Minimizing my life or: Why I decided to get rid of most of my stuff

The silent to-do list

In his book, Goodbye, Things, Fumio Sasaki talks about what he calls the “silent to-do list.” He argues that every single item in your house, in one way or another, requests your attention. Games ask to be played, books to be read, DVDs to be watched. Even purely decorative items ask to be dusted, and your rug vacuumed.

The pros and cons of a minimalist lifestyle

Unburdening myself from the silent to-do list pulled me towards minimalism, but I knew it would be a hard journey if I went at it alone. If possible, I wanted it to be a team effort with my wife. Luckily, she was already less of a natural collector than I was, so it wasn’t long before she was curious and interested. Before we committed, though, we did a lot of thinking and talking about our goals of such a major change, along with the pros, cons, and potential pitfalls.

The pros and goals of going minimalist:

  1. Moving would be easy. We’d still need help moving furniture, but everything else could be easily handled ourselves. Moving sucks, and we plan on doing it again semi-soon. The idea that we wouldn’t have to dread it sounds like a dream.
  2. We would have a much better understanding of what we do and don’t own. Objects would get lost far less often, and we wouldn’t waste money by accidentally purchasing duplicates of things we forgot we had. For example, buying a big pack of AA batteries because we thought we were out, only to discover that we had an entire unopened pack in the back of our junk drawer.
  3. Every item in our house would either serve a vital function, significantly improve our comfort, or make us happy. If an item doesn’t do one or more of those things, and do it well, we don’t need it. Having strict guidelines about what we allow into our house would free us from casually shopping for things we don’t really need. As an extra bonus, not buying random things all the time would automatically help us save more money, which would allow us do things like pay off car notes more quickly and take nicer, more frequent vacations.
  4. Minimizing would also lessen the worry of something happening to our things, minor or major. If my phone breaks, that sucks, but no big deal I’ll just buy another one. And hey, my bank account is nice and full because I’m not constantly buying junk I don’t need, so spending that money wouldn’t even hurt that bad. If our house burns down or washes away in a flood, we’d be able to, more or less, replace what we lost without it being such a horrible traumatic thing. I know it’s difficult to not assign sentimental value to objects, but doing it less often and with less stuff would make us less scared to go through something like Hurricane Harvey again. Minimizing lets you think about your stuff like stuff, as opposed to thinking about your stuff like it’s an extension of yourself.
  5. Shopping would be easy, because we would only do it if we were replacing something specific, or had a clear goal in mind. No more overthinking and over-analyzing purchases. Do we really need that thing or would it significantly make our lives better? If yes, we buy a nice version of it and be happy with it. If no, we put it out of our minds and stop even considering it.

Cons and pitfalls:

  1. The fear of making a mistake. What if we get rid of something that turns out to be irreplaceable and regret it in a big way? I don’t think this is all that likely, but I do think it’s one of the biggest reasons we have a tendency to hold onto things. It might be useful someday!
  2. Falling back into the casually shopping trap. I like shopping for games and books and disc golf discs and kitchen gear — I enjoy researching and purchasing and using. Even though I recognize that this is an endless cycle of wasting money that results in us surrounding ourselves with junk we don’t use, I do worry that my enjoyment of the hunt, combined with how good I am an justifying purchases to myself, will slowly creep back into our lives that we have worked so hard to minimize.

What we’ve done, and what we’ve noticed.

After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to go for it. We wanted to look at every single item we owned and choose if we wanted it in our lives or not.

The biggest impact

Simplifying our physical space has altered my mental space. Not in some grand sweeping singular way, but in many small, significant ones. I’m more selective about how I spend time, less stressed out, I reach out to friends more often, and I think I’ve become more patient in general (although the people around me could speak to that more than I can). I value the things that I do have more, and am more willing to indulge in spontaneous activities like last minute weekends away and evenings out, probably because there’s less to “take care of before we go” at home.

What’s next for us

We haven’t been riding this train very long, but already we’ve talked about going over the house again and letting go of even more stuff. We’ve discussed the kind of place we want to eventually move to and agree that we would like something smaller. For us, we have found that simple really is better.

Books, movies, wine, coffee, and disc golf.

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