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Why I Gave Up on Extreme Minimalism (2015) (janafadness.com)
59 points by farazzz 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

I feel like I'm reading a parallel post to "Why I gave up not eating food".

Her story is actually interesting, but the conclusion of the post (and the title's question) is "I gave up extreme minimalism so I could keep things and go back to them from time to time."

I mean this isn't exactly profound.

Paraphrasing: "I bought a book to study German. Normally I'd throw it away when I'd get bored of it. Instead I'm going to keep the book, so if I have the desire to study German again later I can just pick it back up rather than buy a new one."

Not everyone have fixed hobbies or can have regular time for their fixed hobbies. I'm taking photos for a long time, but it's not a "regular" endeavor due to life circumstances. Should I sell my photo gear as soon as I don't feel like taking photos and re-buy all of it as soon as I want to go out?

Similarly I have a lot of books which I sometimes blaze through, or abandon for some time. However the desire never completely dies out. I simply doesn't have the time or energy at that time. Should I give away the books I had no time to read, but still desirable for me?

I also have a lot of small projects which I re-visit and work for short time regularly. They may be very far from completion, but they reward with very high experience since I look them from a very different perspectives and as a very different developer every time.

If that's working for her, and she's happy, let her be.

An important aspect of removing things from life is to make a decision about whether you intend to continue having something as a part of your life - either in thoughts, ambitions or as an object you possess. Without resolving this, the question of "should I keep this?" can not be answered satisfactorily. Our time is quite limited and these choices are either made actively through conscious decision making or passively through inaction. I am still trying to learn to make the decision actively.

You're right, however sometimes trying to shove things out of your life may not be easy or effective. I personally decided to dig deeper and understand why I accumulated that amount of stuff in the first place.

Instead of wasting time trying to actively make this decisions and drain your mental energy, why not try semi-passive observation? I found that putting everything away and getting things that I regularly use from that pile, and getting rid of the least used part regularly (weekly, monthly, semi annually, etc.) works best.

This way also decluttering doesn't feel like swimming upstream, at least for me.

A common solution to this problem is to make the decision based on the cost of replacing the items. If you haven't used an item in 3 months and it takes 20 minutes and $20 to replace then that's a candidate for throwing out. If if takes 3 days and $300 to replace with little resale value then that's a candidate for storing.

Sometimes I'll just put everything in my way into a cardboard box (for instance, everything on my desk, or the majority of a cluttered shelf). I write the date on the box and put it in a closet. The rule after that is I can take things out of the box if I need them, but I can't put anything else in. Any time I find a box with a date more than 1 year old I just donate the whole thing to a thrift store without looking inside.

Wow, that's a really good idea. Time to find some boxes!

On the contrary, to me it appears that we are in agreement. You have found a method (to figure out what can stay) that works for you and I'm yet to find mine. I will consider if your method could work for me.

We are actually in agreement, you're right. I just wanted to say that trying to decide too actively on what to keep, and what to let go may be too tiring and working against your purpose.

The method I mentioned is a way to set things in motion, and your brain unconsciously decides what to keep by getting it from that pile. Then you can give the rest (or some of it) away.

Hope it helps.

When talking about hobbies, relax and passion, why the need to make decision actively?

The hobbies often change as reaction to changes in environment - you like puzzles when work is underchallenging, but when work is mentally challenging you switch to different past time. You craft because you seen something inspiring, then you make music and some time later return to crafting when something inspiring comes around. You are tired so you do nothing, work was slow and boring so you are in mood to create on weekend.

No reason to ditch tools in the meantime, large benefit of having them is that you can switch impulsively without planning.

It doesn't have to be hobbies all the time. It can be stationary, sweaters or anything.

Only the author of the article is making her case over the hobby items or tools, however minimalism doesn't dictate the type of item to be reduced.

For a general rule for me, if you are planning to use it, you should keep it. At least in my case this rule works very well and prevents additional purchases effectively.

It becomes a little more interesting when taking into consideration the option of renting. Photography equipment is very widely available for rental, and if you use it for say fewer than 30 days a year, it may work out cheaper to rent, with the advantage of always being able to use the newest / most appropriate equipment.

A good compromise is renting lenses a few times before buying, a sensible means to avoid "lens lust" leading to buying lenses that rarely get used.

Get the impression that the author thinks themselves very special for “having hobbies” and “not being able to hold a job” too. Almost everyone has random interests and feels suffocated by having to do one thing their entire lives, but most people eventually consider money and a stable lifestyle more important. Everyone wants to have less things but most people eventually find out that having things is nicer than having no things. Big whoop!

I think minimalism works if you can fit your life into a certain categories. I moved to another country for a year with only the stuff I could fit in a military duffel bag. The most annoying thing about the experience, after returning from my trip, was having to re-purchase everything that I had previously sold off just so that I could take part in hobbies that I had sorely missed while gone. Lots of endeavors require a small inventory of things or tools, especially if you want to do well.

Buying new stuff can be fun, however.

I'm in a similar situation as the author, in that most of the 'stuff' in my life are facilitators for my hobbies and passions in life outside of work.

When people walk into my home office and see the number of guitars, amps and pedals lying around, they are often taken aback. I do have a lot of music gear, but they are integral to me winding down and de-stressing from my developer life and exploring another creative side of my life.

When people ask me why I need about 10 guitars lying around and to downsize to just a couple, I say "No can do... each instrument is so different, and intended for a different purpose so I can't simply achieve all that with just one or two".

It doesn't matter what you replace the word "guitars" with. People that don't understand your craft will always suggest you have too many of something.

Contrary to popular belief, 2 screwdrivers is not enough for any situation.

A size 10 spanner will not fit every nut, and who only has a single sharp knife in their kitchen?

My stance on similar issues is, as long as I use all 10 of those guitars, I would want to keep them.

I have 4 bicycles, and I use all 4 of them. When I don't use one anymore, it will have to go. Things are to be used and enjoyed. I have no interest in keeping a museum.

The question is why these minimalist tendencies exist?

If I had to guess I’d say it is about the feeling of control. If we don’t have any control over the outside world which has become quite unpredictable, and we have a hard time to control our own emtions and thoughts, it can be a soothing feeling to know exactly what you have where. It can also help with a nomadic life.

I’d argue to keep things strategically. Don’t just keep everything, but don’t just throw out everything either. Keep organized, label your drawers, sort stuff.

You should view your space as an external hard drive for your brain: - it helps you to keep things in focus - it helps you to revisit topics (hobbies, thoughts, emotions) now and then - it might contain tools for creating things

If your only reason for not using that space is to avoid the mental work it needs to maintain it, that mainly means you don’t trust yourself with the decision how to organize your space in a way that serves you.

> avoid the mental work

for me, that's the most alluring part. i find (good) coding or design work leads to decision fatigue. more stuff means more decisions. less stuff means less decisions (even if the initial purchase requires a bit more effort).

if i could manage to keep things organised after a long day, i'd probably do that. but some people need a strict set of rules, some people need the opposite (most people just cope/get by and never think about it - is that better or worse?).

> The question is why these minimalist tendencies exist?

For me, minimalism is not a starting point, but a destination that I've arrived by a long, sometimes hard inner journey.

I wanted to reduce my choice anxiety and the overhead of switching from something to another thing. I'm not a hoarder, but items that I use started to take a lot of space and mental energy (I like to organize things and keep notes about different subjects in different notebooks for example) to manage. I started to combine stuff and digitize old writings whenever possible, then combined old backups to denser mediums, stopped buying paper books and moved to eBooks, etc.

At the end of the process, I've found that I'm sizing down and my target is in the realms of minimalism. I'm not an extreme minimalist, and I cannot give some stuff like my stationary stock, since there's no place I can donate them, and throwing them away is simply wasteful. For these kind of items, I cut the influx, and using whatever I have to reduce items. It's working reasonably well for me.

For some of us, minimalism is not a fad or something to inspire to, but a way to live a less stressful and more comfortable life at the end.

> The question is why these minimalist tendencies exist?

Despite it not seeming like a just reason, for me it’s because of impermanence (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impermanence).

> The things I have here aren’t just things. They are tools I use to explore my passions.

This is actually pretty good point. Many things we are passionate about requires us to have things. Extreme minimalism could in many ways conflict with pursuit of our interests.

> So I might be obsessed ... then suddenly become possessed

> “scanners“, “multipotentialites”, “polymaths”, and “renaissance people”.

There must be a difference between having things to pursue some passion and pathologically having the passion of purchasing to pursue things.

I enjoy painting. I recently got a load of acrylic paints, hardwood panels, canvases, and an easel. Definitely not something that can fit in luggage.

There are some hobbies that fit the minimal lifestyle. Say digital music production, or reading, or listing to music, but some like modeling, physical painting, machining, or sewing that just take up a lot of space.

I'm constantly battling between having stuff and not having stuff, but I think the solution is to get as much stuff you can enjoy that fits into a 2m^2 storage unit, and lasts a lifetime.

I'm not sure I agree about needing 10 guitars like someone mentioned. I have 3 basses, 2 guitars and 1 acoustic and that feels like too many already.

The 'scanner' personality type comes from Barbara Sher's book, "Refuse to Choose". I read it because I also identify as a generalist. It's an interesting read, if a bit pop-sci. One big thing I took from it was that it's incredibly valuable to spend time organizing your environment to make switching between projects easy. The other big thing was that if you're a generalist, it really helps to find a career where you're able to work on a broad spectrum of projects that touch on lots of different fields.

Having a kid that's kindergarten age, I can see being a kindergarten teacher as fulfilling for a generalist. Every day can touch on a new concept, a new skill. At the same time, it can allow for a deeper specialization in pedagogy. For me, it's been app development – through it I can incorporate a wide variety of interests, while going deeper and deeper on the core skillset.

Personally, I've gravitated towards 'tidiness' over 'minimalism'. When Marie Kondo's book first came out, we decluttered our lives and it was liberating. I haven't seen the Netflix show but it sounds like her philosophy has gained a new level of fame recently. As a generalist, it's been particularly 'life changing' because I'm someone who can end up collecting a lot of things for 'some day'. By decluttering, I'm actually more inspired because it's easier to see the various projects and things I'm interested in. I.e., it's easy, as a generalist, to fall into the trap of thinking that everything is important and worth holding onto for some future endeavor.

I hope that startups like Omni (https://beomni.com) / autonomous cars + cheap remote storage end up working out well, because it would allow people to not actually need to own the things they’re not sentimental about.

I love living light and spending time all over the world, but it seems super inefficient for me to need to lug all my crap everywhere every time I move, when the same exact crap is available in every locale.

Typical example is a drill/toolkit, if I’m only going to use it occasionally, wouldn’t it be great if I could just borrow one one off for a day here or there? I don’t need to own it, I just want to use it. Multiply across all the sufficiently generic things I make use of in life, make it convenient and cheap enough I can depend on those things often, and you can live only truly owning the things you actually care about.

A drill is a great example. I bought one about 3 years ago, and I've only needed to use it about 4 times. The most recent time was a few days ago, but I wouldn't have been able to fix something without it. I don't regret buying it, and it doesn't take up much room, but it would be great if I could have just rented it each time.

It is no wonder this happens, because 'minimalism' today is just a memepack attenpting to address the dichotomy in working class people's heads between the amount of labor they are investing and the amount of rewards they can reap for it, by attempting to link it to Walden-style minimalism. But it's quite different IMO. Modern minimalism simply reflect the reality of not owning enough living space to store things (because they rent and rents are high) and not enough free time to use them (because they have to work too much).

There is a song by Mes Aieux that I feel explains very well the feelings of young people with regards to this:


(Video is Yellow Vests themed but it has English subtitles).

There's also a middle ground: put the stuff you don't need on a daily basis AND you expect to not miss if it disappeared into storage. You can even use a LRU scheme, where you have boxes labeled by year of last use.

I'd love to be a minimalist, but pretty much all of my hobbies include me collecting something or require a bunch of stuff.

Yes, I could go digital with some of my collecting hobbies (books, comics, movies), but we all know how DRM and digital services are nowadays.

My Criterion Collection Robocop DVD can't just magically disappear from my shelf one night because of some legal issues. Same with my books and comics, barring a large scale house fire, they're not going anywhere.

Don't organic layers in DVDs disintegrate in 15-20 years? I recall having issues reading some medias few years ago although there wasn't a single scratch and it was stored in dark place. So time might take care of that sooner or later.

These days, I can't even read DVD, no reader in the house.

That's the conventional wisdom, but I've got CD's burnt from the mid-Clinton administration that still work fine.

Make your own copies.

Minimalism doesn't only cover physical copies. Having a lot of files (movies, books, documents, academic research papers) creates its own digital clutter, which is much harder to organize effectively (esp. if you live a cross-platform computing life), and creates extreme amounts of overhead if you're inexperienced dealing with that amount of files.

I'd argue that it's easier by an order of magnitude or two to organize digital files than it is to organize physical artifacts.

From my experience that’s not the case. When metadata, categorization and file naming comes into play, it’s a mess.

Editing metadata of files last not an easy task. Also not all files come with correct or meaningful metadata. You also want to strip some of useless metadata to clean your search results.

Another problem is size. When the data you have is bigger than a disk, separation problems come into play.

Last but not the least, having a lot of old files with no discernible organization or metadata compounds the problem, since you will want to organize them at some point.

Funny, I'm right now dealing with 10 years of photos I've put off organizing. It can be a chore.

However, disk sizes haven't really been a problem for about 5 years. I still am struggling to fill the few TB disk I bought back then.

If the photos are straight from a digital camera, even 10 year old photos have enough metadata to be ordered with exiftool or digikam or equivalent software. Music, books, documents, movies are much harder. Since they don't have enough metadata to sort them automatically.

High quality media takes a lot of space. A modern, mirrorless camera easily creates 1GB/minute movies in 1080p/50fps. A photo walk consisting of ~150 photos yield 5GB of images to sort and process. Ripping the Audio CD collection to FLAC also adds pretty fast.

Backing them up adds another dimension.

My storage needs doesn't warrant a storage array, but I need at least 10TB of storage now, incl. backups and future headroom.

Well at least you don't need to rent a self-storage unit for your digital files.

Well, that's something that I can't argue against. You're totally right. :D

"It’s hard being this way sometimes, because society doesn’t consider it the norm and provides no guidelines for how us “renaissance people” might build our lives in a way that suits us. We’re expected to pick one specialization and build a career around it."

That's a pity that the blogger didn't say how it was easier/different in old days.

I can relate to her polymath feeling. I am looking for advice career wise on hiw to deal with it.

Every industry needs prototype or one-off work, which can keep things interesting. Consulting is also an option if you can play the game, or freelancing if you have an inclination with business.

But finding a job that challenges you completely is unlikely to work, and can be a bit unhealthy because e.g. lack of boundaries. Consider working an okay job and using your free time as much as possible. And not every job has to be 40h per week. If you're living comfortably, sometimes less hours/pay is better.

At the end of the day (no pun intended), the benefit of free time is ultimate flexibility. Bored of a project? Do something else for two weeks. Hard to do that at work.

Dream jobs are super rare and usually require a lot more hard work than you think. Media is really bad at portraying this, and they only really portray the people who made it, not the ones who burned out.

Can you perform your most enjoyable "hobby" or "skill" as a job?

Extreme version of anything is bad! Why you would do anything extreme!? Isn't the word obvious enough? Aren't enough examples around us?

Wow how does someone hop countries like this without a job offer? I thought emigrating was harder than that?

It's easier to get a visa when you move from the richest country in the world to teach English in Asia. To get a more "skilled" job (teaching English basically requires any degree and a white face) usually requires a bit more process.

For citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ, etc., it's very easy to spend a few months in most countries. Most of the time you can just turn up and they'll give you a visa on arrival. You can also look for jobs while you are there. Typically you will need to leave the country to apply for a work permit, and then come back on a new visa.

If you want to stay longer than 6-12 months then you usually need a student, work, marriage, retirement, or investor visa.

Some countries have special visas for freelancers or startups. Thailand has a "Thailand Elite" visa where you can pay $15k to stay for 5 years, or $63k to stay for 20 years [1]. But Thailand and Vietnam are also quite relaxed, so you can usually stay for a few years on a series of tourist visas. (Especially multi-entry tourist visas if you apply in your home country.)

If you're a NZ citizen then you can live and work in Australia without a visa (and vice versa.)

[1] https://nomadcapitalist.com/2018/01/22/thai-elite-visa/

As an NZ citizen this is good news!

>They say you can tell a lot about a people by looking at their bedrooms. But if you had seen my room back in Honolulu, you wouldn’t have been able to tell much about me

How about "white middle class millennial nomad minimalist hipster"?


I can't help but notice that your comment falls into the sin you're accusing me off.

Instead of lecturing people on the internet, you might actually want to ponder than someone can "do something interesting with their life" _and_ have fun at living cliches at the same time.

Do you think that bile commentators like Joan Rivers, Ambrose Bierce, Bill Hicks, Hunter S. Thompson, Mark Twain, Bernard Shaw, and so on, haven't done anything interesting with their life, or is it only me? (Sure, I'm no Bierce or Rivers, but that wasn't my point. We do share the "derision" part which you seem to deem so crucial).

Plus, ever thought that I could pinpoint her that easily because I perhaps share some of her attributes? So my "derision" could also be self-deprecating? No, you only think about you!

I'm sorry but dropping some "bile" comment about someones life choices doesn't make you Mark Twain. I feel I was perfectly entitled have a pop at you. Perhaps you had some kind of deeper commentary in mind but nothing you said indicated anything other than the cliched distain for people born in a rough period in time, of a certain skin colour, who have decided to get off the consumerist treadmill.

And for what it's worth. I'm a home owning millennial with a car and a child but I love that people are willing to experiment outside of this norm.

>I'm sorry but dropping some "bile" comment about someones life choices doesn't make you Mark Twain

Sorry, but I've preempted that already.

I think the idea that cliches are inherently bad only holds if you consider originality and uniqueness in all aspects of your life essential. Rather ironically, that mindset is a cliche, one I would call misguided.

Cliches are inherently bad -- it's part of their definition "a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought".

Cliches are not just "things many people have/do in common". They are things "people have/do in common mindlessly and in bad taste".

Tons of people travel for example, but traveling is not a cliche in itself. There are however, several types of cliche tourists.

Herds of tourists who visit beautiful tropical islands where the nightlife cuisine, music, and dance bring a tear of admiration to the eyes … of the locals, 'cos the tourists are all packed in a McDonald's.

The pot calling the kettle black may be found in "you might actually try to do something interesting with your life?" — you've no information upon which to make such a scathing remark; OP's comment may be derisive, but it at least has the foundation of the content of the article. What's your excuse?

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