A week ago I put everything I own into boxes. My closet was empty. I resolved to remove what I needed from the boxes, when I needed it, and to put it in the closet when I’d finished using it. In that way, as time goes on, my closet will become filled with only those things I really use. What’s still in boxes can be recycled, sold, or given away.
Why am I doing this? I learned to love minimalism out of necessity. My first move was with a rented moving van when I was in my 20s, from Dallas to Champaign, Illinois. My second move was after I finished my MBA, to Cz?stochowa, Poland. I took two suitcases and mailed three boxes. Shipping was expensive. My next move was to South Africa. I didn’t mail boxes that time. I just took the two suitcases allowed by the airline. Since then, every time I changed continents, I reduced down to those two suitcases. South Africa to Dallas. Dallas to Eugene, Oregon. Eugene to Poland. Each time, I ditched all the detritus. I got good at not having much to give up. But now I’ve been in the same apartment in Krakow for eight years. That’s a really long time for me to stay put, and the junk is building up. Stuff is overhead and waste. It takes up mental cycles to choose what to wear because you have a lot of clothes or to find that thing you lost. When I have less than 100 things, I know exactly where every one of them is. I like it that way.
I’m constraining this experiment to myself, so things I share with my family, like the contents of the kitchen, or furniture, are outside the bounds of this project.
On the morning of the first day, I took out a pair of underwear, a t-shirt, a pair of socks, a pair of boots, a polar, and later in the day when I needed to go out, a coat. After my shower, I took out my computer and power cable and got to work.
At the end of the first week, this is what I have used:
Clothes (12 items)
- One pair of hiking pants.
- One pair of jeans.
- Two t-shirts.
- A polar vest.
- Two pairs of underwear.
- My Jack Wolfskin GoreTex winter coat.
- A pair of GoreTex lined knit gloves.
- One pair of boxers and the pajamas my wife gave me for Christmas.
- a pair of slippers.
- Waterproof, felt-lined black boots.
- One black belt I’ve owned for over twenty years.
- My bathing suit (I’m teaching my son to swim).
Toiletries (4 items)
- A toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste.
- A 1966’s Gillet Super Speed safety razor and a box of blades with a badger-hair brush and a tube of shaving cream.
- A stick of deodorant.
- A tube of hair gel.
Running Gear (6 items)
- Nike 5.0 shoes (prefered for short runs on pavement).
- Nike Plus GPS watch (only used for running).
- Long running pants (it’s winter).
- Running gloves (still winter).
- Buff (yep, still winter running).
- DryMax running socks.
Electronics (6 items)
- A laptop and charging cable.
- A mobile phone.
- A Pebble watch.
- My Kindle.
- Sony MP3 headphones, on which I listen to podcasts when traveling by bus or tram.
- HP Deskjet 3000 wifi network printer and spare ink cartridge.
Other Stuff (13 items)
- My wedding ring (I never take it off, so I’m not sure if it qualifies as “stuff”).
- A molskine notebook and a Palomino pencil with pencil sharpener in the cap.
- A Swiss army knife I used to open a beer bottle.
- One pack of Post-it notes I used for my personal kanban board.
- A backpack.
- My glasses.
- My reading glasses (yes, I’m old).
- My wallet (with cash, ID and debit card)
- My house keys.
- My office keys.
- Hohner Special Twenty harmonica in the key of C.
- A bottle of Knob Creek bourbon. (I don’t plan to replace this when it’s gone, hopefully not to quickly).
- The October (most recent) issue of “Current Anthropology.”
Total count: 41 things
So far, that is an exhaustive list of all the things I’ve used in the first week. My expectation is that coming weeks will add a bit of clothes, and my first off-road run will add a pair of shoes and few bits of gear I need for longer runs and for night runs, but my hope is that even several months from now, the list doesn’t stray much past 50 items. Come summer, I’ll have to add summer clothes.
In terms of organization, stuff tends to be stored in the categories listed above. I have one shelf in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom for my four toiletry itms, one box in my closet for all my running gear and clothes, and when summer comes, I’ll pack all my winter clothes into one box and slip it under the bed for six months and I’ll have another box for summer-only wear.
As of now, the biggest surprise is that with a tiny washing machine and a family of three, I can spend a week with just two changes of clothes. It seems that every morning when I look in my closet, there’s exactly one pair of underwear, one pair of socks, one shirt and one pair of pants. No choice. Easy peasy.
My expectation is that six months from now, I’ll have a fraction of the stuff I own now and will know at all times where everything I own is. That makes for less stress for me, and that’s a very good thing.