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Intentional and multifunctional - How I got rid of most of my belongings

I have a background as a hoarder. I lived my childhood in a big suburban home and we threw away almost nothing. As I moved to smaller and smaller apartments, I started seeing the problems with the amount of my stuff. First, I imagined the problem was just bad organizing or dull and stupid floor plans. But eventually I realized the problem was my huge piles of junk.

My journey towards minimalism started — as I’ve noticed to be similar to many others — through looking for inspiration in tiny houses: I wanted to figure out how I could use my small apartment optimally. Luckily, instead of spending tons of money trying to build something cool, I found out about minimalism. It started all innocent by watching some Youtubers talk about their lives and soon enough I ended up watching Minimalism: A Documentary About Important Things and learning more from Joshua and Ryan through their TEDxTalks and their book.

Even though to my friends it might have seemed like a “get rid of everything” idealism, for me it was mostly about finding the minimal subset of belongings that made me happy and functional.

Intentional #

First of all, I wanted to go through absolutely everything I owned (and that’s quite a lot) and decide, if each item would have a purpose. Same goes with buying new stuff. I don’t want to own stuff that just exists in a box or on a shelf somewhere without me actually interacting with it ever.

I started with clothing and encountered problems: I had built emotional attachments to many of my shirts and hoodies. Most of them I had never worn or received it for free from a tech conference or something. After a little struggling, I ended up donating 90% of my wardrobe to charity. I still have bit too much but at least the next round will be easier.

Multifunctional #

I had truly reached a point where I had an abundance of stuff. I had multiple similar items in every category, especially technology — mostly because I could. I started looking into the multifunctionality of my possessions trying to find the subset that solves my problems in more than one way.

I unplugged my TV, sold all but two (Playstation 4 and Nintendo 3DS) of my game consoles and moved my PS4 to use my computer display. I used to have a Bluetooth speaker for the shower and a hifi system for my living room — I got rid of the hifi system. Now I only have the Bluetooth speaker (that I’m looking to upgrade) that serves as a speaker for my shower moments, Macbook usage and PS4 gaming. The last one required a few hacks but I finally found a way to make it work.

After I had gotten rid of my TV and consoles, I was able to get rid of a sofa and a TV stand. That freed up so much space and suddenly I didn’t need a huge living room anymore.

Being a single guy, I’m constantly surprised by the amount of kitchen items I own. Six large plates, six small plates, 8 forks/knives/spoons, bowls of all sizes. I ended up getting Monbento lunch box which now acts as my only dish to eat meals from, ice cream bowl and lunch box so I always can have food to go with me.

YAGNI #

As a software developer, I’m intimately familiar with YAGNI thinking. It stands for You aren’t gonna need it and means that you shouldn’t optimize your code for stuff that might be required in the future, as you won’t know what is needed anyway and you’re just wasting your time.

Same goes with a lot of stuff. “Maybe one day…” — no, it won’t happen. If you haven’t needed it for a year, two years or — as I found out with some of my oldest stuff — ten years, you’re probably never gonna need it. Get one if you happen to need it in ten years instead of carrying it with you all the time.

Of course this can be applied to the extreme as well and fail horribly. During the summer, you shouldn’t get rid of your winter clothes but store them somewhere deliberately.

Digitize #

I had five huge moving boxes full of books, DVDs, notebooks and video games. I also have a Kindle, Netflix subscription, Evernote and Playstation/Steam/Nintendo 3DS that all are digital. So I got rid of my books, DVDs and games and went full digital with my entertainment.

I love physical books and I love the idea of a DVD. However, I found out that I actually never read those physical books nor watched those DVDs — I would always find a digital version and consume them.

And books are heavy. My friends can heave a sigh of relief when they don’t have to help me carry that stuff anymore.

I’m still a notebook junkie. I do use Evernote more and more but for me, pen and paper is the best interface into my brain. And I love being able to make notes to a notebook when interacting with people instead of hiding behind my computer screen. So I kept the notebooks but I’m planning on digitizing them once they are full so I only need to have one at a time.

I Have Just Started #

I still haven’t gotten rid of every excess thing I own but with every passing week I’m making good progress. Selling, donating and recycling stuff takes a surprising amount of work but I still have two more months before I become apartmentless/between apartments for a month. Before that, I want to figure out what I absolutely need and want to own so that I can figure out which apartment I should live in next. Instead of making 2.5 van trips to move all my stuff, I want to fit everything except furniture into a sedan. And I’m getting closer to that every week.

One of the struggles I haven’t yet solved is getting gifts. It feels so horrible to throw away something you got as a gift and it’s difficult to tell everyone that you don’t want any physical things as a gift since they mostly only declutter the space.