experiment

To find out what brand of minimalism suits me best, I find experimenting with less helpful. Experimenting makes it easier for me to get over the initial resistance I feel when thinking of letting something go. I set myself a time period during which I deprive myself of something, so I know that I can go back to it if it was genuinely adding value, or remove it entirely.

It is odd that resistance still pokes its head up, despite experiencing the joy of letting go. Surely this should get easier as we experience the joy that minimizing brings? Perhaps our fears are renewed, or throwing something away means coming to terms with the fear of throwing away only that item, but not with subsequent items. Perhaps it is a case of low hanging fruit – the things we throw away first are the things that scare us the least. As we progress, the fear increases and things get more difficult to throw away.

Joshua Fields Millburn (one of the minimalists) created an excellent podcast recently titled writing. Joshua is a writer and teacher and in the podcast he said he has removed the conditions necessary to write. The only condition he needs to write is “sit in the chair”.

This is one of the things I am trying to fix with the blog. I am guilty of having too many requirements to writing. I need my little boy to be quiet, I need to have a coffee ready, I need to have the right music, I need to have my email cleared away, I need to have checked Facebook. All these things slow me down and quench my creativity.

If we only need a very low barrier of entry to write, then we will write more. It’s amazing how big this becomes. I believe in creating space to think, but sometimes we clutter that space up to give us an excuse: aw, my writing this morning was crap because my coffee was different, or because I couldn’t find the right music. David Allen preaches that we need to create space to be able to make a mess. But once we have that space, there must be no more excuses.

So my current experiment is Netflix. I am going without Netflix for the month of June, and I am replacing it with:

  • Music: We have an Apple music subscription which costs more than the Netflix subscription, but we probably use less! There is so much good music out there, and this is a good chance to check more of it out.
  • Reading: Something I want to do more of. I can start reading the books I kept after donating 90% of them. I said I wouldn’t buy any more books until I had read at least one book I kept, and I have wanted to read Marie Kondo’s book for more than a month and it is killing me.
  • Youtube: But not too much of this: I’m not going to be watching any long videos, and I am staying away from Tedtalks as I find I can end up bingeing on them.
  • Podcasts: I am catching up on a couple of podcasts. Colin Wright has just started one, and I am going back and listening to some of the mind palace podcasts.

What else is going on: well I’m also experimenting with sitting less. Yes, sitting less. There is no area of my life that I will not minimalise. So apparently sitting in chairs is quite bad for us. I’ve had back problems and I continue to have flexibility problems, so I have decided to sit on the floor more often. Sitting is supposed to be bad for you because it switches your glutes off which support your back. I need to sit at my desk at work, but I can sit less at home, so I’m using a yoga mat to sit on for at least an hour in the evening. I am working on being flexible enough to sit comfortably for a while. I’m considering a standing desk for working at home, but I quite like working around the dining room table at the moment as it means I am more likely to see my wife.

I was inspired by an interview with former Apple CEO John Sculley with the BBC, when he visited Steve Jobs’ home.

When I went to his home for the first time, I was struck because there was almost no furniture in the house. Um… in his bedroom was a small bed, a photograph of Einstein over his bed, another photograph of Gandhi. In the living room was a Tiffany lamp, no place to sit. You know, we would just sit on the floor. Steve just was not into possessions. He was not into money. He was completely into the things he believed in.

John Sculley, Billion Dollar Hippy

So I guess that Steve Jobs was a minimalist – this may have been obvious to everyone else but I am the last one to figure it out.

Finally, I am experimenting with less food. I recently completed a 36 hour fast, and yesterday I did a 12 hour fast. I immediately became conscious of the food that I mindlessly eat! The impulse to shove stuff in your mouth without needing it is a strange one, and is a genuine compulsion. Hunger seems more related to the time rather than an actual need, as around lunchtime, I felt like eating, but I wasn’t hungry. If nothing else, fasting reminds you of the separation between the two feelings. The 36 hour fast was tough, especially sleeping the second night, as it felt odd to go to bed hungry.

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