This one is difficult for me. To be honest, I have had many, many hobbies and I don’t mind buying stuff for my different hobbies. One major change I have made since becoming minimalist is limiting the amount of hobbies that I have. In fact, I am now working towards one hobby at a time with perhaps a longer life than my previous adventures. So instead of me having 5 different completely separate hobbies that I go at about 150% for 2 months at a time, I now try to limit myself to just one hobby that might have a few offshoots but still part of the whole.
An example of this would be do I choose photography or working on cars? While photography can certainly be a lone hobby, it tends to work well with my other hobby of backpacking. So cars will have to go. What more can be incorporated into my backpacking hobby? Photography, recipes (making food for the trail), traveling in general, writing and even MYOG (make own gear). However, if I were to pursue all of these separately with 100% focus they would be too large and expensive to accommodate for any other hobbies.
Instead I choose to have backpacking as my main interest with photography, writing and trail food recipes as all minor offshoots that support the whole. I could of course focus 100% on just backpacking and do nothing but backpack, but I find backpacking alone won’t hold my focus and energy as it’s not always possible for me to leave weeks at a time to go backpacking. So instead of losing interest altogether by inactivity, I find being able to have offshoots like this blog, making trail recipes, photography and writing all keep me interested for the long run.
I have always been able to produce income off of my hobbies and backpacking is no different. On this blog I sell my book and soon I will have a couple more books up for sale that all produce a minor income that allows the hobby to support itself. Meaning I have no extra out of pocket costs for my hobby. With my other books coming soon, hopefully I will be able to produce a positive cash flow that will allow me to travel even more, write more and make more recipes.
However, I will be the first to say that I need my hobbies for my piece of mind and the income is just an added bonus. It is my creative outlet that I believe is something I need. It’s rare for me to just sit, watch TV and not do anything. I am always moving, always working, always writing or reading or planning. It’s just how I function and I love it.
Having a hobby usually means stuff – sometimes lots of stuff – and my gear closet is no exception; it is filled with backpacking gear. Granted I have limited my purchases to my book income, and I usually sell several pieces of gear with each new gear purchase. I also incorporate a 30 day waiting period for each new purchase. It’s not unusual for me to get the impulse to buy something that I need, especially when I start planning for a new trip, the 30 day wait allows me to research and think. A good example of a recent purchases was a new backpack and tent for 2017. I have several trips planned for the year and because of the length of time I would be out and no possibility for resupply, I knew that I would need a larger backpack than my zpacks arc-blast. After much deliberation and comparing I settled on a Hyperlite mountain gear sidewinder 4400. A massive 70 liter pack that weighs just 2 lbs. This would give me the flexibility for longer summer trips and even winter trips. In other words, I make my purchases based on my coming needs for the trips that I have planned.
Justifying a purchase
First I have to set my goal in-order to qualify a purchase. A good example of this is that I have recently purchased a new Excalibur 5 tray food dehydrator yet I already owned a perfectly good cheap $40 dehydrator that has served me well for close to 5 years now. Did I need the Excalibur? Need is a strong word and the answer Is no. However, how do I qualify the purchase? I first set my goal and In this case it is to write and finish a cook book on dehydrating food within the next 6 months. Does that alone qualify the purchase? It would if I didn’t already own a dehydrator.
I was able to qualify the purchase by looking over the course of the lifespan of the book writing phase. There are a few recipes that I would have to be able to adjust the temperature from either a low 35 Celsius or a high 80 Celsius. Eggs for example need to at least be 70 Celsius otherwise salmonella is a big risk. Beans on the other hand need a low temp at around 35 degrees in-order to not turn into powder. This I couldn’t do on my old dehydrator and an oven isn’t a practical solution as it both uses a lot more energy and a I can’t tie up my oven for 16 hour stretches as I’m usually making dinner and so on.
I also know that in this instance I couldn’t borrow a dehydrator from anybody either. Who owns one and let alone wants to loan one out for six months while I write a book? So, maybe you will find my justification weak, but to me I found it an important tool for this years goal of writing a cook book on drying food.
Rent, loan or buy?
One philosophy within the minimalism movement is that we just borrow everything from people we know and in that manner we don’t need to own anything. I think this works in theory and perhaps for some items it is probably just fine and something I try to think about. In fact as kind of a joke when we sold our car I offered only half kidding, to buy a ”share” in our neighbors car and we just split the cost. Why not? I’m not really sure I or my neighbor use our cars enough to justify the cost. Last year we owned a boat, if anything a boat is a completely useless purchase, a giant hole in the water that we try and fill with money. But it was damn fun to have those few times we actually took us out and played on it. While I sold it in the end, I certainly kicked around the idea of selling out ”shares” in the boat to friends.
I think this should be possible for a lot of things, certainly for people living in cities like myself. But I think that building your minimalism lifestyle on borrowing from everybody else is just being a burden. It’s better to know what you need and have that as your starting point. I like the idea of packing everything you own into moving boxes and pulling out the items you need when you need them and everything left in the boxes after a year is probably not needed. I also know that a family has more needs than someone who is living single.
This year I have several backpacking trips planned where I will be renting among other things a satellite telephone. I used to own one but found I couldn’t justify owning it when I only used it for about 20 minutes a year and it cost me close to $100 every time I filled up the minutes in it. I could rent when I needed one for half the cost. It requires a little more planning to book the phone, but in general I find it a better solution.
It’s easy to go ”wild” when it comes to hobbies. Both in making purchases and in how many separate hobbies we give time to. Some people have many different hobbies much like they have thousands of useless stuff lying around their houses. They collect hobbies from fishing, to catching up on the latest tv shows, concerts, going to the gym and so on. In the end hobbies cost not just money but time as well. Usually time is the biggest cost with regards to hobbies, to be successful at something you need to put time and energy into it. Nobody is great at anything without practice.
So here’s my advice: Choose your hobby. You can be good at many things and great at nothing. Or you can be great at one thing and let everything else go. Just because you choose one hobby now doesn’t mean you have to stick with it the rest of your life, but give it the proper time and focus. Work in 5-10 year cycles. Choose one hobby now and give it your all for at least 5 years. Than, if you feel like it, choose a new one.
With regards to purchases for your chosen hobby, look at what you need in-order to accomplish your goal. For a writer writing fiction, in theory the only thing you really need is paper and a pen. Yet is it practical? A cook book has other requirements, a photography book has it’s requirements. Being a body builder, a DJ, producer or keeping up on Netflix. All of these are hobbies that require time energy and focus. I once read a book (can’t remember the name of it now) but the author stated that if he couldn’t be the best in the world at a particular venture, than he didn’t bother because he knew he couldn’t put the time, effort and energy required into that venture. While I don’t think you need to always focus on being the best in the world, it is certainly a good starting point and something to have in mind before splashing a ton of cash onto a new hobby.