Minimalist Manifesto (part 1)

I have been meaning to write this for a while now. As I am sure this will turn out to be a 'work in progress', I added the 'part 1' to the title with some foresight.

In the past years I have become more and more interested in the concept of minimalism. Not in terms of art but in terms of a lifestyle. For some time now, I have started reading up on minimalistic lifestyle approaches through blogs and ebooks.

At the same time, I been feeling weighed down by things - both professionally as in my private life. Both material things (stuff) and non-minimalistic approaches (workflows etc.) have been slowly wearing me down - weighing heavy on my mind.

I long for a simpler, more meaningful approach and believe that minimalism can help me fulfill that longing. Minimalism has already resulted in some major and minor changes in my life(style). Writing this 'minimalist manifesto' is the next step in that process. It can both serve as a future promise to myself and as a list of what I have already accomplished. I do not believe in extreme 'minimalism' (e.g. trying to live with almost no material goods). I also do not think minimalism has all the answers or has to be exclusive as a lifestyle.

My minimalist approach to life:

  • Stuff - I will try and limit the amount of stuff I collect around myself. I love nice things, I love quality things, but they need to serve a purpose. Items that are not used or do not serve any purpose, have to go. As I used to be a packrat/collector, this is sort of a slow process for me. With the help of my wife, I have been throwing out a lot of things. There is still more work to be done though. Sometimes it can also be a tough choice. We like for example to host dinner parties at home and enjoy different kind of foods. That can lead to a lot more stuff: tableware, specialized cooking gear, etc.
    What I do buy, has to meet certain quality standards - better invest in something durable than in junk.
  • Organizing - the things that I do own, have to be organized and stored in such a manner that they do not get in my way while at the same time being easily accessible. That also goes for my digital life.
  • Digital - organizing my digital life has already become harder (more time-consuming) than organizing my offline life. I have tried to find the right tools to help me organize my files, pictures, notes and email. I follow a specific email archiving approach with a (near to) zero-Inbox policy. I use Simplenote (online, iPhone and Ipad) for my notes and ToDo lists. I use Evernote to archive receipts and letters.
  • Mail and receipts - my (snail) mail and receipts archive has been moved online. I try and throw away every single piece of paper that comes in through the mail, now. I take a picture of any important letter or receipt with my iPhone and sync and store it with Evernote. I will probably refrain from doing something similar with my old paper archive. This problem will solve itself in the future as I can throw these papers away eventually.
  • Furniture and decoration - my wife and me both like a clean, tidy and rather sparsely decorated house. At the same time, we like decorating and hosting people. These things are some times at odds with each other. Over the past few years, we have accumulated more and more furniture and accessoires. At least our walls are still almost all empty (white).
  • Clean - having a clean house/work area should be central to any minimalist approach. Having little stuff helps with keeping things clean. I definitely need to do more work on this. Thorough cleaning still comes mostly in spurts.
  • Food - my wife (again) taught me to appreciate food more. Though we enjoy the occasional Big Mac, we try to steer away from the processed 'corn syrup' staples most of the time and invest in good quality food. Finding high-quality (organic) food in the Netherlands, proves quite the challenge however.
  • Time - time is limited, it is the single most important thing that we have to offer. I am a pretty awful time-manager in the sense that I always take on more (tasks) than I can possibly handle in a given amount of time. Though I do end up accomplishing a lot because of this, there is certainly room for improvement here.
  • Health - our body is our vessel. I do not understand why we would not try our best to take care of it. It does not take much, to keep your body in good shape: sufficient sleep, healthy food and plenty of exercise.
  • Wealth - I have the luxury to live a minimal lifestyle (and even write about it, on a blog). Acquiring some wealth to take care of yourself (and people around you), should be a main task for everyone. We are entitled to nothing.
  • Professionally - most of the points above also affect my professional life. More specifically, both in the software that I develop and in the advise that I give, I try to adhere to a minimalist philosophy. For example: I believe in simple, clear software that does not need much explaining (on how to use it) and does not offer more than that what is needed.

That is it for now. I went through the list fairly quickly and could have focused more on every item. Do not be surprised if I revisit some of these points in the future. There is much room for improvement on most of these points - trust me, I will be trying.

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13 October 2010 • Know thyself, Minimalist, Personal, Philosophy

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