I’ve leaned towards minimalism my whole life without knowing what it was. In this article, I talk about my life as a minimalist. My habits, values, and principles I adhere to. The principles I have discovered over the years how they interconnect with each other into Simple Living.
This guide is for anyone interested in understanding some of the principles behind minimalism through my experience.
In my late twenties, I entered into a questioning of everything, a crisis. Some of those principles helped me keep my head straight.
We don’t have enough money.
Enough time. Not even close.
Not smart enough.
We go to bed with that thought.
We wake-up with it.
The illusion of shortage.
We need to have MORE of everything.
“Who you are is what you have. It begins with our toy. Then our bank account and our possessions”.
“Instead, we should identify ourselves based on our passions,” not our possessions.
Always buy more. You have to upgrade your phone each year, don’t you? Your phone is going to be too slow otherwise, won’t take pictures good enough, etc.
I recently broke my old iPhone and was contemplating the latest iPhone 11s Pro. I couldn’t resort to paying $1500 a phone, though. So I bought a second-hand iPhone 5s from Amazon.ca (as a good citizen, my review!).
We need more stuff, more power, more responsibility (because you need responsibility to be someone, right?). Our more-trigger is stimulated all the time. So many messages about HOW we should live our life; books, newspapers, outside, etc.. Advertisements are everywhere.
Minimalism isn’t about QUANTITY. It’s about QUALITY.
A culture that emphasizes more
We are educating our children in a culture that emphasizes more.
The lullaby “Hush little baby, don’t say a word” is the perfect instance for this.
“Don’t say a word… Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”
“Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”
When I transferred from London to New-York with a top management consulting firm, my VP at the time called me: high potential. “We do you a favor to transfer you in New-York as we see high potential in you”, he said.
Does a brilliant career lead to fulfillment? You tell me. Not in my experience. Not anymore. It took me years to allow myself to accept this.
Time is our most precious non-renewable resource.
‘Time poor’ is the catch-cry of our era, and yet end-of-life retirement means we have an average of two decades of feeling time-rich to look forward to… when we’re old.
Why do we work so much? Why do we sacrifice so much? For a company that would have us replaced within a week.
Discover the joy of who is not motivated by money. Become time rich.
Here is my meticulous approach to getting rid of stuff.
Move what I think we won’t use to an area that is not easily accessible (pantry, storage, etc.). So that if you don’t absolutely need it, you won’t make an effort to fetch it. Sweep clean this area every month or so. Sell or donate what has been there for a few months. We only give away clothes. I sell the rest on Craigslist in two cycles. Meaning if my listing expired, I renew it only once. If my item is not sold by then, I donate it.
The benefits we extract from selling our stuff are:
- You can recover a considerable amount of money over time.
- Reused, second life.
- Less waste for the environment and reduce landfill, better than recycling!
- We got to meet a lot of people.
For the anecdote, I tried donating things on Craigslist, but I gave up. If I want to donate something, I set the price to one symbolic dollar.
A few years back, I wanted to give an IKEA lightbulb on Craigslist:
Emails I received:
- “do you have the lamp pl”
- “can u deliver?”
- A few minutes before meeting someone: “I can’t make it today anymore, can we meet later this week?”
Declutter your physical and intellectual spaces
“Clutter is postponed decisions”
Kerry Thomas | TEDxAshburn
Clutter is not just “stuff.” Clutter can be physical, digital, mental, emotional or spiritual, and each type can be overwhelming. It can be files saved on your laptop without naming conventions. It can be negative thoughts you have towards yourself or others, etc. It can be clutter in your house that consumes every minute you have, always cleaning up, dusting, instead of playing with your kids, for instance.
Storage units are a billion-dollar industry in the US.
The physical states of our homes mirror the mental state of our heads.
Keep stuff you love and or things that serve a purpose.
90-90 rule; didn’t use it within the last 90 days? No plan to wearing it for the next 90 days? Get rid of it.
We take pictures of stuff we care about, don’t use and that we are ready to get rid of. We have a digital album of these things.
Be happy and grateful for the things that you have
We tend to take things for granted: our work, our family, our spouse, our children, our stuff. Take a pause and take the time to say out loud what you are grateful for, it will guide your subconscious to focus on the good.
For about a year, I was reviewing the products I owned. It helped me rediscover the potential of some of them. My amazon.com profile shows that > 1000 people found some of my reviews useful. And 50,000+ people viewed them. It made me feel so good the first time I saw this!
Without great solitude, no serious work is possible. Picasso
Too much stimulus is a bad thing. Reduce the stimulus. Do not overload your system.
Break bad habits—things you do compulsively and repetitively.
Identify the bad habits.
- Compulsive swipes on the phone.
- Compulsively checking emails.
- Compulsively checking smartwatch.
Break those habits with mechanisms.
Good intentions don’t last. Do not rely on good intentions; put mechanisms in place.
- Close emails while working. There is a difference between feeling productive and being productive.
- Check emails at scheduled times every day.
- For example, I removed my Gmail plugin on chrome. I realized that every time I open my laptop, I would check that plugin, go to my inbox and likely spend 15 mins on emails.
- On your mobile, remove banners/notifications for incoming emails and chats. You will find yourself opening your phone to look at the notification bar only to realize it’s not there anymore! That’s how you will break this habit.
- Unsubscribe from any emails you don’t need. If you read your emails at a regular interval every day, you will notice that emails that matter less stay unread.
Unsubscribe from those to declutter your inbox.
- No watch or distraction-free wrist! I sold my Fitbit smartwatch. I don’t wear any watch anymore. It was a constant reminder of the time, a reminder of how many more steps I had to walk. It sneakily induced extra pressure in my life.
- Noise clicking. Back when I started in the Software Engineering field, I’d pair program with some of my colleagues. One of them went nuts after a few minutes: “Dude! Why are you right-clicking all over the place?” I had no idea why. It was just compulsive.
Favorite t-shirt, favorite pants. Wouldn’t it be great to wear those every day? I went and bought 15 of them.
I laughed a lot when watching that video from Matt D’Avella. This is exactly what I did!
I want to seize this opportunity to say that I am not wearing the same t-shirt 365 days a year! I simplified my wardrobe over the years. I simplified my decision-making process to one type of t-shirt and pants.
How many towels do you need reasonably ? 2! That’s it.
Rose Lounsbury | TEDxDayton
How many socks do you need? That’s a tricky one. You can extract some fascinating statistics by being minimalist with your socks. If you are into socks (why wouldn’t you), here is a review of mine on Amazon.ca.
You can always make more money. But you can make more time!
Being mindful about spending provides more security that increasing our lifestyle every year.
I use Mint to keep an eye on my family’s spendings.
Recycling is also part of being a minimalist. Proper recycling!
The gift of not giving
Keep your experiences forever, not your things. The French word “souvenir” in English translates as “memory”. Just a reminder that we don’t need things to remember.
Quotes from The gift of not giving | MoneySense:
“When I say we gift each other nothing, I actually mean “no things”. We still treat each other sometimes, but we focus on experiences, not gifts. For example, my birthday go-to is dinner and a movie (we even overpay for popcorn), but all we walk away with is the memory of the experience and some kernels in our teet, no things to clutter our house, and no thing to cause us stress.”
“The greatest aspect of giving nothing is that it works for everyone, at every budget.”
“And if that allows you to set aside some money you would have spent on gifts of things, you now have the start of a fund you can grow towards an experience or item that’s truly important to you. ”
“I’m not saying you should never buy gifts at all: We all have things we need or really, really want. My suggestion is to avoid giving a gift just for the sake of it.”
“You’d get so much more out of giving less, or at least by giving differently. ”
“Our lives have become richer, not only because we have saved so much money by not spending it on things that come and go, but also because we have filled it with experiences we can keep forever.”
Reduce your digital clutter. Prioritize content over the rest. For instance, here is my note-taking workflow.
Prioritization and clarity
If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will be happy to do it for you.
Greg McKeown | Author of Essentialism
Being intentional with relationships
Does it person deserve, and is it worth my time? No. Free up that time and give it to someone that adds to your life. Be intentional.
The same thing applies to relationships. To declutter your house, you ask yourself which of your things are valuable or deadweight. Go through your relationships and do the same: which of these are the most important relationships of your life.
Some relationships are toxic, draining down. Get rid of those.
Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will. Interview of Greg McKeown by Matt D’Avella
The same applies to work.
It is usually based on salary.
Successful = more money.
Money is one metric only.
Question every choice you make within your profession.
Is this helping me get to that place I want to be? That place where I am fulfilled, doing valuable work. Where I am in not just for the paycheck.
When you start to live your life intentionally – it may look weird to people.
Get rid of your things, buying fewer things, hanging out with fewer people, doing work that is not paid a lot. People may try to dissuade you from moving in the direction that you want to move. And that’s is ok.
To be continued.