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HOW TO STOP CONSUMING AND START LIVING
THE ART OF BEING
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Imagine a world where your life isn’t dominated by the things you carry. The freedom that comes from a closet that contains a handful of stylish clothes. One nice pair of shoes. You have the freedom of an uncluttered schedule. So you can pursue your dreams. Imagine if you could work from anywhere, and move whenever you pleased. Imagine if you didn’t have to do housework every single weekend. You would never forget where your glasses are, because you know where everything is instictively. This world exists, you just have to go find it. I firmly believe that being minimalist is the answer to many of your questions. I know this because it is the life I live every day. This e-book is my minimalist story. I hope that it helps you find the answers.
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 2
HOW THIS ALL
In July 2009, I quit my job and moved across the country to Portland. I had everything I owned on my back and $3000 in my bank account. I had no plan, no job lined up. It was the middle of the Great Recession. Everyone told me that I shouldn’t do it, that it’d be impossible. I’d fail and end up bankrupt, hanging out under the Interstate with Portland’s large, hippy homeless community. But I didn’t fail, I thrived. This is the story of my minimalist success. It wasn’t easy, but it was possible. Since then, I’ve found that I can live wherever I want. I’ve been to Seattle, Chicago, and back to Brooklyn. I’m planning to head out to Berkeley in May. This e-book is about how I live this life. The secret is that being minimalist opens a lot of doors automatically. You just have to free up the mind-space from sorting your stamp collection and hauling around the boxes full of books you’ve already read. When you do, you start to realize that every person on this planet can be much freer than they are, they just have to let themselves take the journey. There were only three primary choices I made to leave my job. 1, I had to have less than 100 things. 2, I had to give up consumerism and cook all of my own food. 3, I had to learn to work on the Internet. The first two are covered comprehensively in this e-book. The 3rd is another story completely, and perhaps my next e-book will be on the topic. This e-book is a chronicle of my minimalist philosophy for success. Within, I go over in great detail my minimalist philosophy towards life. I hope you’ll give it a read.
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Everett Bogue is the blogger behind Far Beyond The Stars, where he writes about being minimalist and living a creative life. He was the photo editor of New York Magazine’s blogs from 20062009. He has lived in Brooklyn, NY; Portland, OR, and Chicago, IL over the last four months. He’s he’s holed up for the winter in Brooklyn with his cute girlfriend and her special cat, Lola. He’ll be in SF Bay in May. He has less than 75 things.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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There are many reasons, and not everyone follows the same path or ends up with the same outcome. If you’re reading this, there’s probably a good chance you’ve answered some of these questions for yourself already. Here are a few reasons that you might decide to become a minimalist. • You’re unhappy with your job. • You want to travel. • You’re stressed and can’t find time. • You want to follow your passion. • You’ve bought everything you ever needed, but you’re still not happy. There are of course more reasons, these are just some of the most common ones. I became a minimalist for a combination of these reasons. Being minimalist helped me leave my unsatisfying job. It helped me move across the country with very little money. It helped me lose 20 pounds. I’m calmer now, and more in control of my destiny.
WHY BECOME A
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Being minimalist is having the flexibility to do what you want, when you wish to do it. Think about it. If you wanted to, could you do these things: • Could you fly to Peru next Friday? • Could you start your own company? • Could you relocate to Vancouver next week? • Could you cope if you lost your job? There are people who are free to do these things. When these people want to make change, they do... You can be one of them by becoming minimalist. I don’t believe you should just be minimalist for the sake of being minimalist. The philosophy has to have another reason, and it’s important to write that down. Think of something impossible, an objective that you’ve always wanted to achieve, but that everyone told you was impractical. Make that your goal for next year. Write that goal down. When I quit my job and flew to Portland, OR, it was easy because I could carry all of my stuff. I lived a sustainable life, so surviving on $3,000 for three months wasn’t difficult. Many people are trapped in their own lives by their stuff. But the reality is, we don’t need most of it anymore. Despite what they might tell you on television news, we live in an age of abundance. You can have everything you ever wanted, it’s down at the corner store. It’s important to recognize that you can have everything that you want, but if you limit yourself to the essentials you will open a world of possibilities for yourself. You can live anywhere, you can work anywhere. It doesn’t matter who you are, the possibilities are open if you get rid of the physical, mental, and emotional stuff. You can be free. You can do the impossible.
WHAT IS YOUR MINIMALIST
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BEING MINIMALIST IS
There are a number of reasons that being minimalist is an advantageous lifestyle to adopt and we’ll go over many of those in the coming pages. For the moment I’d like to explain the three pillars of being minimalist. These are the three primary reasons that I adopted a minimalist lifestyle. They all have far reaching implications in your life, as well as to the planet itself. Sustainability. We all know the world is dying, Al Gore made that clear enough. We all hope for a legislative change from our governments to cap carbon emissions, but it’s just not coming. If we don’t do something, our children will inherit a dangerous world without ice caps. I’m not sure what the world will look like in 50 to 100 years, but I do know it’s not going to look like the one we have now. It’s going to be much warmer and it will be much harder to grow food or go to the beach. We can sit back on our couches and do nothing or we can choose to adopt a lifestyle which is sustainable. Being minimalist is one way you can do it. I’m not claiming it’s the only way, and I know this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but by adopting it, you will fundamentally change the impact you have on this earth. Balance.
Many people are frantically running around the streets of America trying to get things done. These people are Tweeting and phoning, they’re stressed out and consuming. They’re fat and they’re sad, and they don’t know what the problem is. Balance is an element that we’ve lost in the modern age. I believe one of the primary keys to a happy human being is living a balanced lifestyle. This is a lifestyle without sacrifices, without compromises. It’s a life where you aren’t forced, obligated, or otherwise enticed to work 70 hours a week. Being minimalist is a way to achieve balance in your life. By limiting yourself in life to what is absolutely essential to your existence, you’ll have more time for yourself. You’ll have more time to exercise and cook beautiful dinners again. You’ll be able to focus on career goals that matter and not simply banging out the next widget.
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Freedom. Many people in this world are being told to sit down, shut up, and pay their mortgages. This is no way to live. What happened to freedom for all? You might be asking this question. Well, the answer is simple. You’ve been convinced you need all of these things in your life, but you don’t. It’s a big conspiracy to keep the factories churning. That flat screen TV you bought? There’s a 3D version coming out that’s better. You have a choice, you can rush out and buy a 3D flat screen, or you can opt out. Destroy your television, have more time. Maybe you don’t buy flat screen TVs, I know I don’t. Transpose this theory to any consumption that you regularly do. I almost guarantee that you’re spending outrageous amounts of money on something in your life that you don’t need. I used to spend tons of money on two things, alcohol and clothes. I was a New Yorker, I had to act the part. I’d go out to bars and do the sweet talk with B-list celebrity journalists and friends who were trying to get laid. At times in my life I would spend three or four nights a week out on the town, racking up $80 bar bills. Finally, I said enough. I want freedom. Maybe you do, too? So stop spending. Take a serious look at your finances and see what you can cut. Start setting goals. The best way to stop spending is to realize that you want to do something with your life. I wanted to work for myself and live anywhere I wanted. So I set goals. I would stop spending, and start thinking about my plans. And then I jumped. I just quit one day, with $3000 in the bank. I said enough with this system, I want out. I want to live a free life and I want to work for myself. And you know what, it wasn’t that hard. I flew halfway across the country, embraced being minimalist fully, and started living. Being minimalist is about the decision to stop spending and start living a free life. Will you join me?
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WHY YOU SHOULD READ
In my first couple of weeks in Portland, I did a lot of reading. I didn’t have much of a schedule, so I felt the best use of my brain was to read as many books as possible. One of the books I read during this time was Leo Babauta’s A Simple Guide to A Minimalist Life. While this e-book owes a great debt to Leo’s many years of minimalist practice, I hope these two books can complement each other. Leo’s book is simply brilliant. In it he lays down the terms of becoming a minimalist in his signature, uncomplicated prose. He covers the fundamentals of living without tons of crap in your life in a very basic way. Because of this reason, I chose to leave out many of the more basic decisions that you need to have more freedom in your life. If you haven’t read Leo’s book yet, and are very new to the idea of being minimalist, I hope that you’ll choose to read it now. A Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life is the fundamental text regarding minimalist philosophy. It’s only $9.95 and 50% of that goes to support my own writing. Thank you.
A SIMPLE GUIDE TO A
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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HOW I MADE THE DECISION TO
I’ve always had very few possessions, but being a minimalist isn’t just about what you carry with you. It’s your entire engagement with the world. I spent the last three years in New York living with very few possessions, but I admittedly did spend a lot of money. New York is like that, it sucks you in and spits you out without your wallet. There’s a moment when everything changes, when you can’t turn back. I think there was a tipping point, when I figured out just how rewarding this life would be. Living day to day, place to place, consuming the minimum, existing a little bit on the fringes. I enjoy watching the busy people running around, frantically trying to support their overextended lifestyles, smiling, and then going back home and writing a little. Trying to help spread a little more knowledge about where I’ve been, where you can go. I think the moment when I couldn’t go back came when I started meeting people who were living this way, at the minimum, traveling here and there, making their living doing new and exciting things. I saw how they could get
by with little, and I started to realize that I didn’t need to be making as much money (and spending as much money) as I was in New York. I hope by writing this I can help a few more people achieve this state of being. I gradually began to stop consuming and started living. Minimalism is like the secret room that no one wants you to know about, and how peaceful it is. We’re all bombarded by advertising every day, claiming that we need one more thing, that we’ll be happier if we just buy more. It’s not hard to understand how we’re conditioned to want to spend, but it’s hard reversing the work of (rough estimation) hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate spending to make us want just one more thing. The rewards are infinite though. Freedom can’t be bought, it can only be found. It’s sitting right here, you’ve just got to slowly work your way backwards from the grand buildup of possessions and spending and join us on the minimalist path.
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Leo Babauta is the blogger behind Zen Habits and Mnmlist. He’s the author of The Power of Less and A Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life. Tammy Strobel is the blogger behind Rowdy Kittens. She’s self-employed and lives a simple car-free life in Portland, OR. She’s the author of Simply Car-free: How to Pedel Towards Financial Freedom and a Healthier Life. Colin Wright is the blogger behind Exile Lifestyle and runs a sustainable design company. He has less than 70 things and moves to a new country every 4 months. David Damron is the blogger behind The Minimalist Path and Life Excursion. He’s the author of two e-books, Project M-31: Simplify Your Life in 31 Days and 7 Steps to a Minimalist Life. Adam Baker is the blogger behind Man Vs. Debt. He moved from Indiana all the way to Thailand, via New Zealand, with his wife and daughter, and got rid of all his crap while paying off his debt. Chris Baskind is an eco-writer and blogger behind More Minimal. He bikes all over Pensacola, FL. Karol Gajda is a perpetual traveler and blogger behind Ridiculously Extraordinary. He lives out of a single bag while working from anywhere. Jules Clancy is a minimalist chef, and the blogger behind Stone Soup: Minimalist Home Cooking. Joshua Becker is the blogger behind Becoming Minimalist. He’s the author of Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.
I’m not the only minimalist in the world. There’s a growing community of amazing individuals who subscribe to the idea of living with less.
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We spend so much of our lives buying stuff. Why do we need to? What is this really accomplishing? By relinquishing consumerism, we’ll discover peace, happiness, and freedom.
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People can’t relate to a group larger than 150 individuals. Beyond that point, you start to see heads shaking and “Oh! I remember your face, but your name escapes me.” This is called Dunbar’s law. I believe this number also applies to stuff. Once you get past 150 things, you start to lose your glasses. You don’t remember what is in that box anymore, unless it’s labeled and you look at it. I put this theory into practice in July of last year. I simply gave away everything I owned, until I had 100 things. I noticed the changes immediately. I not only knew where everything was (my second pair of red underwear, dirty; underneath my grey vneck, also dirty), I also noticed I didn’t have to worry anymore. Because I could associate properly with all of my objects, I wasn’t constantly expending effort cleaning them, or trying not to lose them. I also could fit everything into a backpack, changing my definition of home. My home was anywhere me and my stuff at any given time. When I flew to Portland in August ‘09, home was with me. When I got on the train to Chicago, home was with me. 100 things makes a lot of sense when you think about the evolution of the human race. Up until 100 years ago, most of us couldn’t afford more than 100 things, so we never developed the mental capacity to handle owning that many objects. We developed the need to have massive houses full of stuff when factories began to overproduce — they needed us to buy more, so we did. Imagine how many objects a hunter/gatherer in the bush has to deal with? A lot less. This leaves valuable brain power for getting the work done. When you have 100 things, you no longer spend every weekend doing housework. Instead, you can spend that time educating yourself, launching new business strategies, reading a good book, or lying in the grass at the park. The possibilities are limitless. You only have to stop buying and give most of it away.
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IF YOU DON’T USE IT,
I have a solid one-month rule for everything I own. In addition to the 100-things rule, this means that I have to use everything I own at least once a month. If it doesn’t get used at least once a month, it goes in an ‘outbox’. Depending on how much stuff I have at any given time, the outbox is either a real box or a mental list that I have. When I have time, I take a look at the box and I ask myself some serious questions: • Will I use this next month? • What purpose does it serve in my life? • Do I need this professionally? • Does anyone I know need this more than me? • Can I get another one of these in three years if I discover I need one again? • Do I use this seasonally? • After 30 seconds of deliberation. They either stay or they go. They’re either useful or they are not.
THE ONE-MONTH RULE
I then give the items to someone who would find them useful, I donate them to an organization who can use the items. If all else fails, I recycle or discard the item. This is a little extreme for some people, but I think it’s worth contemplating. What would pass this test if you were to ask this of every object you own? I know some people who have a piano in their living room that they haven’t used in 10 years. In fact, they never learned how to play the piano. How much freer would their lives have been if they had decided they didn’t need it? I know some people who have three non-functional cars in their backyards. I know some people who keep all of their college textbooks, even though they are never going to pick them up again.
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Here’s one sure-fire way to stop spending money.
Put every single purchase that you make on a 30-day waiting list. Put anything that costs more than $20 on this list. You can do this for everything but food, because you’ll be dead in 30 days if you do. Most people buy things because they think they need it now, when usually the need has more to do with the environment that they’re in. They’ve succumbed to what the advertisers want them to buy in that moment. By adopting a 30-day waiting list, you’ll realize what you actually need (which isn’t much). You’ll defeat the advertisers once and for all.
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THE LIFECYCLE OF
1, Somewhere, probably in the United States, someone has an idea; they’ll make a Useless Object and it’ll make them rich! 2, They sketch it out, they mull over it. They send the idea to their friends. Hey, that’s a good idea! I bet a bunch people would buy that and you’d make money! Many people have too much stuff. We’re faced with endless choices in modern society and the most common choice is ‘yes, let’s have another.’ Another plastic knickknack, another candle holder, another footrest, another little, cute bowl to put your keys in. Take a break from this e-book for a second and look around whatever room in your house you’re in. What do you see that you haven’t used in a month? In six months? In a year? If you’re in a coffee shop, take a look inside your bag. What have you been carrying around for a month that you haven’t used? I’ve known people who bring back a bag of little useless objects every day when they come home. “Why did you buy these things?” I asked them. “For someday,” they replied. What use is someday if you’ve forgotten you even purchased the thing? Think about the life cycle of your average, inexpensive, mostly useless object for a second. 3, They get a few made at a factory in the U.S. They seem to look good! They work perfectly at doing the useless thing that they do. Good! 4, They send their sample over to a factory in China, or another Asian country, and the factory sends a note back. Yes, we’ll make that for ten cents per Useless Object! They make five million of them. 5, Stores in America spend endless amounts of money and resources bringing these Useless Objects into American stores, where American consumers spend their hard-earned cash buying these Useless Objects because they think they will make them happy. Either that or an American consumer buys it for their friend because they think that it’ll make them happy. That’s the basic life cycle of the thing you haven’t used in a month’s life. Insert the real name of your object where I put ‘Useless Object.’ The only solution to this is to stop buying. Stop indulging that little voice in the back of your head saying to you that one more object will make you happy. It won’t. You’ll be happy for fifteen minutes and then you’ll go back to being sad.
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REFLECT ON THE TRUE
People feel that just because they spent money on an object, they have to keep carrying it with them. The problem is that over time the cost of an item becomes greater. The longer you live with an item, the longer you have to provide for it. If you have 1,000 items, you need a big house. If you have 10,000 items, you need an even bigger house, and probably some storage, too. What if you only needed a house with one room, how much less would you spend on your living situation? Considering the true cost of every item in your life can make you realize just how much you’re responsible for and just how much you are holding back your life by not taking this opportunity to slim down your belongings. Imagine if you had a life where you could put everything you own on your back and just leave. You would have many more options than you do now. You could live anywhere. You could work from anywhere. The possibilities are infinite, why not try it? Or at least think about it.
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There are infinite options for the modern consumer. As a minimalist, how do you decide who to support? We’ve all been to a Walmart or a Target, a dollar store, or visited Amazon.com. We can buy whatever we want, and much of what I write about is how to avoid buying. But the truth is that sometimes we need to buy things. We need clothes, we need to live somewhere, we need to eat. I’ve contemplated this topic endlessly, as it has many complexities, many of which I will have to leave to you to debate with yourself. There will be exceptions. In some cases you may not have a choice as to what to buy (toilet paper). But with a little consideration, I believe a minimalist can stick with their values and support the right people when it is necessary to consume. The secret to minimalist consumption is simple; support the artists. Now, I’m not speaking about artists as painters or sculptors. There are artists who do these things and for those of us who buy paintings, we would like them to come from an artist. You can also get a painting from a non-artist—it’s said that 60% of the world’s paintings come from a single village in China. These people aren’t artists, they are factory workers. I’d like to argue that there are artists all around us creating many fine things. An artist is someone who is creating something that they are passionate about. You vote with every dollar you spend. Do you vote mega-corporation or independant artist?
WHO DO YOU
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I buy my produce at an organic market instead of a generic grocery store chain, because I know they care about their product. Even if the costs are higher. I purchased my computer from Apple because I know they’ve designed a product that works best for what I do. Even though it costs more. I buy from indie writers like Leo Babauta because I know he is passionate about his writing and he actually knows what he is talking about. Do you think Coca-Cola or Ikea has artists working for them? Probably. But most of their stuff is cheaply made in another country by machine. That bookcase is $24, but does it have a soul behind it? No. I realize this makes the decision to purchase anything infinitely harder, but that’s the decision we need to make if we’re going to support what really matters. Artists give something that matters. That art might be a muffin that the lady at the coffee shop woke up early that morning to bake. That art might be the blog post that you read this morning that you know the writer put some thought into—so that he was creating art that made a difference. You probably think finding art is hard, but it’s becoming so much easier. Have you been to Etsy.com? Next time you buy a new coffee cup, consider buying one that was handmade. Consider passing on Bed, Bath and Beyond and getting a hand-knit blanket from the woman with the shop down the street. Next time you think about buying another bottle of Yellowtail wine, consider instead supporting a small wine seller from the Columbia or Willamette Valleys.
WHAT WE CAN
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Next time you consider buying stock imagery from a micro agency, consider instead supporting an artist on Flickr. Next time you need to buy a dress, don’t go to Forever 21. Have Brooklyn fashion designer Anjia Jalac hand-make one for you. Next time you buy a bike, don’t get one from Schwinn. Consider having one made for you by Fast Boy Cycles. Next time you buy coffee, skip Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts and order beans from Intelligencia or Stumptown roasteries. The options are available. But if you vote with the few dollars you minimalists spend this year, I promise they’ll become more common. Imagine how amazing it would be to tell the story behind everything you owned if it was created by an artist. We’re just coming off of two centuries of a factory dominated society, it’s only natural that the options might be harder to find. The point is that it doesn’t have to be that way forever. You can support an artist with every purchase you make, you just have to make the choice to do it. We can support each other by buying from each other and not from a corporate machine. The tools exist to make this happen, we just have to learn to use them. By purchasing this e-book, you’re supporting an independant artist. Thank you. The time to support artists is now.
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THE AGE OF ABUNDANCE
Despite recession, the national deficit, and everything else you can imagine, we still have access to a lot. We have running water. In most places you can buy bulk quantities of everything that you need at the corner Costco. And yet we’re still complaining. “One throw rug isn’t enough! I want seventeen for $3.99!” Therein lies the problem. We can have everything, so people buy everything. They get addicted to another $2.99 or $159.99 gadget every month. It doesn’t matter which income demographic you’re in. There is a scalable economy to match your desire to buy more crap. In Portland, there’s a Salvation Army outlet store referred to by the local thrifters called “the bins.” You can buy anything you want for $1.49 a pound. They’ll even weigh your cart. I went twice, while I was in Portland, and every time there were hordes of low-income people piling their carts high with junk. A lot of the stuff at the bins is garbage. These people have access to it, so rather than buy a nice towel at Target for $10, they’re buying seventeen disgusting third hand towels for $20. It’s not logical, but they still do it. I bought a scarf that I found, it was nice and only ended up costing 49 cents. This same situation also applies to 5th Avenue in Manhattan. For a very short time, I worked at the Apple Store on 59th Street. Rich old ladies would walk in from the Upper East Side and purchase twelve MacBook Pros. Just because they had the money, not because they needed all of those computers. Absurd, but true. We need to realize that we have access to everything instantaneously. If we need something, we can go out and get it. We don’t need seventeen third-hand towels in our closet. We don’t need twelve MacBook Pros, just in case we happen to need them. I know you’re not doing absurd things like this, but think about it on a smaller scale. Buy things you need for now, for the important projects that you’re working on. Don’t buy things for someday just because you happen to have just received a paycheck. It doesn’t matter whether your paycheck was $120,000 or $350. The same over-consumption binge can apply, if you let it.
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WHAT IF YOU TRAVELED WITH
Can you imagine what it would be like to simply fly from New York to Chicago with just a satchel bag? I think it’s important to regularly reflect about which of the things you carry with you are essential. Which possessions do you absolutely need? Think about how easy it would be to move if you had only the essentials. How easy it would be to go on vacation. How easy it would be to change your job, because you wouldn’t need to pay for a huge house or rent a large apartment anymore. I’m living this life, and I think you can too. What would you bring with you, if you had to leave now? Say, in a hypothetical situation, you wanted or needed to leave your house at this exact moment. What would you bring with you? You have to go right now! There’s no time to sit around and mull over the decision. Here’s my list: 5 shirts, 5 pairs of underwear, 5 pairs of socks, 1 pair of jeans. Suitable jacket for overnight weather at my destination. iPhone, iPhone charger. Cash, credit cards, and ID. If it was an emergency; sleeping bag, tent, any food available in my area, water bottle. Less urgent situations; I’d bring my laptop. Obviously this is a rather small list, but I actually don’t own many more things than this. Think about what you would bring with you if you had to leave now. Make a list. Maybe even pack a bag and see how heavy it would be. Consider if you had to walk 50 to 100 miles with that bag. Does it still seem doable? This is a good mental list to have ready to go, you never know... You also never know when you might want to set off on an adventure, and these are always more fun when you’re not dragging two rolling suitcases and a backpack with you. What would you bring with you? Think about it.
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From an early age you’ve been indoctrinated into a society that values things above people. We are what we own, or so you’ve been told. They all told you that you wanted the two-car garage. They told you to fill one side with stuff you couldn’t fit inside your house. Indeed, one-quarter of all Americans have a twocar garage in this condition. The stuff just sits there. You walk by it and wish that it would disappear. Secretly you wish someone would burn your two-car garage down, so you won’t have to make the decision to get rid of that clutter. We find so many ways to keep us from reaching our potential. Stuff is just one of those ways. We don’t want to deal with the harsh reality of our lives, the fact that we haven’t really done anything important. So we refocus all of our attention on the endless burden of re-sorting our stamp collection. A friend of mine, the Brooklyn hip-hop artist D.O.V. of Verbal Graffiti, repeatedly loses his life work every couple of years. In 2003, his house burned down. In 2009, his laptop was stolen from his living room without a trace, containing years of un-backed-up recordings. The loss is always devastating to him. He tells himself that this is the end of his career and he’ll never make another beat again. But this wasn’t the case, there were no devastating repercussions. Six months after the loss of his computer he had a new album on the streets. He has another one half finished already. The beats weren’t on his computer, they were in him. By clearing away all the years of junk on his computer—all of the beats that never had any potential, but he continued to mess with—he was able to free himself to create a new album. A clean slate can be a powerful drive to create. What if you were able to harness this ability for a lifetime?
YOU’RE HINDERING YOUR
(WITH YOUR STUFF)
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FORGO THE BIGGEST
(THE MINIMALIST SECRET)
Many people make two very big purchases in their lives that are incredibly expensive, and completely unnecessary, if you position yourself correctly in the world. 1, a house. 2, a car. You might have one or the other, or both. In many places you need a car to get around. That’s understandable. But consider this; what if you lived in a place where a car isn’t necessary? Bikerfriendly cities are becoming easier to find. Brooklyn and Portland are both covered with bike lanes. A bike can cost around $150. A helmet is a little extra, but necessary. If you buy a bike, you’ll be healthier, live longer, and people will instantly think you’re cooler.
This is the minimalist secret. You probably already knew this, deep down in your heart somewhere, but society makes every effort to bang this one out of you. They tell you to sit down, shut up and buy these two things. Almost everyone in society makes this fatal choice. They spend the rest of their lives paying for making it. This choice infinitely restricts their freedom for either their immediate future, or for at least long enough that they can’t recover before they’re too old to have any hope.
Houses are another problem entirely. They’re very expensive and can tie an owner down for their entire life if not purchased properly—like if you don’t have enough money to afford one—which is most of us. The housing bust has proven that a house isn’t necessarily the best investment. I know many people who are trapped by their mortgages in terrible areas where they need a car to get around. This is a very expensive way to live. The alternative is a small apartment. Most cities have these for a fraction of the price of a home. If you live in a nice apartment, you can move whenever you wish, your costs are minimal, and your landlord will fix most of problems for you. Never buy a McMansion or a Hummer.
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The path to a minimalist life is not an easy one. I’ve found that my own life, my journey through minimalist living has a cyclical pattern. Some years I have more stuff, others I’ve purged everything. Not everyone needs to take being minimalist to the extreme that I am right now. You’ll find that some areas of your life really could use some simplification, while others may need to just be left alone. Paring down my life to just the basic essentials for my own survival didn’t happen overnight though, it took a concerted effort to keep from gathering more stuff. I also have had to let some things go. Being minimalist has its rewards. 1, Less organizing. If you have no things, you don’t have to move them around. 2, Less expensive. When I wanted to move to Portland, all I did was hop on a plane. 3, I can live a more organic life. I can spend each day doing exactly what I want, without having to feed the junk that surrounds me. 4, I need less space. I can basically live anywhere. My room right now costs mostly nothing and it doubles as a yoga studio because I have nothing in it except a newly acquired bed. But for those readers who are investigating the possibility of becoming more minimal, how can you go about making these changes?
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1, Clear one surface. Whether it’s your kitchen counter-top, your sofa, or your living-room floor. Pick one surface and clear it! Take every miscellaneous item off that surface and find it a home—a home is a place where an object is supposed to be, like a drawer, or a closet. The best place for homes is out of sight. Ask yourself, when you pick up each object individually, “Do I need this?” If the answer is yes, put it away somewhere. If the answer is no, find out a way to get that object out of your life. Recycle it, donate it, gift it, throw it out. 2, Eliminate one obligation. Take a look at your schedule, is there anything that you absolutely hate doing but you continue to do? This can be anything for many different people. Maybe you’re watching a television show that you really don’t like anymore. This show is eating an hour of your life right there, for nothing. Cut it out of your life. Or maybe you’re helping your friends with all of their computer problems. Make it known that you don’t enjoy installing printer drivers and helping people remove their viruses anymore. By eliminating obligations, you free up your time to accomplish things that are actually important to you. I use my free time these days to study yoga and read books on yoga. 3, Walk slower. Buddhists call this practice walking meditation. I’ve become a huge fan of walking everywhere slower. Everyone in modern society is rushing somewhere, but where are they rushing to? I’d love it if I had the answer. Rushing does the opposite of getting you to your destination faster. In fact, by rushing you make mistakes, you can hurt yourself, you’ll stress yourself out. All of these problems accumulate until you’re not a very effective person anymore. Slow down and you’ll notice that your productivity will improve.
WAYS TO BE MORE
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4, Remove five things from your life. Identify five objects that you don’t use, or don’t need, or are just over-complicating your life, and get rid of them! So many people keep things around ‘just in case’, and in most cases they never use them for anything. For myself I keep a one-month rule. If I don’t use an object at least once a month, I don’t need it at all. 5, Clear your email box. Inbox Zero is a powerful state to achieve. If you have tons of unread messages, they’ll weigh heavily on your mind. Take a moment and clear out that inbox. Here’s what I usually do: throw anything that you haven’t read that’s at least a week old. People will email again if it’s important. Now, delete anything that is junk, or useless, like newsletters. Unsubscribe from as many newsletters of these as possible. Everyone signs you up for their newsletter, but do you actually read any of them? If it’s not important it shouldn’t be coming to your email box. Next, deal with any important emails from this week, one at a time until they’re all taken care of. 6, Un-friend one person. People can be bothersome, and everyone has that one friend that they wish they never had to talk to again—whether this person is constantly asking for advice, or asking for favors, or just being annoying. Take a moment to block this person on every service that you have. Un-friend on Facebook, remove from Linkedin, block their g-chat name, send their emails to the trash, make a commitment not to answer if they call. Good, now you don’t have to deal with this person anymore. For some people this will be really hard, but you have to understand that your time is valuable, and there will always be people who want to take up most of yours. If you surround yourself with people you love, you’ll love being surrounded by people.
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7, Make one important decision. You’ve been putting it off, I know. There’s got to be one thing that you’ve yet to say yes or no to. Whether it’s dinner on Friday with your best friend, or finishing a project at work. Make the decision now to either do it or not. Call and cancel with your friend, or bang through that project. 8, Spend an hour in silence. Silence is important, it gives you time to reflect on your life, what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong. Important answers can come to you in the space between doing. Lock yourself in a room, step out on the front porch, or go sit in a coffee shop and stare out the window. Answers will come to you. The most important thing is to not do anything. 9, Get yourself off one online social network. People think they need to be a part of everything, but it’s important that you maintain your connection with the service that’s connecting you with people. If Facebook is eating up too much of your time, get off of it! If you haven’t checked your profile on Yelp in awhile, consider getting off that service. The less social networking you do on the Internet, the more time you’ll have to accomplish important things. 10, Do one thing that you really love. Being minimalist isn’t about doing nothing, it’s about finding time to do what’s important to you. By getting rid of all your clutter, you’ll find that you spend less time maintaining your existence and you’ll have more time to do what you really enjoy doing. So ask yourself now; what’s the most important thing to me? Now answer it. Then do it.
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I used to live in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in an old red school house with 10 artists. We had one of those free-standing fire pits made of metal. We burned a lot of scrap wood and a couch once. We’d sit around the fire pit and tell stories. This was our moment to check in, drink wine and whiskey, and see how everyone was doing. One of my roommates was moving out. She had two black garbage bags full of a diary she had printed years ago. This was material that pained her every time she read it. Every word self-absorbed, and yet meaningless to everyone but herself. Yet it all seemed so permanent to her. She had to carry this diary with her everywhere she went. She couldn’t let go. I said burn it. We took it out on the roof one snowy day last January; we threw a few boards on top of it and lit a match. It took thirty minutes to burn through all of the pages slowly. The ash mixed with the snow. The diary that seemed so permanent, was instead so fragile. Everything is fragile. Every decision you make is a matter of life and death of an outcome. The thing is, you can choose which destination you want to arrive at. Do you want to continue to haul 30 pounds of paper through your life—a painful diary recording a breakup you had years ago? I said no. You don’t want to carry that. You can certainly choose to, but that’s like a duckling choosing to have her wings amputated. You’ll never fly south for the winter. You’ll never be able to move on to the next relationship because you’re still hauling your old one along with you in two black garbage bags. Consider burning it all, you might just enjoy it.
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WHY YOU NEED TO
Sometimes you’re sitting in a job you hate, living in a place you hate, and you can’t figure out why you’re so impossibly miserable. In these moments, it’s time to just jump. Save up $1500 to $3000, and go hang-gliding. I know to some of you the thought of leaving everything behind is terrifying, you’ve worked so hard to get entrenched in your job. You spent so long making your apartment look just perfect. But you’re still unhappy. What you’re missing is the sense of adventure. What you’re giving into is an unjustified fear that won’t go away. You have to prove to yourself that that fear is unjustified. Because it really is. The world isn’t as hard as they make it seem on TV. One of the easiest ways you can waste your life is by spending it in mediocrity. Not moving, unchanging, settled down and waiting for something to happen. In these moments you have to jump. Don’t think about it, just leave it all behind. These moments are rare, but they are exceptional. Leave it all behind and see what comes next.
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Sometimes it isn’t enough to just get rid of one thing at a time. In this case you need to burn it all. You really do. When burning the contents of your closet will liberate you.
There’s just too much stuff and you will spend the next 15 years making sure it all gets dealt with.
I’m a big fan of simple little steps, I’ve said that before many times. But sometimes 15,000 simple little steps is going to keep you from ever finishing. There are moments when destroying your life’s work can be the best thing you ever did.
When dumping all of your friends and finding new ones is the best decision you ever could make. This is a last resort and not a decision to take lightly. But if you’re stuck so hard in a place where you can’t even breathe, this might be the only option. The last resort. It might take you 100 years to clear a path up this cliff and progress to the next level— or you can just jump and soar.
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The most successful people find ways to optimize their time. They don’t get distracted by the unimportant. This chapter will train you in the skills necessary to achieve minimalist success.
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BEING MINIMALIST IS ABOUT
Face it, there are too many people. Across the world there are highways jam-packed with commuters. Whenever I take the subway when I’m in New York, I’m frightened by the thousands of sad faces all rushing from one job to the next. Gas costs nearly $3 a gallon as I’m writing this and it’s not getting any cheaper. Global warming is another problem all together. Becoming minimalist is one solution to these problems. We’ve decided to opt out, to say enough. We’ve decided to become the model citizens of a sustainable generation. Some minimalists grow their own food, others refuse to own a car, others have less than 100 possessions. Many minimalists, including myself, have chosen to opt out of the factory system that has dominated our culture for the last 200 years. These people work for themselves, and the Internet makes it all possible. We need a new American Dream. In the middle of the last century, there was a huge movement for everyone to adopt this idea of the American family. The single-family home. The station wagon. The drive-in movie. The take-out burger. Dad went to work at the factory and Mom made little Joey a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The Great Recession has destroyed the last remnants of that dream. Society watched in horror as both parents began working 60 hours a week and Joey started smoking pot in the livingroom and playing Wii. This wasn’t the dream we asked for. With the fall of Detroit, many people are asking, what now? Our schools are still teaching our kids that the right thing to do is to sit down and shut up, their cushy factory job is coming. These jobs are not coming. For many of us, there are no jobs anymore, at least as they were defined by the last couple of generations. Over the last few years, I’ve watched as many of my friends have struggled with this question. Many are frustrated. They send hundreds of resumes to anonymous Career Builder and Craigslist listings and no one hears back. This leads to a lot of pain and more frustration. The first reaction, for many, is to sit back and wait for the government to fix this problem. This is one answer, but Obama has his hands full just trying to get us healthcare, juggle two wars, and bail out the banks. Some people want the government to make them stop eating junk food, but is that really their responsibility? No. We have to take matters into our own hands and change society from the ground up. Becoming minimalist is one way to accomplish this.
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WHY YOU HAVEN’T DONE
Tick tock tick tock. You’re getting older; I know I am. To create a legacy project. Something worth remembering.
The sense of self-preservation is in direct defiance of our true meaning; to do great work at some point in our lives.
The only problem is that you haven’t started yet. Instead you’re shopping, you’re making one more payment on your student loan. You would have moved, but you have the destinct impression that it’s just too late. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not too late. But you have to start somewhere, and the best way to start is to begin clearing away the distractions. You need to focus on the important or it’ll all be a waste.
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Americans work too much. Did you know that the average American worker spends 47.1 hours at the office per week? Some even work up to 70 hours. That’s insane, we’re killing ourselves. No wonder we never have time to cook breakfast and dinner, let alone exercise and spend time with our families. The Great Recession has exacerbated this problem because people are afraid they’ll be laid off if they don’t spend extra hours on the job. The problem with the delayed gratification of retirement.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
The worst part about this whole equation is that we’re expected to slave away our youth for a faroff goal of someday retiring to a nice beach somewhere when we hit our 70s. I’ve got some news; you probably won’t make it to 70 working 70 hours a week. Now, I’m not saying you should quit working. Everyone needs to work in order to make money to survive. But an outrageous amount of time at the office is a good sign that you are working in a fear-based environment. It’s time to start working less. The best time to start working less was five years ago, if you missed that opportunity the time to start is now. You’re afraid you’re not good enough, so you end up working long hours to prove to yourself and your employer that you’re being useful. This is the opposite of what your approach to work should be. You need to prove to yourself and your employer that you’re so useful that they can’t survive without you, and in order to do that, you and they need to value yourself enough to let you go home at a decent time of day. But the truth is, you are good enough. Your employer needs you to do your job because what you do is valuable. If what you do isn’t valuable, then you need to go work for a company that you’re passionate about.
TO THE MINIMALIST
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I’ve been self-employed since August, but before that I did a three-year stint at a magazine office in New York. While I was there, I developed a number of strategies to take control of my work schedule. I hope you’ll find these strategies useful and apply them to your own work life. These tips apply whether you’re working in an office or from your living room. While I might be working from anywhere these days, I wouldn’t be here without the solid work ethic I developed while I was working at the magazine. You are probably in more danger of overworking when you’re self-employed than when you’re working in an office, because all of the money you make hinges on your ability to bring in the cash. Be aware of your freelance work schedule, because if left unmonitored, the flexibility can be more dangerous than any day job. If you get yourself fired, it’s your fault, not mine. Any of the suggestions below can be abused. You have to approach the modification of your work schedule with a decisive, yet conscious attitude. The idea behind most of these suggestions is to do your job better, make yourself indispensable, and go home at a decent hour. Do not use these suggestions to be a slacker and not accomplish what you’re paid to do at your job— this approach can be a one-way ticket to a pink slip if you’re not conscious of how others are perceiving what you’re trying to achieve. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t do all of these suggestions at the same time. Be sure to retreat if your colleagues (and especially your boss) get defensive. Use these tips wisely and you’ll be working thirty hours a week in no time, use them poorly and you’ll be working 0 hours a week in no time. I am in no way responsible if you lose your job, if you blow your cover, or act inappropriately. The warning being said, I’ve put all of these techniques into play in both an office and working from home, and I’ve had huge success with all of them.
WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER WHETHER
YOU’RE SELF-EMPLOYED OR
AN OFFICE DRONE
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1, You can probably do your job in less time than you do. There is this prevailing idea that you need to do your job for 8 hours a day. The problem with this mentality is that you stretch your daily tasks until they fit into those 8 hours. I know some people who fill their down time idly surfing Myspace or blogs. That might be wasted time and you could be going home earlier. Make a list of all of the tasks you have to do on a regular day. Now estimate how long it takes you to do those tasks. Cut each of these estimates by 25% and try to make everything fit. Now you’re only working 6 hours a day! Hurray! 2, Set a go-home time. Projects will always land at your desk at 4:59pm. This is an inevitability, because colleagues will spend a day working on a problem and then present it to you right before they go home for the night. By setting a go-home time people will start to understand that they can’t keep you longer, so they’ll give you stuff earlier that they need done. You have to make the decision that work can wait until tomorrow. 3, Make yourself indispensable. One of the best ways to work less is to make yourself so important to your workplace that they just can’t do anything without you. You do this by being remarkable, by being awesome, by being so effective and intelligent at your job that no one can do anything close to the level of work that you achieve. Does this sound difficult? It’s really much easier than you think. The secret is focusing on what is important to succeeding at your job. 4, Become a leader. No one questions when the boss takes a two-hour lunch break or goes home at 5pm. This is because they’re a leader, and you need to become one too if you’re going to escape workplace monotony. Start taking the lead on projects, make decisions quickly and show initiative. People will start to look up to you; they will let you work less because they know when you are working you’re doing a remarkable job.
21 WAYS TO TAKE CONTROL
OF YOUR jOB
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5, Learn to delegate. One of the most important skills anyone can learn is the ability to let other people do work for you. If you have people working under you, learn to trust them to do their jobs. There are endless tasks that would be better done by someone who isn’t you. Outsource stupid, repetitive tasks to an intern or a less experienced employee. Give yourself time to work on the hard problems. The important thing is to concentrate on the work that you have to do, and let everyone else concentrate on the work that they have to do. If you can’t trust someone who works under you to do their job, then maybe you should get someone else to do that job. 6, Eliminate unnecessary tasks. Every job has stupid tasks that someone assigned someone to do once a week, five years ago, and they just keep doing them. Make a list of stupid tasks you do and try to either automate them, delegate them, or simply stop doing them. Maybe no one will notice, maybe you didn’t have to do it anyway. 7, Learn to live on less. Many people work too much because they live unsustainable lifestyles. They have two mortgages and two cars, they eat out every night and then go drinking, and pretty soon they need to make $100,000 a year to sustain the lifestyle. By learning to live on less, you will be able to work less. If you only need $2,000 a month to survive, you only need to make $24,000 a year, and that can free you for a world of other opportunities which will inevitably grow to provide much more than a dead-end job ever will. 8, There will always be tomorrow. Most jobs have projects that will take months or years to achieve. Recognize that you will be working on a task for a very long time, but that you need to take time off to rest and recuperate before the next day. Everyone needs balance or else you’ll burn yourself out. So go home at 5pm, come back at 9am, and you’ll start over with working. The project won’t go anywhere overnight, trust me.
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9, Refuse to put out fires. There will always be colleagues who have problems that ‘Have to be dealt with now! It’s an emergency!’ Don’t buy into this, nothing is an emergency. Just tell them you acknowledge their problem, but you’re very busy right now and need to finish your current project. Check in two hours later and I bet that most emergencies have been dealt with by those who started them. If you run around solving other people’s problems all day, you won’t get anything done on your own projects. 10, Isolate yourself. Lock yourself in your office and don’t come out until your work is done. When people call, tell them to drop you an email and you’ll reply when you have time. If people are constantly dropping by your desk to ask questions or have idle chit-chat, you’re not getting work done. Questions should be asked via email. Small talk is for the bar, after work, once a week. If you have a cubicle, put headphones on. 11, Avoid meetings like the plague. Meetings are endless time suckers. No one ever accomplishes anything at meetings, so stop going to them. People hold meetings because they don’t know what to do, they have no ideas, so they rely on other people to develop them. If something important needs to be discussed, that’s great, call a meeting. But meeting every day to go over TPS reports is useless; there are better ways to approach workplace optimization than disrupting everyone’s schedule so they can sit on their Blackberries and zone out as everyone else talks. 12, Take the initiative on important projects. Learn to be a leader when important projects come your way. Be discriminatory on which projects you are willing to take on and which you will simply refuse. In most offices there will be ideas pitched that just ‘must be completed’ which are in reality just dead ends. Avoid these projects. When you see a project that will lead to amazing results, dedicate all of your available time to making these results a reality.
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13, Let unimportant projects die. Like the above, but different. Don’t get involved with projects that are stupid. Let stupid people do these projects and focus on the ones that will lead to results. No one ever got promoted for finishing a stupid project that no one cares about. 14, Don’t associate with the water cooler gang. Do you know the guys who stand around the water cooler, bitching and moaning about how hard life is? They always find a way to shoot down your idea or tell you that it’s impossible. Stop talking to these people. They are everywhere and they are mostly useless. These are usually corporate lifers, or people who are just so sick and tired of themselves and their job that all they can do is be negative. Cut these people out of your life. 15, Stay positive. Being optimistic can do a world of good in many situations. When you’re discussing a remarkable project—one that everyone thinks is going to bomb—and you’re willing to go out on a limb and be optimistic—people will start to see you as a natural leader. Don’t be a downer when people come to you with ideas that just won’t work; point them in a direction that will help them succeed. 16, Don’t check email every five minutes. Sitting at your computer and hitting the send/receive button is pointless. By checking email every five minutes you are disrupting your ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Set four specific times a day when you check and respond to email, the rest of the time you must be on radio silence working on remarkable projects. 17, Stop using voicemail on your work phone. Checking work phone voicemail is a ten minute process, so just stop using it. People should be using email to ask you questions, not spending time talking to you on the phone. Go ahead and put a voicemail message up saying that you don’t usually respond to voicemail messages in a timely manner and request that an email message be sent instead.
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18, “I’m too busy to do that right now.” This is the best defense against any lame project that comes your way. Just say you’re too busy, you’re overwhelmed, you’re on deadline, you can’t help right now, but you can in a day or two. Most projects will go away in a day or two, or go to someone else. Be sure to differentiate between awesome projects and lame ones though; you don’t want to use this excuse for things you really can make a difference with. 19, Give yourself 20% of your work time for your own projects. Have you heard of Google’s famous 80/20 workplace rule? Well, let me give a quick rundown if you haven’t. Google lets it’s employees work on their own pet projects for 20% of their time. Gmail was born out of this philosophy. Make it a priority to give yourself this time to work on your own projects at work, even if your boss isn’t down with the idea. You’ll give birth some really awesome ideas during this time. 20, Gradually transition to working from home. Some people see huge productivity boosts when they work from home. When I was working at the magazine, I eventually transitioned into working from home for half the day. I was working on a blog network, so this just seemed natural to let the employees work from home during the morning (in their PJs, heh). I was able to do so much more during that time at home than I was at work and I was also able to sit in the kitchen, make breakfast, and sip coffee while I was doing it. Convince your boss to give you a 3-week trial period where you work from home one day a week, then show your boss that you got 200% more work done during that time. Maybe they’ll let you work from home permanently? 21, If you hate your job… Can you honestly say that you like your job? A lot of people are working deadend jobs, because they think they have to. Just stop, if you can. Make the decision now to transition into a new field, or start your own business from home in your spare time. You spend half of your life at work and it’s not worth hating yourself for half of your life. You can do better; you can do anything.
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HOW TO COMPENSATE A
The pay you receive from the work you do should have no correlation with how much time you spend working. Over the average work week, we can observe countless people mortgaging their time for someone else’s gain. They feel sad about this, but they aren’t entirely sure what has gone wrong with the situation. The minimalist work week is not about spending 40 hours a week busying yourself with busy work. It’s about spending a small amount of well-used time on powerful work that pays off dividends. All work is not created equal and a minimalist understands this. We’d rather be reading a book, or traveling to a new place, than pushing a button at Starbucks. Recognize the work you have the capacity to do that is worth $500 or $1000 for an hour of important work. Earning $1000 from one hour is worth far more than 40 hours of $15. If you spend each hour working for that $1000 hour, you’ll eventually start doing many of them in a row. That is the magic of a minimalist approach to work.
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The world is an unstable place. Chances are that even if you have a safe and secure job now, economic instability will get to you eventually. The factory system that dominated the United States is beginning to decline. The fact that you’re reading this book is proof of that. People are beginning to realize that upgrading their flat screen TV isn’t going to make them happier. Many people thought it was quite stupid of me to quit my well-paying, safe, and secure job. During a recession of all times! They’re waking up to the fact that stuff does not equal happiness, and they are compensating by decluttering and living simpler lives. People are working less and pursuing projects that are important to them. Did you ever dream of being an artist? Now is the time. Being minimalist has taught me much about how to survive in any economic climate. Allow me to share a few of these secrets with you. Realize you only need two things. The first is food. The second is shelter. Food doesn’t have to be expensive. Indeed, fresh vegetables and their associates can be pretty cheap. Stop eating out all of the time, start learning to cook good food. Shelter doesn’t have to be expensive either. Many people buy homes with far more rooms than they have people. Rent a simple house with just enough space. You’ll see more of your family, you’ll have less rooms to fill with junk, and you’ll spend more time outside enjoying your life.
HOW TO SURVIVE THE
(IF IT EVER ENDS.)
The last secret is even simpler: you don’t need anything else. Shopping will not make you happier. Be okay with having one pair of good clean jeans. Five T-shirts. You don’t have to upgrade to the next new gadget right away, your old phone makes calls just as well as the next one. The people who are having trouble in this recession aren’t changing their spending habits. These are the people who have lost their jobs and can’t support themselves. They just keep buying and buying and they don’t realize that a simpler life is healthier, better, and most importantly, sustainable. If you live your life like this, you can survive any recession. If you begin to live this way you can get through the rest of this one intact.
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In the modern age we’ve managed to find hundreds of thousands of ways to use as much time as possible. We’ve come to a point where people cannot slow down. When they do, it is uncomfortable for them to sit still. It’s impossible for some people to dwell in the present moment without fiddling with a distraction. We think we need to be constantly connected. We think we need to answer every email as soon as it arrives or society will leave us behind. We think we need to madly dash from the subway, to the coffee shop (red-eye please), to the office every single day or someone will think we’re not valuable enough. None of this is true. In fact, it’s becoming readily apparent that the people who decide to opt out of this system of constant stimulation are far more effective people than the ones who are constantly plugged into the matrix. Right now, in this moment, we need to reclaim our time. Some of the most effective people I know, such as Leo Babauta and Tim Ferriss, have realized that being constantly connected is counter-productive. They’ve both written in great length in their books, The Power of Less and The 4-Hour Workweek, how blockading your time can generate far more intrinsic worth than by not. The reason for this is simple; if you’re constantly connected, you’re also constantly reacting. Every single request that comes in needs to be answered immediately. This means you’re dividing your time between the important projects you’re working on and little, stupid things that come in. For instance, I may get two @evbogue requests on Twitter in the time I take to write this. They will be simple questions or requests to promote things. If I answered all of these requests immediately, I wouldn’t have written these last couple of paragraphs.
HOW TO FIREWALL YOUR
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14 WAYS TO SAVE YOUR
Alternatively, if I wait until an hour from now, my work on this story will be done. I’ll be able to answer 5 @evbogue tweets and any emails, all at once. Constantly flailing from one activity to the next is only making our lives less valuable. Time is probably the most valuable asset that we have left in this world, and it is rightfully yours. This is the moment to take a stand; regain your valuable time. 1, Set dedicated work hours. Many people let their work hours extend into every odd hour of the day. Freelance web workers, like myself, can fall into this trap even easier than someone who works at an office. There’s always something else to do, and never enough time to do it all. Set specific times when you will work on work, and stick with them. For instance, today I’m working from 1pm to 5pm. After that time, I’m going to go enjoy the lovely weather and read Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin. 2, Pretend you’re not here. Lock the door, don’t let anyone in. Hide under the desk. This is easier if you work from anywhere or have your own office, but there are many ways to pretend you’re not here. Be creative!
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3, Answer emails decisively. Don’t sit at your computer hitting the send/receive button over and over and over again. Work is not about how many emails you can reply to, it never has been. Work is about thinking about unique solutions to problems, unless you’re a widget maker, which many of us aren’t anymore because all of those jobs are now in China. You need dedicated time to work on solutions, you can’t do this if you’re constantly waiting for a new email to come in your box. 4, Make dedicated Twitter time. Just like email, stop hitting the update button on Twitter. Trust me, it does no one any good if you stay constantly up to date on the fifty 140-character messages that flew into your box in the last 30 seconds. Actually, while I’m on this topic, don’t follow 50,345 people on Twitter. I can’t take seriously people who do this. There is no possible way they will ever see my Twitter messages if they’re following that many people. Follow 150 people max. Dunbar’s law applies to Twitter too. Follow people who interest you, unfollow people who don’t interest you. It’s that simple. (If you want someone to follow you on Twitter, try retweeting a few of their stories. That’s usually the best way to get them interested in your own personal work. There are many ‘bots’ on Twitter, and it’s hard to tell who to follow sometimes.) 5, Refuse to put out fires. There will always be non-urgent work emergencies, but you aren’t the fire department. These fires usually drop onto your desk at 4:49pm and can take hours to deal with. Most of the time these emergencies could have been dealt with before they became emergencies if someone had just got in touch before they spiraled out of control. Make it clear you don’t deal with these. When ‘emergencies’ come, unless they’re actual life-or-death situations (these don’t happen often, but recognize when they do), handle them just like any other work request. Don’t panic, just do the work. If it’s 5pm and you’re going home, it can wait until tomorrow.
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6, Make yourself unavailable. Some people make themselves always available at the office or online. This is a trap, because people expect that you will be available at all times. A better approach is to avoid broadcasting when you’re online and when you’re not. This might mean keeping your office door shut or always keep your headphones on if you work in an open office. It might mean finding more time to work from home so you can get important projects done. 7, Always take a day to respond to everything. Make people assume it will take a day or two for you to get back with a request. You can always give a better response to a question or a problem if you have time to consider it. Make a commitment to not respond to requests for at least a day. Make your response incredibly valuable to your client, colleague, etc. This doesn’t mean that you should procrastinate, it’s just a way to consciously slow down the work cycle so that everyone does better work. 8, Select two primary modes of communication. Make a choice as to which applications you’ll use to communicate online. There are so many communications platforms available that it’s incredibly important to select only two that you actually use. I use Gmail and Twitter. I do use Facebook, but it forwards everything I receive there to my Gmail. I don’t check my Facebook constantly, I don’t check my Wave constantly. Think about which communications platforms you use, and consider how to opt-out of some. If you have three email addresses, (your Yahoo, your Gmail, your AOL) consider consolidating them into one email. Most of these services will forward, but if they don’t, set up an auto-reply that informs people who email you that you no longer check this email and they should email you a the correct address. 9, Don’t use instant messaging. Always-on instant messaging is the ultimate enemy of firewalling your time. People expect an instant response to an instant message and will usually become frustrated if you leave your instant messaging on, but do not reply. Just don’t use AIM, Facebook chat, Google chat, etc. If you need to communicate with someone in real-time, consider using one of these services on “Invisible” mode and contact the person you’re working with.
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10, Let the phone go to voicemail. When the phone rings, 9 times out of 10 you have no idea what the person on the other end wants from you. It’s good policy to let the message go to voicemail and then listen to the message. Let it compost in your brain for a bit and then give them a call back. This will give you time to consider a proper response to the problem, and not act in a reactionary manner. Respond once you’ve finished whatever you’re working on. Again, I’m not advocating procrastination, just having the ability to respond decisively. 11, Hire an assistant (or an intern). In this economy, it’s pretty easy to find someone who can be your first line of defense. Timothy Ferriss has an entire chapter in his book about out-sourcing all of your boring tasks to India; maybe this can work for you. I don’t personally have anyone working for me, but I also have a very manageable workload. If you find yourself either doing a lot of remedial tasks that don’t challenge you, it can be a good idea to hire someone to do them for you. Obviously, this only works if these tasks produce more value for your business than the assistant costs. If they don’t, consider whether it is necessary for you to complete them at all. 12, Take a timeout. Go for a walk in the park. Take an hour lunch break. There are a million ways you can disconnect and I feel strongly that you should do this more than you are now. Leave your cell phone at home. Take a moment and think about your favorite way to take a break and then find a way to implement it. 13, Take your work out of the office. If you can’t get any work done in the office, consider doing it at a coffeeshop or at home. This obviously depends a lot on the type of work that you do and the freedom that you have to do it. I often find that a change of location can increase my productivity.
14, Only read information that contributes value. Unsubscribe from everything that is boring or you don’t have time to read. Many people subscribe to entirely too many blogs and other methods of incoming communication. Information is so accessible in this day in age, I promise you that you won’t run out. Consider each and every blog feed that you’re subscribed to, does it contribute value to your life? If you’re just reading it because you always have, maybe consider unsubscribing to these blogs. I used to check the front page of the New York Times constantly, just out of habit. I eventually realized that this wasn’t helping me. The news would still be there tomorrow, you don’t have to constantly stay up to date. Which blogs are you subscribed to out of obligation instead of their actual usefulness?
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8 WAYS TO FOCUS
The difference between high-impact and low-impact income. The most common way of working, and the one that most people choose, is low-impact. You trade an hour of your time for a little bit of money. After a day, you’re a little older, but you’ve made enough money to pay your electric bill. These jobs are very common. In most cases the employees are highly replaceable and the pay is just enough to survive. I’ve worked a few of these jobs, up until before I wrote this ebook. At that point, I decided to break out of the 9-5 and start exploring new ways to make a living. So far the decision to do this has been very rewarding. How I chose to create a high-impact minimalist business. I decided early on that I wanted to start earning a high-impact living. This is the opposite of the direct trade of time for money. The results are a lot less tangible, but far more rewarding.
ON HIGH-IMPACT INCOME
This is a minimalist way of working. I spend most of my time doing complex creative tasks. Seth Godin refers to this as emotional labor. I read a lot of books. I research better ways to help my audience. I try out new tools. I make all of the calls on which stories run and which don’t. To generate high-impact money, you have to create something that is actually valuable. There are no buttons to push. There is no boss to blame the failures on. You are responsible for your own success. Actions that generate high-impact income may not pay off immediately, the key is that they are scalable in the future. Your 40 hour week today, might bring in $1000 in three months. Your one hour workday might bring in $1000 because of work you did in the past. I don’t recommend this way of working for everyone. It’s much easier to just sit down and be told what to do. It’s so much harder to trek through the woods, searching for your legacy project. But, as I said, eventually the rewards are greater.
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Here are 8 ways to pursue high impact income. 1, Explore uncharted territory. High-impact income doesn’t come from well-trodden paths. No one can give you the magic combination which will lead you to success. You have to trust your instincts, your heart, and travel to uncharted territory. 2, Follow your passion. Everyone has there one super power. This is the one thing that they are so much better at than everyone else. You need to put all of your resources into that passion. We are witnessing a point in time when everything is changing. You have the power to build and market the one thing you always wanted to create. Focus on that, nothing else. 3, Ignore everybody. There’s no payday if you follow everyone else. You can’t ask your mom or your best friend for permission before you start exploring uncharted territory in search of high-impact income. Why? Because no one has done this before. They won’t be able to consult their past experiences to tell you if it will work. If you wait until you get approval from all of society before you take a risk, you’ll be waiting a long time. 4, Focus on your priorities. When you pursue high-impact income, there will be tasks that yield more than others. Focus on the important moves, and spend less time with unimportant ones. For instance: I know that my writing only works with insanely helpful content. I spend 80% of my time developing helpful content. Everything else can wait until I have awesome content for the week. 5, Minimize your expenses. You cannot start your own high-impact business if you still spend like you’re working a low-impact 9-5. Eventually you will earn a lot more money, but for now you don’t. You need two things: food and shelter. All else can wait until your first payday.
6, Watch your metrics (but not too much.) At some point you have to check to see if you’re making any progress. Find a way to measure your high-impact income. I do this by tracking your blog visitors and book sales, but this will change depending on what you’re doing. The trick is not to check all day long though. 7, Learn when to quit. If a project isn’t working after a month or two, you need to be able to kill it, or at least approach it from a new angle. Obviously this depends a lot on the business. I stop writing about subjects that don’t resonate with people, and direct my attention towards ones that do. This is about refocusing on what works, and killing what doesn’t. Don’t cling to a topic you love if no one cares about it. 8, Don’t stop doing the work. No matter how much temporary success you may achieve, or how much failure you are forced to endure, don’t stop working. It’s so easy to just give up, and believe me, many people will tell you that you should. “You’re going to fail, go do something that is normal.” Don’t stop, don’t give up. Do what you have to do until you find success. Eventually you’ll get there, trust me.
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DON’T LISTEN TO
Many people I meet have a story about someone they know who failed. People love to tell me these stories. Maybe you’ve heard them, too? There’s the one about the girl who moved across the country and couldn’t find a job and ‘now it’s so hard for her’. Or that one boy who decided he was going to be a musician and went to New York and he works retail and ‘it’s so hard for him’. Everyone knows someone like this. They keep this person’s story ready to go, and take aim at your dreams with him or her as evidence. ‘Look at this person, they couldn’t do it, you can’t either’. Then there’s the story about some mythical creature that ‘puts in the long hours for their company, and now they’re set for life.’ No one seems to know anyone like this and yet they’re all so sure this is reality. Where are these ’set for life’ people? I want to meet one, please. Have one of them send me a postcard. Everyone I know who is doing well right now has their own established remarkable reputation. The most common variety of person I encounter is settled for life. They gave up long ago and now they drag out that story every time I tell them I’m moving again to prove that I can’t do it …again. Here’s my view of reality—you can do anything you want to, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice your ability to undermine yourself. There are no failures, only the people who choose to use other brave people as a defense against their own settled mediocrity. Don’t listen to anyone’s fail stories. They just keep them in their back pocket to defend their decision to be scared, to stay put, to not change. You can move anywhere and do anything if you’re willing to trade secure normality for knowing that you’re doing something awesome.
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We all want some more happiness. Buying more stuff isn’t the way to find it. Being minimalist is one way to search.
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Most people assume that money is the fundamental incentive for them to achieve happiness. The idea is that if you spend all of your time working incredibly hard in a difficult field, eventually you’ll have enough money and be happy. The problem is that people are so good at spending exactly what they earn. The more they work, the more they shop, the more they own. It’s the endless consumerist cycle, and once you’re in, you’re in. How do you begin to spend less than you earn? Here’s one strategy that I believe can work. 1, Put it all somewhere very safe. Give yourself a budget that only consists of housing and cooking food at home. Do not go over this budget. Do not go to the mall. Do not go shopping in Soho. Buy all of your own groceries—get fresh vegetables, they’re what you’re supposed to be eating—and cook at home. 2, Invest everything in something you really care about. Not stuff, instead focus on your legacy project. What will people remember you for? Put your money into the art you create. What do you want to do with your life? Think about that, because all of your money should be going there. Watching DVDs and playing Xbox isn’t what you want to do with your life, I guarantee you. When we’re employed in a 9 to 5, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that says ‘oh, we’re done now. I can go home and watch Lost.’ Stop watching 3 hours of TV, invest your money in making something that is worth your time.
MONEY DOES NOT EqUAL
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BEING MINIMALIST IS ABOUT
We’re living in a society that is rapidly evolving to point where we won’t have to live in any one specific place. I’m currently working on a website for a woman in New York. Last year I illustrated for a company in San Francisco. I’m working on a magazine with colleagues in New York, Mumbai, and Peru. It doesn’t matter where you live anymore. It used to be that humans had to wake up every morning and go into a place where they could communicate with other humans in order to get things done. But now, communication has evolved to the point that people, who choose to, can interact with everyone all over the world. Minimalism is the ultimate freedom from being tied to a place or location. How often you move around is simply restricted by how much you choose to build up your collection of junk in any one area. Many people are still renting large homes and then slowly filling them up with stuff that they don’t necessarily use. This makes it impossible for them to achieve this dream, this reality of existing without the need to be in any one place at any one time. In broad strokes, this is how to achieve this dream: • Limit your belongings to only the things that you can carry. The absolute essentials. • Start interacting with the Internet as a source of doing business. • Start moving around. Just get on a plane and see where you end up. Easy, right? Well, it’s not that easy, but it’s a goal you can achieve. It’s made possible by the technological advances of the last ten years.
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Think about this:
Meditation is about taking your thoughts, sitting with them, and simplifying them until they no longer trouble you. Until your mind can sit still, you can release all of that psychobabble that the inside of your brain is constantly engaged in and let it all go. This is why Buddhist monks renounce their possessions, so the brothers can meditate without worrying if they need to dust their television set off, or if they need organize their closet. If you begin to live simpler, your mind will become calmer. With less worry, you’ll get more done. You’ll accomplish more and feel more fulfilled. By aspiring to live an existence at the minimum level, we open a path for ourselves to achieve greatness and also to be free.
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16 SIMPLE WAYS TO CLEAR
Mind clutter is one of the biggest obstacles that I encounter daily on the path to my goals. I imagine you know what I’m talking about, the constant chatterbox that is our human brain. Brains are useful things, they help you do a lot of incredibly cool stuff. But sometimes they just won’t shut up. There’s a lot going on most of the time, so who can really blame our minds for wanting to over-analyze everything? Except a lot of brain-clutter can be a problem when you’re trying to accomplish anything. A cluttered mind can keep you from achieving your potential in most situations. Sometimes brains get stuck on problems. They get into a pattern where they’re constantly trying to imagine what’s going to happen to you next, or worse, they second guess all of your actions. A healthy mind will help you accomplish goals when you need it to, an unhealthy mind will sabotage you before you even start working. In my opinion, excessive thinking is just as problematic as having an excessive amount of things. This is one of the many reasons why I find it important to employ a number of decluttering activities with my mind. I try to engage in at least one of these activities a day. If my mind clutter is too much at any one moment, I will acknowledge that my mind is overwhelmed. When this happens, I immediately turn off whatever I’m doing and begin one of these activities below. Sometimes I will dedicate an entire day to clearing my mind. I will mark a day off my calendar and simply spend it meditating and rejuvenating my mind. I’ve done this many times, and it can increase my mind’s effectiveness two-fold when I return to normal activities. A mind is most effective at zero. The purpose of all of these exercises is to reset your mind to zero. This is a place where there is no conversation. Part of the mind reset process is first acknowledging that you don’t need the thoughts floating around your head. For some people, the constant background noise in their mind is comforting, but none of these exercises will help you if you enjoy the company of a mind that won’t shut up. The best way to approach getting over the problem of being comforted by a chattering mind is to recognize that there is a huge difference between a conversation with yourself in your brain and actual thinking.
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I’ve read a number of books on Buddhist and Yogic philosophy that teach of abolishing the inner conversation with yourself. I believe these authors have it right, the mind must be quiet for actions to come to their full potential. The preconception that you can think through any activity before you do it is false. While there are important elements of planning, we waste untold hours secondguessing ourselves with our own minds. By training the mind to rest at zero, you will become a far more effective person. A person who deals with obstacles as they happen with a mind that is sharp and effective.
Sit in silence. Place a pillow on the ground somewhere in a private place, turn off the lights, and just sit for 15 minutes. Listen to the chatter in your mind, but don’t try to interact with it. Just observe your thought patterns, eventually they will begin to subside. Try sitting for a longer time when you can. Take a walk. Meditation while walking is one of the best ways to calm a mind. There’s something about the repetition of moving one foot in front of the next that is so relaxing. Go for a 30-minute walk with no destination. You will return with a calmed mind. Write it down. Take your thought processes out of your pre-frontal cortex and onto the page. Open a notebook, take a pen, and begin engaging in writing flow until you find that the waves of thought have subsided. Laugh it off. Sometimes life is just silly, so have a sense of humor and embrace the insanity. Laugh at the thoughts in your head. With any luck, you’ll recognize by laughing at the thoughts in your head, you’ll be able to realize just how silly they are and your mind will relax. Take deep breaths. This is one of my all-time favorites, I do this regularly before and after any situation that may happen. Inhale and exhale deeply 10 times. Make each breath slow and deliberate. Your mind will be quiet by the end of the tenth exhale. Move slower. Make every action deliberate. Like a Zen master makes tea, you will do everything that you need to do more slowly. Notice every motion you make from start to finish, every action from beginning to end. This will focus your mind on the task at hand and quiet the internal babbling.
16 SIMPLE WAYS TO CLEAR
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Talk to someone. Sometimes the best way to quiet a mind is to talk over your thinking with another person. Don’t vent your frustrations to them, because that’s just going to lead to another frustrated person. Simply tell them what is going on in your mind and maybe both of you can come up with a solution. Throw away your to-do list. Once in awhile the lists get too long, they become overwhelming. There are so many steps or actions that you need to take in day-to-day life that you may never see the end. Why not just abandon whatever it is you’re doing? One of the best skills that anyone can master is the ability to learn how to quit when the time is right to do so. Take this moment to quit and your mind won’t have anything to worry about anymore. Lie on the floor. Nothing can beat a good lie on the floor. Wherever you are, just stop doing what you’re doing and fall backwards. Though be sure to take a look behind you to make sure there is nothing you will hit. Then, stay on the floor for 15 minutes and just breathe. Make a sandwich. The action of deliberately preparing the bread, spreading hummus, cutting greens, and slicing meat can be a great way to clear your mind. Be sure to take as much time as possible making the sandwich, do not rush. By the time you take the first bite, your mind will be silent. Do the dishes. Buddhist teachers love doing their dishes and with good reason. The act of slowly cleaning one dish, washing it, and drying it, is a powerful way to focus and calm the mind. The advent of dish-washing machines really has robbed us of a ritual we all can use to our advantage.
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Take a shower. Step into a steaming hot shower and just bathe in the warmth. This can be a powerful mind-clearer. Don’t rush the shower, just let the water flow over your hair and down your body. A hot shower, particularly before going to bed, can calm even the most active mind. Light a candle. The flicker of candle light can be a powerful way to calm your thoughts. Set the candle in a place near where you can sit comfortably. Take a match, strike it, and watch the wax melt. Listen to relaxing music. There’s nothing like calming music to quiet your brain. Turn on some soft music, ideally without lyrics, and observe your mind as the thoughts fade away. Do a yoga inversion. Another one of the best ways to calm a mind is to turn yourself upside down. My favorite way to do this quickly, is to slide into Sarvangasana, or shoulder stand. In this yoga pose you support your lower back with your hands and lift your feet over your head. This pose changes the blood flow through the body in order to promote a healthy, quiet mind. Let go of the problem. In certain cases you may be plagued by something that you just can’t handle, you won’t be able to find a solution, you won’t be able to achieve everything you ever wanted. Tell yourself that can’t do this. That’s okay, you tried. Make space for the next ambitious goal and let this one go.
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THE (MINIMALIST) TIPPING POINT
I spoke with a person recently who described themselves as ‘definitelynot-minimalist’ about how overwhelming it is to combat a world that is constantly calling on her to buy more and more. She asked me how she could stop the cycle of consumerism in her own life. She is a person who has been accumulating stuff an incredibly long time. She was born in a generation that was defined by consumption and perpetuated by the prices of items falling at an incredible rate. She bought into one of the great American dreams. Success was stuff, America defined it. But all of that has changed, the Internet has transformed our society into one that is fueled on information and ideas. We can work from anywhere, if we let ourselves see that. Past the basic essentials that you need to live, most of the stuff we filled our lives with doesn’t matter anymore. What people don’t realize, when they’re on a ten or fifteen-year long consumption binge, is just how difficult it is to dig yourself out from the weight of all of this stuff. They want to get out, they want to be free, but it’s overwhelming. We can all understand this position. We all know people who’ve been there, are going there. We might have been there ourselves. So, how to take the first steps toward a minimalist existence, if you don’t know how to begin?
HOW SMALL CHOICES CAN CREATE A BIG IMPACT
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Liberate yourself from the overwhelming weight of your useless possessions. I firmly believe that you can’t get over stuff until you have a mindset change. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re there already. How do you get to this realization? The first small choice you can make is to start to comprehend how much stuff costs you. It costs money to store stuff you’re not using. More stuff means a bigger house, if you have so much stuff you can’t fit in your house, then it means storing it. Bigger houses cost money, storing stuff costs money. Maybe take a moment and calculate how much you’re spending on your house and storage, paste this number on your wall. I guarantee it will scare you. Material possessions restrict your freedom. If you wanted to move, could you? How much would it cost to move? Think about it, if you have one box of stuff, you could move whenever you wanted. If you got bored of Cincinnati, you could be in Denver in no time. Just pack a bag. Stuff takes up your time. It takes time to sort through stuff and the more clutter you have, the harder it is to find things. This leads to more time being wasted. If time is money, then your stuff is putting you into massive debt. By erasing your ties to your stuff, it’s like you’re paying off a massive loan that you didn’t even know you had. Think about it, if you had nothing but the essentials: You would have endless time to do what you’re interested in. You would have so much more money to achieve your dreams. You would have the freedom to move about whenever you want.
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Do you think this unobtainable? It’s not. I live this life, I have a backpack of stuff that I use every day. I come and go as I please. My life costs nothing besides food and housing, wherever I live, the rest of the money I save. I work on the Internet, I could be anywhere. Most of all, I’m happy. It’s ultimate freedom and, most importantly, it’s possible for you, too. This is how you start to free yourself: one thing at a time. The first step: stop buying things. If you find yourself contemplating buying something that’s not essential, take a breath, think about how much it actually costs. Walk away. To begin decluttering, just take one object every day and figure out what to do with it. Recycle it, donate it, throw it out. If you feel like you can do two, do it. If you feel like you can throw out a box of stuff, go for it. This will accelerate into a cascading effect. When you realize just how important it is to live a free and enjoyable life without having to worry about possession overload, nothing can stop you. The next step: Give it all away. There are so many people in the world that need the things that you’re using now. They might only have money for food to feed their children. They might not have the education that you do or the opportunities that you had. Give the stuff you don’t need to these people. Donate it to a charitable organization or put it up for free on Craigslist or Freecycle. Someone, somewhere, will appreciate your stuff. It might even be useful to them. The important part is to recognize that you don’t need it anymore, and then find the quickest way to get it all out of your life.
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WHY WE NEED TO
I’ve been thinking a lot about how noise in our communication dominates our lives. There are so many people hitting the send/receive button at this moment, and refreshing their Gmail constantly. I come across people who are following 11,000 people on Twitter, and I can’t help but wonder how they do anything useful with all of those incoming messages. Answer: they don’t. There are some good messages out there in this dense fog of information, but you’re never going to find them if you listen to everyone. Focus on the emails that are important. Listen to the tweets that give you information you can use. Filter out the rest. We are the human curators of the digital renaissance. It’s time to acknowledge that and take control of our incoming information stream. We need to learn to sit in silence, the important comes in the moments when you’re not checking email.
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 63
7 SIMPLE WAYS TO
1, Take a social network hiatus. Don’t Tweet, Facebook, or engage with people on any social networking platform that you may use. It’s really fun to Tweet and hear all of the amazing people respond. Do you really want to spend all Sunday morning glued to Tweetdeck though? Cook someone a good breakfast instead! 2, Ignore all calls. Don’t answer the phone at all this weekend. It doesn’t matter if it’s your mom or your boss calling, just choose not to pick up the telephone. In fact, turn it off. Go to the beach instead, if you live somewhere that’s not as cold as it is here in New York. Otherwise, maybe just grab a coffee and watch people walk by. 3, Don’t check your email. Just let it sit there, trust me, it will be there come Monday morning. Too often we spend hours of our lives hitting the refresh button on e-mail. Take the exact opposite approach and don’t check it at all. 4, Spend a day in silence. Just go about your day without speaking to anyone. Observe your thoughts. Read a book. Be sure to let anyone who might be offended know what you’re doing, so they don’t get mad. 5, Refuse to buy anything. 6, Don’t use any electricity.
Take a break from consumerism and don’t go shopping or eat out for one day. Make sure you have enough food to prepare before you start this. Leave your credit cards and cash at home if you go out.
Unplug all of the appliances and lights in your house (don’t do this to the fridge, your food will spoil.) Pretend you’re no-impact man for a day, and see how it is. You’ll notice that you won’t have any light after a certain hour, so either light a candle or sit in silence until it’s time for bed. 7, Don’t use transportation. Don’t take the subway, don’t drive your car, don’t even bike. Just walk if you need to go anywhere. I love walking into Manhattan on weekends to take Yoga. It makes me appreciate my surroundings so much more. A two hour walk somewere can be very meditative.
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 64
FOCUS ON THE
I know a woman who wants to move to France. She’s wanted to move there for a number of years. I asked her if she would make it there by 2020, and she wasn’t sure if that was enough time. She’ll be nearly 60 in 2020. I told her she could do it in less than a year. Why not just go to France, if that’s where you want to be? Many people spend so much time talking about what they wish they had the willpower to achieve. If these people spent half as long talking and more time doing the work to get them to their goal every single day, eventually they might just get there. Achieving your goals ultimately comes down to focusing on your priorities. However, many people seek simply to avoid setting them. • Instead of starting a business, a person continues to work at Starbucks. • Instead of traveling the world, a person buys an SUV. It’s also important to realize when you have handicapped yourself by using a ‘when this happens, then I’ll do this.’ statement. Like, ‘if only I had a million dollars, I’d start my own business and travel the world!’ Realistically you’ll never earn a million dollars, so you’ll never achieve your dream. My biggest goal right now is to support myself by writing this e-book. This naturally means that my daily focus is writing incredibly valuable articles in this e-book. It is absolutely essential that you take a moment and think about what your ultimate goal is, in this moment, and prioritize it. Make this single goal the most important activity of every day. Even if you are working at Starbucks, your day doesn’t revolve around Starbucks. It’s just where you go to work, but meanwhile your brain is thinking about photography.
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 65
HOW TO FOCUS ON YOUR
It’s okay to have other interests, but only give yourself one priority. Now, there’s no reason why you can’t have multiple interests (minor priorities) at any one time, but I think it’s important to just focus on one overarching priority. If you have 17 priorities it’s really hard to find the time to do one thing every day to further them. A girl named Jane wrote to me once, listing her many priorities: writing, photography, web design, and teaching. She recognized that she couldn’t focus on all of them at once and she is totally right. You can’t master all of these things at one time. I recommended that she pick one to work towards mastering, before investing too much time in the others. But it is also worth noting that she can be all of these things that she listed. • Spend at least an hour (more if you can) every day working towards it. In fact, all of these skills compliment each other in significant ways. A web designer/ photographer/writer/teacher is a very different professional than just a photographer. A photographer who cannot write will have difficulty communicating with her subjects and gathering contacts. If she cannot design a website, she will have to pay a web designer to put her work online. Teaching photography is one of the best ways a photographer can network with clients and other photographers. • Be accountable. Tell everyone you’re moving to France by 2011. • Map your progress in the short term and what you’ve achieved in the longer term. • Reward yourself when you’ve made sufficient progress.
PRIORITIES TO ACHIEVE GREATER
• Select one overall priority that you care about intrinsically. • Break down the priority into manageable steps that are actionable.
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 66
At various times in my own life I’ve invested thousands of hours in the very same skills Jane listed. Earlier in my life (probably between the ages of 12-16) I wanted to be a web designer, so I built many websites. Later, I choose to concentrate on photography (1823), so I spent thousands of hours taking photos. This eventually led to a job as a photo editor (21-24) where I spent thousands more hours making photos look brilliant on stories which were published on websites. It’s perfectly acceptable to shift your priorities; I think it’s only natural that they will change over time.
PRIORITIES CHANGE OVER
We are human beings, not robots, and our interests morph as we achieve various levels of skill. If you force yourself to stick with one path, when you really want to change it, then you’ll end up being incredibly unhappy. Let the other priorities become less important until you’ve attained some level of mastery in the first. I’ve spent many years maintaining writing as a passive activity, while I was focusing on art directing and photography. I didn’t stress about writing. I still wrote as often as possible, but not on a schedule. Two summers ago I filled two Moleskins with a novel, without even making it a priority. That novel still isn’t a priority, but it was a big passive step towards being a better writer, as I was focusing on larger priorities. Now that writing is my ultimate focus, all of that passive work behind the scenes has come to the forefront. The pieces are fitting together and the results I’m seeing are extraordinary. What are your priorities? How are you working towards them?
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 67
THE SECRET TO
Let me tell you a secret, one that all of materialistic society doesn’t want you to know. Ready for it? The first best step you can take to be happy, right here, right now, is to stop buying useless physical objects that you think will make you happy. They will only make you sad and you will feel more trapped by society than you already are. You’ve been deceived by advertising and people who want to make money off of you into this pattern that’s robbing you of happiness and your wealth. Isn’t that outrageous? To make yourself happy, the second best step you can take is to start eliminating the clutter in your life. Do this until you’ve pared down your possessions to the absolute necessities for your life. This opens up a whole new can of worms, I know. You’re probably looking at all of your stuff and wondering what you can do to start getting rid of things. This isn’t going to be easy, the more clutter you have, the larger the project.
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 68
1, GET STARTED
Now that you know the power of being minimalist, it’s time to get started. Start small or just burn down your house. You have the tools to become a minimalist, but it’s no good if you don’t use them.
2, SHARE THIS WITH 5 FRIENDS
I want you to send this e-book to five of your friends. I know you paid for it, but that’s okay. I give you permission to spread this idea to five more people for free. Just attach this e-book to an email and send. Please don’t spam people though. (I’m not keeping track, so you can share with 15 if you want.)
3, jOIN THE MINIMALIST TRIBE
The Art of Being Minimalist is just the beginning. I write about being minimalist three days a week on my blog Far Beyond The Stars. I hope you’ll sign up to receive free updates via RSS or Email. You can follow me on Twitter too, I’m @evbogue.
4, SAY HELLO
I want you to say hello. Drop me an email at email@example.com. I’d love to learn more about your minimalist journey. Thank you for reading this e-book. -Everett Bogue
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 69
Author, Photographer, Designer: Everett Bogue Copy editor: Chris O’Byrne Additional editing: Dave White
Thanks must go out to the whole online minimalist community for their support over the last few months, I wish I could thank you all here but the space is too small. Thank you to: Leo Babauta for pioneering most of these ideas online, and for letting his audience know about my work. Tammy Strobel for helping with everything from the beginning. Seth Godin, for writing Tribes and all of his other books. My girlfriend, Alix, for putting up with me while I took off across the country with all of my stuff on my back. I couldn’t have written this ebook without you.
This e-book is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License (details.)
The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living | www.farbeyondthestars.com | Page 70
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