11 Tips for Living a Minimalist Lifestyle

(Photo: Breather/Unsplash)

(Photo: Breather/Unsplash)

This piece originally appeared on Quora: What are some tips for living a minimalist lifestyle?

Here’s some things I’ve been working on over the past year and a half:

  • Closely observe where you are repeatedly spending your time & money. Ask yourself, “Is there a way I can sidestep or eliminate these expenses/commitments altogether?” A good example for me was my car—after the nth thousand dollars in expenses and maintenance, it became clear that life would become much simpler and cheaper if I just sold the damn thing.
  • Similarly, pay attention to what makes you anxious. What cues cause you to tense up, or to procrastinate, or to be impatient with your loved ones? Can you reduce or eliminate those kinds of situations? And/or can you massively reduce your aggregate anxiety by taking care of these things immediately?
  • Eliminate toxic relationships. If you’re like most people, 10 percent of your relationships (professional, personal, romantic, etc) yield 90 percent of the drama. Figure out who these people are, and stop answering their phone calls, fergodsakes! (Obviously this doesn’t work for all relationships, but the majority of offenders can be dealt with in this manner.)
  • Boil your job down to a few simple objectives. What is your profession really about? When you align your efforts solely toward things that will lead to results, you can (in some cases) reduce your task workload by over 50 percent. For example, I’m a technology investor by trade (at least right now)—my job is to find great companies to invest in, and to help them succeed after we’ve invested. That’s it. I do my best to avoid doing anything professionally that doesn’t directly or indirectly contribute to those end-goals (though my definition of “indirectly contribute” is quite broad).
  • Have a preference for items (especially clothes) that are versatile. I have one wristwatch that goes with everything. Three or four days a week, I wear a gray T-shirt that goes with everything. This makes for a cheaper, easier, more flexible wardrobe that requires less time to plan and manage. (Though I agree with Dan Gayle that you shouldn’t run out and purchase new things just to be “minimalist.”)
  • Narrow the different types of electronic notifications you receive. A typical person with a smartphone gets pinged every single time they get an e-mail, a text message, a voicemail, a SnapChat, a Twitter mention, a Facebook or LinkedIn connection request, Venmo request, Slack notification, new song added to Spotify, Google Hangouts or Facebook messenger message…it’s complete and utter lunacy. Pick a few of these mediums and delete your account (or at least turn off notifications).
  • Finish things serially. Bouncing back and forth between six half-finished books takes up a lot more bandwidth than reading one at a time.
  • Get comfortable saying “I don’t care.” You don’t need to have an opinion on everything, and you don’t need to “optimize” every damn thing in your life. Quick story: I have a very good friend who I travel with overseas, and he really enjoys planning trips out in advance. When we were preparing for last year’s trip to Southeast Asia, I realized that I knew almost nothing about any of the countries we were about to visit, and therefore would probably be equally happy among any of the cities/destinations to which we could conceivably go. So I said to him “Dude, I know you love to plan this stuff; I trust you completely on picking out the travel arrangements, so just go ahead and book everything and I’ll be comfortable with it as long as it costs me less than $2,000.” And he said “Sure, but only if you promise not to complain about any of my choices.” Deal stuck. I saved probably 10 hours of effort (and potentially hundred hours of nail-biting) that would have made zero difference to my (and his) happiness. Since then, I’ve gotten much better at only stating a preference or opinion on things that I actually care about.
  • Declutter. Duh.
  • Give things away to people who need them more than you. Double-duh.
  • Experiences > things. Triple-duh.

Related links:

What are some ways to achieve simplicity?
If you could give one piece of life-changing productivity advice to a teenager, what would it be?
How do I gain control over what and how I think?

Patrick Mathieson is a venture investor at Toba Capital and a contributor at Quora. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.