04.12.2019 – Stories & Specials

‘The less I own, the freer I feel’

Interview: Laura Hohler Photos: Christian Schiller

37-year-old entrepreneur Alan Frei is a start-up founder and his businesses include online sex shop, which was launched five years ago. Personally, he prefers to spend his money on travel – because he wants to live as minimal a lifestyle as possible.

Alan, how did you become a minimalist?

When my father died a few years ago, we had to completely clear out our parents’ house and stumbled across pictures, ornaments and sculptures that had been sitting there for decades. During the clear-out, I realised that I had barely ever noticed these objects before.

Why was this?

When nothing changes, the brain automatically blocks out certain things. This was an eye-opening experience for me. Another factor that contributed to my decision to start leading a minimalist lifestyle was a friend of mine, Andrew Hyde from the USA. He travelled around the world with just 15 possessions, which really gave me pause for thought and ultimately inspired my own minimalist way of life.

‘My lifestyle is not for environmental reasons.’

What is the perfect number of possessions for you?

At the moment I own 115 items, so around 120 is perfect for me.

Do you ever miss anything?

Although I use the term ‘minimalist’, I am more of an ‘optimiser’. It’s not about owning as little as possible. The main thing is maximising my happiness. And the fewer possessions I own, the more freedom and time I have. When I need something, I don’t have any issues with buying it. But I’m not missing anything at the moment.

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So, your lifestyle doesn’t ever cause you any problems?

No, absolutely not. I’m not a dogmatist or missionary – I live this way solely for myself. If I miss anything, I don’t have to manage without it.

What can’t you live without?

My smartphone. I don’t live like a monk – to be actively involved in modern society, you need a smartphone. I am completely aware of the negative aspects of owning a mobile phone, such as constantly being available to other people or losing the ability to concentrate for long periods.

Does minimalism also influence your social life? For example, can you still have friends round at your home?

I’m a very sociable person, but I live most of my life outside the home. I like going to restaurants, for example. But when my friends do come to mine, they usually bring their own plate, which often sparks interesting conversations about a whole range of different topics.

‘When I need something, I don’t have any issues with buying it.’

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How did friends and family react to your change of lifestyle?

I have been leading a minimalist life for around six years. At the start, a lot of people thought that it was just one of my phases. I was probably teased a bit. But now I’ve noticed that my lifestyle has started to rub off on lots of my friends.

What do you like spending your money on?

Travelling and food. It’s like buying experiences and memories.

What do you think about our consumer society?

I’m not at all critical of consumer society. My lifestyle is not for environmental reasons, nor is it a protest against consumerism. I also believe that people can decide for themselves what they do or don’t need to buy. I don’t think we necessarily consume more these days, just differently than we did before.