lives, sparsely outfitting both their physical and mental spaces with just what they need rather than what they want. People who have amassed material things throughout their lives can ultimately become overwhelmed by the psychological, emotional and financial weight of such possessions. The chaos that accompanies having too much stuff is a critical component of this changing mindset; things that at one time brought great pride and joy are now just one, large albatross of consumerism. Removing the physical clutter, says author Leo Babauta in "The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life," relieves the mind and streamlines the desire to have quality over quantity.
Those who embrace frugality are keen on pinching pennies. While this behavior is often associated with being cheap, it may also be because finances are tight and scrimping is the only option. For example, frugal folks tend to use the same paper towel a few times before tossing it out, or shop at thrift stores to the exclusion of retailers. Some even go dumpster diving, physically entering merchants' outside trash bins to retrieve food and other items that cannot be sold even though they are still usable.
Creativity or Cheating?
Determining the point at which frugality slips from creative financing to compromised character is not too difficult a task. For example, it's considered socially acceptable to take unused soaps, shampoo and lotion from your hotel room before checking out, but -- according to Bankrate.com -- if you can't resist the urge to graze the supply cart while housekeeping is cleaning another guest's suite, you're taking frugality too far.
Minimizing Down to Nothing
While the essence of minimalism is to live with less in order to appreciate life more, some people reduce their possessions to the point of having little other than daily necessities. They restrict themselves from what's perceived as wasteful or extravagant consumption, even though it may bring pleasure. For example, living quarters may be downsized to a salvaged van or an apartment that boasts a mere 175 square feet. Some, like Andre Hyde, who blogged about the turns his life took after walking away from everything he owned, see it as an adventure -- a test of individual meddle -- to reduce the bulk of consumerism to a few dozen portable possessions.
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