Simplify, simplify

Simplify! Simplify!

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.

14 thoughts on “Simplify, simplify

  1. Wow, thank you for your nice comments Jon. πŸ™‚

    I know what it’s like to own hundreds of books. When I was minimizing I actually got rid of most of mine … then sent a small box to my Parents of some business books I wanted to keep (as well as some other books I thought my Parents might like to read). Now that I’ve got a Kindle I’m going to get rid of those and get them on the Kindle on an as-needed basis.

    For whatever reason minimalists have trouble parting with their books. πŸ™‚ But to be honest, I think you can own books and be a minimalist. It’s owning excess and things you don’t use that it becomes a problem.

    For example, if my hobby was cooking, I’d probably own dozens of cookbooks and I would still consider myself a minimalist.


  2. After reading this post I feel like you logged into my Google Reader account and copied it. πŸ™‚ I love Leo’s blogs, as well as Karol’s site, to name just a couple of the minimalist bloggers I follow.

    Regarding the books, I’m planning to move from Toronto to Vancouver this winter, and even though I have been following a relatively minimalist lifestyle I’ve accumulated a few too many books to easily take with me so I know what you mean. I suspect I’ll be moving almost solely to e-books after this move to make future travels lighter.

  3. @Karol, I call ’em like I see ’em! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ll probably get an e-book reader soon, but I’m leaning more towards the Nook or the iPad. Kindle’s format is entirely proprietary, which puts me off a lot. I’ve book some ebooks already, but mostly in PDF format, which is often really bad. But yeah, I do see a lot of my future books being electronic.

  4. When I moved, I definitely felt as though my stuff was a chain to drag. I pared down, well, some. It felt great to get rid of things – especially trashing old artwork that I didn’t want to try to sell. Gone! But I also got rid of a few boxes of books I’ll never read again. And I affirmed that I value many of my other books.

    Oh, I got rid of so much junk, things I realized I’d had for years and never touched, or forgotten about. Gone, gone, gone!

    Though a couple weeks ago I wanted to find a quote from Heinlein’s “Space Cadet,” which to me justifies buying a copy. πŸ™‚

  5. Absolutely. At least a few times, I’ve given away a book to a thrift store, and bought it back from them a few weeks later!

  6. I too have great difficulty with letting go of books. I do want to build a valuable collection, however, and keeping that goal in mind makes it a little bit easier of giving away books that just take up space.

    Jon, do you know about bookcrossing? It’s a fun way of giving away books. I started it when I found a bookcrossing book in my local supermarket’s coffee corner at a moment that I felt a little sad. Finding that book cheered me up. So now I leave books for whoever wants to read them myself. Maybe I can return the favour of cheering up someone else.

  7. Oh yes, I love Bookcrossing. I “released” a few books “into the wild” myself, however, more often I donate books to a local thrift store.

  8. First, I want to say, I was elated to see that you had posted something! I’ve been checking and have missed the thoughts and conversations!
    As far as living simply…I’m working on it. Moving certainly does help us rid ourselves of the unnecessaries, and, I admit, it has taken moving a couple of times to do that. BUT!
    Confession….I am a librarian by profession and love, love, love books! Especially old books! There is just something so magical about a book! I have books that belonged to my great-great grandparents and books I have collected over the years. Don’t you just love to leaf through the pages, smell them, curl up and read a few passages, maybe stir a memory, or two, or travel somewhere in your mind!? Ahhhhhhh. So, there’s no throwing away books around here. Giving away and thrift stores are a good idea (want to know more about bookcrossing-sounds thoughtful!).
    Realistically speaking, if my house burned down and all was lost, I would not mourn my books. They are just “things”. But, while I have them let me treasure them a little while. I’ll be happy to get rid of something else…maybe the wok?

  9. Yep, I’m with you! Nothing beats a book! I’ve only done an “official” bookcrossing once (logging it into, etc.) but my two favorite coffeehouses here have shelves for bookcrossing where people are welcome to leave or take books.

  10. Do I need to be Mag instead of Margaret, since apparently there are more than one of us!? πŸ™‚

  11. Oh my gosh! I actually did confuse you with Margreet. I was wondering why you were asking for info about bookcrossing when you had just GIVEN info about it earlier! My bad!

    No need to become Mag. I’ll be alert to the Magreet/Magaret distinction from now on!

  12. I wasn’t worried about it…..I actually thought she was MargarEt too! So, guess we’ll both pay more attention! πŸ™‚ Happy weekend everyone! R&R!

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