Almost a year later from when I started my minimalist journey and I find myself gravitating to a more zen like discipline in my daily life. I want everything to be simple and useful. Rather one thing that fills the function of many or nothing at all. Or finding contentment in just being. In my phasing out of stuff I am now at a cross roads where the stuff I have left is stuff I couldn’t get rid of the first few times around.
Books I have been absolutely convinced that I would read, or cook books that I knew that I just had to have. Camera gear and a bicycle that I find I am having a hard time parting ways with. The camera gear fits within my goals, hobbies and interests, the bike on the other hand? It’s fun to take out every once in a while. But at the moment and within the foreseeable future I don’t see myself partaking in any competition or meaningful activity that would suggest or motivate me keeping my bike. (This particular bike).
My goals right now consist of running an ultra marathon in May, the Stockholm marathon in June, backpacking and photography in northern Sweden, finish two books I’m working on plus a video course and moving to Zambia within the next year for at least 6 months to a year. None of these activities requires my particular bike or if anything the bike I have creates a stress of having to use it… And considering my daily quota of hours that I can allocate to riding a bike are minimal for the foreseeable future (I mainly need to run), I am having a hard time making a case to keep the bike and other such items.
It’s these kinds of choices that I now find myself having to make. Getting rid of books that made it through the first phase, since becoming vegan almost all my recipes are on apps (So I am giving away all my cook books to friends and family). I find that the choices though are getting easier, not just for myself but as a family unit things are getting easier. It’s the Zambia trip that is making us really give everything an extra thought. Because in all honesty when we leave Sweden, the only stuff I want left is the stuff I bring with me. I don’t want to own anything that is left behind. The exception being the house which we will rent out and a few personal items that belong in the house (TV, Couch..)
With that said, I find some of the stupidest things I have an attachment to.. A memory attachment, or something that’s serves no other purpose than the idea that at sometime in the future I may or may not use this item (Welding machine). I have old suits that I never use, excellent quality suits, and a throw back to a past life.. Still an attachment with no purpose.
I feel as if through this phase, the phase of getting rid of stuff that made it through all the other phases is really a demanding feat. It truly requires that I think deeply, ponder the usefulness, the meaning and the value that each item brings me. There is not a lot that brings this kind of value to my life.
Here is my strategy so far:
Place all the stuff I believe I don’t need or want in boxes and store the boxes in a closet. Whatever is left in these boxes after 6 months goes.
Write up a list of my goals for the next year. What purchases or items that I already own do I need to accomplish my goals? Are the things left outside the focus of my goals a distraction from my goals? If so, they go.
By practicing my Leave no trace at home, I am finding that I give all my items and stuff a second look. Just the process of picking up after myself is creating an awareness of my stuff.
Making conscious choices about what I bring into my life. This is done by constantly referring back to my goals and ambitions. With this purchase help me in my pursuit? I recently listened to a podcast on the Rich Rolls podcast channel where Rich had a discussion with Leo Babauta from Zenhabits.com. An amazing episode that really is required listening. Leo talks about, among other things, this very concept.
I have been thinking about something a lot lately. The idea for me started when I got a comment on my book “ultralight and comfortable” about the chapter on Leave no trace. Now this introduction and the actual article that follows have very little to do with each other, but just the idea about being in the outdoors, the simpleness of it all, and in some ways the full experience of being in the “now” as it were. There is another aspect within backpacking called the leave no trace. It’s the idea of when you are in the outdoors you leave as little trace as possible behind you when you go. For example, bring your trash with you, bury your poop, don’t chop down perfectly healthy living trees and so on. So I started to think about this and it’s implication in everyday life.
If there is one thing that drives my wife and myself crazy it’s how messy the house gets from one day to the next. As if some kind of magical dirt elf ran around spreading shit all throughout the house just to irritate the piss out of us. It’s not unusual for the elf to leave my pants in the living room (it’s my thing to take off my pants as soon as I get home), or how the elf leaves out my wife’s arts and crafts on the kitchen table. Hell the elf even has a habit of leaving out dirty dishes, iPads, phones and socks. Even little things like remote controls and books get spread out throughout the house. Then comes cleaning day and my wife and I are always and equally surprised by how bad everything got over the course of the week.
Too be honest the two discussions that we have the most right now concerning cleaning and all around happiness is this:
1. My wife wants to hire a maid to clean up after the elf
2. I want to clean out everything we own so we don’t have anything for the elf to spread
However a third option has started to brew in my mind: Leave no trace. How hard can it be to put things back from where they were taken? Or does everything actually have to be moved from one spot to another? Let’s me be honest here, even if I got my way and cleaned out the house completely, I would still have my pants on the stairway, my iPhone on the sofa table, the tv controllers will be placed anywhere from under the sofa to behind the kitchen table.
Now practice leave no trace with minimalism and I seriously doubt a maid will be needed. I think leave no trace creates a kind of discipline sourly lacking in our lives (my family).
So here is my challenge for the next few months to see what happens, as with all new habits, in-order to form a new habit and old one must be broken, slowly but surely:
Create a new habit of picking up after myself.
I will start small – First my bed every morning (been so long ago since I last made my bed, I almost forgot how to do this)
Putting my computer back in it’s spot, iPhone and tv remotes
A book I take out I will put back
Clean up after myself after every meal (I usually cook dinner)
My guess is that by creating these small changes everyday I am training myself to be more conscious of what I do during the course of a day.
I won’t be leaving a large mess to clean up later.
I love emptiness or tidiness, I love cleanliness and it makes me happy.
I won’t have as much clutter.
I will be more aware of my surroundings and my daily life.
Sometimes that is all that is needed in-order to be happy: To just slow down and realize what you do and have.
I’m going to write about something different here. Something that I hope will help you on your journey to become not only a minimalist, but even a better you. We all have ambitions, goals and a journey we wish for ourselves. But somewhere along the line that vision we had for ourselves gets replaced by a reality we find ourselves in. Within that reality we try to make peace, find contentment and in the end we try to forget what our dreams and ambitions of a silly youth were.
When searching for that contentment we fill the empty space that once was our dreams with stuff. Many of us consume in-order to convince ourselves, often unconsciously, that the life we live or chose is better. Perhaps the life we dreamt about was simply that, a dream. Maybe some of us have tried and failed in pursuing our dreams.
I have done a lot of things in my life, at times I’ve made a lot of money, and other times I have been scraping by. The worst time of my life emotionally was when I was done with my studies, I was tired of playing music for a living, and I wanted to create a good life for myself and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife). I didn’t want to be a DJ anymore as I had been doing it since I was 12. I was tired, and I simply didn’t want that life any longer. However I wasn’t exactly a model student, in fact I barely got my Bachelors and I didn’t want to put in the work for a masters. I knew more or less what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a portfolio manager. I had been trading in stock, bonds, futures and options since I was 16 and had a good track record over the years. I figured a bachelors and my track record would be enough to land any job. I was wrong.
My studies ended in 2007. My bachelors term paper was written on the ”real or perceived threat of the housing market crisis”. A crisis that hadn’t hit full swing yet and was still brewing. When my studies were finished nobody was hiring, and even if they could they wouldn’t. I must have sent out a hundred or more applications, I called, had several contacts in high places, but in the end nobody was hiring. I was desperate to get my foot in the door, but I hadn’t done my homework or put the effort into getting my masters degree or make myself attractive enough for potential employers. So I eventually started my own fund called ”shaw logic, LLC”. I had a few investors and we had a decent amount of seed money, the first year or so we even had decent results. But it’s not what I wanted, I didn’t want to own a fund, manage it and do the investing. I just wanted to be a manager and build strategies to beat the market.
In the end the pressure of having a fund was too much to do it by myself so I closed down and gave the money back to the investors and moved on. Accepting the fact that I would never work as a portfolio manager in the traditional sense of doing it, also realizing that there was a large possibility that I didn’t want to either. I eventually took a job as an accountant to make ends meet and was still going to interviews and so on for fund management positions. But the truth is that if there are 10 applicants applying for the same job, I was the one that was automatically filtered out as I didn’t have the necessary experience or education.
Ten years removed from when I was done with my studies, and seven years after my time as a fund manager and five years removed as an accountant, I am happy with the life I have. I have done a lot in that time since I finished my studies. Together with some investors I started one of Stockholms largest sports bars, I got hired on as a financial advisor, I’ve worked and became part owner in a management consultant firm and now I work as a manager in the nation wide employment agency. But after doing all this I realize that none of it is really the life I wanted or craved.
I crave a simpler life, I crave a life where I wake up everyday on pursue my passion with vigor, where everyday is filled with the joy of living a life with purpose. Perhaps the problem with me is that I have had moments of pursuing my passion blindly, and they have been the greatest moments of my life. If I had never experienced this, then maybe I would be content with what I have?
I have often thought about what mans purpose is and I believe that our purpose in life is to find our purpose, than pursue that purpose with childlike abandon. (Yes a very Budhist like statement). I love the life that I have created with my wife and child, but I know we can do so much more than the traditional ”middle class life”. The house, Volvo, 2.5 kids and running endlessly in the hamster wheel.
In my bones I feel that I have to do something else, something that is my passion. Maybe my purpose is to write, to explore the world, to train, to teach, to help others. So if my passion is to write, explore and teach, how do I know? How would you know what your passion is when you find it? Or to that end is your passion you purpose? Just because you love doing something doesn’t mean it’s what you want to do as a career, or if it’s even possible. Some people say collecting stamps is their passion in life, but is it really? or is it a compulsion, a need to collect, a void that is being filled by finding, buying and collecting different stamps? I can’t answer that for other people, I can only relate to my own life experiences, and in my life I usually start to collect things when I am unhappy with something else. A kind of compulsion to fill my emptiness.
Think about it like this, if money didn’t exist, was no object and you got to do whatever you wanted to do with your time, what would you do? If I strip away everything In my life and break it down like this I always come back to the samethings:
I want to backpack more, I want to write more, I want to take the time necessary to be a photographer, I want to help others in their own journeys in life. I want to be with my family more and I want the time we are together to be spent with joy. How is this different from what I’m doing now? It’s not. I just want more of it and only it and I don’t want the middle class burden that I now find myself and family in. I don’t want the house, cars and stuff. I don’t want the bills and debt or the idea of somebody else owning my time. I don’t want my few precious hours where my family is home together in the evenings to be filled in front of a TV, iPad or computer. I want our time to be just that: Our time.
Yet the life we find ourselves in drains us to the core. My wife works 40-50 hours a week and Alexander goes to pre-school and I work. When we get home in the evening we are spent, and as an excuse we turn on the TV and Alex plays with his iPad. We are stuck in a hamster wheel of our own making.
Our backyard at the moment.. Filled with stuff that we at one time thought we had to have now getting ready for the dump
Everything is a distraction trap, every little buzz on the phone, every little beep on a watch, every little sound the iPad or TV makes. It’s all a distraction from a purposeful life. How do you find your passion if you can’t even stop to meditate for 10 minutes?
Making a change
Minimalism is the answer to the hamster wheel, the real answer. Not the ”get rich quick” answer, but a true answer to many of life’s real problems. I am stuck in the hamster wheel because we as a family like to buy stuff. We have debt which in turn creates a demand to pay. That demand to pay means we have to work. The bigger the debt the bigger the problem, the bigger the demand to pay. That debt is not just money that needs to be paid, above all else it is time. Time in your life, in my life, that must be spent doing work that isn’t my passion in-order to pay for a life I don’t want. With every purchase I make, I am giving up an equal amount of time from my life. The bigger the house, the more time needed from my life in-order to pay. It’s as simple as that. If I own less, consume less, and have less debt, the more life I have to pursue the passions that I love.
I don’t see debt as simply debt, I see it as my life, dreams and passions slipping away before my very eyes. I see the stuff in my house as an anchor, I see my house as a grave because it is owned by the bank. Don’t get me wrong, I love my house, I love my comforts, and the ability to buy what I want when I want. The problem is, I don’t want to have to slave 40 hours a week for 30 years for something that isn’t my passion in-order to have this life. On top of that if my house is not designed with singular purpose than it is very much a distraction from my passions.
What do I mean by singular purpose? If my passion is to write and teach, then how does a TV, hundreds of glasses, towels, DVD’s, sofas, chairs, tables, games and so on help me pursue my passion? It doesn’t, it simply distracts me from my passion. Anything that doesn’t help my pursue my passion, distracts me from it. The more stuff we have in our house, the more time goes towards, if nothing else, dusting the stuff off every now and then and re-organizing it.
We started to make some changes last year around summer time. I started emptying and selling tons of stuff, my wife caught on and started to sort a lot as well. But in the end, even though we have less stuff, we still have too much. Too much distraction, too much debt, too many bills, too many anchors. Minimalism has to be a singular goal in and of itself. A constant pursuit to own less, and above all else, the reason to own less. We must have a reason to own less. We must see the benefits before the actual goal is achieved. When we started to empty the house last year I felt it in my bones that this was the answer.
My buying habits have changed dramatically, I now make a 30 day wait list for things I want to buy. It’s interesting to see what pops up in my calendar from a month ago.. Stuff I put on a waiting list that I absolutely knew I had to have, and poof.. A month later I forgot what the item was to begin with. I now own less stuff, and I question everything that I do have. I still hunt, and the hunt is a pain in the ass and something I am still trying to break. I still have watch lists of stuff I want to buy. I still place bids on eBay just to see if I can get something really cheap. And all this hunting takes away from the important things in life.
With that said, our house looks like just about any other middle class house, it’s still filled with stuff we don’t use, in places that keep dust, organized in closest we never go into, and a house in a constant form of repair; Repair that requires time, money and above all else energy. At some point, we as a family have to decide that this isn’t working for us. This middle class life is a lie, this lie built on an advertisers playbook. Brainwashing us since birth. I long for the day when I wake up in my bed with my son and wife by my side and we have no idea what the hell we are going to do for the day, but have no worries at all. I long for the day when this is a reality that exist beyond the realm of vacation.
I believe this is possible with less. Less debt, less stuff to take care of, less bills, less house to repair.. Less of stuff and more of the things that matter. Life, love and passion.
Life should be just this.. a spontaneous day out with friends and family
This one is difficult for me. To be honest, I have had many, many hobbies and I don’t mind buying stuff for my different hobbies. One major change I have made since becoming minimalist is limiting the amount of hobbies that I have. In fact, I am now working towards one hobby at a time with perhaps a longer life than my previous adventures. So instead of me having 5 different completely separate hobbies that I go at about 150% for 2 months at a time, I now try to limit myself to just one hobby that might have a few offshoots but still part of the whole.
An example of this would be do I choose photography or working on cars? While photography can certainly be a lone hobby, it tends to work well with my other hobby of backpacking. So cars will have to go. What more can be incorporated into my backpacking hobby? Photography, recipes (making food for the trail), traveling in general, writing and even MYOG (make own gear). However, if I were to pursue all of these separately with 100% focus they would be too large and expensive to accommodate for any other hobbies. Read More
Less is more. More time, more money, more freedom. The less stuff we own, the less stuff to take care of, the less stuff to be stressed about and the less stuff to distract us from our calling in life. This is what we need to think about before every purchase: How will this make me achieve my goals? Will it help me achieve my goals? Do I need it now?
There are a few different minimalist online that even suggest waiting 30 days before any major purchases. I think this is a fairly good strategy as it really teaches discipline – which is undoubtedly missing in the first place. At least it is for me. I am a man of little discipline, granted more than probably most people from my generation, but not where I want to be. I find that when I have the urge to purchase something, I simply open my iphone calender, set a date for 30 days in the future, and put in the item there. Currently the items I have in this calender are: Read More
To say that humans, much like oil, peanuts and gold is simply a commodity, is true in todays ”market” driven economy. To be used and discarded when the commodity is no longer profitable, is the way the new economy is built and works. At-least that is the impression given when most companies refuse to give a living wage in the USA, and if injured, most employees lose their jobs. (If non-professional). What am I getting at? Personally I think the market economy is wrong, I think we have gone too far in this utopian fantasy, our personalities have been replaced by marketing campaigns.
We all have the little movie playing in our heads, where we are the stars, were we are the ones playing in the leading roll in the Hollywood movie, or the professional boxer who just beat the best fighters in the world, or we just walked down the runway at a Victoria secret event. Whatever the fantasy, isn’t it strange that many of us live by these dreams? Often replacing our own realities with these far fetched fantasies? I have met many people who live in constant depression because they haven’t reached the dream status of the movie playing in their heads. This utopian vision of being complete only when we have the newest gear, or the newest and best car or grill. Our souls have been purposely erased and reprogrammed since birth by a highly motivated and successful marketing campaign. Read More
Winter is here in Sweden and as usual my focus starts turning from backpacking to other projects. Mainly writing. Living as a minimalist has had so many benefits for me that it’s hard to count them all. Not only is my bank account fatter than ever (from not spending money and selling most everything I own) by my mental stress is gone, I sleep better, I’m by far more productive than ever with my writing and since I’m not throwing away my money on time and useless garbage, I have a lot more time for backpacking and travel. (As of this writing I’m currently in Teneriffa in the canary islands enjoy some time with the family under the sun)
For those of you who haven’t been kept up to date on my other projects other than this site, I will do a quick rundown here:
I am currently writing a Recipe book with a friend. Hopefully we can get that done by years end and published by April. This book will first be published in paperback form in Sweden, but hopefully we will have an English variant available not to long after that can be purchased on this site as well as in your local gear shops.
I have another book on backpacking I’m working on that’s about 60% finished right now. The focus on this book is on general backpacking and different ways of thinking for different people. We don’t all have to be ultralight to have a good time. This book moves in phases of backpacking – phasing out from heavy miserable to lighter and lighter depending on needs. I should be finished with this book by April-may sometime.
A book on Climate change: Granted this book is still on planning basis and I only have about 5 chapters written. The outline is however finished now it’s the research that matters. I started this out as a small article that I wanted to write to my son who is now 3 years old. I wanted to write a letter to him about why me and my generation didn’t do more when we knew without a doubt that we are wrecking the planet. Anyway, on one sit down I wrote 8000 words in about 5 hours and realized that I needed to write more, and I needed to know all the facts myself. I don’t have a release date on this one as I really want to do it right. But hopefully within a year will be my timeframe.
Then to finally get myself more active in the world around me, I started a website call www.afterdemocracy.org. (Also to spare my backpacking friends in the world from reading my political thoughts on this site) While the main focus is on the political landscape in the USA and Sweden, I even write about other topics such as climate change. The blog helps me sharpen my focus and writing style. Instead of just talking about things I am able to compile them, research and back up my thoughts with verifiable facts. Making it much easier for me to write books later on.
I have a few other projects in the works as well, but I will save those for a later post as I want to get these projects completed first.
As it stands I still have a few articles lined up for this site and will continue to actively publish here. So don’t worry, I will just be working more along the lines of quality over quantity.
Did I mention I’m still a full time dad, husband and Boss?
I’ve written in earlier post about my move towards a minimalist lifestyle, in many ways inspired by my backpacking. So far my conversion from consumer to minimalist is working out just fine. There have been a lot of changes that I have had to make, but to be honest the feeling I get everyday is that of less stress, less worry and, well, less. I am not constantly obsessing about the stuff I own or what I need to buy to be complete. I have found the latter part to still be a fight though, I do find things I would like to buy and would make my life easier. Though admittedly it’s now about what one thing can replace several and help me with my productivity.
One example of this is have an iMac 27” an iPad Air and two iPhones. Considering I am rather un-productive on an iPad (I just surf the internet and read magazine). My iMac I don’t like sitting at because of it being downstairs and at a desk with a really bad chair. I decided to get rid of the iMac and iPad and replace them with a MacBook Pro instead. (I haven’t really figured out which I would like as my needs include video, photography and writing) I did purchase a MacBook Pro 15” but it is a bit heavy to have with me everywhere. Read More
Here is an article I wrote awhile ago but never got around to publishing. I call it the failure of man because we are always striving after “something” – yet what we don’t truly understand is that we already have everything we truly want or need. Enjoy.
This post is going to be a little different from my normal ones. Namely this isn’t about gear or specifically about hiking. It is simply about the philosophy and meaning of life. Small subject I know. I think about this question a lot, it’s one of those priviledges in life where I have a lot of free time and this allows my brain to focus on other things than work and paying bills. I think about this as I have lived my life fairly materialistic, there has never been anything I truly wanted that I haven’t been able to just go out and buy, and more often than not, I do just go out and buy with very little oversight or thought.
However over the years I have also been accutely aware of my materialism: I know I buy an amazing amount of gear, stuff and many times just garbage that sits in my closet. One of my mental phases or perhaps coping mechanisms with this insane materialism is that I sell just as much as I buy, I rarely lose money on the things I sell, but the fact remains: I am addicted to buying shit. Read More
Backpacking has given me so much in life. Nature is my psychologist and my mentor, it humbles me and it challenges me. What I get out of my hikes I could never possibly formulate in writing, anybody who has ever been on longer hikes would probably feel the same. Being in the wild reminds us of who and where we really are on earth. Our place in the natural order, somewhere in the middle of the food chain. There are all kinds of bad shit that can happen to us in the wild, from falling and breaking something, to being eaten to being poisoned, freeze to death, starve to death or heat exhaustion. You name it, you can die from it in the wild. It is when you are alone in the vast expanses of the wild that you realize just how insignificant you really are. An ant on a child’s playground. Read More