Six months ago I was searching for new music on my streaming app of choice, and found @JFM and @RyanNicodemus hosting a podcast called #TheMinimalists . I had never been exposed to minimalism, but I was in a season of paring down my own footprint I’d made in the world.
So I started listening, and taking notes.
The ideals and notions they shared were numerous, but one thing they cautioned each listener with was one important piece of advice – “our recipe may not work for you, yours will probably be different.” The more I listened the more their advice made sense.
It didn’t take long to begin minimizing the areas of my life I had already started working on, but I managed to keep momentum constant. Making a few lists of each area to stop, start, and continue. Not all things had to go, most did though. I won’t try to paraphrase the actual advice they gave, listen for yourself, but I will offer my own curated advice from my journey for paring down, based on one word.
Two syllables, and can have a myriad of meaning depending on the person and the context of where a person is at any particular moment. My freedom came after the removal of distractions, visual, personal, emotional, and financial – in that order.
I started removing apps from my phone which kept me looking, checking, and watching for updates and notifications. I silenced all phone app banners and notifications from the few apps that remained. I spent more time looking around noticing the world around me, and not my phone. This also let me move about my life without my phone more, or in airplane mode if I do have it with me.
The TV, and Apple TV was easy. This one deletion gave me back days and weeks back to my life. A little simple math on the back of an envelope let me know leaving it unplugged was next best move.
Visual stuff on all of the flat surfaces I was used to passing by each day, that didn’t serve a single purpose. The thing was just there. Set in the same place each day doing nothing.
I read much more now, that is a fact. I read on my phone, and laptop depending on where I’m at geographically. The other benefit to not giving away your time and attention to something with no return.
In some of the podcast episodes there was a notion of “doing things we’re supposed to do“. I’ll be the first to say I like patterns and practices, in my line of work we do things we’re supposed to do based on reliable patterns. Instead I started doing what interested me and working around things I was passionate about.
To get started, I sat down and made a list of things I like to do which won’t cost me a cent to go out and do. I started there, and slowly added to the list, eventually bringing other things into the list like #LessIsNow in Tampa, concerts, long weekends away from home, and trips to the north to spend time with my family.
I discontinued making time for things that would emotionally unbalance me at work, at home, and with people. Specifically with people, the now famous @JFM quote goes like this, ” you can’t change the people around you but you can change the people around you.” That’s what I did – the time I invested in this one aspect has paid big dividends.
Not all values need to be in alignment between two people, or a group of friends. However, if I was spending one-way time and effort on relationships, and left them behind in good standing in case any of those folks decided to reach back at some time in the future. So far, nobody is reaching back and I’m totally cool with that.
Today, I have some new friends, and I’m playing in a band again. Both came at the same time. I’m not certain, but I’m thinking these two additions wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made a few changes I’ve mentioned previously. Music is like oxygen for me, playing music is like hearing your favorite song for the first time, over and over. It can appropriately alter my mental state quite easily with the right song at the right time. Always.
All of the above freedoms mentioned fed into this last freedom I’ll mention. Walking around in airplane mode and deleting the hotspot I thought I needed for work and vacation led to a simpler and less expensive plan for my phone. I use far less data, talking is basically free – and now my cellphone bill is less than a third of what it used to be.
Over the years I had accumulated five different bank accounts. My old train of thought was to put away pockets of money in each of these bank accounts and because I didn’t pay attention to them, they’d grow if I forgot about them. This was just another way in my mind of hoarding without a return on any of the money I wasn’t seeing. I closed all of the accounts and use one account now. The bank I ended up with had financial products I use for myself, including home and auto insurance. There’s savings if have both in one place. This was some of the criteria I used to make the decision.
Credit card debt. I didn’t have a lot of unsecured debt, but I had my share and it was nagging at me long before I started paring down. Now 95% of the debt I had last year is gone. Rob Bell shared a quote with Ryan, which appeared one of their episodes – “every weight you’re carrying around, you picked up.” This was what I did, each debt was a like a boulder with a handle on it I couldn’t easily let go of.
Black Beauty. Of course my motorcycle has a name – the name landed on it the day I made the purchase. It was a planned purchase but I couldn’t pay it off quickly after I purchased it. The dealership’s financing group has a really cool option. As the amount owed decreases – so does the monthly payment. I didn’t buy into that, I always made triple payments each month, but the burn on the amount owed was lagging more than I liked. When they day came (early in my own journey) to list all debts and make a plan, this one would be the largest and the last. I didn’t think I could enjoy riding more than I already did – now that it’s payed for I do, I enjoy riding much more. Of course I still have to pay for care, feeding, and insuring “The Thing” – but now it’s a “want to do”, not a “supposed to do”.
All of subscriptions, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, etc. were discontinued as well. I didn’t know which ones I valued, if at all, since I just sat and randomly binged-watch during the evenings. I still haven’t brought any of them back in and I still have a Prime subscription which I use for books, a few movies, and TV shows – but nothing like it was.
Local and global contribution is much easier now – there’s more to go around to charitable organizations
It took two guys at Goodwill about 15 minutes to unload my contributions. The back of my truck (payment) was full, as were the back and passenger seats and floors. The thought that passed through my mind at that moment was “the weight is not worth the wait”.
The ride back from Goodwill felt good, and walking back into my apartment felt different. All of the visual clutter and stuff, had been dealt with. This first load took about a three weeks to build up. Now, I have a small donation basket near the front door for the things I choose to minimize.
What I brought into my new place was the 10% left from the first major contribution. I’ve since added some new pieces and paid for them as I bought them. So far, I’ve purchased a small living room set, a 4’x6′ grease board, two lamps, an Amazon Echo, and the last piece arriving tomorrow is an adjustable standing desk.
I have the opportunity to work from home from time to time, or when I really need to block out the distractions (visual, auditory) I get a work. Visual and auditory distractions just kill the work/critical-thinking buzz most times. I’ve setup part of my home to allow me to work as much as necessary, when needed.
From a few of the lists I had made, I started to enumerate the voids I would be creating in my time and attention as I removed things from daily life. To prepare for the voids, I created a void-filler list and scheduled each of them to fill in different parts of my days, evenings, weekends, and holidays. This helped me to stay on track with the outcomes I’d planned for myself.
I had planned to move into another newly constructed high-end apartment, because that’s what I do. I didn’t want to live in something that was “used”. It didn’t quite work out that way. I moved to a place I love to live which gave me a one hour commute to work. However, I got twice the square footage at half the price of the apartment I was planning to move into. This added to the snowball of paying off debt as well. And I feel like I’m walking into an AirBNB every time I come home.
Weekends feel like a vacation, and long weekends feel illegal I enjoy them so much. One of the “big” items on my list was to move away from the congested areas I’ve lived in, and around, greater Orlando. As anyone can imagine, or knows first-hand, we’re another city with local and tourist traffic issues. For many reasons I won’t list, I wanted to move away from this, understanding I’d be giving up some conveniences. It all has worked out – not without a few hiccups and hitches but nothing to move somewhere else.
Instead of hearing sirens, loud traffic, crotch-rockets, and construction traffic I can sit on my patio and hear the occasional cow mooing and birds singing in the trees. There’s a fire station near the entrance of this community, and I’ve not heard a fire truck siren once. I can walk outside at night sometimes and see something light up the sky heading into orbit from a Cape Canaveral launch pad. There are hundreds of street lights to impede the night sky here. It reminds me a trip to Arizona – when you look up at the sky it feels like you can see all of the stars. This is what I see when I look at the night sky.
These are only partial details from my recipe and journey. The one thing I did do was only work on one thing at a time – no multitasking, none. Start one thing, finish one thing – move on to the next thing.
I reached a place where I wanted to share something about both for someone else who might be starting, or contemplating something similar. That said, I hope this adds a little value to someone, somewhere.