The Smallest List of Things I Want to Own
I want to make you a party to, for various selfish reasons, a process that is currently going on in my inner world. I am a minimalist (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimalism or Fight Club for related philosophy). I have spent an adult lifetime either resisting the urge to accumulate things or deciding that it’s time to push some kind of reset button. As my family and relationships have changed and as my children grow towards adolescence and/or adulthood, I’m feeling that it is again time to look anew at my accretion of stuff.
This is a distinctly counter-consumerist process that is important to me because rather than regarding the ownership of things as a measure of my personal success, I have spent most of my life naturally reacting to it as baggage.
Therefore, I’m about to walk you through an inventory of what I have at the moment, followed by a discussion of how I’d like that to change over time. This is purely about physical stuff and doesn’t get into any of my financial investments or savings. I also will not discuss the baggage of debt, of which I have none.
The Smallest List of Things I Want to Own
- Smoke detectors
- Knife set
- Sushi knives
- Misc. utensils (spatulas, stirring spoons, scissors, etc.)
- Cups, mugs
- Whiskey tumblers
- Metal baking sheet
- Pyrex baking pan
- Mixing bowls
- Cheese grater
- Rice cooker
- Cutting board
- Cloth napkins
- Kitchen trash can
- Recycling container
- Re-usable grocery bags
- Laundry detergent
- Vacuum cleaner
- Cleaning products
- Two-person bed
- Two-person couch
- Dining table
- Dining chairs or floor cushions
- Artificial lighting
- Some wall decorations
- Clothing (work, outdoors, casual; as much overlap as possible)
- Black and brown dress shoes
- Casual shoes
- Work/travel backpack
- Games (a few board games, some cards)
- Poetry books
- Family books
- Personal kanban system (aka, whiteboard)
- A limited set of DVDs (i.e. not-streamable)
- Tool set
- Power drill
- Storage tub for artifacts (e.g. awards, memory items)
- First aid
- Wifi (not necessarily router-based)
- Internal frame pack
- Camelbak pack
- Small tent
- Family tent
- Air mattress
- Sleeping bag
- Camp stove
- Camp cookware
- Camp dishware
- Camp Water filtration
Things Not on the List
The following is a list of things that I currently own which I believe could be done without:
- Xbox 360
- Nintendo Wii*
- Almost all DVDs
- Non-family, prose books (~80%)
- Space heater*
- Exercise equipment - I prefer and prioritize outdoor activity
- Running shoes - my barefoot casual shoes actually work better
- Accumulated bulk of Magic: the Gathering cards*
- Guitar - would ideally pass on to a kid
- A gaming PC
- Another desktop PC
- Another desk
- Two coffee tables
- Two to three of four large shelves
- Two to three large shelves worth of slide-in storage baskets
- Freezer (only thing I use it for currently is chilling milled soapstone… no, really)
- Sushi-specific dishes
- Cats, cat boxes, cat litter, cat food, etc.
- Wine glasses
- Martini glasses*
- Excess pots/pans*
- Microwave oven
- Some wall decorations*
- Quesadilla press (easy, but I could do this on a skillet, I think)
These lists do not address things that “belong” to the kids or that I own solely because of them, such as their beds, construction block sets or school supplies. These things are contained within their spaces (with a few exceptions, like variety scissors or drawing supplies). They’re part of the process of having kids onto which you don’t automatically force your own worldview. Rather, you put it on display with all its ups and downs, as one of the options the world has to offer. I was raised that way, and so I pass it on.
Generally, I think the list of things that I own (excepting kid things) which could easily be culled is pleasantly short. I don’t have a lot of excess at the moment, all things considered. It’s not like I just became a minimalist while writing this.
One thing that does stand out are the cats and their related things. I agreed after some discussion and capitulation to my now ex-wife to adopt two cats from one of her friends. I ended up responsible for almost all of the work associated with them after agreeing to split the work. In fairness to her, I could see this coming from a mile away and her excuses were pretty valid. When we split, she refused to take them and I refused to teach the kids a life lesson involving kicking out dependent family members that are no longer convenient. I hope they remember the lesson when I become senile. Anyway, the cats are aging and have shorter lifespans than us super-apes. Unless they turn out to be miracle cats, they probably won’t live too far beyond at least one kid leaving the household. At that point, I will likely not get any new pets, opting to make things like extended travel and household cleaning much more simple.
* these currently take up trivial relative space and see almost no use; things I intend to get rid of but have not hit a compelling event yet
I might eventually acquire high end camp cookware and dishware and that could be dual purpose for at-home use. That seems like an area where the redundancy might only be based on some aesthetic vanity about “proper looking” dishes for eating at home. This is something that I will watch out for when I look into more camping gear. The answer may not be a total overlap, but a mix and match approach.
I currently have an in-home washer and drier for doing laundry. This is fantastically convenient. I recognize, however, that it is a convenience and not a necessity and hence have listed it under Luxuries. Depending on where I lived, however, it might be a practical enough requirement to be a necessity. This will be a tough one. Washer/drier combos put a reasonable burden on the size and infrastructure of a dwelling, as well as challenge things like off-grid living. We shall see.
Lastly, for thorny issues, the one that cuts deep into my heart: actual, printed books. I have a deep, inherited and ingrained respect for the presence of and accumulation of real books. Unfortunately, books are heavy, hard to move, take up a lot of space and don’t—if I’m being really honest here, therapist—really need to be non-electronic.
OKAY. SOME BOOKS NEED TO BE. If you noticed on the list above, I’m not treating all books as created equal. I’m starting to realize that there are a class of books that I consider to be special and like to have in print: family books (not available through Amazon), poetry books (especially signed), graphic novels, gifts and related things. Then, there are a class of books that I love, but don’t inspire any feelings of physical attachment: novels and non-fiction books, primarily. The latter group, however, are larger in size on average and a significant percentage of my collection.
I’m keeping an eye on Kindle Matchstick and the recent changes that may allow better ebook pricing. I might weed my book collection down to real keepers, then repurchase some digitally and retain the smallest physical collection that I can in the end. Oh, and use the library more.
This is a mental exercise and not a near-term plan. I have two kids that I’m responsible for who may not be willing accomplices in the larger extremes of this simplification process. I can teach them the life lessons of minimalism incrementally without having to stress them out with distractions as they are marching their way through grade school and socialization. That said, goals are much more likely to be achieved when 1) written down and 2) shared with others. Thanks for helping.
I’m currently considering buying a food processor. This is not something that I use regularly. I would like to be able to make things like hummus and falafel more easily with a food processor. However, I do not have a wide range of uses for a food processor. Perhaps I can get a relatively small hand/immersion-type blender instead. It would be slightly less convenient, but easier to clean and take up space proportional to how narrowly I would use the device. This is how I think about owning things.
Looking at the Things Not on the List… list, I can’t help but conclude that I have a space right now which only serves the purpose of holding other things I don’t need and requires periodic cleaning. The living room is used heavily, but it has a space that goes beside the kitchen and dining room and connects to the hallway and bedrooms. This extension space currently holds a desk which could be moved easily into the living room, a desk which is on the list to cull, and itinerant, sleeping cats who periodically decide to sleep there instead of any other place that itinerant cats sleep. Unfortunately, I can’t simply remove that space from my home without moving (duh).
In roughly six years, my oldest son may be moving on to higher education. This is not a guarantee, with the nature of society changing, college price/value issues, his addiction to Call of Duty, etc. However, if he lives away from home, I would also be left in my current home with an unnecessary bedroom. I would not re-purpose the room. I would just downsize. I need neither an office nor a guest room. I do have a variety of guests and they do sleep over, but this hasn’t required a special room; I don’t typically invite overnight guests that I wouldn’t trust near me, family or friend! I’ve never needed a specialized space for a home office, either.
Let’s wrap up.
I’m sure I’ve missed some things on this list, even having undergone several revisions. At this point, they should be minor. Although my long term goal of simplification and clutter reduction is more extreme, my next step is to start with the easy and non-kid impacting things to remove. Beyond that, we’ll see where I actually end up in my light cone.
"Less stuff, less problems." - The Notorious B.I.G.
I don’t recognize those store names. Where are they? We might have been co-located at something larger, though. Potentially.
Thanks for the blog respect. I’m a pretty bad tumblr user. Also haven’t posted much Magic stuff for a while. At least I can say it’s mostly original content, though :-D
Yesterday, I went hiking in the Rachel Carson Conservation Park with my girlfriend and kids. I told my dad about it today, because I remember there being a poster about Rachel Carson on the wall in our cabin. Here’s what my dad had to say:
“rachel carson’s researcher was betty haney, a high school friend of [your aunt]. When Linda Lear was working on her huge Carson biog., she called me — because my [your grandfather] and Carson knew each other — as she wondered who betty haney was and had no idea how to get in touch with her. i asked [your aunt] to check on it. [She] called a mutual friend, the former margaret foster, and she knew betty’s phone number!”
Having a personal and family connection to a wilderness area just up the road from me is a really special feeling.
Also, my dad’s use of capitalization in email is somewhat chaotic.
Things I’ve Learned About OkCupid
- OkCupid asks an incredibly in-depth series of questions about your opinion on marijuana.
- Age is more of a marketing thing than a chronology thing.
- Approximately 1/3 of all women are bisexual?!
- If you build it, they will not come. Prepare to initiate contact.
I’ve been on there for less than 24 hours, so I reserve the right to expand this list over time.
Wow, this is a big question. The purpose or at least focus of Product Management varies widely depending on a company and their structure. I have been a Product Manager under development, marketing and corporate strategy at various points. My new role will be under IT. Unlike “product development” or “sales,” Product Management suffers from less worldwide adherence to a clearly understood role. If you want to see the leading voice in what it “should do,” I would refer you to the Pragmatic Marketing Framework. But you asked about my personal approach, so I’ll tell you about the challenges that I see tech companies having and what I’ve tried to do to address them:
- Inside Out Thinking - this occurs in larger or older companies with a weak historical PM function or design function. As the quality and quantity of well-understood insight into product direction decreases coming from outside the company’s walls, technical teams will naturally gravitate towards solving internal problems—system integration, technical debt, pet peeves, etc. There’s an endless supply of that work and you should always maintain a healthy allocation to avoiding entropy, but it is not a viable approach to win over customers because it solves very few of their problems, if any. Stage 1, when you enter an organization, is to figure out how inside-out they think. Stage 2 is to be the counter-weighted advocate for solving customer problems by presenting the opportunity as a risk/reward balance against all the internal crap that could be done instead. Sometimes, however, you are just milking a legacy product. In that case, ignore everything I say and just find a more interesting job somewhere else :-)
- Forest for the Trees - I won’t dwell on this too much, because it’s usually a side effect of the aforementioned inside-out affliction. Creating or at least updating a proper market strategy for your product, which should be an early priority,will allow you to quickly pit existing plans against the strategy and demonstrate that the mix is weighted towards inside-out projects.
- Trees for the Forest - this is a slightly different problem that companies fall into at the “management” level. In this situation, there is a grand strategy in place to do amazing things in the market but it is, unfortunately, not represented in any realistic skills development, budget and resource allocation plan. In short, it’s vapor-ware strategy. When I find myself in this situation, my first task is to analyze and present what it actually takes to achieve the vision, versus what resources are available and planned. Then, ask for either 1) a revision of the strategy to match the resources or 2) hopefully, a revision of the resources to achieve the strategy.
- Generic Strategy Disease - this is where you show up at a company, ask what the product line strategy is and are told: 1) make more money, 2) improve customer satisfaction, 3) innovate. Great! Name a technology company who doesn’t want to do that. The question is “how” and “with what?” In this situation, my personal mission is to provide the organization with a blueprint of specific things to do (problems to solve, hills to take, etc.) over usually 3-5 years to achieve those very vague objectives. Without an actual, tangible mission that employees can assess, understand and plan against, they can easily justify how any particular thing they decide to do for any reason could positively influence revenue, satisfaction or innovation. In this case, you must be the coach. The owners of the sports club want to win a title. The players want to win a title. But they need specific skills to work on, specific plays to practice, talent to scout and real, tangible objectives to accomplish in order to ever get there. Otherwise, they will spin their wheels because the objectives are too intangible to focus around.
This is very high level stuff. The pattern here is that there is, as always, never a silver bullet. Most companies are stuck in some kind of pattern. My personal approach to Product Management is really to assess the organizational psychology and the gaps where management’s guidance or direction are weakest. That helps me determine what is keeping everyone from collectively achieving awesomeness and focus my understanding of customer development/acquisition, product design, and problem solving to feed the organization the medicine it needs to break the fever and [insert additional inspiring sportsball metaphor here].
If you were asking a totally different question, feed me a slightly more specific requirement and I’ll try again ;-)
I’ll assume that was a typo. I star all the time.
I start on Monday (so WASPy)! I will still be doing technology product management, focused on corporate asset liquidation and investment recovery. The role is director-level, so it’s a big new challenge for me. I’m quite excited.