2013 was a significant year for me. It was full of all sorts of new challenges and successes that are brand new to me. While it’s all felt very fulfilling, there’s the more difficult matter of what to do with it all. At times, it’s incredibly overwhelming. Some days there’s just too much. That’s why, in 2014, my resolution is to make a larger commitment to minimalism.
There are plenty of benefits to minimalism. And perhaps the greatest part about it is how personal the definition of it is. While one of the primary focuses of minimalism is owning fewer things (something I’ve already started), it’s also about identifying the things that truly matter to you and eliminating everything else. Focusing on your passions, and disposing of anything that distracts from them.
Leading up to New Year’s, I spent some time thinking about what actually matters to me. What things I really want to focus on this year. By picking out the things I sincerely care about now, I can find what needs to get out of the way.
This includes getting rid of "stuff". I have too much stuff. I want to have less of it. I won’t be counting my possessions (though some minimalists do), but I will be actively looking for things to get rid of. Along with having less, I want to better organize what I do have. Finding more permanent homes for things will not only help me keep things clean, it will help me identify things to get rid of. If something can’t have a permanent home, maybe I don’t need it.
To really be effective at having less, I need to learn to say no to free stuff. I mean, we all love free stuff from time to time, but do I need another pen when I have half a dozen that work perfectly? Do I need another water bottle when I hardly use the two I already have? Stopping stuff I don’t really care about from coming in should be easier than getting rid of what I already have.
This paring down of things is extending to my digital lifestyle as well. I’m in the process of eliminating an email address (four is just way too many). I have files spread across three different cloud storage services - sorry Google Drive, time for you to go. I seem to be a bit all over the place with social media. Don’t get me wrong, I find social media fascinating and I thoroughly enjoy it, I just have a difficult time figuring out what I should post where and I’m considering creating a set of rules for myself to straighten that out.
By eliminating a few things that take up my time, I can start digging more into the things I care about. I took just 5 minutes to think of things that I sincerely cared about and made a list. If I couldn’t think of it within 5 minutes, perhaps it’s not so critical to me. And from this list I compiled, pretty much everything fell into one of five categories.
In 2014, I will focus more on writing by continuing with ShittyiPhoneApps, writing more in my blog, but also starting a personal journal. Too often I feel like I’m overwhelmed because I don’t put things down on paper. Being me, this paper will be proverbial since I’ll be using the popular app Day One as my journal, but I will write daily, regardless.
I will also focus more on music. I love music, it’s rare that I don’t have music playing while I do everything from walk across campus, to homework, to reading articles online. I’ll finally get through organizing my library to the full extent I’d like, I’ll spend more time using my mixer, and more time appreciating my whole collection.
In looking back on 2013 and even 2012, I was reminded of why I changed majors. In Computer Science, my work focused on algorithms and making things tick, rather than crafting things. What I really want to do is make things. So I switched to Information Technology where I can focus on web development and make things that have the potential to reach thousands or even millions of people. When it comes down to it, I love creating things. So in 2014, I will focus on things that let me be creative; my writing, small web projects, or hell, even Minecraft from time to time. I feel best when I make something, so I’ll spend less time consuming and more time making.
One thing that will not be lost in my move to minimalism will be my love for technology. New gadgets or cool applications of technology are one of the things that keep me going. If I ever have the money to get my hands on Google Glass, you bet your ass I’m getting it. I’ve already pre-ordered a Coin, I pre-ordered my FitBit One back in the day, and I have little doubt the world will continue to produce exciting electronics I’m bound to love before most people. This is one area in which I will feel little guilt in acquiring more, but I will exercise constraint. Perhaps focus on trading up for better devices, rather than simply getting more.
And the final category that comprised my list was relationships. With my friends, my girlfriend, new people I meet - all my relationships in a general sense. I’d like to make more of them a bit more meaningful. To really get to know a few more people beyond the surface level that is so common these days. We’re so focused on making more and more connections (demonstrated by high Facebook friend counts), that each connection tugs on our attention and each one becomes less meaningful. I’d like to make a few of them just a bit more meaningful by giving them the attention they deserve.
While it sounds like I’m aiming for a total life transformation in a single year (which would be an impressive feat), I do a lot of these things already. I already spend time creating, organizing my music, learning about new technologies, writing and socializing, but I don’t do any of them to the extent I’d like to. Things get in the way. I have to clean up stuff I don’t even care about, I have to organize all the time just to keep my life straight, I have emails across four accounts to check and more. It’s time to start eliminating just a little bit.
This isn’t a total life transformation now, but establishing a lifestyle now will set the stage for the rest of my life. Turns out, our 20’s are pretty important. I’d hate to squander this opportunity, so why not try it? If it doesn’t work out, I’ve got plenty of my 20’s left.