Learned Minimalism

written by Dan Silvestre
Minimalism, Personal Development
learned minimalism

The first time I backpacked – around Europe for almost two months – I carried a 65 liters backpack.

I spent months creating the perfect packing list. I prepared for every occasion, deliberating on which items I should take and how many of each.

Finally, the big day arrived! I anxiously boarded the train along with my backpack and guitar, ready for all the adventures ahead of me.

And then, a couple of days later…

I left half of what I had packed in a hostel in London.

Turns out, it was heavy to carry around and hard to fit it into trains and hostels. It also took a long time to pack and unpack (which I did every couple of days).

Fast forward 4 years later and I am boarding my plane to Thailand. This time I’m taking a gap year in Asia and Australia – with a 26 liters carry on.

What changed?

I backpacked every summer: Europe, the Trans Siberian Railway, the United States, India… And every time I carried less and fewer things, becoming more mobile each time.

I had picked up – through trial and error – what I like to call Learned Minimalism.

In fact, throughout my Asia trip, I still threw out some things. When I returned home – six months and a beard later – I had a toothbrush, an iPad, three paperbacks and a couple of clothes. I had less than what I had gone with. I missed nothing.

The one question I got throughout my trip (normally from people carrying huge backpacks)?

“Is this all you are carrying?”

After assuring them that it was, I would tell the story of how I acquired learned minimalist through trial and error. And if they were nice (and open to it), I would review their belongings and offer suggestions. When confronted with all the things they didn’t need most people wouldn’t take the leap and throw it away, preferring to stay just as they were. Oh well, you can’t win them all!

Developing a Minimalist Mindset

Upon returning home, I embraced the same philosophy and started getting rid – selling, donating, giving to friends or throwing away – of things.

Humans are collectors by choice and there are a lot of things that we will never need again. Notes from college? Old clothes that we don’t use anymore? kitchen utensils that might come handy? Nah, you don’t really need these things.

Having less frees not only space but also your mind, letting it focus on the things that matter.

After quitting my job and becoming a full-time blogger and freelancer, I started my home office with what I had: an old computer (that would crash every 2 hours), the same desk that saw me in despair over math exams in college, that old IKEA chair, and the dim table light.

At some point I realized I need another monitor – especially for editing videos – so I dug up my old 15-inch monitor that I had bought more than ten years ago (fun fact: it was square and not widescreen, they stopped making them like that years ago).

learned minimalism
I knew this picture would come handy someday.

I am not telling you this to feel pity for me. In fact, I was doing fine with what I had.

I had learned to use what I had at my disposal and make the best of it. I only “upgraded” – a new chair or a new Mac Book – when I truly needed it – my back hurt from the long hours and my computer crashed for good – and I knew I could afford it.

In a day and age where so many things are coming out every single day – technology, fashion, sports equipment – often we cannot control the urge that “shiny new thing” because, well, it’s shiny and it’s new.

In fact, our mind plays tricks on us. Sometimes we don’t start something because we think we don’t have the appropriate equipment for it.

You need the best or latest running shoes to run. People have been running for thousands of years and running shoes were never a “real” problem.

You don’t need a perfect idea to start a company or a blog. You just need an idea.

Don’t need experience or even a college degree to get a job. You need to apply and let the rule of the large numbers do its magic.

The same is also true when we already have a system in place and constantly try to optimize it. Your calendar app works just fine, you don’t need another one because someone says so (or because it’s better). Or you don’t need a system at all.

Picasso painted every day with only brushes and colors. Out of that, he made Guernica and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Seth Godin has written more than twenty books. He used a computer, a pen and a piece of paper.

The 1% has understood this long ago: the secret to genius is not complexity, it’s simplicity.

Take a long look at your life and streamline it:

  • Things: donate, give to friends or throw away. You can’t miss what you don’t know.
  • Clients: focus on the ones that you enjoy working with and bring the majority of your revenue
  • Friends: keeps the ones that you can really call friends, ditch the rest
  • Things to do: if it’s not contributing to your future and making you better there’s no reason why you should be doing it
  • Apps: do more with less, only keep the essentials apps

When you suddenly create time then you can focus on the stuff that really matters.

Tags:: systems

Thanks for reading!

You can get more actionable ideas in my popular email newsletters.
Enter your email now and join us!