I took a sabbatical for the past few weeks. Not just from this blog, but from social media too. I’ve returned to tell the tale.
I haven’t had a TV set in my house in about a decade. Last weekend, for about 10 minutes, I wished I did.
I reclaimed my nightstand this weekend. I had two goals for doing it: bust clutter and continue getting my electronics under control. Paradoxically, it took more electronics to do this.
My phone is with me almost everywhere, even though I’ve basically kicked it out of the bedroom. It needed some maintenance today. And I’ve decided– for now — not to replace it.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: you can’t read these words without an electronic device connected to the Internet. So there’s a point at which “Chasing Minimalism” (the blog) and “chasing minimalism” (the lifestyle) diverge. In the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring the intentional unplug. I’ve found that just a few minutes a day has made me a more mindful dad, husband and yes, employee.
No doubt about it: technology is a boon for leaving a lighter footprint and spending less time and energy on the administrivia of life. You can carry your entire book collection in the palm of your hand, or visit your credit card provider’s website from any device anywhere in the world instead of stuffing a file cabinet with paper statements.
But as I discussed in last week’s post about email, the online world can also function like a closet. You can stuff things in there with no rhyme or reason, making the entire endeavor useless and frustrating until you hide it behind a door (or an off switch). It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve developed a stable of digital tricks that help keep me productive and organized, and help keep my family charging forward through life. None of them costs any money, by the way.
Lindy and I have been working our way through Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We’re not nearly to the point of saying everything we own sparks joy, and I don’t know if our socks are feeling their life force because of the way they’re folded and stored. But I’ve written much and plan to write plenty more in this space about minimalism: not owning more than you need, enjoying what you have and focusing on what’s most important in life.
As an early pioneer of online technologies, I realized pretty quickly that digital clutter is a pervasive threat to a minimalist lifestyle. It’s just like stuffing everything behind a closet door: you can’t always see it, but it’s still there.
Here’s the first thing I do to keep my online life tidy: Inbox Zero.
In theory, I’m a fiscally responsible grown-up. Or at least I think enough of my financial skills to write about them on my blog. I read about a dozen frugality and early retirement blogs regularly, own and have given away copies of “Your Money or Your Life.” I employ the services of a fee-only financial planner, and have never bounced a check or had a bill go into collection. I’m the chief financial officer of our household.
But I’ve got a dark secret.
Lindy and I were customers of discount mobile carrier Ting for two months. We’ve switched back to T-Mobile.
I so wanted to like Ting. The concept was right up my alley: a frugal way to do cell phone service. To me, frugality means not paying for things you don’t need and not paying too much for the things you do. That’s exactly how Ting markets itself.
(Originally published on Medium)
“Describe a time when you had to rapidly alter your plans to react to changing circumstances. What was the result?”
This is my new favorite interview question.