An image of a backpack in an outdoor space among some rocks.


A backpack, how do you fill it? It’s all you can take- so what do you choose? When it comes down to it, what’s important to you? What’s essential to you? The world is ending, what are you taking with you?

In stoicism, it is historically common practise to mentally rehearse the loss of everything. Possessions, family, living space, money, comfort. Perhaps less of us have the time to sit on our porches considering the loss of everything we enjoy in life- and even less of us actively seek out this philosophical pessimism. But we may actually engage in this rehearsal of loss more often than we think we do.

How often do we engage with movies, tv shows, video games, and books about zombie plagues and apocalyptic scenarios which rob us of everything we know? Many of us are captivated by the concept of apocalypse. Without realising, we are already rehearsing loss in a similar way to that of the stoics.

When minimising, it can be useful to rehearse the loss of our current situation- in order to reevaluate what we truly need. Even what we want can be determined by minimalist thought exercises derived from the stoics. It’s often that we hear the cliched, faux-philosophical question, ‘what three things would you take if your home was burning down?’. This, too, to some degree is about reevaluation, priorities, and cutting down our possessions to a mere three.

These scenarios work on a principle of extremes. They allow us no luxuries, or time to fawn over old possessions which we no longer need. Not only that, but these apocalyptic scenarios, built on pessimism, work with our brains and their natural inclination towards the negative. It can be difficult to look at our things in an everyday light and to decide what is truly necessary, but to look at them in the light of an urgent and demanding situation we can often determine what is important. It’s ultimately not about the misery of the situation, but the clarity of mind, and the potential joy, we could find within it.

Have you practised minimalist thought exercises? Do you find them helpful? How have they influenced your experience of minimalism?

Featured image: Stephan Mahlke via Unsplash.

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