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Like anyone optimizing your finances, the minimalist's ultimate goal is freedom.

Everything I Know About Minimalism I Learned from the Zombie Apocalypse

Dear readers, it’s time I made a confession. You need to know The Real Me™. I’ve been hiding myself for too long.

Guys… I fucking love zombies.

It’s true. Every year around Halloween I go watch a live theatrical performance of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I’ve met Max Brooks twice and both times he declined my marriage proposal. Same goes for Mila Jovovich. I finished The Last of Us in forty-eight hours. Zombieland is my favorite family-friendly, feel-good buddy comedy. I attend my city’s annual Zombie Crawl religiously.

I pride myself on having read the entire canon of zombie literature. Yes, even the one about zombies on the Titanic. Even the one where a zombie gets elected president. Even the one where a high school football team is reanimated as zombies just in time to win the state championship. Even the one where zombies played a pivotal role in the formation of ancient Israel. And yes, even the YA romance trilogy (no, the other one). I read Warm Bodies before it was published.

Having lived for years with this unhealthy obsession with zombies, you would naturally think that I would’ve learned something by now (besides the double-tap rule and how to steel yourself for mercy-killing a loved one, of course).

Turns out I did. I’ve learned a helluva lot about minimalism from the zombie apocalypse.

WARNING: this post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk.

Dafuq is minimalism, anyway?

Minimalism! What is it? And what does the zombie apocalypse have to do with it?

To define minimalism, I went to The Minimalists: “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. […] Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself; thus, it’s up to you to determine what is necessary and what is superfluous in your life.”

Minimalists seek efficiency in all things, cutting out material possessions and activities that do not actively improve their lives. They abhor clutter—both physical and mental—and seek joy in simplicity. Above all, they are practical in their efforts to think outside the societally-regimented box. (I’m paraphrasing here, so minimalists, feel free to correct me.) Like anyone optimizing their finances, the minimalist’s ultimate goal is freedom.

You know what else can help you find freedom from the trappings of everyday life? A zombie apocalypse. Just sayin’.

But minimalism is not free from criticism! Consider The Financial Diet’s spot-on critique of minimalism as a #lifestyle brand, or this damning refutation of extreme minimalism from Champagne and Capital Gains.

All I’m saying is, minimalism as a movement clearly has its faults. So I’m going to focus on only the most important lessons of minimalism. Lessons, incidentally, one can learn from the zombie apocalypse as well! Life’s neat that way!

Reuse or repurpose everything

“Waste not, want not” are words to live by in the zombie apocalypse. Literally.

Why bother building new when you have the perfect means of zombie survival right there in the form of an empty prison? You’ll save on building costs, construction time, and lives wasted while frantically constructing walls to keep out the ravenous undead.

In my own, zombie-free life (FOR NOW), I rinse out Ziplock bags and yogurt containers to use for future food storage. I compost kitchen scraps to fertilize my vegetable garden. I’ve even been known to fix up furniture my neighbors leave in the alley and then sell it on Craiglist.

Guys, I am so fucking ready for the dead to rise from their graves.

Conversely, travel light

Everything in your bug-out bag—er, home, should have a specific and important purpose. Everyone knows that characters who carry around sentimental objects that serve no purpose are killed off before their time (see: Glenn, Beth). You don’t have room for knicknacks when the means to your survival must be carried on your back.

In your minimalist home, everything must serve a purpose. Tchotchskes that don’t do anything for you have got to go. Decorative bookends? No. The katana hanging above your mantel? Most definitely yes.

Don’t hold onto things just because they were a lackluster gift from Aunt Frida. When the zombie apocalypse comes, just how exactly is that crystal candy dish going to help you?

Combine resources

If The Walking Dead has shown us anything, it’s the wisdom of teaming up with a bunch of heavily armed badasses who will literally take a bullet for you.

This translates to our peaceful (FOR NOW) world in the form of frugally splitting a wifi network with your neighbor, trading childcare and power tools, borrowing from each other instead of buying new.

As in the zombie apocalypse, your minimalist squad should be full of people you can trust to trade and share with. And if they own a shotgun and know how to start a fire, might as well keep ‘em around for when you’ll need their skills to ensure your own survival!

More on squad dynamics…

Know when to give up material possessions

If your home is overrun by zombies, move on. It’s a sunk cost.

Thus also those skis you haven’t used in five years. They’re taking up valuable space in your minimalist life that could be used in other, better ways.

That dress you’ve mended four times already and is starting to wear thin? I don’t care how much you loved it, girl you are not in college anymore throw that shit out.

Letting go could save your life in the zombie apocalypse. And it could save your sanity now.

Focus on function over fashion

Guard towers and barbed wire-topped fences are not exactly what I’d call “picturesque.” Nevertheless, Rick looked around and said: “This prison yard will be perfect for farming. Hershel, grab my trowel!”

Your minimalist lifestyle doesn’t have to look like a perfect Instagram photo spread. In fact, it shouldn’t. Minimalists (and true survivors, for that matter) don’t waste time and mental energy on perfecting their aesthetic. They focus on what they need to survive and feel whole. The rest follows.

The rain barrel in my backyard might be a little unsightly, but you know what that 50-gallon, former drum of Mountain Dew syrup is good for? Watering my garden without raising my water bill. That’s frugal minimalism at its finest.

Use it up, don’t replace it before its time

Maggie wears the same damn tank top for seven episodes in a row. By the seventh, it looks like a wrung-out dishtowel left to bake in the sun. Then and only then does she snag a new shirt from some random abandoned house.

Thus, your clothing options, kitchen utensils, technology, furniture. Whether or not the world has been overrun by shambling, carnivorous corpses!

I decline to buy a new car until the one I’m driving has turned into the Flintstones-mobile. Why waste perfectly good money on something shiny and new when what you’ve got is still perfectly serviceable?

Learn to sew. Learn some basic plumbing and carpentry skills. Fix your shit—don’t replace it just because it looks a little worn. For when the brains hit the fan and human industry grinds to a shrieking halt, you’ll be hard pressed to find something brand new in mint condition.

Thicken your blood with some of our other DIY articles…

Spend on experiences, not possessions

That time Daryl and Beth torched an abandoned shack in the middle of the woods and gave its burning wreckage the one-fingered salute? Priceless.

Compare that moment to the backpack full of jewelry and cash Beth compulsively hoarded and then almost immediately lost, never to be mourned or thought of again.

Which memory do you think Daryl treasures more?

A true minimalist will store their treasures in their hearts and minds in the form of memories about the good times. They will spend their resources on adventures and experiences rather than on possessions.

The time my husband and I spent a week rafting through the Utah desert is… almost as precious to me as the wheel of cured goat cheese I brought back from Portugal (hey man, I’m only human). When the dead rise and I’ve transformed into a ruthless killer who intends to survive at any cost, I’ll always take solace in the memory of that rafting trip.

But if I’m being honest, I’ll probably miss the cheese more.

Freedom from… everything

Minimalists like to talk about their lifestyle as a path to true freedom in every way. And the variety of minimalism the zombie apocalypse will afford you gives you exactly that: freedom.

Freedom from pesky things like the rule of law and personal hygiene!

Freedom from property and money and shame!

And most importantly, freedom from the desire for societal approval.

In conclusion, I think I understand this whole minimalism thing pretty well. Right? Right.

Good hunting, future survivors of the zombie apocalypse. Pursue minimalism with the knowledge that when the dead rise and all that you know and love is destroyed, you will survive!

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11 thoughts to “Everything I Know About Minimalism I Learned from the Zombie Apocalypse”

  1. They’ll keep me around forever because I can fix people. I have friends who can kill stuff. Also, TWD jumped the shark like 4 seasons ago but I still can’t give it up. And every time I watch an episode I buy some random prepper shit from Amazon – I swear I own the same knife/brass knuckles combo as Carol BECAUSE ONCE THE ZOMBIES ARE HERE IT’S TOO LATE FOR AMAZON PRIME. Doesn’t really help with minimalism, but you might thank me someday still..

    1. I was out when they made it seem like Glenn was gonna die, but then he miraculously survived, but then SoMeBoDy was gonna die, and it was gonna be Glenn, but then it wasn’t, but then it was.

      The storyteller in me says “kill Glenn, but make it clean, don’t be coy and marketingy about it.” The marketer in me says “don’t kill Glenn you fucking num nuts, you have a super-handsome, crazy-talented actor playing a beloved character who represents a rare and important example of an original and non-stereotypical Asian man, maybe just fucking let that ride.”

      1. Yeah, I’m a season or two behind as well. But I know I’m gonna catch up because I’m an addict.

        Kate, you are definitely on my team when the zombies rise.

  2. Live for posts like these. I’ve already decided when the apocalypse comes that I’m shaving my head just so that I don’t have to deal with the upkeep.

  3. I also am still watching and I DO NOT KNOW WHY. I hang on for the moments where Carol still calls Daryl “pookie” I guess.

    Also, how do any of these women shave their armpits like, daily? Really how and why?

  4. There’s actually reusable ziplock bags, because reusing typical ZipLock(tm) bags too much can result in it degrading and leaching plastic components into whatever you’re storing in it. Blue Avocado and Stasher Bags are two brands I know of off hand. You can def still reuse normal plastic zip bags, but just be mindful about it.
    Also, if you haven’t read Rot and Ruin you’re missing out!

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