macao temple incense things I don't own as a minimalist expat

22 Things I Don’t Own as a Minimalist (Expat)

If you saw my post about minimalist moving tips, you know that minimalism can help simplify a long-distance move. Some electronics might not work if the voltage isn’t the same, and some furniture might not fit in smaller spaces. But minimalism can also make life easier once you’ve settled down. And in big cities where the cost of living is through the roof, living with less is increasingly more appealing to a lot of people. Here are 22 things I don’t own as a minimalist expat:

1. A home

First up: a home. My husband and I don’t own a home. Instead, we rent. We do this for a few reasons, but the main one is that the numbers don’t add up. We don’t know where we’ll be in six months, let alone six years. And in many cases, buying a place is a better investment only if you’re able to live there (or keep the property) for a significant amount of time. But who knows, maybe one of these days it’ll make sense for us to buy.

2. A car

Surprise surprise: we do not own a car. And while I can drive, cars are expensive and, honestly, not as eco-friendly as public transport. Even the parking can cost as much (or more) than a studio apartment! Lucky for us, the public transport in Japan and Hong Kong is some of the best.

3. A bike

We had a bicycle a long time ago…and never used it. So when we moved to Hong Kong, we didn’t bring it (besides, people don’t bike in the central areas of HK). Now back in Japan, I sometimes think a bicycle might be nice. And bicycles are certainly popular in Japan. But realistically, I can’t say I’d use it enough to make it worth it.

4. Sports gear

Relatedly, we don’t own *much* sports gear. I say ‘much’ because we do have a few ski-related items. But some of the gear we prefer to rent on location. When it’s not ski season, we get out and play with the dog. Also, in previous apartments, we had access to gym facilities. Since our current apartment doesn’t have one, I might take up group classes.

5. A dining table

You read that right: we do not own a dining table. “But where do you eat?! On the couch? Off the floor?” Relax, I hear you. We don’t eat off the floor. We just look for apartments equipped with a little breakfast bar where we can squeeze two seats. It’s easier than having to move and accommodate a table. And this method is arguably a better use of space when you’re in anything less than 50 sqm. As you can guess, this means we don’t typically hold dinner gatherings.

6. Dinner party decor

Which brings us to number six on the list of things I don’t own as a minimalist expat. Placemats, table cloths, napkin rings — we don’t own any of them. ‘Nuff said. Even if we were to get a dining table, I refuse to have a sideboard stuffed to the gills with place cardholders.

7. Full stemware sets

We do not own any full stemware set. We do, however, own pairs of stemware. In Japan, this is normal. And honestly, we don’t drink too much save for special occasions. If we start hosting more guests, however, I might trade our pairs of stemware for one set.

8. A full living room set

In many North American homes, the star of the living room is a huge sectional sofa for the ultimate Netflix-and-chill or a set complete with its own La-Z Boy recliner. But in cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo, it’s just not possible. We have a sofa, and if we have guests over we get our seating from the dining area. It works for us.

9. A guest bed

Sorry, fam—you are not welcome here. Just kidding! In the past we had an air mattress for guests. But living abroad, visitors were few and far between, so we got rid of the mattress a while ago. And up until our current apartment, we were in such a small space that most of our visitors preferred to stay in a hotel. If we start having consistent guests, we might consider getting something. Then again, I just found out about futon rental services. So, maybe not!

10. Holiday decor

I grew up in a household where my mom loved to decorate for the holidays. And it was beautiful. The decorations really got you into the season. But most of the year, the decorations aren’t being used. Most of the year, they’re stuffed into big plastic bins and shoved into the back of a closet or under a bed. I’ll just go visit the illuminations and displays.

11. Printer / scanner

For environmental reasons, I try to minimize the unnecessary use of paper. And in this era, where everything is online, going paperless is not too difficult. Obviously, some situations might require that you physically print something (applications that can’t be made online, certain school or work projects, etc.). In which case, I can go print it at a convenience store. But these limited instances (at least in our case), does not justify having a bulky printer/scanner/fax machine—and who faxes, anyway?

12. A coffee table

Again, if you’re living in anything less than 50 sqm, something’s gotta give. The things you bring into your life should be functional. And in my opinion, a coffee table is often more aesthetic than functional. That said, if you don’t have a breakfast bar or dining table, maybe the coffee table serves as your eating space. We had this setup in a 35 sqm apartment. Or maybe your kids use it when they do their homework or draw. Those are also legitimate uses. We just don’t have a need for one at the moment.

13. Side tables

In the past, we’ve had a side table. But when we moved to Hong Kong, our queen-size bed couldn’t fit into the bedroom, let alone a side table! I didn’t have one during my uni-years, either. Sure, side tables can be functional, but they can also become clutter magnets really fast.

14. A coffee machine

I don’t drink coffee often and I don’t drink coffee at home. I’d rather have a good cappuccino at a cafe while chatting with a friend. And while my husband drinks coffee every day, he gets it at work. This eliminates the need for a coffee machine in our home. You might say, “What about guests?” Well, if we have a visitor who needs their daily shot, we live near some great cafes that can make a much better cup than I certainly can!

15. A juicer

I love juice, but I don’t drink too much. So, another thing I don’t own as a minimalist is a juicer. When I want juice, I just run to the store or I make a smoothie. Or, I might just order it when I’m out at a cafe. Problem solved.

16. Doormats

We don’t really have a need for a doormat. We take our shoes off at the door. If our shoes are really dirty, we take them off and promptly clean them and the floor. This is much easier than cleaning a doormat, because we all know that the majority of people do not wash their doormat as much as they should.

17. Outdoor furniture and lawn stuff

Living in the middle of the city, we do not have a yard. So, we don’t have or need outdoor furniture, a lawnmower, a weed wacker, fertilizer, gardening tools, or anything else related to outdoor space. And although I’m sure the pup would enjoy a yard to run around in, I think she enjoys exploring new places both in and outside of the city.

18. Balcony furniture

While we don’t have a yard, we do have a balcony. But, we don’t deck (pun unintended but welcome) it out and use it as an outdoor living space. That’s because, when we’re not hanging our laundry on the balcony, it is primarily the dog’s space. She can enjoy the weather, the sounds, and smells, while being in a safe and enclosed area.

19. A toolkit

While we do have the essentials (a hammer, a screwdriver, some other small things), we do not have a full toolkit. The fact of the matter is, we’d rarely use it. When we need something, a drill for example, we ask friends if they have one we can borrow. So far, this has always worked out for us.

20. A hair straightener or curling iron

I have not owned a curling iron or a hair straightener for almost as long as I’ve lived abroad! I am not a hair guru and I don’t like to take a long time styling my hair. I have one hair dryer that I love. That’s it. But when it’s humid out, I need a bit more help to stave off the puff and frizz. So the past few years, I’ve been getting Japanese hair straightening done in the summer.

21. Fans and space heaters

We are lucky enough to have A/C units in our apartment, so space heaters and fans are some other things I don’t own as a minimalist expat! Obviously, if you live in an older place, you might need one (or both!) of these at certain times of the year. But I definitely prefer to rent a place with some climate control units already installed, since these types of appliances may not be able to come on an international move if the voltage is different.

22. A dish drying rack

Nope, don’t have one. This is partially a space-saving choice, but it’s also an aesthetic one. I just don’t like the look of dish drying racks. I remember my family having one when I grew up, and I also remember never putting the dishes away after they were dry. So, in an effort to streamline the process and avoid clutter build-up, we just dry the dishes with a cloth and put them away immediately after washing.

So there is my list of 22 things I don’t own as a minimalist expat! As you can see, some I don’t own because I have no legitimate need for them, and some I don’t own because I just don’t like them! Regardless of the reason, all of these items—or rather, the lack of them—gives me more space to enjoy my international life. If you’ve lived abroad, what things did you realize you don’t need?

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Tokyo and Hong Kong. Freelance content creator. Wife to a Parisien. Pomsky mama. Sharing luxury, food, travel, and expat life. Can speak 日本語(ish) and français(beginner)

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