Cognitive Minimalist

In this post, I wanted to quickly introduce an idea that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It may be obvious to some people, although this is an simple idea some might still be benefited from it.

Most of the minimalists dedicate to reduce the number of objects they own, or some similar metrics such as the amount of money spent or the space of their apartment is – physical entities. However, I’m proposing idea of “cognitive minimalist” which is to reduce the amount needed for cognition. In other words, mental cost, psychological effort, or cognitive resource etc.


Think about the motivation of a “traditional” minimalist, what is the ultimate goal of reducing number of objects owned? I believe it is to ease any kind of mental loadings, thinking, or anxiety brought by those objects. At the end of the day, all physical objects are means of acquiring psychological arousal – happiness, ideally; anxiety, sometimes.

Therefore, instead of pursuing less belongings, what we should try to achieve is easier-to-handle objects. Comparing to cheaper products, we should purchase hassle-free items. Opposite to renting smaller living space, find maintenance-free place that also minimize other cognitive loadings such as commute time.


Try to choose among the following options.


  1. Having only one pot in your kitchen and use it for all your cooking (traditional minimalist)
  2. Having one small pot dedicated to 80% of your often-cooked dishes and another bigger pot to cover all other 20% of the needs (cognitive minimalist)


  1. For seldom woodworking, purchase a set of tools to cover all your needs (non-minimalist)
  2. Purchase one or two multi-tools to do all the jobs (traditional minimalist and you will probably suffer)
  3. Rent a shared woodworking space and get your jobs done there (cognitive minimalist, cost might be higher, if social doesn’t cost you too much mental effort)
  4. Buy a set of tools, but when you are done with a project, put everything into a container in your apartment and leave it untouched (not-so-minimalist)
  5. Buy a set of tools, put everything into your storage unit and forget about them (cognitive minimalist, if you can truly forget about them. This is also what I do and what I found the easiest. You could argue this is not really a minimalist behavior but I disagree, there needs to be a sweet spot between having less hassles and getting the job done, to me, this is it)

Living space

  1. Live in a tiny space that eventually runs out of storage spaces (traditional minimalist, think about actually living in those pretty minimalist apartment on YouTube)
  2. Live in a bigger place that has enough storage spaces (close to cognitive minimalist)
  3. Live in a tiny space and balance between buying conveniences and put cheaper-to-own but seldom-used items into storage (cognitive minimalist, higher in cost and time)

Ordinary purchasing

  1. Does all the purchasing as usual (non-minimalist)
  2. Optimize and think about every purchase decision, trying to be a true minimalist (traditional minimalist, high mental cost)
  3. Develop a set of rules and follow them to purchase, for example, trust a certain brand, stick to a certain type of clothes, always buy the second-highest level of product etc. (cognitive minimalist, higher dollar cost)


At the end of the day, this is all about what you feel. People might be enjoying in the decision making process and there’s nothing wrong with it. I’ve just seen so many people trying to minimize a certain thing (like dollar cost) but forget about their time spent in making decision or mental effort. Or, try to minimize the number of items owned but bringing too much inconvenience which resulting in giving up minimalism at the end.

Cognitive loading might be a limited resource, might be unlimited, that’s a different topic.

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