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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Minimalist Movement: Simplifying Your Life Beyond Losing Your Shoes

I Stumbled Upon this minimalist blog earlier today and thought the idea was worth sharing:

Stop buying unnecessary things.
Toss half your stuff, learn contentedness.
Reduce half again.
List 4 essential things in your life,
stop doing non-essential things.
Do these essentials first each day, clear distractions
focus on each moment.
Let go of attachment to doing, having more.
Fall in love with less.

I became interested in the minimalist living movement after watching our kids' behaviors.  They have a ton of toys; most of which they never play with.  That, coupled with the copious amount of clutter we've accumulated over the years, drove me to question our lifestyle.

Like most Americans, we work to make money to to buy stuff.  We're good consumers.  We've been conditioned to associate positive feeling with purchasing new stuff.  Even though we're acutely aware of the concept, we still get excited at the prospect of buying a new "toy."

There's more back-story, but we've essentially decided to simplify.  The quest to be more minimal is one reason; the looming task of packing to move in the future is another.  Regardless, I am going to begin a quest to minimize our lives.  I am going to follow the plan outlined above.

Step one (in progress): stop buying unnecessary things.  We've actually been pretty good with this one.  We've been working on paying off our accumulated debt (Dave Ramsey plan... good stuff.)  Part of that has been a conscious attempt at limiting spending, especially on unnecessary crap.

Step two (in progress): Toss half of my stuff.  Over the last few weeks, we've begun throwing out or donating some of our unused possessions.  We started with clothing and kids' toys.  Next will be our own possessions.  I have a lot of garbage.

Step three (in progress): List four essential things in your life.  This may take some time, but the plan is to list these four things and systematically eliminate everything else.  Among the things that will go: cable. 

The remainder will be an extension of the first three steps.  I'll document each part of this journey here.  

To my readers- how many of you have made a conscious effort to simplify your lives?  What steps have you taken?  How would you describe the journey?

12 comments:

  1. I've been working on simplifying for some time now, with limited success. We stopped buying unnecessary things over a year ago (maybe two?), but the tossing of the stuff is a very slow process, when at home with two children. They are fighting the simplicity at every step of the way.

    I've gotten a lot of inspiration from a Guy Named Dave who "invented" the 100-Thing Challenge. http://www.guynameddave.com/

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  2. We haven't had cable for almost a year now. I am starting to miss it since I cannot find a good online service that consistently puts shows online. We have always been minimal when it comes to toys for our daughter. She has less toys than most kids at 4 years, but she still has plenty to play with. One area I do indulge her in is with coloring books, markers, crayons, crafts,etc. I think that stuff encourages her imagination. We still have a long ways to go in minimizing stuff, but it's a work in progress but the biggest change comes when you feel more free because you're no longer bound by junk. Good luck in your minimizing endeavors.

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  3. You should read Walden by Henry David Thoreau. His ideas influenced 99% of what you just wrote.

    I question everything I buy. I don't buy on impulse and always try to McGyver my way out of spending money by hacking some cheaper product. Some things, I do prefer to spend money on, such as my VFFs. I think if you truly want a product you should buy it. Regretting spending money is where the true problems lie.

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  4. Very interesting Jason, it's a path I started down about a year ago.
    The "guideline" you mention I haven't seen before, but it looks like a great place to begin.

    Things own us.
    I know that falls on deaf ears on many people, but it certainly is true in my case.

    Good luck!

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  6. I don't have texting because I don't really need it. (I'm in high school, by the way)

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  7. We try to do the same. Haven't had cable for 10 years or so now. We watch shows online and the kids use their holiday money from relatives to buy DVDs of their favorites.
    Tracfone for a cell phone keeps me from using too many minutes.
    Lots of thrift store clothing, which rocks btw!
    I like to pass things along to others who can use them for a while and then hope they pass them on too.
    I have been accumulating much stuff through the blog which has been nice but its time to start passing things on.
    I will very much enjoy to read about your progress. Its harder than it seems to get rid of stuff. I do it in stages. I find that a second sweep through reveals more of what I can let go of.
    Cheers to you and your lovely family Jason!

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  8. I'm lazy; the more stuff I have, the more I inevitably have to move. Over the last several years I've managed to get rid of quite a lot without replacing it. I'm about to give my computer desk and 35 short boxes of worthless comics the heave-ho before I move into my smaller, much cheaper apartment at the end of the month.

    I've also been through an intensive debt repayment phase back in '08 and '09 and fortunately haven't lost that frugal mindset. Basically, after covering absolute necessities and minimum payments, I used the remainder of each paycheck to pay off the loan with the highest interest rate. With no credit card or emergency fund I had to stick to my budget, or I didn't eat--just like my school days!

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  9. Jason,

    My wife and I started this when we had kids. We are not perfect by any means but we have 3 kids and live in 1500 sq ft home with one car. I understand the desire to remove both the mental as well as physical clutter from our lives. I love this site, http://zenhabits.net.

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  10. we sold most of our stuff and moved to tanzania, where we work as development workers and missionaries. thanks for posting on simplicity; it's encouraging.

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  11. America needs to read this.

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  12. We live in a mobile home. We have to be minimalist because we have a fixed income. We have everything we need. We also go South for the winter, travel at least twice a year, and save by renting a small car and using a "cooking" rental. We love it. Tell me what you "get to do" because you gave up expensive habits? That's what it's all about, what's important to you! And if you WANT to be "The Keeper of the Stuff" well, thats ok, too.

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