Minimalism feels fantastic

I've been following Leo Babauta's blog of Zen Habits for years now and I even persuaded Leo to be a regular contributor to our Productive Magazine. Recently Leo's focus turned more into frugal life and minimalism, especially with his fairly new blog "Minimalist" and his recent move to San Francisco. I felt inspired.
The thing is that me and my entire family are moving and we decided to take advantage of that fact and re-asses all the possessions we have and make sure to get rid of the unnecessary stuff. We didn't want to pack too much stuff and finally decided to get rid of most of the things we never used anyway but kept for whatever reason.

Here's what we've learned from the experience so far:

1. Tha pereto rule of 80/20 is present in our lifes big time

The rule goes that you use 20 percent of your stuff, 80 percent of the time. This works with clothes, electronic gear (and I'm a geek!), shoes,... you name it. That's why in the process of getting rid of stuff I managed to keep up to 30-40% of it. The rest had to go. It was painful but I needed to face it.

2. You don't need to go very minimalistic, but "reasonably minimalistic" the first time

Even Leo, who sold all of his family belonging before moving to SF, admits we can't be minimalistic all of the time and in all of the cases. We need to be reasonable. In my case, where I used to really gather stuff, taking the first step towards minimalism wasn't easy, but I'm happy with my first results.

3. You need to be "brutal" and persistent

When going minimalistic there is no room for second thoughts. Stuff has to go. This additional spare USB cable needs to go. This old mobile phone that you'll never use again needs to find new owner or its way to the trash bin. You've made a decision to get rid of stuff you're not using, so get rid of it!

4. You learn a new habit, and a good one at that!

The more stuff you throw away, the better you'll start to feel. Moreover, the better you'll be at assessing what to keep and what to remove. You'll learn to decide faster. It's a new habit and I'm loving it so far. I've basically gotten rid of 70% of my home office equipment which was just collecting dust and not working for me anymore. The fact is - even if the stuff is good but you're not using it, it must go.

5. You make other people happy

I gave my old TabletPC laptop to my assistant (it's a very good laptop, but I'm not using it anymore simply!), I gave my old printer to my parents... my Nokia Communicator mobile phone to my brother, my camera to a friend... and the list goes on and on. I didn't have time for an eBay garage sale, but I'd have done it if I wanted.

It's even better with clothes - I had lots of clothes which I hardly wore but it was all in a very good shape - I gave it all away (6 huge boxes of clothes - me and my wife's stuff combined) to the homeless shelter in our town - they were thrilled to receive it. I also gave them all of my unused backpacks and bags - also in a close-to-mint shape.

It gets even better with baby clothes - my wife was keeping the best clothes after our small daughter for our next child that we're hoping to have in the future but we thought it didn't make sense to keep it now that we're moving. We decided we'll buy new clothes when the baby arrives and we'll just give these beautiful dresses to the local baby orphanage. Again, they were thrilled to receive several huge boxes of baby clothes and toys.

We felt great. We did a good deed and got "lighter" in the process.

Overall going minimalistic (or close to that) feels fantastic

You feel lighter. There's not that much stuff in the house and you can focus better on getting things done and not managing or looking at your stuff. Did I mention you feel lighter? And it seems we don't have that much stuff we're moving to the new place after all. It looks really promising. We're nowhere near Leo's attitude of selling everything, but we did cut 60-70% of the stuff we had which I think is a great achievement anyway.

We feel better, we made good deeds to others and to ourselves. We learned a new habit and as a direct result, when we packed today for a week's long trip we managed to pack everything in cabin luggage only. And there's space!

Take a look around in your house. Maybe it's time to go a little more minimalistic as well?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2010 (life,productivity)

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william malo
Aug 2, 2010 03:08
its nice to see people that think the same way as i do =)
Chris Stroud
Aug 2, 2010 17:21
I to am loving my transition into having a more minimalist mentality. With out all the extra clutter I have found I am able to concentrate on one single task for longer periods of time.
Michael Sliwinski
Aug 2, 2010 17:33
We're taught to be consumers and consume a lot. Now it's a good thing to do the opposite and go minimalistic. For me it was a refreshing change and I'm hoping to maintain this attitude for a longer period of time. I wish you the same guys!

Thanks for the comments, Chris and William, all the best at keeping it minimalistic.

Hugo Estrada
Aug 2, 2010 17:49
I have been trying to do that too. It makes life a lot better. Focusing on those things that we are really using means that we don't have to manage those that we are not.
Aug 8, 2010 11:02
We kept our baby clothes for the next baby but are now able to do a lovely clean sweep as they are outgrown.

We also got so many lovely gifts and hand-me-downs that we keep the karma-go-round by handing them off instead of selling them. There's always somebody who needs them!

I am working on getting DH to give away some of his treasure trove of electronic gear :-)

Michael Sliwinski
Aug 9, 2010 10:15
Karma is important, but keeping too much stuff is not sustainable. Yes, it feels liberating to own half of your stuff and if you can go even more, that's great.

Jess, give the clothes to other babies who will need them and be grateful for them. I decided to either throw stuff away or give it to someone. We made lots of people happy by doing so and selling them on eBay would be too much hassle for too little money, but certainly may work for some.

Hugo, Jess, thanks for your great comments! :-)

Aug 9, 2010 14:06
I think that the point of minimalism is to only keep things that we will use, rather than ridding ourselves of items just to clear out the house. Buying new clothes for each child is not the best use of resources. Besides, are you really a minimalist if you are out shopping for new things?
Michael Sliwinski
Aug 9, 2010 16:06
The first step is to get rid of things and later to try not to buy anymore. First step is hard, second is even harder. I know a guy who decided to implement a rule:

"If he buys a thing, two of the things he already owns must go."

This makes him re-think twice every purchase decision. I'll try to implement such a rule myself. Let's see where it'll get me :-)

Jim Abercromby
Aug 12, 2010 06:19
one word freecycle. Awesome.
Michael Sliwinski
Aug 12, 2010 16:56
Exactly. There is no freecycle network here in my city as far as I know, but I gave away my clothes to homeless shelter, my daughter clothes to orphanage and the rest anywhere I could. Made lots of people happy in the process and I now have less stuff... and they can enjoy my stuff. Thanks for your comment Jim!
Aug 22, 2010 11:25
Great summary,

all the best of Leo Babauta you finding here! I had been saved much time, when I first had come to you before reading all stuff of him.

Thank you for summarizing for the next ones! ;-)

Michael Sliwinski
Sep 9, 2010 23:34
In the spirit of minimalism I built my new home office and I love it. Simple, clean, neat. Helps focus better and hopefully will let me get more done.

Mac_BetH, I still encourage you to read Leo's writing - thanks for your comment! :-)

May 31, 2011 11:17
I recently moved across the country for work, taking only a rucksack and one hand-held bag of possessions, thinking I would return for more of my stuff at a later date. That was 6 months ago, and I haven't been back to fetch the stuff I left behind yet -- it feels much better not to be surrounded by clutter. Thanks for the post, totally agree :-)
Michael Sliwinski
May 31, 2011 14:46
I'm actually getting ready for Leo Babauta's 100 things challenge - I'll try to first lower the amount of my possessions to 500 and go from there... I feel I'm psychically ready for it now.

Tom, you're totally right, we don't need so much stuff - so glad you discovered that! Now I'm hoping with a good Excel sheet I'll check what I have and will be able to narrow it to 500 things, then 200 and then 100...