I live simply, but I have recently gone rogue.
If you are a new reader & unfamiliar with my story, I am going on my third year of working remotely abroad; or better known as a digital nomad. I travel more slowly than my other vagabond peers, but I change residence permits every few months.
My life fits inside two rolling suitcases, or I try to keep it that way at least.
I know I have been a bad minimalist lately. I had a few dark days where I bought things to fill the void, I gave into temptation guided by marketing teams & I know I have too much stuff lying around my flat that I am unlikely to use. Minimalism is a lifestyle change, the initial purge is typically the most difficult; but it is an ongoing project that requires constant maintenance.
I wanted to share my journey while I attempt to declutter my life, try various techniques to maintain this type of lifestyle & find what works for me.
It seemed only appropriate that I restart my decluttering journey with Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, creators of Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. I definitely have opinions on the documentary & subsequent message, but this is not a film review & they have created a new wave of the minimalism phenomenon among some of America’s most elite socioeconomic classes.
Millburn already embodied the minimalism lifestyle so together they trimmed the excess Nicodemus had in his life. The duo came up with daily guide spanning three weeks for cutting their consumption.
Each day has a specific action or mental exercise to follow, I grouped mine into weekly segments so this will be the first of a three-part series.
Day 1: Decisions
The first is essentially acknowledging you have have a problem, you need to take active steps towards cutting unnecessary clutter from your life instead of glancing around the collection of useless junk you have collected over the years & thinking you need to go through that stuff sometime. While I have strayed from my desired minimalism goals, my entire life still fits into a few suitcases so this is not as difficult of a decision for me as a homeowner or a family might face.
I know I need to get rid of clothes I never wear & various items I am conscious I never reach for on a regular enough basis to justify keeping them. Cool beans, done.
Day 2: Planning
This is not making a list of physical objects to keep, bin & donate. Our Silicon Valley authors refer to this as a Must List, which is the vision of your life that you want to create. The goal is to set tasks & frequency you want to achieve, here is my list as an example:
- I must eat healthy meals every day
- I must read every day
- I must meditate every day
- I must hike 2 times a week
- I must write 2 times a week
- I must do yoga 4 times a week
- I must jog 3 times a week
- I must call a family member & a friend once a week
- I must not work more than 45 hours per week
- I must travel 1 weekend per month
Day 3: Packing
This is the first day of action.
One of the authors have nicknamed this The Packing Party, the concept is to pretend you are moving to a new home. You pack everything you own into boxes & suitcases, then unpack only the items you will need during the week. Taking a shower? Unpack shampoo, conditioner & body wash. Hungry? Unpack utensils, plates, cookware, etc.
Continue this trend for a week & see what remains in the boxes.
The authors recommend turning this into a party & inviting your friends to share the experience. Just no, do not be that guy. No one wants to attend your ridiculous elite hipster party as you try a trendy lifestyle phenomenon for the first time, except maybe other ridiculous elite hipsters.
Day 4: Essentials
This day focuses on the daily essentials for your life, the very first items you unpack are the basics that get you through the day. One of the authors listed them items he unpacked in a full day period so I have done the same below.
- Cell Phone Charger
- Alarm Clock
- Tooth Brush
- Dental Floss
- Facial Wash
- Facial Moisturizer
- Yoga Pants
- Plate & Drinking Glass
- Skillet & Spatula
- Fork & Knife
- Trash Bin
- Dish Soap
The Morning After:
- Laptop & Battery Charger
- Body Wash
- Body Lotion
- Clean Underwear
- A Pair of Socks
- Eye Drops
- French Press
- Hello Kitty Mug
Day 5: Things
I have read over this passage dozens of times, I just do not get it. I have taken breaks & looked at it again on a different day, but no different result.
This is a day of inaction, I assume the author intends this to be a day of reflection. The minimalist novice is to look at how few items they survived on iver the last day & realize they have too many unnecessary objects in their life, perhaps find a sense of freedom in this.
Well, no shit, Sherlock.
I thought we already established we have unnecessary stuff in our lives, is this not why we already decided to partake in this journey? I am doing this entire exercise because I know I have hoarded too much junk & I want to logically simplify my life. Perhaps it is my call-to-action sensibility or Type A personality, but I found inactivity after such a major manual undertaking to be lackluster.
Day 6: Fear
Another day of in-action, another day of mental assessment.
Initially I scoffed at this topical day, but I found a way to re-frame the idea to make it more applicable to me.
The authors want the reader to examine why they have held themselves back from certain life experiences, more specifically the end-goals of everything on your Must List in Day 2: Planning. If you hate your job, why have you not quit? Why have you not written a novel yet?
I understand pursuing a passionate life is important, we only get one of these lifetimes as far as we know. However, this is the entire issue I had with The Minimalist documentary, it is young & wealthy men speaking directly to their young & wealthy peers. This advice does not bridge the gap of different tax brackets & subgroups associated with lower socioeconomic statuses, myself included in this.
However, not everyone can live their best life, but they can live a better life. We can push the boundaries of our comfort zone, try new things.
I chose this day to look at the objects remaining in my suitcases. I did not examine them under the recommended scope of why would I fear losing them?, but rather how would I feel if I no longer had them?
I never fear losing items; I move regularly & I am accustomed to leaving things behind along the way, both intentionally & accidentally. Most objects in my suitcases are replaceable, my hiking boots or spiced vanilla scented candle. However, there were items that would invoke a sadness if I was unpacking in a new apartment & realized I no longer had, a photograph that captured Grams in a moment of unadulterated serenity or the owl-shaped wine cork holder containing the champagne cork I popped when I received my university acceptance letter.
Day 7: Relationships
A day of small action though meaningful, make a list of everyone in your support network & reach out to them.
- Mum, she is an amazing woman so duh
- Lindsey, my absolute best friend in Chicago & keeper of the best pie recipes
- Esra, a muse & new friend that has made a powerful impact on my life
- Shirley, my work wife
- Patrick, the best dance partner a girl could ever want & a close friend from university
- Jenny, an extraverted friend that brings me out of my comfort zone & always willing to accompany me on adventures
- Erik, one of my closest friends from university
- Katherine, my longest standing friendship
Week I in Review
I do not think the majority of these daily exercises were intended for people like me, active minimalists doing house-keeping, so I do not judge this 21-Day Journey too harshly at this point despite having written some unsavory & sarcastic bits earlier.
This felt like an introduction to a minimalist lifestyle: Explore your personal relationship with objects & personal feelings on living without them. I have done this before so it felt redundant to me, but I could see how this would be beneficial to others.
The Best Day: Day 6, Fear. Initially, I would have guessed Relationships would be my favorite, but I already have interpersonal building blocks in Must List so it is an area I have already explored with some complexity. I liked Fear because it involved critical thinking on my behalf, I had to find a way to redefine this concept to make it work for me as an individual & explore feelings evoked by certain objects, even though it was not fear.
The Worst Day: Day 5, Things. I just could not get into the concept. Perhaps I do not have an overly complex relationship to objects, maybe I am more self-aware of what is already important to me so this exercise felt pointless, or maybe I am in denial about my hopeless affliction towards material goods. Either way, I just felt antsy & ready to move on to the next step.
What Do I Still Have Packed in Boxes?
- The majority is home decor: The owl-shaped wine cork holder, a few picture frames, seasonal holiday decorations, scented candles, etc.
- Bureaucratic Paperwork, everything from tax forms or immigration documents
- My coffee mug collection
- Seasonal clothing because it is officially sweater weather in the French Riviera.
- A number of paperback books, mostly travel guides for specific countries.
- Sporting equipment: Bouldering, tenting, warm weather jogging clothes & everything else I cannot do until next season.