How To Not Buy Stuff

As good as it feels to purge and clean, it doesn't attack the problem: the source of the stuff. Generalizing for a bit, the nature of the stuff in question does matter, so some of my ideas may not translate across all realms of purchasable goods. However, I've found that the less I buy, the easier it is to maintain my owned items. Plus, the whole "saving money" thing.

1) Focus on the bad.

There's a Buddhist meditation technique called Patikulamanasikara that kills lust by focusing on the negative aspects of the human anatomy. While we're not engaging in the removal of lust for human beings (that seems rather unhealthy unless you devote yourself to a monk's life), it's a useful technique for everyday shopping. Make a "pros" and "cons" list, and really pour over the cons.

I'm not promoting being a cynic and being cranky about everything, but instead of visualizing the best situation, try to visualize the worst. For example, don't imagine a new gadget will renovate your life and change the way you live. Honestly, how often does that even happen? Rather, imagine that it's just like every other mediocre gadget you have. It doesn't change anything and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You're left with buyer's remorse, and the gadget ends up in a drawer somewhere, eating up your time and space. Maybe that's not the reality, but it's closer to the truth than what we usually build up in our minds.

2) Focus on what you already have.

If the key is entertainment or leisure, it's hard to argue that we need more media when we're already surrounded by more than most people can ever consume in a lifetime. Most people have backlogs of every media format, or they have some hidden gems they forgot about that they haven't experienced in a while. The best way for me to forget about a desire or want is to go read a book. It readjusts my priorities in a positive way.

And this can encompass many other things. You probably have access to a library, which alone can busy a person for an entire lifetime. The Internet, and the legal side of Internet downloads. Your friends and family. All of these resources can keep you engaged without buying anything.

But for non-media stuff, we still forget what we have. Are you sure you can't go without? You've gone without your entire life. Just wait. Keep waiting.

3) Use and buy smart.

You likely have a computer if you're reading this blog, so you're capable of accessing more useful information than you can ever imagine. Use it to get the most out of what you have. If you need to buy something, fine, but use the Internet to figure out what will work best for you.

This does a few things. It makes your purchase more geared toward what you need, and how to perform whatever task you need the stuff to do. But it also makes the purchase slightly more arduous, and forces you to think about whether or not it's useful in the first place. You start to think like a utilitarian, focused on the end-game.

4) Used.

If you wait long enough, somebody probably has what you need that you can borrow, have, or buy for cheap. Yes, this requires patience. Sometimes it's not easy. But you can get your stuff for less money or even none at all.

I went without a bike for three weeks, and I walked instead. But when I got myself a relative's perfectly serviceable road bike for no cost, it was worth it. Now somebody else has less trash and I have what I need.

5) Avoid advertisements and purchasing tricks.

As previously discussed, advertisements are successful at making consumers irrational and think about purchases differently. But remember that stores are designed to get you to buy certain items. If you're shopping, have a list and stick to it. Be aware of the environment. Never impulse buy. You can always get it later.

I used to fall into the trap of "well it's on sale, so if I'm going to get it, I should get it now." If it's worth buying, you can wait and maybe miss the sale. It won't kill you, and it will give you more time to ponder the purchase.

6) Do it for you.

Don't buy stuff for anybody but yourself. This seems obvious, but too many times you'll find that what we thought was a need was actually an external standard we were projecting onto our own lives. So do it because you think it's right, not because somebody told you it was. Take advice but keep your salt shaker handy.

You don't need to buy something to be like your hero or favorite blogger. Actions define us.

7) You don't have to upgrade.

Just because there's a new Macbook Air doesn't mean you need to buy it. It's easy to think that you should upgrade because, well, it's something that I know I use a lot, I should have the best there is, right? Not necessarily. Again, these products are designed to make you want to upgrade. Be realistic about the differences between models. You're fine where you are; do you really need this new upgraded version to make things better? Likely not.

Your gear doesn't make you more minimalist. Your actions do.

Social Networking

Facebook and its peers have been vilified recently as a sort of antagonist of simple living and minimalism. Is this entirely accurate? I don't think that you are required to go without social networking to be minimalist, especially if there are people in your life you wish to keep up with. Facebook in particular can be a very easy way to see social information in a small span of time, and in some social circles, it can be more reliable than other forms of communication.

Of course, there is a negative to everything. Social networks exist to collect and sell your information. This is the cost of using these networks: you are agreeing to reduce your privacy. To combat this, you can do what I do: make everything on my profile so blindingly obvious or pointless that I don't care if it's not private. Remembering what should be public or private is a relatively simple endeavor, and there's some information I simply don't care about. Is it really a big secret that I like Radiohead?

In addition, the stream of social information can be overbearing. In my roughly daily use of Facebook, whenever I see a game, app or excessive post, I either eliminate the source or limit their posts to "important only," which gives me only what I really care about: my friends' pictures and posts. In addition, only adding the people you want to hear from on your Facebook is another way to reduce the rush from a raging waterfall into a pleasant - and useful - brook. I keep my connections low, around 50 to 100 people, and feign inactivity for the unwanted people who pester me into "friending" them (as snobbish as it sounds, not everybody can be important to me).

We must also keep in mind that Facebook won't be popular forever. As with every new technology concept, it will balloon and likely burst. Where will the winds blow next? Likely in a new iteration of social interaction. But none of these networks are inherently evil; they are just tools that we need to use properly. And they are generally useful tools, though how useful will matter more on the company you keep. Just like I wouldn't suggest eliminating your friends and social life in the quest for a more minimalist life, I won't suggest deleting the social networks without thinking through the situation.

The Mind: Focus and Consistency

People forget the power of the mind. They forget that to unlock these powers, you need to train yourself. They think that the way their minds work are forever locked into certain patterns, and that no amount of training can bring them out of it.

The two mind powers I use for minimalism are "focus" and "consistency."


When you are truly thinking about something, and it becomes you, everything else just drops away. This is the very core of minimalism. Your focus, your passion, your desire for this one thing is so strong that the rest of the fluff doesn't even enter the equation. You don't need the fluff. You barely even think about the fluff. So you remove it to get it out of the way.

Even if we're not as strong as the above paragraph would require us to be, we can get closer to this principle. If you love something, focus on it. If it doesn't bear the weight of your attention, then maybe it wasn't worth your time. But if you really do love it, you feel whole. You feel completed.

Focus can be achieved in a manner of ways. It can be practiced in everyday life. Live your life as a series of episodes, where you focus on your task and give everything as much attention as you can. Our society doesn't train us to do this - some aspects actively train you against it - so it may not come easily. Other methods include meditation (which beginners may want to seek professional help with) or a certain passion to unlock the mind (for me these are detailed in the "My Minimalism" blogs).


Consistency can be seen as a sustained focus. If you draw your attention into a specific target and are rewarded with good feelings, maintaining that focus is key to keeping your mind at ease.

Focus isn't good enough by itself. We focus and then we lose the focus, and we wander off and forget what made our target so special. By turning our actions into habits, we can make the focus a part of us as opposed to something we do on and off - making the choices we make matter more than just a temporary whim.

If we're serious about making these changes in our lives, it's not enough to make a blog, post five entries to it, and then forget about the whole thing. You need the long-term focus to make any meaningful impact. Five minutes of minimalism now won't make any difference in five years.

Consistency can be achieved through writing, listening, self-examination, and even blogging.

Her Two Rules

I traveled a bit in the past month to keep my wits about me, and it was an undeniable pleasure to see such a different world. Urban environments are very different from suburban-esque towns, and while I appreciate the quiet of my home, I still very much enjoy to explore alternate means of living. If there was a single word I would put to the point of my life, it would be "exploration."

In the first trip I took, I met an older lady who was well versed in the traveling ways and she gave me two pieces of advice that she moves and lives by. I listened to her delightful stories over a bright breakfast about a month ago.

1) You can't do everything.

You are finite. You are limited. And you must prioritize. Not coming to terms with this will lead to unhappiness and bitterness.

2) Never forget to pack your sense of humor and your perspective.

Things may go wrong. You may feel overwhelmed, or busy within your own little mind. We forget that there's a world around us, and it is bigger and more complex than any single mind can comprehend. If you can't see that, and stop taking yourself too seriously, the weight of a subjective and heavily emotional perspective - a trait we all share as human beings - will get to you and render you less productive.

Dangers of Projection

I know this may sound strange, but don't take this blog, or any blog, seriously. Don't look at me or any other blogger and hold yourself up to these characters and wonder if you match up.

Why? Because you don't have the full story. You never will. Blogs are a selective connection, lacking so many smaller details about a person you never learn.

Some of the blogs are designed to specifically hold back information to make a clean projection of what they want you to think. I won't do that. But I also won't go out of my way to point out the flaws in my system unless it's relevant. You won't know about how I falter and don't always do what I preach on this blog. As much as I think about minimalism, I'm not perfect. Nobody is. Never trust a blog that says they are, especially if they have something to gain from you thinking so, like an ebook sale.

So if you look at the minimalist blogs and compare them to yourself and despair, what happens? You hold yourself back. You're holding yourself up to external standards that probably don't even exist.

Blogs are useful, but you have to take them on a case-by-case basis. Use their ideas. Implement suggestions that work for you. Be selective and judgmental.

New Name! MGL is now aberMinimal.

Minimalist GNU/Linux is now aberMinimal, which is the same name as the tumblr.

The URL will stay the way it is despite its inaccuracy because I like getting linked to.

Why the name change?

Number one. Easier for me to type. I'm bad at slashes in names and MGL is a terrible acronym.

Number two. Links the tumblr and the blogspot account. As much as I like tumblr, long text is better on blogspot. It also segregates the tumblr's smaller ideas and images from the blogspot's larger essays. 

Number three. Better branding. I'm gathering some popularity and traffic and I'd like to make it clear what I'm doing here. I'm not about Linux anymore.

Number four. I want to have the "aberinkulas" name somewhat frontal for the blog's author. If Batman movies teach me anything, it's the importance of theatrics and money. But also presence, which is another good thing.

I also want to take the time to thank everyone who has started following this blog in the past month, in addition to everyone who was following me before and has read my stuff ever since I started by getting into a tussle with that guy who runs/ran MNMAL. As much as this blog is for me, I can't describe how it feels to have your ideas spread like wildfire; ideas that you think will make people's lives better.

Please feel free to comment all over any blog entry, and contact me at my author name with "mails" appended on the end at gmail dot com.

My Minimalism: Writing


That is a very forceful suggestion, and it may be one of the most important pieces of advice I ever give.

My most powerful epiphanies and personal revelations have come from writing this blog. Sure, it may be vague and conceptual, but it's hard to communicate just how much it helps to see the words on the screen, after they have been translated from these clouds in my head into actual words and see how they can be applied. Writing through an idea requires me to fully understand what I'm saying, to see it from multiple perspectives and get a grip on exactly where the idea will take me.

Even though I've never shared my real name or information on this blog (I never found it important) it's almost like I have this thing I have to live up to. I know I am capable of becoming this thing that I write. It's not even a separate character, it's more like a projection of me through the lens that I have spent so much time creating. These ideas came from me, so I know I want this and can do it. Reading these words, and feeling the pride from writing them down, it gives me the energy I need to embrace what I type.

You don't have to write like I do. You don't have to be good at it. I certainly wasn't when I started blogging, and I still make mistakes. (An entry on books shouldn't have spelling issues.) You don't have to make it public, although you can and if you do give me a link. You can type it, or write it on real paper, or engrave it into stone tablets. I keep a lot of personal writing to myself, which I sometimes make public. When it has served its purpose, I throw it away. I do it because it helps sort out the mind and the weird way it works.

The more you write about yourself, the better vocabulary you have to deal with your intricacies, and the better self-awareness you can build. The more you write, the easier it becomes to come up with new ideas, think of things from a different perspective, and to talk to yourself about the things that matter most. Write for you and the rest will come.


When one thinks "sustainable," it's usually around the idea of green, eco-friendly actions and methods. While I fully support that path, that is not what I mean when I say "sustainable." I mean it in the most basic, unloaded version possible: something that can be sustained.

When we're looking at our lives, we can categorize actions in our lives as either sustainable or not sustainable. This seems obvious but the reasoning becomes clear: it forces us to look ahead and see the future not as an extrapolation from the present, but as something that will change over time. This action, or this thing, or these ideas: how long can they last me? Can I sustain this thing? What factors will manipulate my future in terms of this?

Actions: Is the action held back by gear, and will I be limited by that gear? Will I be limited by any other factors? Am I creating things that I can do stuff with, or that will be a burden? Will this be something I want to do for the rest of my life?

Things: Will it last me as long as I need it to? Can I fix it? Can I change it? Can I get rid of it, and can I do so easily? Does it cost lots of money, once or to maintain?

When I'm ranking my various levels of engagement for a specific thing or action, I'm usually judging it based on this framework. I like and respect the idea of being able to have something in my life for many years, and the prediction of that is a powerful tool to know what is truly worth your time.

Examples: certain pieces of technology will last longer than others. In addition, some activities with this technology is dependent on the tech entirely. For those two, enter console gaming. I would rank that as less sustainable than a lot of other actions, because it requires money to maintain, and cannot work without a piece of hardware (whose reliability across the industry has been going down as of late).


Wabi-sabi is similar to minimalism in that it discusses both an aesthetic and world-view perspective. It's a Japanese word, according to Wikipedia and Richard Powell, that "nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

Basically, the term encompasses many different concepts but generally focuses on the beauty of impermanence, and the beauty of simplicity, economy, and asperity. The heightened sense of this concept is one where we find everyday objects and environments fascinating and beautiful. The world around us is always changing, and we can appreciate that in so many ways.

I wanted to tie this concept into the minimalism of the blog. It's a simple fact that nothing is static. We can fight all we want for the very best life we can possibly manage, but things will change and nothing will be perfect. Even in a day-to-day sense, some days our houses will be messy, even if we don't own that much. In that sense, the application of minimalism will change from moment to moment, preserving the space but still appreciating the underlining qualities.

Life will always change. Either we can fight change, or we can accept it and appreciate the beauty of the transition, and the beauty of what we manage to accomplish. Nothing will ever be perfect, because time continues to tick along its circular groove, but there is an expression within imperfection, sometimes subtle, that we could notice and focus on if we tried.


When constructing my 10 Treatises on Minimalism (two blogs down) I found myself dealing with a lot of different ideas, and I returned to the concepts of advertising. What does it mean to minimalism? I'm going to post the rejected treatises and discuss them in detail.

1: Dissatisfaction is the antithesis of minimalism.

Minimalism is making your life better for you. Anything that fosters a feeling of inadequacy or unhappiness must be rejected. (Unless you happen to like those feelings, which seems like a clever paradox.)

2: Advertising is dissatisfaction. It is successful and profitable.

When advertising started out, it was merely informational. "Hey guys, I have this thing, you should know about it!" Channels of communication were limited and information wasn't as widespread as it was today, thus paying for people to even know about your business was a novelty.

Today, advertising is much more widespread. Some advertising is still informational, telling you about a new price or a new product. But the rest of it is attempting to manipulate you. It is trying to convince you that you are not happy without a specific thing or service. It tells you that your life is something to be dissatisfied with, but you can fix it easily and simply by buying something.

Modern business is ruthlessly efficient. If advertising didn't work - to an insanely successful degree - they wouldn't do it. It costs a hell of a lot of money.

Advertising inserts emotions into your mind that it knows to be far more irrational than any of the rest. In a world without constant consumerism, we wouldn't want and want and want. But in the world we live in, that seems normal, even something to be proud of. Instead, perhaps we would be considering a life of contentment with the here-and-now, as opposed to after-an-easy-payment.

3: One particular brand of stuff is not more minimalist than any other.

With the exception of aesthetic minimalism.

Things can be simpler or better quality, which means they fit your life better. However, minimalism has no objective way to say that one brand of stuff is more minimalist than another. That means almost nothing in the greater scheme of things.

4: Any suggestion otherwise to the above is advertising.

Beware of advertising that discusses minimalism as well, because it is dangerously effective and is becoming more common.

But also, minimalism blogs are prone to hyping up certain brands. Am I guilty of this? Perhaps. I talked about what I had and what I used mostly for context, though I did focus on a few certain gadgets that I probably didn't need to (the Sansa Clip and Amazon Kindle lines).

The whole chic aspect of certain brands has melted into the minimalism blogs and I'm starting to see a backlash against minimalism for it, as opposed to what this really is: advertising. Minimalism isn't about Moleskine and Apple and those cool fancy lampposts that cost several thousand dollars. Some blogs are about that, but that's not what minimalism is about. If anything, it's the antithesis of minimalism because, again, it's fostering an environment of dissatisfaction with what you already have.

Swapping out one thing for another for a potentially better minimalist experience is a quick road to nowhere.

5: Avoid holding yourself up to external standards.

Minimalism blogs can be very interesting to read, and very powerful motivators, but they can also be dangerous because they can lead you to hold yourself up to these typically half-communicated standards that are unhealthy both to you and to the understanding of what minimalism is all about.

If you see a minimalism blog offering a lifestyle that sounds appealing, be critical. Analyze it for advertising. Analyze it for advertising-like concepts. Is it trying to make you dissatisfied? Is it trying to get you to buy cool new things? Is it stroking the author's ego in praise of all the cool brands they subscribe to?

But beyond not trusting it, is it useful to you? Everyone's life is different. Everyone's minimalism is different. Building up concepts in your head about how other people are doing their minimalism will just confuse and terrify you.

Use what you can and implement what you enjoy.

My Minimalism: Walking

I love to bike. Unfortunately my bike is currently lying in the living room with pieces scattered around it, some of them broken. While I would love to spend a week researching used bikes and making a purchase better than this terrible and cheap supermarket bike that broke on me so easily, life doesn't stop sometimes. My initial reaction was to grit my teeth while using my car to drive to all of the several-mile destinations that my latest humble abode is located directly in the middle of.

And then I remembered how much I love to walk recreationally.

I love to walk. Doesn't matter where, really. Just looking and seeing, and maybe listening to music while I do it. I don't have a goal in mind, I'm just existing and letting the world's waves wash against me.

My favorite time to walk is just before the sun sets, when the shadows begin to grow and stretch across the landscape, and the lights turn on in all of the houses. The bats come out and spin around whatever moves, orbiting me like little moons circling a planet, eating the bugs. That's when you don't see too many people, just your environment in a different setting.

I do like the bike's speed, and it allows me to get to a destination without any extra money and barely any effort. I will be certain to replace the one I used to have, but in the meantime I suppose I can just head out a good fifteen minutes early and take it a little slower. It may be a little more quiet, and I may have to plan and make some notes about my walking speed, but I think I can manage for a bit without too much effort.

10 Treatises on Minimalism

1. Minimalism should increase your happiness and contentment.

2. Less is powerful.

3. Elimination is incredibly powerful.

4. No one can eliminate everything.

5. Elimination without self-awareness is dangerous and harmful.

6. Fix you before you fix your stuff.

7. Minimalism is the most intense form of expression possible.

8. Your stuff has no objective value.

9. Beware of potential.

10. There are no right minimalism answers, only theory and extrapolation.

(I may extend these later.)

The minimalism reddit's FAQ

Great multi-purpose tool for many people, and I helped. I'm also in the links list, which is nice.

Go read it.


The original version I wrote is below:

General purpose questions and definitions
Q: What is minimalism?
A word that means, "using the concept of less."
Q: Are there requirements to be a "minimalist?"
There aren't any requirements, really. Minimalism isn't some card-carrying club; it's just the concept of "being content with your life" through the concept of less. You decide what that concept means in execution.
Q: How do I make it work for my life?
Find what makes your life worth living and focus on that, and remove whatever stands in your way of doing so.
Q: What kinds of minimalism are there?
  • Reducing your possessions, or "material minimalism."
  • Removing your commitments and managing your time
  • Downsizing your technology, or "digital minimalism."
  • Focusing your mind, or "mental minimalism."
  • Reducing visual elements, or "aesthetic minimalism."
  • And infinitely more. Look below for tips on how to achieve some of these.
Q: What is the point of minimalism?
To reconsider what we think is important to us, to make sure we never lose focus on that, and to remove the barriers between us and what we love. To understand ourselves and those around us. To get rid of the cruft. To make moving and traveling easier. To increase efficiency. To remove redundancy. To beautify, enhance, highlight. To enlighten. To be content with our lives.
Q: What about the 100 Things Challenge? What about those guys who own 15 things? Is minimalism supposed to be followed like Leo BabautaThe Minimalists, or some specific r/Minimalism contributor?
It can be. Those are examples of ways to apply minimalism to your life. However, beware of holding yourself up to standards that may not fit your lifestyle and mindset. Be liberal in changing these to make it work for you.
Advice and tips for common questions
Q: Where do I start if I want material minimalism?
It doesn't matter where you start, and it doesn't matter how long it takes you. Do not be overwhelmed. Be mindful of your possessions. Make your elimination mean something, so you remember it.
Donate as much as you can, and throw away what you must. Keep a mental tally of the things you use and remove what you don't. Place stickers on your items, and remove the stickers when you use something to keep track. Focus on one aspect of your life at a time - gadgets, clothes, bathroom items, the junk drawer, the storage attic, and so on. Don't be too scared of throwing away too much or making mistakes. If you're not sure if you can live without something, loan it to a friend or put it in the closet for a period of time.
Q: How do I maintain a state of material minimalism?
If you're continually having to purge, your problem isn't your stuff, it's your habits. Focus on what you're bringing into your possessions, and stop your buying impulses. Don't let your garbage can do your minimalism for you.
Implement a "one in, two out" rule to attach a larger price to what you buy, or institute an absolute stop to any new purchases for a while. Pay for things with cash. Think about your "needs" versus your "wants" and be clear about the distinction. Is it your life's focus and passion, or is it just a minor want? To help with wants, only allow yourself to buy things after they've been on a "I want this" list for a month.
Q: Can I still have hobbies if I'm material minimalist? What about hobbies that require a lot of stuff?
Of course to both. However, consider its necessity to your wellbeing and how it correlates to the extra burden needed to deal with the extra equipment. Avoid new hobbies that require lots of new purchases until you've already made it part of your life.
Q: Can [blank] be considered minimalist?
With any number of viewpoints, probably. But you also don't have to look to this subreddit for validation!
Q: Where do I start if I want mental minimalism?
Important: If you suspect you or a someone you know has depression or suicidal thoughts, don't bother with any of this; get professional help now. The mind is not something to mess with.
That said, concentration is key to understanding how to use your mind. Learn to listen to your mind. Learn to focus properly and learn to wield your attention; it can be a very powerful tool if tuned correctly. Take up meditation, and learn relaxation techniques. Eliminate sources of stress or unneeded complexity. Make time for yourself, both for your activities and your relaxation. Consider professional help if you feel like you need extra mental guidance, and always practice safe techniques.
Q: Where do I start if I want to manage my time better?
Learn to say no to things that aren't worth your attention. Make to-do lists and break down what needs to happen in to extremely small chunks. Analyze what "needs" to be done versus what doesn't. See how mental minimalism can help you accomplish more things by sharpening your mind.
Q: Where do I start if I want digital minimalism?
Smaller ideas: Delete the programs that you aren't using, and explore other alternatives. Aim for simpler programs. Clean your bookmarks and RSS feeds. Use less browser tabs. Visit less websites. If your music or movie library is too large for you, start making multiple elimination rounds. Consider your music, movie, and book collections and decide if you want to digitize them.
Bigger ideas: Switching to a different operating system is a big step for some, but it can help to get some perspective on what you think you need. Try a free Linux LiveCD if you don't want to pay money for this experiment; a good pair would be Ubuntu or Kubuntu. If you want to make the jump from Windows/Mac/Linux to any of the others, or perhaps buy a new computer, make sure you're fully educated on the changes, be fully realistic of the benefits and don't do it lightly.
Q: What should I do about living with my parents who aren't minimalist?
Rephrasing your goals can help communicate what you want, so start reading back archives of r/minimalism or browsing other resources to help clarify. If that doesn't work, you should probably just mentally minimize if you can't convince them of your choices. You're young and you have plenty of time to explore your options later, so don't stress out about it.
Q: What should I do about living with my significant other/roommate/friend who isn't minimalist?
We don't know what it's like to be you in your situation, and no amount of text on the Internet can ever fix that. Relationships with people are weird and complicated. But, a good rule of thumb is to avoid trying to change people, because it rarely works.
Resources, books, websites
Suggest more for this part please!
Q: What are some good books either on minimalism or that inspire minimalism?
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Island by Aldous Huxley
  • The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • On the Road and Dharma Burns by Jack Kerouac
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik
  • All of those blog eBooks. See the blogs below, find ad for their eBook, click.
Q: What are some good websites on minimalism?
Q: Any other resources?
Go watch a few episodes of Hoarders.

My Minimalism: Travel

When you're moving around constantly, you quickly realize what is important and what needs to be dumped. You pare down to the necessities, and you listen to yourself and what you need. Sometimes, you'll have to buy something you never anticipated, and sometimes you'll have to drop something that is weighing you down. Both are unforeseen and you can't take it all too seriously, or you'll miss the ride.

I tend to travel to big cities, which seems paradoxical. But really, I love the hustle-and-bustle of the mountains of people, the crazy and concentrated spectacle, and the change in flow you get when you're in a big town versus a smaller one. I love laughing at the Starbucks and Walgreens on every corner, and then realizing their necessity when I look in and find them packed with people. I love looking at the people while respecting the weird lack of interaction people have to assume to become one with this throbbing mass of urban sprawl.

You meet people for only a moment, but it's enough to make an impression. My last trip, I met an Australian girl over breakfast who was traveling America. On the train I met a Scottish man who was doing the same. Listening to these voices, their words and their ideas - it's captivating. It broadens your mind and brings you to a more global perspective. There's something about the image of reading a national newspaper in a hotel, and I've never been able to shake it.

I haven't gone far yet, but I hope to. Thankfully I live in a good position for trains and thus have an easy way to get to larger cities. Once I've finished exploring the cities around me, I hope to broaden my experiences to the coasts of America, and then finally leaving the continent once I have more travel skills.

Traveling is an amazing journey. As much as I enjoy home, my mind starts to forget the bigger picture, and start falling into these self-perpetuating cycles of thought that need outside assistance to break free from. Then I leave for a bit, and things seem less important, the world seems more open, and life seems to have a greater purpose. I am here to explore, and there's no better place to be.

My Minimalism: Books

Minimalism can help you find what you're passionate about, but it is at the very core an enhancer. Think about minimalist art. You remove lines to the very core of the piece, but it's not effective if you don't know what the core of the piece is. You need to know where you're going or else the picture ends up looking like squiggly lines (which, admittedly, is a perfectly acceptable version of art itself, but it loses the plot). Perhaps while removing the periphery of this picture you can find what is important to the piece, but eventually you have to figure out what the art exists for or you'll never end up with anything satisfying.

The same thing, funnily enough, goes for life. I've always known that I love books. I've always known that eventually I would focus on books to the near exclusion of everything else. But I forget basic things, and I forget my plans. I get caught up in the day-to-day machinations of life, and I forget about the bigger aspects of what makes me happy, what makes me whole, and why I've been eliminating the lines from my picture of a life for the past three years. It isn't until I remember and act on it that I embrace what I cherish.

Books are satisfying to me on a level that few other methods of entertainment can muster. It's a broad hobby, one that within itself there are dozens of options, paths, and routes to take. It can be a frugal hobby, using the common resources of the public library, or an expensive one, by amassing your own collection. It can be physical large or small, digital or analog, non fiction or fiction, novels or poetry, however you like. Oftentimes for me, it is all of those things, interchangeably and also imperceptibly whole.

The reason why I continue to read, after all these years, is because it hones my concentration. Do you think I'd be able to crank out multi-paragraph essays on a daily basis if I didn't have an ability to focus? Books function as a sort of target practice of my mind. It allows me to enjoy the things around me I sometimes take for granted. Similar to meditation, books give me something to pool my concentration into and to funnel that mind-juice into, giving my brain ample topics to consider later on while whittling the hours away at a mundane part-time job stocking shelves to pay for rent.

Books help me practice my concentration, my brain busting skills, my vocabulary and turns-of-phrase. They assist me in expanding my mental visual capabilities, my memory and capability to create maps of intricate patterns and relationships. They teach me emotional ranges, from pity to empathy to anger to surprise to terror. Perhaps I pick the correct books to read, but rarely do I ever read two books that felt the same emotionally. There's always something different about every book, even if the difference is hard to notice.

There's something simple about books that I enjoy. Even eBooks. I'm not sure what it is, but it appeals to my nature, which gravitates toward the quiet, gentle aspects of our messy society. And on a final note, and final notes for books: when you're done and don't want a book anymore, giving to a friend is one of the most rewarding actions you can do after experiencing something alone. The quiet sharing of solitude is an intimate and beautiful thing. I never regret buying a new book because the process from my enjoyment to another person's enjoyment is amazing.

I will continue to post articles under the "My Minimalism" heading to fully explore the reason for which I minimize the excess in my life. Hopefully they are some use to you, but for me, they are particularly cathartic.

Without Technology

Crisis! I'm traveling on Monday. My Kindle's screen broke and the replacement is coming on Tuesday. Gall darn nabbit!

The Kindle is one of the best devices I've ever had for traveling, especially in light of how I rarely pack any other pieces of technology. Using the built-in web browser, I can look at basic web content, check definitions and articles, and keep up with my email. I have the one with 3G, so I can do this even on a moving train, which is just about as close to the future as I dare to go before I back away in fear of losing my nose.

But now I don't have it. In some ways, it's a liberation. I'm still taking novels and books with me, but the only pieces of technology I'm taking are my terrible cell phone (for emergency contact) and my MP3 player (for sanity and noise pollution blockage - my last trip involved a man in the seat next to me blaring his music far past his earbuds' threshold). I won't have any devices that can connect to the Internet.

On one hand, the net is a useful resource for finding destinations and helping me locate things, which would be helpful considering I'm going alone. And the option of having it in case of emergency is appealing. On the other hand, it's a fantastic distraction and an addiction. Paper novels seem a little less attention-greedy and at the very least, a little more manageable than a full blown piece of TechnoFuture. But they're just as entertaining on the train, which is why I'm packing them. I get why people prefer paper books over the electronic variant; I still haven't converted entirely.

The benefits of taking cheap novels is pretty drastic, the more I think about it. The freedom of not having an expensive gadget with me outweighs the freedom to pick from hundreds of books and the ability to buy plenty more. I travel light, as my minimalist tendencies would suggest, and try to pack as much as I can into a single backpack. While this limits my paper book inclusions to three paperbacks, it also makes each item I have with me that much more disposable and less important, freeing me up to enjoy the trip I am on without being burdened by what I have in an obligation to keep it safe.

Why am I sharing this? Well, traveling is a great way to get a minimalist perspective on things - if you're hitting the town with your stuff in tow, it makes sense to strip away what's unnecessary and travel with only what you need. You learn to take things as they come, stop trying to plan for every "what if" and just roll with the punches. And if you're like me, you get a ton of paper cuts from the tourist maps and have to buy a large wad of finger-sized bandages. I'm not sure why, and I can't predict it, but that's life.

But in addition, everything I've already said applies to technology as a whole, for all walks of life. In terms of eReaders, I eagerly look forward to the days when they are a simple commodity, when you can buy one for $30 or less and they're sold in every random pharmacy on the street corner. But until then, their lack of ubiquity is a slight drawback. The valuable aspect is a downfall in comparison to the throwaway, disposable nature of a $1 paperback from the used bookstore I live next to.

Sometimes, technology is great, and sometimes it can hold us back. I know, kind of an obvious thesis statement, but not every one of my epiphanies can be humdingers.

(For the literary curious, the book selections I'm taking with me are Cryptonomicon, Rabbit, Run and Lolita. I intend to post a few blogs about books when I get back from my trip, so stay tuned.)

Memento Mori

Sometimes we think something is necessary to us or we think it's important to us, and it isn't until we start questioning the organization of our lives that it reveals itself to be far more temporary.

This video, starring the inspiring Carl Sagan, discusses the information in our lives that surrounds us. He then places this information in context by showing us how much one man can consume in his lifetime. Compared to the library that he's walking around, the rows that he passes are paltry. I found this concept enlightening and powerful.

This illustrates the basic concept that we all must come to terms with, no matter what manner our spirituality unfolds in: we can't do everything. We must set precedence over some things versus others. Even I, in my youth, can recognize that my days are not infinite, and that even these early days can be wasted if not managed properly.

The reason why I bring this up? It empowered me to make decisions. Sure, I had eliminated all of the cruft and the obvious junk that I didn't need, and made my life easier in those ways, but what about those core hobbies and entertainment methods, the ones I considered most dear to me? The ones I had never lived without? Perhaps they're not so necessary after all, in the light of how much I can experience in a lifetime.

I came to the realization that I liked video games, but I loved books. Books give me more after the fact. Books make me feel better overall. The act of reading them is a quieting, focusing habit that if done on a regular basis gives me more relaxation and self-satisfaction. As entertainment, I can't think of any kind better. In comparison to this, video games take up a lot of time, rarely leave me with thoughts and don't really make me feel like I accomplished anything.

I've known this for years. But I've never had the power to change it. I just assumed that video games were something about me that I had to live with. Then I removed all of the gaming hardware and the television (which I only used for games) from my room and placed a big stack of physical books there instead. This game me a physical manifestation of my new mental focus. And it worked. It's been years since I've read at this pace, constantly hungry for information and story, savoring each book and viewing so many new viewpoints.

As depressing as weirdly morbid as it is, the concept of "memento mori" can tear your life a new one if you let it. Coming to terms with how little time we have is an amazing concept, and it allows us to break free of the common tapes such as "but I really aught to experience this" or "ah, it's just disposable entertainment." Don't make excuses for letting your life clutter up with things that don't matter to you. You have the power to make your life what you want it to be, and you can make yourself a better person.