Minimalism: Fist step towards freedom

Minimalism was my first step towards freedom, the freedom from my own bonds. For me, minimalism is about doing conscious decisions and focusing on important things. It is about leaving what is unimportant and binding behind. Less stuff means fewer distractions, less maintenance, and more space to focus on things that matter.

en 22 Sep 2020
Reading time: 8 minutes
Mindset

What is minimalism?

Many think that minimalism is about having less stuff. But that's only one part of a journey.

Minimalism is about identifying what is important, living it, and discarding the rest!

Getting rid of the twenty-plus T-shirts that I was not wearing was just a nice side effect.

So what I did?

1. I can live under seven kilos

I have learned how to live and travel with only one backpack under seven kilograms. Why under seven? Because it is a usual limit of the carry-on package you can take on-board of a plane.

To make sure I have exactly what I need (not missing anything). I have created a detailed list in Trello. It is detailed down to a single item level (like the toothbrush or USB-C cable).

This list is a subject of constant change and improvements. Plus I have a few variations for the stay in a hotel, outdoor, winter, ...

The big realization was that it is easier to wash a few of your clothes in hand then to travel with a bigger backpack. Really! Try it.

Preview of my Trello packing list
Preview of my Trello packing list

2. All I have can be moved in one car

I do not own more stuff than I can pack into a small car. (Not counting the furniture.)


All I have can be packed into a small car.

This gives me optionality (and thus freedom) to just pack up and move within a day.

3. I point my attention only towards important things

I have no TV

I got rid of TV ten years ago. Television is just noisy propaganda and a spam machine. I want to choose what I consume and when. Time and attention are precious resources. I want willfully choose how I spend them.

I ignore mainstream news

Most of the news in mainstream media is about triggering emotions (mostly fear). I choose very carefully what I consume. Channels I choose are strictly thematic (science, technology, traveling, ...) and fact-based.

  • I use good old RSS. It allows me to read articles in batches when I consciously dedicate my time to reading.
  • I follow some scientific Youtube channels and consume them exclusively from NewPipe to avoid any distraction and manipulation from so-called "recommendations".
  • I avoid social networks. I have either left them, or I am using them in a way that makes them just another RSS. (Further readings later in the article.)

I ignore politics

As an anarchist, I've broken out of the illusion that we just need to elect the right people. Therefore, I don't need to know who is "good" and who is "bad". I know that it is the system that's broken, and my solution is opt-out.

Politics is toxic. It divides friends and families. It promotes the worldview of "us vs. them". I have decided to break free from it.

Because of that, I am not interested in politics at all, and my life is much better.

4. I have no sentimental items

Here, The Minimalists did a great job explaining the problem with sentimental items. I recommend reading the full story.

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.
You can take pictures of items you want to remember.
Old photographs can be scanned.
An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.

5. I practice zero inbox policy (even with Signal and SMS)

As I mentioned before, attention is a precious resource. I want my attention to be used effectively. So when I open an inbox I process all items there.

I immediately process any email or Signal or SMS conversation:

  1. Is it not important or irrelevant? → Archive immediately.
  2. Can I solve it now? → Solve & archive immediately.
  3. Do I need to solve it later? → Convert to task/event → plan it & archive immediately.

I recommend the Inbox Zero presentation by Merlin Mann if you want to know more.

The last, but most importantly: email is HIGH LATENCY communication.

It is desirable:

  • to take time to carefully craft an email
  • to check an inbox once a day or even less
  • to not let emails distract you with notifications
  • to not succumb to random nervous ad-hod inbox checking

I have dedicated a special time in a day to process my emails. And I have forbidden myself from checking it outside of that time slot. (For example, I have removed email app shortcut from my mobile screen to keep myself from ad-hock checking temptation.)

6. I have turned off nearly all notifications

Notifications are a total disaster for focus, concentration, and deep-work.

Because of that:

  • I have no notifications on my computer. The only allowed notification is the low battery alert 😀.
  • I have my phone on permanent mute. (I turn vibrations rarely on only when I expect an important call.)
  • Email, Slack, Twitter,… all of those attention eaters have no notifications at all.

I use aggressive notifications only for the calendar and to-do alerts, where timing is crucial.

7. I turned Social Networks into RSS or I deleted them

Social networks are quite dangerous. The values they may bring to my life are being paid in blood.

Social networks made communication and propagation of information tremendously easier.

But on the other side, they create echo-chambers, manipulate (by filtering or promoting) the "right" content, by censoring content. Social networks extract value (attention and private information) from people, giving back only illusions and small dopamine doses.

Social networks has also one big problem outside of the scope of this article. They leak social-graph. Very precious information, that can be abused by both corporations and state agencies. Being close in the social graph with the wrong people can put you for example on the No-Fly List. [4]

As a minimalist, I strive to focus on what gives me the real value and discard everything that doesn't. So I decided to stop using them as social networks or leave them completely.

The value is easy communication with real friends and having access to information.

Here is what I did to maximize the value and to minimize everything else.

  • I moved all my real friends on Signal, and I have stopped using social networks for communication.
  • I deleted Facebook at all. It is the most aggressive social network and I didn't find a way how to turn it into a valuable RSS feed.
  • I subscribed to RSS feeds and podcasts that provide relevant and high-quality content. I use the Feeder app for RSS and Escapepod app for podcasts.
  • I unfollowed all people on Twitter and sorted them into lists instead. This turned Twitter into just another RSS reader. I use Twidere to avoid sponsored ads and to limit content manipulation.
  • I read Reddit through Slide without being logged in. This turned Reddit into another RSS feed as well.
  • I have no connections on LinkedIn, and I am not using it outside of the job-looking period.
  • I do not use any other social network.

Most importantly: I have designated time in a day to read through this. No more ad-hoc refreshing and dopamine carving. I have even removed shortcuts from the phone screen to remove temptation. Because everything is in RSS mode I am in control of what I read and what I skip. I can prioritize.

8. I don't keep chat history

I turned auto-destruction of messages in Signal for all my contacts. One reason is privacy, but the more important one is the focus on important things.

What is important is the outcome of the conversation. If it's an action, I do it immediately or I turn in into a to-do and I plan it.

If the chat was about having fun, there is no need to keep it. The value (in this case the fun) was already extracted.

Chat is LOW LATENCY communication. It is spontaneous and mostly information sparse. So I focus on extracting value immediately. From this perspective, chatting and face to face conversation is the same thing. Important are conclusions not the full transcript of the conversation.

After the conversation ends, I archive it (and it will be deleted within a day). I practice Zero Inbox Policy for chats as well.

9. I let go most of my shitty relationships

The articles Letting Go of Shitty Relationships and A Minimalist’s Thoughts on Meaningful Relationships from The Minimalists explains it all.

For me, it was the hardest thing to accept. But it was probably the most crucial one. I stopped investing in relationships with people I don't share values with. Instead, I started to focus on those relationships that are dear to me and add value to my life. To those that make me truly happy.

Conclusion

By practicing minimalism I have increased my freedom. I feel freer and happier than before. Of course, there is much to improve, and I will update this article to keep up with my future findings and progress.

Sources & further readings

  1. The Minimalists - Podcast and articles
  2. Inbox Zero
  3. What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero
  4. Richard Vokoun: Diktatura vs. totalita (KSP20: Totalita včera, dnes a zítra) (CZ)
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