Writing wasn’t a priority in 2017: I posted two blogs. I could make a laundry list of excuses, but they’re just that, excuses. But, I’m making a small commitment, 15 minutes per day, to writing more. Starting with the the second part (first one, here) of this mini-series on an experiment with less.
This renewed commitment comes at the beginning of 2018. I’d hardly consider it a “resolution” because I don’t believe in those (here’s what I did, instead). I’ve noticed that I don’t think as clearly as I used to and I firmly believe that comes from my lack of writing and deep, intentional thought. So here I am, writing more… about less.
30 Days of Less was an experiment about me eliminating things (stuff, ideas, baggage, people, burdens, etc.) from my life. Anytime in life I’ve felt overwhelmed, I found respite through subtraction rather than addition. This post is a recap of me intentionally eliminating things from my life and the affects of this experiment on my life.
30 Days of Less recap
The first thing you need to know about this challenge was that it took me 60 days instead of 30. I didn’t discipline myself to stay the course for 30 consecutive days. The plan was to eliminate something every day for 30 days. Instead, I eliminated something (roughly) every other day for 60 days. Same outcome, just a longer runway.
I won’t share the entire list, but here’s a few examples:
- Desk/closet clutter
- Books I didn’t want/will never open again
- People who were not influencing me to be a better man
- Social media accounts/apps
- Phone contacts
- Email, podcast, and media subscriptions
Some things were easy to get rid of, i.e. toxic people. But others were harder, like old trophies and clothes that carried warm and fuzzy feelings or had been gifted to me. When I purged, I felt relieved. I like a simple and orderly life and the more stuff you have, the harder it is to be orderly.
The items (clothes, books, clutter) that were removed made my little beach hut more manageable. The people who were removed made it less stressful – fewer faces to please. The social media and phone-related things I removed cleared out room for me to live more in the present. Overall, I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders every time I got rid of something.
The Blazer – An Example
Since this experiment lasted longer than anticipated, I got into the mind-set of elimination and it felt like a daily commitment I had to keep – which wasn’t a bad thing. I was in Kansas City for a work function and I didn’t pack accordingly. I needed a suit jacket to stay warm and the local H&M had a nice sale. I purchased the blazer but kept the receipt in case it didn’t fit. Because I’m nearly the exact build as a mannequin, it fit perfectly and it performed its necessary duties.
But, as I was packing to go home, I realized I was leaving more than I came with. I’d eventually have to add this new coat to my wardrobe and I already had plenty of blazers. Another couldn’t hurt, but it wasn’t going to help, either. If I kept it, I’d likely go out of my way to wear it again that year. But the most it would get worn was twice. I had to ask myself if it was worth me adding to my life.
I returned it and I’m thrilled with the decision. It’s been months since that trip and I can count the times on one hand that I’ve worn blazers since. It wasn’t about the money or the extra garment in the closet, it was about the space in my life. I heard a term for this type of behavior from a TED Talk after this episode.
Ruthlessly Edit Your Life
This brief TED Talk does a much better job of describing my thoughts. The speaker’s takeaways to live a simpler life are:
- Edit ruthlessly
- Think small
- Make multifunctional
He was mostly talking about furniture and living spaces, but I agree with these rules. I’ve found myself editing everything I own. I ask myself, “Do I really need this?” and “What can I get rid of if I add this new thing to my life?” or “Does/will this bring me joy?”
I was recently given a pack of dress socks for Christmas. They were nice and I appreciated the gift, but I was never going to wear them. They didn’t even come out of the pack, straight to the Goodwill pile. I’ve begun to think harder on why I keep the things that come into my life.
I thought I’d miss some of the people I cut out. I don’t. I thought I’d have a need for some of the clothes I tossed. I haven’t. I thought I’d be bored without some of the apps and lists I unsubscribed from. I’m not.
Instead of filling the empty space with more things that aren’t important, I fill them with engagement, eye contact, or genuine interest in the conversations happening around me. The seconds I used to spend staring at stupid smartphone apps are often spent reading or observing the world around me.
Christmas recently came and went and I found myself ruthlessly editing my life. I evaluated things as I received them: did I need that? do I want another one of those? is that useful? I kept some things, sure. But I tried to remove something if I added anything. And some things, like the socks, simply passed through my hands like sand through a sieve.
At the end of my experiment, I have less and I’m happier. But more importantly, I’ve instilled an attitude of questioning the things that come into my life. There will always be a need for purges, like this 30-day experiment. But if I ruthlessly edit with regularity, I will be able to live with less and be happier doing it.