Refining My Minimalism
Editors note: I am continuing to do more writing in hopes of organizing my feeling and thoughts about stuff in my life. Not all of it will make sense for health and fitness, so I may resurrect KevinLarrabee.com or go to Tumblr. For the time being they will continue to be posted here as this is where most of my “audience” is.
My minimalism journey over the last year can be best described as a series of progression and regression (You can see two big pieces I wrote on it here and here). Two steps forward, one step back. While definite progress has been made, old habits slowly returned and I started seeing the apartment and shelves get a little crowded. Before I go any further let me stress that this has been an incredibly positive experience. I have saved a ton of money, my small apartment has a lot more open space, and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
My big “thing” was/is video games. Once I became an adult and made a decent wage my instinct was to buy all of the cool stuff I always wanted as a kid. Every year the Sears Christmas catalog was covered in things I had circled and wanted Santa to bring me. Now I was in a position to make the kid in the picture below proud. I could tell him our dream of a room full of video games had come true!
(notice the NES Controller cable coming out from under the blanket)
Over the course of 12-months I have given away and sold over 300 video games, literally almost a fortune. Enough to buy a new Macbook Pro, a TV, and made some donations to some of my favorite charities. I also gave away a ton of books, clothes, furniture, and anything else I felt I could part with and not regret in 6-months. But, as I mentioned at the start of this article, there was some regression.
As Black Friday and the holidays rolled around more stuff creeped it’s way back into my apartment. I found myself building a new work/gaming) PC, I purchased some cheap games that were on sale as well as a Wii U and games. Also I found a way to justify a new computer monitor, some winter clothes, and fresh sneaks. This was stuff I didn’t “NEED” but at the time of purchase it made logical sense.
As a society we have been more or less programmed to get excited for purchases, both big and small. Side note, it was funny when my mom told me that she obsesses over opinions, ratings, and reviews before she purchases anything. I am EXACTLY the same. Before I bought my new TV…
Another side note (side-side note?): this is something I am totally OK with. I bought a awesome new TV that was on sale because I LOVE watching blu-ray movies and this TV does an amazing job enhancing that experiance even more
…I went through every possible review and rating I could find. I watched youtube videos, read expert rating, ready ratings from uninformed Amazon customers, whatever I could find. I had to be 100% sure and convinced I was making the best purchase. Same thing happens when I buy any high priced item really. But to me, and maybe best to say my mind thought this was exciting and a ton of fun. My brain chemistry was reacting like I absorbed a cocktail of cocaine and sour patch kids, while also hitting a bench press PR. For better or worse I inherited my Mom’s over-worrying and obsessive thinking. It has served me well in making sure I always do quality work that I can be proud of.
The point is, I know I need to do a better job recognizing these emotions and try to chill out. Take a deep breath.
Now, back to the point of this blog post…I suppose it’s good that I noticed what was happening. I recognized the regression and knew I needed to intervene.
My intervention was a “what if?” exercise. It goes like this,
“If you had to pick up and leave today and you could only take 9 items (outside of clothing and pets, trust me I will never leave Marty behind) what would they be?” What are the 9 items you can’t live without?
(This guy has been with me for over 6 years now)
This is where I am working from as I go into the next phase of minimalism journey. Figure out what these 9 items are and then work my way backwards through the rest of my stuff and figure out why I still have it.
This morning I sat down on my rug with Marty and wrote down 13 possessions. Then I went through the list again and cut it down to 9. What you see below is what I came up with along with my rational. (I promise the point of this whole exercise is at the end of the post!)
1. Macbook Pro (soon to be 15″)
My job and my passions flow through this 3 pound slab of aluminum, glass, plastic, and silicone. All of the work I do for The FitCast, BodyByBoyle Online, MBSCThrive, Certified Functional Strength Coach, and my passion projects like Back in my Play are possible because of the transistors and solid state memory in this beautiful beast. I edit hours of video each week, record and edit audio, and reply to more e-mails than a human should have to. But I love this device because it opens up infinite possibilities for the person wielding it. You can design a building, write the next great novel, code the next Minecraft, or record the best fitness podcast in the universe… It is home to my beloved collection of music which gets me through long trips and work sessions. And it is the portal to the rest of the world via wireless internet where you can learn anything and talk to almost anyone.
With this powerful machine I can spend two weeks in Tokyo and not miss a beat of my day to day work for all of the businesses I run. I look forward to this spring and the newest 15″ Macbook Pros, the ultimate combination of mobility and power. When they arrive I will most likely let go of my desktop PC and consolidate all my work to one machine.
I love interviewing people and talking to others on podcasts. For that I need to have a great microphone. I record a lot of audio, at least an hour a week for The FitCast. Outside of The FitCast I host a retro game podcast, “Back in my Play” which goes through fits and spurts of episode production. And often you will find me as a guest on other podcasts like the Player 1 Podcast. Beautiful audio quality is something I strive for on all of the shows that I produce or that I am a part of, this microphone is your one stop shop.
I wear these headphones so much it might make more sense to never take them off (I have them on as I write this and I am listening to the incredible Super Mario Galaxy Soundtrack). These beautiful sounding headphones are always on while I play games on my 3DS/Vita or while working on my Macbook at home or on the road. They are the perfect balance of awesome sound quality, comfort, and noise-canceling. These enhance the music I listen to and immerse me in the worlds of the video games I play on my 3DS and Vita.
A great pair of headphones is crucial for me with all of the flying and the work I do on my Macbook out of the apartment. And even in my apartment, I don’t think the people living above me want to hear me blasting the Streets of Rage soundtrack while cranking out my morning emails.
Music is a HUGE part of my life. I have given myself free reign to buy music as it only adds to my enjoyment of what I am doing. We can’t have enough music we love listening to. Be it video game soundtracks or the latest CHVRCHES album (Every Open Eye is an incredible album, buy it right now) I buy tons of CDs and digital albums.
This bag might be the best $25 I’ve ever spent. It has traveled with me from Boston to Tokyo to Munich to Long Beach to Chicago and many other places. It holds all of my travel essentials (many of which are in this post) and is great companion while walking around towns I am visiting. The bag has a bunch of pockets for USB chargers, game consoles, pens, etc. It also has two water bottle holders and a back pouch for my kindle and notebook. To be honest, I did add on a shoulder pad for $10 since I use it so much and at times I am loading it up with 30-40 lbs of stuff!
5. Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita
Totally breaking the rules here, I know. One or both of these always accompany me on trips and 95% of all my game playing happens on these two devices. While I still love to play video games, my schedule and attention span make home consoles pretty senseless (I do own a WiiU in preparation for 1 game in 2016…Zelda). I like to play for 10-15 minutes, then put the system to sleep and get back to the real world. The PS Vita, and more so the 3DS have tons of great games to keep me occupied and scratch that video game playing itch without keeping me glued to a couch or making me feel like I need to be home in case I want to play a game. Becoming more of a portable gamer has given me the psychological freedom to say “yes” to travel and social opportunities more often.
Currently I am playing through Fire Emblem: Awakening on the 3DS. Each chapter is about 30-40 minutes long and for a game as fun as this I can find the time to play once chapter every other day and continue to make progress. While I could pick up a PS4 and Xbox One I am more than happy with the game libraries on the 3DS and Vita.
6. iPhone 6s Plus
Phone, camera, audio books, podcasts, music, reading, social media, e-mail, etc. Smart phones today do so much in such a compact device it is obvious why so many people keep one in their pocket. I love the 6s Plus because of it’s super long battery life and larger screen for when I want to get in some quick reading on the Kindle App.
I love having a ton of books in such a small device. Psychologically I fought with the idea of buying my books digitally instead of the time tested form of paperback. After my first year with a Kindle it was clearly the best choice for me. Since it was always with me I was reading way more. With the syncing Kindle App on my Macbook and iPhone I can always pick up where I left off whenever I have some free time. Today I always go with the kindle version and my library of over 100 books always travel with me.
I am an obsessive backer upper…if that is even a phrase. It is vital for me to back up with all of the audio/video work I do, as well as a vast amount of office documents I produce for work. I have duplicates and triplicates of everything. On top of onsite backups I also upload to DropBox AND Amazon Drive. For the love of Bill and Ted, back up your important stuff to at least two devices/services!
Really any notebook will do but I love these notebooks. They are compact and have a great binding. I write down tons and tons of stuff these days. Thoughts, ideas, observations, goals, failures, successes, and anything else that pops into my head that I want to have a record of. Don’t underestimate the power of writing things down to provide your mind better optics on situations. I always keep one of these in my backpack, messenger bag, on my desk, and on my nightstand.
What was the point of me making this list and writing 2200 words? It is to reflect on what possessions are essential versus the things we own but probably don’t need. If I had to evacuate my house or move overseas tomorrow these are the things I would need to bring with me (again aside from clothes and Marty). Now that I have compiled this list, my next step is to make the hard cuts and begin to be an essentialist.