5 Ways to Be a Digital Minimalist

This Is Not Minimalistic!

This is a guest post from Jonathan Manor of The Titan Project.

Several days ago, in the year 2010, legions of people found themselves acquainted with the word, “minimalism.” Minimalism, a one word buzzword lifestyle adjustment, blew up across blogs and ebooks, blanketing across lifestyle design writers and readers. It was associated with other buzz words such as, location independent, online sustainability, and flash packing. Everywhere people were throwing away their things, taking separate pictures of every item they owned, and living out of a duffle bag, as if it were a race to poverty.

The term location independent at some point rings in our ears somewhat like the word “homeless.” However, it isn’t just about getting rid of everything you own, it’s about a sweet angelic term that rolls off our tongue like a shimmer of morning sunlight. It’s about clarity.

Minimalist bloggers are sprouting up in every direction, but at the reigns of minimalist writing are Colin Wright and Everrett Bogue. Bogue’s blog has a deep respect for “the moment.” He talks endlessly about how humanity is all about hustle and bustle, busy, busy, busy, and how most people never have the moment to sit down and enjoy where they are. He chooses to only work 2 hours a day.

Wright’s blog further mentions the inspiration behind traveling and being engorged by the lambent beauty found all over the world. In my earlier stages as a blogger I wrote a review of Wright’s blog.

Clean!

Bogue owns 100 items; Wright, 55. They’ve both learned to make a sustainable living through the Internet. By breaking the 9 to 5 work day, they’ve basically found a way to have infinite free time. Without desk jobs holding them down, without material possessions crowding their homes, they find themselves encased by freedom. They have the clarity to practically do whatever they want.

Me, I’m not your textbook minimalist. I don’t sustain a living online and I don’t travel much. My blog is about doing what you want despite the need for approval by others. It’s sort of like minimalism, cutting things out of your life to make room to think for yourself, but, even though I hope to find myself there, I myself am not a fully blown out minimalist, yet. I do, however, find ways to take advantage of it’s practices.

I’ve found the following tips from the Internet along with ones I’ve thought of personally, and integrate them all into my life as a way to get organized and more importantly, unclutter my digital life so I have room to think about things.

1

Get your twitter down to 150.

Dunbar’s law says it is impossible to keep in touch with more than 150 people at a time.

2

Get your desktop to only 2 essential items.

Old files left on the desktop is basically like leaving garbage on the floor. I only leave my Evernote and my Tweetdeck on my desktop.

3

Clear your emails.

If you haven’t responded to an email in a week, you’re probably going to see that same email in a year. Delete it or reply with something small.

4

Hide your bookmarks.

Your toolbars shouldn’t be engorged with different saved pages and a billion apps. You practically only need the address toolbar.

5

Close your windows.

When you work on something, work on that one thing. By trying to work on multiple things at a time, you’re only going to add stress and lose your sense of direction. Remember to work on one task at a time.

We could all find ways to incorporate minimalism in our lives. By uncluttering ourselves, we make room for the things we actually want to do.

What areas will you start with? Let me know in the comments area.

Jonathan Manor is a lifestyle design blogger who emphasizes on letting go of information overload and learning the truth as individuals. He’s an unconventional thinker focused on breaking traditional methods. He writes at The Titan Project. Follow him on Twitter.

19 Responses to 5 Ways to Be a Digital Minimalist
  1. Steven | TEM
    January 22, 2011 | 5:21 pm

    I think the allure of Twitter is that it is breaking down Dunbar’s Law. With today’s technology, it is now infinitely easier to follow people and establish more connections.

    • Jonathan Manor
      January 23, 2011 | 11:15 am

      It does make it easy to follow an infinite amount of people. However, following thousands of people doesn’t mean you could continue to make a profound connection with all of those people. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, relates Dunbar’s Law to people you’d see, theoretically, at your funeral. You could have millions of people come to your funeral, but only about 150 people would be totally devastated to see you go.

      Twitter’s awesome, no doubt!

      • Steven | TEM
        January 23, 2011 | 11:28 am

        Yeah, I read a piece last year about Gladwell’s take on social media, weak ties, and bad social activism. I think he gives some great caveats, but I disagree that strong ties can’t be built up using social media.

        “You could have millions of people come to your funeral, but only about 150 people would be totally devastated to see you go.”

        What if I am a celebrity though? Do you think only 150 people were devastated when Michael Jackson died?

        • Steven | TEM
          January 23, 2011 | 11:29 am

          You don’t have to be a celebrity either. I think the Dunbar’s Law is better as a rule of thumb.

          • Jonathan Manor
            January 23, 2011 | 11:45 am

            True. Every rule can be broken.

        • Jonathan Manor
          January 23, 2011 | 11:44 am

          True. Malcolm Gladwell’s metaphor does have it’s weak points. However, if you switch it around, it’s not as if Michael Jackson would be devastated at the 150 million people’s funerals. Not to expand to the idea of “friendship,” but being absolutely devastated both ways, shows the connection and relationship between both parties as if both of them were devoted to each other’s lives.

    • Dan Zubrzycki
      January 23, 2011 | 11:22 am

      I think the real terms to parse here are “Follow” and “Connect.”
      True, you can follow as many people as you please, but how many are you actually checking up on.
      Imagine you read a post which requires 3 minutes to read. If I currently follow around 50 people, about half of them are bloggers. 25*3 means over an hour. Extrapolate that same formula to me following 150 people 75 blogs and we have alot of time spent JUST reading.
      I think Twitter helps make us LOOK like we’re connected to a lot of people, but really we’re just building a facade.

      • Jonathan Manor
        January 23, 2011 | 11:30 am

        Becoming “Twitter Happy” gives off the look as if someone knows a lot of people. It’s true that you could keep in touch with any number of people no matter how large, it’s just that time has to be distributed to all those people.

        If it takes one minute to say “hey,” and you have 1440 in a day, then you could only say hi to 1440 people a day. Imagine how many less people you’d be able to connect with everyday, if you said “hey, how are you doing?”

  2. Dan Zubrzycki
    January 22, 2011 | 7:56 pm

    Great post, Jon. I’d say that the more esoteric aspects of minimalism were what I found the most joy in doing and were the most rewarding. Streamlining life and optimization were my favorite parts of my journey. While I’ve been trying to avoid some of the more dogmatic aspects of Minimalism, I still–most saliently–apply these more intellectual aspects.

    • Jonathan Manor
      January 23, 2011 | 11:19 am

      Minimalism somehow becomes an act of faith somehow, which is where it kind of expands to something that’s just hard to wrap your head around. Minimalism in a logical sense is healthy for everyone. Throwing crap out just gives people a peace of mind.

      • Dan Zubrzycki
        January 23, 2011 | 11:24 am

        Also, provides some space! Man, my apartment was cluttered this time last year.

        • Jonathan Manor
          January 23, 2011 | 11:38 am

          I don’t know, I’m still a messy person by heart :) Like I have yet to throw a snickers wrapper on my desk from yesterday. The thing is I just don’t own a lot of things or build a connection with all my clothes. I’m free to have clarity on the things that really give me happiness

  3. The Sister (to Idearella)
    January 23, 2011 | 11:07 pm

    This is an interesting outlook. I do not get too involved in online junk. I have enough with my family and my job, and my extra jobs here and there, whatever I feel like at any given time. And indeed, this is the first I’ve really heard of a definition of minimalist–I wasn’t interested enough to take the time to figure it out. But I will say that after three main events, I have determined what is most important to me. 1. My home flooded just a few months after I was a new mom with a new house. 2. I read “Lose 200 Pounds in a Weekend” or something like this, one of the declutter guides. 3. I have twice had to evacuate due to hurricanes, and make the decision on what would come and what could disappear forever (we were right on the coast, so this was a real possibility). I have it now down to two boxes: all of pictures, my memories, and an age-old camcorder with tapes. I think this is the essence of your blog post, but a little less technological. Although I have a big house and lots of cool junk, it can all go to crap for all I care. I just want my husband, my kids, and my memories. This is life. This is what matters.

  4. Bon "Idearella" Crowder
    January 25, 2011 | 4:42 am

    Great discussion, y’all!

    Made me feel good knowing that I have the potential to devastate 150 people upon my demise. I’m going to have to build those relationships to make that work.

    I’ve moved location at work and am closing all my windows on my computer. I love it, Jon! Thanks so much.

  5. Kristin
    January 25, 2011 | 5:20 am

    I love Dunbar’s number:-) And I think it’s spot on. My facebook profile hovers around that number, and I really don’t see any reason to go byond it. Sure, those 150 people do change – but it rarely changes beyond that number.

    It’s curious indeed the way that biology impacts social functions.

    The truth of this post Jonathan, is that the essence of minimalism is more important than the actual act of physically getting rid of everything. Sure, some people (me!) need to ditch our gear to get to the core of ourselves, but some people in the minimalist movement take it a tad too dogmatically and get lost in the material reductionism at the expense of genuine personal discovery.

    The important thing is to get to the core of ourself: and in that sense, physical possessions – whether we obsess about keeping them or dumping them – are less important.

    This post is a good antidote to that:-) Nice!

    • Jonathan Manor
      January 25, 2011 | 7:45 am

      When I have kids I’m going to dress them in v necks and black jeans everyday all day.

      • Dan Zubrzycki
        January 25, 2011 | 11:28 am

        Absolutely, Kristin. For instance, I knew to get into the minimalism/better living lifestyle design market I would want to participate in the 100 Item Challenge. It was easy for me but having that metric of success was helpful.
        Other than that, it’s more important to maintain the mentality, not the numbers.

  6. Infomum
    January 26, 2011 | 3:00 am

    I am a super organised person at heart. My desktop, emails and documents folders and my bookmarks at home and at work are filed to the nth degree which makes finding what I want a breeze.

    My twitter however is rampant so now I have to decide which 600+ people I am following will lose my fragile interest in them.

    It never really occurred to me before but when I think of it I don’t bother reading twitter messages unless they are from special people like Darren Rowse, so why would I want to keep following them?

    • Idearella
      February 2, 2011 | 3:56 am

      I struggle with the same thing, Infomum. I turn on the auto-follow, then off. Not sure if I should be honest in my following or nice. I read once that if you make everything a priority 1, then nothing is a priority 1. Same goes with following – follow everyone and you essentially follow no one.

      Although you can create lists. Which is what I’ve done.

      Thanks for your comment!

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