On Minimalism

A few years ago, I first read Stuff by Paul Graham. The article really resonated with me, even though I was living in a small room at the time and didn’t have that much stuff. In recent months, I have been discussing similar topics with some of my friends, philosofying about Minimalism, Stoicism and Buddhism. Since then, I have been actively trying to get rid of more stuff and making my life simpler in general. Below I discuss a couple of ways in which I implemented this:

Less stuff

The first step is to have less stuff. Before I moved to Berlin, I got rid of most of the things I own. I still have some things in storage (for example, I couldn’t bring myself to getting rid of my books). I went to Berlin with a suitcase and a small messenger bag. After my friend visited a few weeks ago, he took my suitcase and I’m left with a backpack and a messenger bag. In Berlin, the only furniture I own is a mattress and a drying rack for my clothes (a chair and desk would have been nice, I admit). While this probably sounds very uncomfortable to you, it actually isn’t, once you get used to it.

Simpler eating

A few months ago I tried 30 days without any candy, crisps or soft drinks. I limited my food to three meals a day, no snacks in between. This felt great. I stopped worrying about what candy to eat next, felt healthier and emotionally more stable. Even though I didn’t make it into a permanent habit and eat sugar again every now and then, I am considering doing the experiment again for a longer time.

No apartment

I cancelled my apartment in The Netherlands. I now rent apartments for a short time (say, a few months). It feels very liberating to be able to cancel the rent, pack my stuff and move on. I don’t get too attached to one place. Even though I’m not sure whether I’ll like it in the long run, it feels great right now.

Simpler social life

In Berlin, I don’t have nearly as many friends as in Utrecht. Whereas I used to have my agenda fully booked (read about Dutch people and Their Agendas), I now call people to meet instead of making an appointment to meet in a few weeks. Again, this makes my life so much simpler.

Information diet

This is a step I still want to implement better: go on an information diet. Three steps I already took: I haven’t watched television for more than half a year, I have read about 10 newspapers in the last years, and last week I clicked “unsubscribe” in Google Reader instead of “Mark all as read” on about 20 blogs.

Kindle

I love to read. A nice side-effect is that I had a good bookcase for showing off. The step to buying a Kindle was not an easy one, but has worked very well. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I’m a big fan now. I can take my books everywhere I want, and they are generally cheaper too.

Conclusion

Where will this end? If I continue like this, will I find myself in a Tibetan monastery meditating in a few years from now? I don’t think so. Even though I’m slowly simplifying my life, I’m sure I’ll have a fallback every now and then. There definitely is a tension between pleasure and minimalism, but so far I feel very happy. Keep reading this blog to find out what it’s like in a few years from now.

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