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.
Is this blog becoming a place for paid shilling? No, Amazon didn’t pay me to write this. And yes, it’s true that if any of the tens of readers of this blog sign up for a Prime trial or use my affiliate links, I’ll make a buck or two. But I’m not such an easy endorser. Amazon Prime has made my hectic life much easier in so many ways, any one of which could be worth the $99 annual price.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Yesterday evening, I ran out and got XY some Chinese takeout for dinner before the babysitter came over. Why? Because we couldn’t get into the kitchen to feed the kid. We’ve been having the kitchen floor re-tiled, which is a three-day job. The last-minute scramble, minus the tiles, probably sounds familiar to a lot of working parents. But it’s a very unusual thing for us, by design.
Avoiding situations like last-minute takeout food, with its high cost, extra packaging and often dubious nutritional value, is exactly why we make a meal plan every week.
Stripping life down to its barest essentials, so you can focus on what’s truly important. That was my premise for founding I Am Hopeful a couple of weeks ago, before my family and I stuffed several days’ worth of gear into suitcases and headed out on a cross-country RV trip. It’s time to return to the promise of that premise with my first lifestyle tip: wear a uniform.
(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.