mnmlist: carry less, or pockets like air

How much do you carry around with you, every day?

It’s something we don’t often think about, but each item we carry around is a little burden, and these little burdens add up.

They contribute to our general fatigue, they are one more thing to worry about, and they can cause actual back problems if we carry too much.

This is something I’ve greatly improved in my life, starting a couple years ago when I decided to try to be as minimalist as possible.

As Robert Daeley said in an old post, Zen Pockets:

In the spirit of GTD, in which you try to empty your head of all the cruft and worry so you can concentrate creatively on the task at hand, let us look to our burdens to see if we can’t undo a little of our daily Sisyphean-wear.

Mind like water? Meet pockets like air.

Let’s see how we can get to pockets like air.

What people normally carry

What’s in your pockets, bag, purse, briefcase? What do you load up with before you leave your home?

Some examples of things people carry include:

  • Wallet, containing money, lots of cards, coffee stamp card, etc.
  • Purse, containing grooming items, makeup, tissues, address book, etc.
  • Laptop w/ cords and accessories
  • Briefcase with files and papers
  • Cell phone, PDA, iPhone or other mobile device
  • Backpack
  • books
  • keys
  • notebook
  • pen(s)
  • paper organizer or Hipster PDA
  • watch
  • toiletries
  • coffee mug
  • lunch
  • a kit of stuff like snacks, tissues, band aids, etc.
  • Bat belt

OK, the last one might only apply to Batman, but the others are fairly common, give or take a few items. I too carried most of these items at one time.

My Minimalist Pockets

These days, I’ve gotten it down to something fairly simple:

  • phone
  • keys – although when I’m not actually driving I only bring the remote control unlocker for the car, not the keys
  • slim “wallet” – actually just a moneyband with ID, debit card and cash

And that’s about it. Sometimes I’ll bring a book, other times a notebook, other times a laptop in a backpack if I’m going to do some writing. It depends on what my plans are.

You’ll notice I don’t carry lots of electronics around (I’ll only bring the laptop once or twice a week), I don’t have a watch, I don’t have much in my “wallet”, I don’t have any grooming products (of course, my shaved head helps with that).

How I got to minimalist

I didn’t get to this point overnight. I got this way by reducing my needs, and examining each item to see whether I really needed to carry it.

1. Reducing needs. As I mentioned, when I decided to shave my head, it meant I didn’t need any grooming products. Now, I’m not saying you need to shave your head, but consider finding ways to reduce your need for these products by simplifying. I also decided I don’t need a watch, because (1) I prefer not to worry about time so much and (2) if I do need to know the time, I can check my cell phone. I decided I don’t need a mobile device such as an iPhone or Blackberry, because while it would be nice to check email or look something up online or check on my website or business while I’m out on the road, I would rather not have that constant distraction. I like being in the moment, especially when I’m with my wife or kids or a friend. I like not being interrupted. Think about your needs and whether they’re really needs, or if they can be eliminated or reduced.

2. Put each item to the test. Consider each item you take with you, and whether you really use them every day. If not, only take them on days when you will need them. If you carry a briefcase full of files you never open, why carry them back and forth? In fact, why not keep your files on your computer, and just access them online, from anywhere? If you have a purse or messenger bag, make each item in the purse or bag pass this critical test: Do you really use it, all the time? Do you really need it? If not, consider leaving them at home or, if you can’t decide, put them in your glove compartment so you don’t have to carry them around. I did this for awhile, just to feel safe, and I ended up not ever needing the items.

Be light

It’s nice to walk around without things weighing you down. You feel light and free. It’s less of a burden.

There’s something peaceful about walking around without these distractions. You can focus on the wonderful world around you. You can talk to a friend or family member without interruptions. You can create without distractions.

Walk lightly, and be light in your heart.