On Staying Minimalist

In Essays, Philosophy, Productivity, Reading, Self Improvement

I consider myself a minimalist.

I don’t own a whole bunch of stuff, I don’t crave the latest consumer goods, and I keep my personal space tidy, and quite bare. You can see my workstation below, and that’s not a staged shot, it pretty much remains exactly like that, give or take a Moleskine notebook or two when I am working.

Whisper Studio


However, I have realised that I’ve become more sensitive to minimalism over time. The more you experience minimalism, the more you things you start to notice that you can remove.

However, one has to also be aware of the general tendency to move towards consumerism in this global economy. Pretty much whether you are in the world, you’ll be bombarded with advertising. This will have an effect on you, unless you mindfully cancel it out my thinking about what is important in your life.

I’ll give you a trivial, but somewhat telling example from myself and this website. This website has been getting bloated, because I keep viewing other, commercial, websites, and I feel that I should emulate them and that I am “missing out”.

This is why I decided to start adding tracking codes from Google Analytics, comments on every page, and a few other things.

Then I realised that I was thinking more about the metrics, and far less about the actual content on the website, which is of course just plain ridiculous.

So I’ve again removed the tracking codes (hello, privacy), and also removed the commenting system, but my email is always there if you feel that you have something to say.

I find that the conversations I strike up by email are far more interesting than the ones I may have on a comment thread.

I’ll be writing about incentives soon, and it’s incredible how the information we have available, and the options available to us, influence our behaviour.

Simply by removing a tracking code, I focus far more on the writing, and far less on the number of visitors I receive.

So it can actually be quite difficult to remain minimalist, because now you have something to lose. It’s very difficult to give up anything else, but very easy to add things on.

I moved to the other side of the world two years ago when I was 22, and I had just a hand luggage and a couple of cameras, and I actually lost the cameras already.

However, I’ve gained plenty more things. As you can see in the photo above, I now own an iMac, a table, a chair, and I’ve got quite a few other things.

Again, it’s difficult to stay at an extreme level of minimalism like I was before, but there are also upsides. There is very little to worry about, you can concentrate on life and experiences instead of things.

But a middle path is fine. We can own things and still stay light and free.

Like the ancient Stoics would have advised us, it’s fine to have material things, as long as we can stay emotionally detached from them, and be prepared to lose them at a moment’s notice without any distress.

That’s true minimalism.