Defining Minimalism

I’m not anti-stuff. I like having nice quality things around me. I enjoy my motorcycle, I get a lot of use from my laptop, and I’d love to have a really nice digital camera. However, it can seem that way, since I’ve been eliminating things from my life during the Minimalism Experiment and now that I’m taking the 100 Thing Challenge. Much of the focus of these experiments has been getting rid of the clutter that I’ve filled my life with. However, those actions are uncluttering, not minimalism.

What is Minimalism

The definition of minimalism is actually quite short (minimalist, you might say).

Eliminate the unimportant from your life
so that you can focus on the important.

While plenty more has been said about it, this is the heart of minimalism. Because everyone will define the important things in their life differently, everyone’s implementation of minimalism will look different. The key is giving yourself permission to remove the clutter from your life in order to really focus on what really makes your life worthwhile.

Why I’m interested in Minimalism

I have a lot of interests, as well as pack-rat tendencies. Over my life I’ve managed to build a lot of clutter based on changing interests and just-in-case thoughts. I have discovered that this clutter interferes with my actual life. It takes me longer to find things that I need, packing to move takes far longer with all of this extra stuff around, and the clutter in my house not only means that cleaning takes longer, but it generally stresses me out. Clutter makes it harder for me to achieve my goals. It distracts me from the important things in my life (this is not only physical clutter, but other forms as well.)

Goals that Minimalism will help me reach

Looking at my Life List, there are at least a few goals on there that will be a lot easier to accomplish after I’ve cut out the clutter from my life. The experience of the 100 Thing Challenge will help me prepare for a few of the others.

    Here are some of the goals that will be easier now that I’m removing clutter from my life:

  • be financially self sufficient – I won’t need to bring as much income to live off of, since my expenses will be less
  • motorcycle trip across the US – I might be able to pack most of my 100 things onto my motorcycle… something that would have been impossible just a few weeks ago
  • Bike ride across US – I wouldn’t carry all 100 things with me, so I’d have to reduce even further. But this is a great start!
  • live in RV – Just imagine how easily you could clutter up an RV!
  • Live in SailBoat – Even less room than in an RV.

I know that my minimalist journey far from completed. It will be a lifetime spent tweaking and adjusting. But I’ve started the path, and am excited about the progress that I’ve made so far.

I Still Have Stuff

I’m currently undertaking the 100 Thing Challenge, and I worked through the Minimalist Experiment earlier this year. However, this doesn’t mean that I have gotten rid of everything that I own. While I enjoy reading about people who only live with what they can fit in their backpack, that is not my goal. I DO enjoy having a clutter-free home (which is sort of odd, since I am more likely to create clutter than my wife is), and I like not having to worry about getting the newest thing.

How I Packed for the 100 Thing Challenge

During the Minimalist Experiment I eliminated a lot of the clutter from my life. I cleared out clothes that I don’t wear, paperwork that I don’t need, and other things that I don’t ever use. Because of this, I had extra room in my closet and in my dresser. This means that packing everything away for the 100 Thing Challenge didn’t take very long. Once I made my initial list, I was able to separate what I was going to use from the non-100 things. The non-100 things were separated and hidden away, out of sight.

I didn’t take the time to find boxes or other packing materials. I had no need for them. That’s one of the good things about only having 100 personal items, is that they generally don’t take up much space. I didn’t need a whole closet for my clothes. I didn’t even need a whole shelf! All of the clothes that I would not be wearing were hung in the back of the closet. The clothes that I was wearing are hung on the shelf closest to the door. My dresser has three drawers. Two of them have the socks and underwear that I won’t be wearing this month, the top one has my limited selection (which has been more than enough). I haven’t opened those bottom two drawers since the middle of September!

Things that I still have

I still have everything that I started with. Since the beginning of the 100 Thing Challenge, I don’t remember getting rid of a single thing. It has simply been hidden away. My clothes are all still in the closet or dresser. The odds and ends that were on my desk are stashed in the office closet. Extra school supplies are also stashed in the office closet. All of my books are on the shelves. Just because I’m not using it doesn’t mean that I sold, donated, or threw it away. This makes the challenge so much easier to undertake, mentally. I know that I can go grab something if I wanted to change items on my list. I won’t miss something because I got rid of it just because. It’s such a relief to know that it’s still available should I need it.

Fully furnished apartment

My apartment is still fully furnished. No decorations have been removed (except the few that were specifically mine), all of the furniture is in its place, and the kitchen is still well-stocked.. One of the appeals of the 100 Thing Challenge is that I was only dealing with my personal items. My wife isn’t affected by my choice to undertake this experiment, the common items in the apartment aren’t affected…. only me and my stuff. I didn’t have to decide if we have too many books, movies, or knick-knacks, because they’re ours.

I just wanted to let you know that I still have stuff in my apartment. I’ve received a few emails asking about the drastic changes. In reality, though, it’s not that different from before, except that I’m consciously deciding to pay attention to and limiting my choices in what I use. In fact, unless someone reads my blog, the only way that they would know I am undertaking this challenge would be to notice that I’m only cycling through a handful of outfits each week. But I did that anyway! If you walked into my apartment, you still couldn’t tell that I’m only using 100 things. You *might* notice that my side of the dresser and my bedside table have less stuff on them than my wife’s (for the first time ever!) but those would be your only clues.

No, my life is not drastically different. It is, however, more relaxed and less cluttered. Life is good!

100 Thing Update

I’ve been living with the 100 Thing Challenge for about three weeks now. I thought there would have been more to write. My expectations included at least a couple of update posts by now. However, my life hasn’t actually been affected all that much. My day-to-day routine hasn’t changed any, except that it’s easier for me to make decisions regarding what to wear for the day.

There are a few things that I’ve noticed

Even though I’ve made a few changes to My List, most of the things discussed below are more observations about how I use the things that I do have.

  • I’ve only worn one of my motorcycle jackets, so I removed the other from the list (and it means it is time to sell it).
  • I put my pocket knife away and have only been using the one on my keychain. I haven’t missed it so far! Removed it from the list.
  • My running shoes were falling apart. So I wore then while white-water rafting and then tossed them afterward. I thought it would be nice for them to go out with one last horrah! Removed from list.
  • I think I’ve worn a single dress shirt one time so far. I like having them, however, and wear them more when I’m not spending so much time in the art studio.
  • Brr… it can get cold on the motorcycle. I’ve managed to layer up and stay comfortable, and can go still colder with what I have on the list. When it gets around to winter time, however, I’ll have to dig out the cold-weather gear. Added some items to the list for that.
  • Apparently I’ve switched back to shaving in the shower, so I haven’t been using my brush, soap, or brush stand. I tend to do this in cycles, however, so I’m leaving them on the list.
  • My initial idea was to list each individual dish, and then just hand-wash them after each meal. That hasn’t happened, so I’ve replaced that portion of the list with a single item: dishes.
  • With the dishes, now that I’ve been paying attention, I realized that I only use 3-4 out of the cupboard. A mug for coffee, a juice glass for juice, a glass for water, and a second glass for water when the other one’s in the dishwasher. And really, the second glass isn’t necessary. Why do I have a whole cupboard full again?
  • I’ve realized that I use more of my art supplies at home than I thought. I prefer to bring my projects home from school to work on, instead of staying in the studio there. So it’s handy to have two sets of some things so that I don’t have to carry everything back and forth with me.

I think it’s interesting to realize how little I actually use on a regular basis. Furthermore, I’ve been surprised at how little my day-to-day life has changed upon undertaking this challenge.

An Easy Challenge

The main reason that this has been easy for me is because I’ve built up to it slowly. During the Minimalist Experiment, I eliminated much of the stuff that I didn’t use on a regular basis. This preparation allowed me to get everything in place in less than two hours. Because I didn’t get rid of anything but only stashed it away, I have no fear that I got rid of something important to me or that I would need. Since I’m only focusing on my personal items, nothing that my wife and I share or jointly own, I eliminated much the stress of having to include someone else in my decision making. Perhaps most importantly:

What I’m doing is not obvious

Unless someone reads my blog, the only way that they would know I am undertaking this challenge would be to notice that I’m only cycling through a handful of outfits each week. But I did that anyway! If you walked into my apartment, you still couldn’t tell that I’m only using 100 things. You *might* notice that my side of the dresser and my bedside table have less stuff on them than my wife’s (for the first time ever!) but those would be your only clues

This fact is comforting. It’s nice to know that I don’t have to explain the experiment to everyone I know (not that I’d mind, just the repetition of having to do so over and over would get to me).

So that’s my update for the first two (official) weeks of the challenge. Not a lot to report, other than the discoveries about my habits. I’m happy with that, however. I would be worried if I’d realized that I needed twice as many things just to get by on a daily basis. So far so good, and onward we go!

No Soap or Poo

When I announced the 100 Thing Challenge, Rebecca commented about the lack of soap or shampoo on my list. (Toothpaste I share with my wife.) Instead of responding in a comment, I thought that this topic deserved its own post.

Some time ago, I ran across this article about not using soap or shampoo. That made me think. And so I dug a little deeper. After reading numerous articles about the subject, including this one, I decided to try out this experiment for myself.

The Experiment

Since the end of June, I haven’t been using soap or shampoo. I shower daily, but simply don’t add man-made chemicals to the process. I have continued to use deodorant. Washing of hands with soap occurs after using the restroom and before any food preparation.

Getting Started

My first reaction after reading about the concept was that it would end with me feeling dirty, and those around me agreeing. However, this was never the case. My wife didn’t even realize that I had started the experiment (though I’d told her about it) for at least three weeks. I feel just as clean, if not more-so, than before.

The articles above both mentioned a normalization period of about two weeks (a time for your body to adjust to the lack of chemicals that attack it). I think it took me about three days. My hair felt greasy for couple of days, dry for one, then felt better than normal. Nice, soft and almost never greasy.


This experiment was not conducted while working in an office, then spending the remainder of my day in my apartment. Instead, I spent the month of July living and working outside at a summer camp. 28 of those days saw record-setting highs. We swam in pools and lakes, went rock climbing, spent a night a week in a tent, and generally had a great time. I sweated, a lot.

I noticed only three times when I needed to use something extra in the shower, each time on my hair. I skipped a shower one day, and the next day I only felt better after washing twice, using shampoo the second time. After spending an absurd amount of time in a chlorinated pool each day for nearly a week, I noticed my hair drying out and threw some conditioner in there for two days.

The Results

After having avoided showering with soap and shampoo for over three months now, I doubt that I will return to using it. Not only have I saved money, but I can now shower faster. More importantly, I actually feel cleaner. My hair stays clean-feeling throughout the day, and doesn’t scream for attention after only a few hours. My skin has become less oily (which was always an issue before). I am generally cleaner-feeling over all.

This simple experiment has shown me not to blindly follow life rules just “because I always have” or “because you should” or any other reason that is not meant to be questioned. Make your own decisions and test things out. See what works for you, and do that. See what doesn’t work for you, and stop doing that. For me, soap and poo don’t work.

What Is On My Keychain

Do you ever wonder about the wad of stuff that is on your keychain? Do you really need it all? Or is it just more stuff taking up space in your pocket?

Here is what I have:

  1. house key
  2. key to office
  3. motorcycle key
  4. paperclip
  5. mini pocket knife
  6. P-38
  7. Kroger card
  8. library card
  9. key to lock for locker
  10. key to lock for other locker
  11. mini thumb drive


  1. car key – this thing takes up too much space in my pocket, so I only carry it when I will be driving the car
  2. mini-lanyard
  3. tiny flashlight

I haven’t used the mini thumb drive in some time, so I could comfortably get rid of it. The mini pocket knife actually helped me with the “100 Thing Challenge” because I realized that I only needed one knife, so I was able to quit carrying the separate one. Ideally, the two locker locks would use the same key, but that is not the case (and I see no point in buying a new lock just so that it matches).

Other than the thumb drive, these items get used on at least a weekly basis, so I feel that they are well worth carrying. Since I don’t have any decorative items, this all fits comfortably on a single ring, and does not take up too much space in my pocket.

What’s on your keychain?

Starting the 100 Thing Challenge

Today’s the day. For 31 days, I’ll be living as if I only have 100 personal items.

In reality, however, I’ve been living like this for the last two weeks now. I made my list and then I packed all but my 100 things away. (I’ll be explaining in more detail how I did that soon.) That was a week ago, and I’ve been using only the things that I kept out. Only once or twice have I needed to reconsider what I was using (the temperature dropped, and I needed some warmer layers while on the motorcycle.)

Based on this experience, I shouldn’t have any problem making it through the month. Even as the temperature begins to dip lower, I expect to layer my clothes and keep warm while riding the motorcycle (which is a technique that I learned while backpacking).

Maybe I’ve left out a few things that I needed. Perhaps I’ve kept out far too much. I’m excited to see how it goes! It should be an interesting month.

What I Carry In My Pockets

I carry too much stuff in my pockets. Every morning I joke that I’m “Putting Myself Together”.

List stuff:

  1. wallet
  2. cell phone
  3. keys
  4. car key
  5. chapstick
  6. pen
  7. handkerchief
  8. Moleskine planner (occasionally)

This might not seem like much, but it can certainly feel like it. Plus, I’ve subtracted a few things from this list: eraser (from when I carried a pencil), paper for note capture, receipts, pocket knife. (The pocket knife stayed on the list until just a few days ago, when I realized that I had to cut back because of 100 Thing Challenge, I just didn’t have room for it on the list. Plus, I have a knife on my keychain, so I was doubling up.)

What Would Your 10 Things Be?

I recently ran across this post that asked “If you could only have 10 things, what would they be?” This got me to wondering what my list would be, which I felt was interesting timing, considering I am taking on the 100 Thing Challenge.

Note: I actually wrote and scheduled this about two weeks ago, before I decided to take on the challenge. However, coming up with this 10 item list helped push me towards the decision to try the challenge, since it helped me really pin-point what I really used day-to-day.

The Rules

  1. 10 things total including clothing
  2. a pair of something (shoes, socks) counts as just one thing
  3. power cords or other essential parts are included with things (laptop + powercord, phone + charger, car + keys)
  4. the list is for where and when you are now, but you can trade things later (for instance shorts for pants in summer/winter)

My List

I don’t have all of these things, but if I were to minimize this much, I think that I would shell out the money to acquire them.

  1. Saddleback Leather Company Briefcase – Tobacco Brown. You’ve gotta have a way to carry the other possessions around. I will eventually get one of these bags, because it will outlast me.
  2. Laptop – If I was getting rid of everything else, I would replace my Dell with a MacBook. Following rule number 3 above, this would include a power cord, mouse, and earbuds.
  3. Digital Camera – Not only do I need some sort of creative outlet, but if I had a good camera, I would be selling stock photos. I would replace my point and shoot with a nice DSLR, however.
  4. Motorcycle & Helmet – I’m using rule number 3 to include a helmet, because I think that it is an essential part of riding a motorcycle, whether operator or passenger.
  5. Leather Motorcycle Jacket – Like the helmet, protective clothing is a necessity. Plus, they can be warm as well as waterproof, so it’s multi-functional.
  6. Leather Boots – Not only do these provide protection while on the motorcycle, but with only a single pair of footwear available to me, it’d be possible to polish them up for semi-dressy occasions.
  7. Jeans – I’d probably have to purchase a pair of motorcycle jeans that have some protective features built in. A nice dark pair can be semi-dressy.
  8. Long-sleeved, button-down shirt – A nice dress shirt can go anywhere, and if I want to be more casual I can just roll up the sleeves.
  9. ExOfficio Underwear – These guys are supposed to be extremely comfortable, as well as super-quick drying. If I’m going to be washing them on a daily basis, they need to be easy to care for. Being able to wash them in a sink and dry them quickly fits the bill.
  10. Socks – I seriously debated what my 10th item should be. (Some people put toothbrush, or debit card.) If I’m going to be wearing only boots, then I need socks.

A lot of people listed “debit card” for one of their 10 things. I think that I would feel comfortable relying only on my PayPal account and going into a physical bank to withdraw cash and operating on a cash-only basis.

Fortunately, I don’t need to limit myself to only 10 things, as I need more than that to be comfortable. It was an interesting exercise to determine what is really important to me, however. I was actually surprised how quickly motorcycle came up on the list, and how reluctant I was to remove it. If I were to take up more world traveling, I’d replace the motorcycle with passport.

What would your 10 things be?

Luddite Update

It’s been almost a month since I decided to break the technology ties. I thought I should give you an update of how I’m doing with the goals I set.

    Things I Wanted to Get Done

  • Write a minimum of one high-quality blog post a week. – I’ve excelled at this one. Right now, I have posts scheduled for two weeks in advance, with some others that are partially done. Not only that, but I have my first two guest posts out there as well!
  • Create a digital resource (ebook) that I can sell. – I actually didn’t start this one until today (the day I’m writing this post, not the day you read it.) But in this day, I’ve got about 75% of it done. It won’t be long now!
  • Keep up with my schoolwork and maintain my grades This one has taken more time than I expected. This may easily be my most homework-intense semester yet. But I’ve got it under control.
  • It wasn’t on the list, but I’ve also been working on creating a new website. I have just about all of the coding done now, and most of the initial content prepared. A few more tweaks, and it should be live.
  • Also not on the list, but I decided to undertake the 100 Thing Challenge, and am mostly prepared to start that on October 1st.

    How I Expected To Get Them Done

  • Check email only twice a day. – This one I’ve failed miserably at. I’m back to keeping gmail open in my browser (along with at least two dozen other tabs).
  • Minimize my Facebook account. – I unfriended over 2/3 of the people that I was friends with, and now can use Facebook in less than 5 minutes a day. Still not quite convinced that it’s worth having an account, however.
  • Minimize my Twitter account. – I unfollowed everyone that I was following, and now only have 17 people that I’m tracking. I can be on and off in well under 10 minutes a day.
  • Ignore my cell phone more. – I actually threw it into my backpack and didn’t carry it around (in my pocket) for a whole day. It was fabulous! I’m trying to make this a habit, which means breaking the habit of putting it into my pants pocket.
  • TV – This hasn’t been a challenge so far. Apparently I’ve only got one show that I’m interested in enough to watch, so it doesn’t take up too much time. Plus, since it comes out on Thursdays, I really don’t watch it until the weekend, when I have the time. And even then, I only remember to watch it when my wife reminds me.
  • Clean up my computer’s desktop.Done. I’m still loving my background image and the lack of clutter whenever I turn on my computer.
  • Clean up my actual desktop.Done. It’s amazing how relaxed and more productive less clutter can make one!

    Things to Work On

  • Email – I really have to work on being less dependent on my email. I think that only checking 2 times a day is not quite enough, at least for now. So I’m bumping the limit up to 4. I think that I really need 3 (morning, evening, random) but I’m going to give myself an extra, since I’m moving away from “constantly” to “limited”. Once I’m comfortable with 4, I can more easily drop down to 3, then 2.
  • Get the ebook finished and out there. – I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now. Finally, with some prompting from Rebecca Burgener, I actually got started. Following the Cult of Done manifesto, I’m not aiming for perfection, but for completion. I’ll get a finished version, send it to 2-3 friends for editing, implement their suggestions, and put it out there for sale. If you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to help keep the romance in your relationship, I’ve got just the thing for you!
  • Get the other website live. – I wasn’t planning on creating a new website, but the ideas kept coming to me. So I figured that maybe it was past time.
  • Keep up with the homework. – It’s a stream that won’t end until early December. So until then I’ve got to just keep working and not let myself get behind.

Well, there’s my progress. I’m pleased with it; I feel like I got a good amount done, especially since I wasn’t planning on half of the projects. However, I’ve also got a good bit of work to do, both on habits and projects. What do you think? Any suggestions for me?

Packing for the “100 Thing Challenge”

I’ve begun to pack things away for the “100 Thing Challenge”, and it’s interesting to see how it’s coming. Not the packing away part, that’s easy enough. The challenge is feeling like I have enough to cover the “what-if” questions that pop up while being realistic about the answers.

For example, I continually worry that I won’t have enough clothes. What if some event comes up when I need a particular outfit? Realistically, what I’ve set aside is more than I actually wear on a week-to-week basis. On a long-term basis, if I really needed something else, I would go out and either borrow or buy it. I can do the same thing this month, unless I already happen to have it, then I can just pull it out and be good to go (which is just another form of borrowing).

I get to cheat a little

It’s easier to plan what clothing to keep since I’m only covering a month’s time. If I were planning for a whole year, I would have to be prepared for temperatures ranging from 0°F to about 100°F. That makes for additional clothing that I would need (especially for the colder temperatures).

Of course, this advantage didn’t occur to me until I was separating my clothes. I started to stack my shorts on the upper shelf in my closet, right next to my sweaters, when I realized how good I have it. Of course, I then went back and added two sweaters and a hoodie to my list, since I’m trying to be realistic about this. (Good thing that I have those extra spaces left!)

Current progress

  1. All of my socks, underwear, doo rags, and bandannas now fit into a single drawer in the dresser.
  2. I’ve moved the clothes that I’m “keeping” onto one shelf, and the non-100 onto a separate shelf.
  3. My motorcycle gear was already separated, so I didn’t have to do anything different about that.
  4. The shoes that I won’t be wearing are stashed in the back of the closet, out of sight.
  5. I cleared my desk of non-100 items.
  6. My dresser and bedside table are now empty of non-100 items.
  7. Purged my backpack of non-100 thing items.

I think that I’m mostly done and ready to go. The hardest part is separating school stuff from non-school stuff. Do I need to keep out that canvas, or am I just doing so because I might “want to maybe use it sometime?” Hard as it might be, when I run into a question like that, it’s time to pack it away.

I discovered that other than clothes, most of the pruning consisted of decorations and doubles. I stashed away a lot of things that I never use (jewelry box with jewelry that is never worn), some mementos, and a lot of spare items (ie: the 15 pencils and pens that I had in my backpack)

Fortunately this wasn’t hard work. It consisted more of making the time to move things things around than it was a challenge to separate them. If I were actually getting rid of things, that might have been a whole different story!