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The Minimalist

Apr 15 2009

I read this very interesting article today and just felt how much common I have with the Author, Peter Lawrence. It feels like some people really have the determination and conviction to take the road less travelled. I would stop writing and would like you all to read the following article from Mercury News.

Live like a monk, retire early, author says

By Jessie Mangaliman

Mercury News
Posted: 04/15/2009 06:10:51 PM PDT

At 44, Peter Lawrence walked away last year from a well paying job as a manager at Hewlett-Packard.

These days he does not work. He doesn’t have to.

Peter has retired.

His mornings are unhurried. He sits in front of a picture window at his 6th floor Santa Clara condominium to a view of nearby redwoods and beyond the trees, the Mt. Hamilton Observatory, a gleaming white speck on distant mountains.

Envious yet?

Retirement is within anyone’s reach, he said, if we all consume less.

He lives without furniture or a bed, keeps one pot, one pan in the kitchen, and instead of surfing a television with 200 cable channels, watches the changing colors of the sky from his window.

A single, foldable lawn chair with arm rests sits in front of the floor-to-ceiling window. In the bedroom, a maroon sleeping bag is laid out neatly like a pallet on the beige carpeted floor. An ironing board nearby doubles as his desk. His laptop sits on it.

He drives an inexpensive 2009 Hyundai Accent GLS. He often eats in and cooks spartan meals, usually steamed vegetables, chicken boiled in water.

This is the life he describes in “The Happy Minimalist,” a slim volume he self-published, whose simple premise — pare down, save money, save the planet — may find resonance during these tough economic times.

Is this about being frugal?

“No, not that,” said Lawrence, whose thick wire rim glasses and a lean frame suggests
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the studious air of a school boy. Or a monk.

This is not the life of a cheapskate or of deprivation, he said, but of calibrated life choices that “gets the best bang for the buck.” He likened it to the corporate cleanup that HP CEO Mark Hurd embarked on after taking the job.

“He identified all the excesses, the wastage,” Lawrence said, “and re-directed them to other things that would have better returns. That’s what I’ve done.”

And so he watches his two favorite shows — “24,” and “Real Time with Bill Maher,” online, for free He has no telephone at home. He uses a cell phone. When he needs a book to read, he checks them out of the public library. He walks when he can, or takes public transportation.

“This is my closet,” he said, sliding open the doors to reveal its meager contents: A pair of jeans. A pair of dress pants. A pair of dress shoes. A pair of sports shoes. A few shirts.

If he had an hour, he said, he can pack all his possessions in one suitcase.

Lawrence would not say how much he has banked to allow him to retire so young, but he said he lives well below his means.

The way Lawrence sees it, he’s consuming less of the world’s finite resources by using only what he really needs. What he doesn’t spend, he saves. But, he insists, that he’s not depriving himself.

At a new Morrocan restaurant in San Jose recently, after a lunch of grilled lamb kofta, the waiter offered a cup of sweet mint tea.

“Traditional,” the waiter said, “on the house.”

Lawrence, smiling, declined. “I’ve tasted it, thank you.”

After the waiter left, he declared something right out of his book: “Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should have it.”

Lawrence was born and raised in Singapore to a family of modest means. Early in his career with HP, he took a leave and lived in a Catholic monastery in New Zealand. He immigrated to the United States in 1997, part of an international wave of engineers who came to Silicon Valley during the technology boom. And like many young, high-flying techies then, he lived in a well-furnished condo. He drove a Miata, a convertible sports car.

Jean-Sebastien Riehl, a former HP engineer, has seen his friend evolve into a young retiree seemingly content to have few material possessions.

“Peter is not somebody you forget,” said Riehl, who bought and read “Minimalist.” “Some people might call him eccentric, but he’s true to his convictions.”

“When you read the book and you meet the person,” he said, “they match.”

After the merger of HP and Compaq, Lawrence moved for about two years to Houston in 2002.

That was about the time that he began scaling back. He digitized everything. His laptop, he said, is his photo album, electronic filing cabinet, CD and DVD player. When he moved back to Santa Clara, he packed everything he had in his car.

In 2007, after his doctor diagnosed high cholesterol, Lawrence eschewed prescribed medication. He changed his diet. His cholesterol level dropped. At first Lawrence thought he would write about his own medical journey. But a friend suggested instead that he write about “his unique lifestyle.”

Lawrence spent $1,500 to self-publish the small volume through Xlibris. Many of his friends bought and read the book. Some posted supportive comments on Amazon.

“I definitely can not live the way he does,” said Lawrence’s sister, Carmel Fox, a registered nurse in Columbus, Ohio. “I like sitting and reading a book in my living room. He likes to sit outside and look at trees.”

Since retiring, Lawrence has volunteered with a Bay Area group as a mentor and role model to students. He’s also volunteered with “Village Harvest,” a San Jose group that collects backyard fruit and vegetables and donates them to food banks and programs that feed the hungry.

“Right now, I’m very happy and content with life,” he said. “I consider myself blessed.”

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Comments So Far..
  • T A Ramesh 2 May, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Living in harmony with Nature will give real satisfaction in life. This is the message we get from the above article. Wordsworth, Emerson and Walden have tried and enjoyed this kind of life and have expressed their wonderful experiences in their writings that guide mankind very much. The above message is simply confirming that concept very well at last in his life!

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  • anupam dhar 11 May, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Would love to live in a similar way,aloof, isolated in a small cottage on a hill side. But with a proper bed and work desk. And maybe a few added utensils.

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  • raju 4 July, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Yes, indeed. You have to have determination and conviction, which I can see in you. Thank you for posting ..om

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