Archives for February 2018

February 21, 2018

A Simpler Choice

Less choice, better decisions: the advantages of setting artificial boundaries.

A few years ago, I started to limit the number of choices when it came to consuming products. I started to experiment with clothing. I could not commit to wearing only one brand of clothes, for obvious reasons (hello human billboard), and two felt somewhat limited considering the different pieces of clothing that are necessary to constitute the wardrobe of a man in his thirties living in a world city. A curated selection of three brands felt right.

The benefits were obvious, going beyond the newfound piece of mind.

When shopping for clothes, I only stopped by three shops, and visited only three websites. No more wandering around stores looking for that perfect sweater that may not exist. I know that I don’t really need it anyway.

Spending less money, spending more time where it matters

Once you know what all those selected brands have to offer, once you know what you need to wear year-round, there remains very little temptation. What about when I need a new shirt? Well, the possibilities are all there. No need to look elsewhere. Those shirts are more than good enough; it spares me the time to look elsewhere, and I can spend that additional time on something more important to me. When I need a new pair of shoes, I already know my size. And when I discover a pair of jeans that might look good? Well, they do not belong to my go-to brand list so I don’t even think about buying them.

The abundance of possibilities when it comes to buying stuff is overwhelming. Not only can you spend an inordinate amount of time making a decision, but the temptation of buying new stuff can be hard to resist if you don’t set artificial boundaries like this one, which can even result in you saving some money in the process. The three-brand limit offers me guidance in choice. Those brands are in tune with my tastes, style and measurements, and they complement each other well; they are also brands I trust, respect, and appreciate for the quality of their products.

The number three has made me a better consumer.

February 14, 2018

Getting More Out of Less Space

How my college dorm room taught me to live in a more minimalist and happier way.

At the end of last August, I undertook the biggest change of my life by leaving for college. It’s an exciting time; full of parties, new friends, and new learning experiences. But what most people (including myself) don’t anticipate is how drastically living arrangements change.

I live in a triple dorm, shared with my two fantastic roommates. Having three people, three beds (one bunk and one lofted), three desks, and three dressers is a tight squeeze in a room of about 200 square feet. There isn’t much space for extra stuff.

But here’s the surprising thing: we don’t need it. Everything I need fits nicely into my desk, dresser, and my ⅓ of our shared closet. After measuring, the space is roughly 40 square feet for all my belongings.

Moving into the dorm forced me to pick and choose what items were absolutely essential, and which ones weren’t. Before arriving to college, I got rid of about half my wardrobe, shelves full of books, trash bags full of useless trinkets, and piles of other things from my room at home. It’s amazing how much stuff we allow to build up when we have space to put it in. Some things you wouldn’t even think of as being extraneous—extra soaps and lotions in the bathroom, decorative furniture and pillows, and folders of old papers that “I might reference some day!”

But after settling in to college, I didn’t miss any of the things I had gotten rid of. I have a single suitcase of clothes that I bring back and forth from home in Connecticut to school in Maryland, a shower caddy worth of hygiene products, and a small stack of my seven favorite books. I have just enough writing utensils and school supplies, a small baggie of medicine, and a small box of makeup. Anything more than that is just unnecessary and impractical with such little storage space.

It’s astonishing how much of a change the simplification has had on my attitude. Back in high school I was constantly stressed, threw every last thing into ‘junk drawers’, and didn’t take nearly enough time to appreciate what I had. But in college I became more easy-going, selective in the items I brought into my life, and started taking time to reflect on just how fortunate I am. Instead of going shopping or trying to clean my bedroom, I spent more time with friends. Before I knew it, this tiny dorm room began to feel more like home.

So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t let the ability to have more stuff allow you to keep more stuff. For me, it took moving to a confined space to convince me to get rid of the things I didn’t need. I wish now that I had simplified back when I had a large house and a spacious room to fill—it had just never occurred to me that I didn’t need to fill it with superfluous items.

Take time to look around your living space. Could all of your stuff fit into a dorm room? If not, it might be time to get rid of the things that don’t matter in order to make space for the people and experiences that do.

February 7, 2018

I’m Not a Minimalist, But…

We can use minimalism as a tool without it taking over who we are.

We often label others, pigeonhole them. As if doing so defines who that person is in a succinct sentence, or even just one word.

I’ve noticed this lately in my own life in one particular area. As I meet people that have stumbled upon my work or read my books, or seen me talk about simplicity, they assume I’m a ‘minimalist’. I’m not, or at least I don’t consider myself one in the purest sense. I’m not even sure there is a pure definition of what a minimalist really is.

To be clear, I own more than one outfit. I own more than one bowl. I consume. I own more stuff than fits neatly into one backpack. I own a TV (one only for the entire home which is pretty minimalist for most I guess these days).

Minimalism is a Gateway Tool

Minimalism has been a useful tool in my own journey to living my version of a simpler life. It’s a gateway to a more intentional life. That journey is mine to own. What I consider simple enough for my tastes may not go far enough for you. Or perhaps it’s too simple. That’s fine. We get to choose.

I write under the broad umbrella of simplicity because I believe in its power. I love minimalist design, sparse writing forms (haiku for example) and the idea of chipping away at the unessential in life, so we can make room for the essential.

Simplicity, 80/20 and minimalist concepts have had a profound impact on my life and overall outlook in the last 8 years or so. I believe others can benefit from a similar exploration and experimentation with these concepts in their own lives, looking to simplify down to a point they are happy with. A point that improves the quality of their own lives.

I have less clutter than I once did, I need less stuff than I once thought, I shop less for possessions than I have in the past but I’m not living monastically. Far from it. I still have a wardrobe full with clothes I feel good in, a few guitars, a few too many books and CDs (yes, I still have CDs). I wear more than just blacks and greys. Some of my clothes are branded. I can still be found buying and sampling coffee in a cafe I haven’t tried before. I’m okay with all of that because I own it.

Own Your Version of Minimalism

In an age where we all like to share images online and consume the stories of others, there can be a danger that we try to contort to a vision that isn’t really us at all.

Minimalism has been a major trend for a number of years and grown in popularity for good reason, many of us are seeking something more meaningful in our lives. More stuff isn’t it. However, the concept is not new. In fact, it’s as old as man. But perhaps we’ve never needed it more.

We can use minimalism as a tool without it taking over who we are. Without fear that we are not ‘minimalist enough’. We can use it to support us living more intentionally. We can consume less, waste less, stress less. Make more space for the things and people that matter most.

Minimalism is a part of my life but it doesn’t define my life. Maybe you’re the same.

February 1, 2018

fourweeksgood: Auckland

Four weeks of living and freelancing in one of the world’s most livable cities—Auckland, NZ.

Following the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm and Vienna, this month's 'fourweeksgood' featured city is Auckland. Built on an isthmus between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Auckland rightly claims for itself the nickname 'City of Sails'. Life in Auckland revolves around water—living by it, sailing on it, swimming or kayaking. It is a vibrantly diverse place, home to people from all over the globe as well as being home to the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. This melting pot of cultures has created an incredible food scene, as has the abundant and high quality of the seafood from New Zealand waters. One of the best ways to explore Auckland is through the food. We gain a beautiful and minimalist visual insight that leaves us wanting to experience this city and country for ourselves.

'fourweeksgood' is a series of travel videos created by freelance creative Seraina Silja and experience designer Simon Ammann.