Minimalism for the Pack Rat Geek

There’s a new buzzword in the self-improvement niche, and geeks everywhere are cringing. The concept of “minimalism” sounds like either a description of a nude beach or something that involves starvation, meditation and cold-water baths. (That’s assuming you aren’t an art history nerd with a pretty clear idea of the history of the artistic movement by the same name.)

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism as a buzzword right now is none of the above, however.  It’s a way of life that I think is interesting to many geeks. It seems to me that geeks like productivity systems (or am I the only one who has tried every productivity technique under the sun?) and other logic-based ways of getting stuff done.

A lot of us like the concept of being able to do more with what we already have. It’s why we hack water bottles into Sea Monkey aquariums, create robots out of duct-tape and wires, and turn their old iMacs into aquariums.

But what if productivity and using stuff effectively isn’t really about having more toys, but rather, about having what you need?

Of course, our idea of “need” is very different than the concept as it relates to other societies. People in many countries worry about where their next meal is coming from, while we rage over the next video game sequel coming out too late.  I’m aware that the way I use the word “need” is a little different from how many people do… but I digress.

Minimalism, at its core, is a fascinating concept because you can take it as far as you want. Some people live with 100 items. That’s right, owning just a hundred things, including clothing, furniture, and so on. Others have to juggle the demands of a family or need to own more stuff, but still apply some practices of minimalism to their lives.

So what is minimalism, anyway? Some people think that it’s about getting rid of all that extra stuff we have floating around our houses and our lives. Others think that it’s about being happy with what you have, rather than always striving to have more.

Perhaps it’s all of the above, and just maybe us geeks can learn a thing or two from this brewing self-improvement fad.

Minimalism and Geeks

How many times have you rummaged through your box, cabinet, or shelf of video games, trying to find the one you’re looking for and stumbling on games that you always “meant to get around to playing” or have already played through once and don’t wish to repeat the torture– er, gameplay experience?

If you prefer manga, think about how many manga you have that you don’t really read, or even ones you bought, don’t really like, but refuse to get rid of because you paid for them?

You don’t have to get rid of all your video games or sell your manga off (unless you want to). Heck, you don’t have to do a single thing after you’re done reading this post.

But if you think this idea of minimalism and rebelling against the consumerist society we live in is interesting, why not try a little experiment?

Look around your home, your office, and so on. Think about how much stuff you really have. If you have recently moved, this will be an easy task, because you’ll probably still be in shock at how much stuff you had to pack and unpack.

My Experiment With Minimalism

I tried cleaning out a room with an eye to the past, present and future. Here are some examples of stuff I’m happy to be getting rid of:

  • A spare set of AD&D rulebooks. Why on earth did I need them? I think they were $20 at a garage sale.
  • At least a dozen types of cables. I don’t use most of them, and I already have enough to stock a small army if they ever needed it, plus provide spares.
  • A huge stack of books I know I’m never really going to get around to reading.
  • Video games on old floppy disks that have faded into obsolescence now.
  • A ton of t-shirts with logos for organizations I’ve never been involved with but somehow acquired. (Sure, I’m keeping some for lazy cartoon Saturdays or those days you just don’t want to get dressed, but I didn’t really need a dozen of them.)
  • A huge plastic bag of cassette tapes, because I have a grand total of one cassette tape player that’s sitting unused somewhere in the basement and hasn’t been used in eight months.
  • Paperwork, old Christmas card envelopes, and magazines galore.

I’m a natural pack-rat, but it feels great to overcome this tendency. Now that I’ve donated it to local charities, thrown out, and recycled all the appropriate items, I feel better.

I know that people who really need these items can use them, while I have to look less to find what I really want to do or use. In short, I can do more with what I have!

The Challenge…

Is there stuff lying around or packed away that you’re never going to be using again? Try cleaning out just one area of a room, then see how it makes you feel. You may just learn a valuable lesson from minimalism.

Have you ever tried minimalism before in any form? How did it go?
If you haven’t, would you consider doing it, or are you too attached to your stuff?

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