I used to live rather light—at least light for a book hound. But those were the days in which I was a poor student and post-student, moving on the average every year and sometimes even more often. But the move I made this year was my first in ten years, and I found that I had found ways to accumulate stuff. Lots of stuff, often difficult-to-move stuff and heavy stuff. (Hundreds of books, for instance, the vast majority of which are still in boxes.)
The task of unpacking got me interested in alternative approaches to stuff. And that led to discovering a fascinating little blogosphere that has practical simplicity as the center of its solar system. Zen Habits by Leo Babauta (and guests) was the first I discovered. I think of it as “The anti-lifehacker. That doesn’t mean I don’t like LH… I do, and ZH and LH not only share an interest in productivity, but often refer each other’s posts. However, I noticed that after I read a day’s worth of postings on the incredibly busy lifehacker, I usually felt a bit dispirited and even tired. “How am I going to afford all this cool/neat/wonderful stuff?” would be a question in the back of my mind. Zen Habits, on the other hand, had me asking a different question to myself: “how much of this stuff do I really need or even want?” And unlike lifehacker, its mental effect was calming and encouraging.
Soon, I discovered Leo’s other blog, mnmlist, a more personal exploration of his life as a “minimalist.” Zen Habits also often refers to Unclutterer, and Ridiculously Extraordinary, Karol Gajda’s blog about using simplicity, writing, and travel. (Yeah, after my stint in Spain, I can say indeed that I likes travel! I likes it a whole lot and I wants to do it more!) On release day of his new book, I also encountered Chris Guillebeau, whose blog (and book) The Art of Non-Conformity are both well worth reading. Mac users will enjoy Minimal Mac as well.
This “simplicity” blogosphere is challenging as well as insightful. The key motivation of the more financially-oriented Art of Non-Conformity and Ridiculously Extraordinary is not so much “save money, go places,” as to become a responsible citizen of the world who learns from, and contributes to, all the places life may take their freed spirit. Unclutterer is eminently practical. And in addition to productivity and simplicity, Babauta’s spirituality shines through his blogs without a single “religious” word written.
Now, I actually don’t have any desire (at least not yet) to become a true minimalist. But I’m astonished at the ideas and potential in less that these writers present, and I’m determined to simplify more, and cut at least some of the cruft out of my life. As always, with me the application is the hardest part. Now if I can just sit down, unclutter, and practice my own zen habits…
The things you own end up owning you.