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The Few Things I Own (An Essay on Minimalism) | Market Meditations

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Thirty things. Ten pounds. That's all.

Ever since I left my job for the road, the things I carry have evolved with me. Many things went. A few new things joined. The process was refined.

It's been 14 months now, and I thought I'd give readers a look into what I carry.

But before we take a look, a word on why.

Why own few things?

"Having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true." ––Spock

I lot of the smartest and happiest people I've had the privilege of meeting have a habit of simplifying. They don't simplify as a hobby. They do it because it works. Minimalism isn't an end in itself; it's a powerful tool for getting what you want from life.

My thoughts on the

why

behind simplification––

  • Reduce decision fatigue. The Zuckerbergs, Bransons, hedge fund managers of the world are wearing the same few things, eating the same few things and trying to work in the same few places. Save energy on pointless choices and spend it on doing great work instead.

  • Practice in poverty.  Routinely exposing yourself to fear, stress and hardship in a stable environment to bulletproof your mind for when the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.
    • A relevant quote from the great philosopher Seneca–– “Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?'” 

  • Minimize to maximize.  I've effectively done surgery and removed certain life decisions––I can't purchase a car; I can't buy heavy, expensive things; I can't gorge myself on souvenirs at the local night bazaar. This creates space for doing other things. 

  • Identity. When you own fewer things, what you own starts to take on more meaning. Elsewhere on the blog, I write on the importance of principles and personal philosophy as drivers for word class motivation. One piece of the puzzle is how you see yourself.

Okay, enough contemplation. On to the list...

The Things I Own

Okay, let's take a look at the goodies.

What I focus on when purchasing:

  • Aesthetics. There's more to life than function. Travel without looking like a traveler. Any extra cost pays over to social and business life. This is one thing I see most travelers ignoring.
    • I purposely choose clothing so that, no matter what combination I wear, it looks presentable and the colors match. This saves me from worrying about 'outfits'. In the morning, I can just grab and go.

  • Longevity. If possible, I want to buy things for life. Not for frugality purposes, but because I don't want to waste time searching for new gear (which could take hours).

  • Versatility. For me to own something, it has to either be (a) usable every day, (b) extremely useful in emergencies, or (c) flexible. When possible layer clothing. Use your socks to store things. Use your backpack as a gym bag. 

  • Second Order Effects. I don't own things to own things. I own things for positive life impact. I carry what I do because it is as close to optimal as I can get for what matters to me––my movement practice, doing great work, and a community of amazing people.

-

I've had this guy for 8 years now. The color is fading, the leather is stained and it's fraying a bit at the seams, but I bet it's got another few years in it. 

It's simple, cheap and doesn't break easily. Lifetime warranty. Save yourself that $200 it would cost for a 'quality' bag and spend it instead on friends, books, really good teachers, or game-changing life experiences. 

-

This is where the magic happens. My most important (and most expensive) item.

My first week on the road, my old laptop broke. I had work to do, so I went to the first Apple store I could find in Thailand and bought this guy.

Super-light (~2 pounds), and the flawless, Steve Job-ness of a Mac computer. I always argue with Windows users about this, but I think the productivity benefits from a Mac computer are easily worth the extra price tag. 

-

I was a beta user for Google Fi––Google's pay-as-you-go phone plan that gives you service anywhere in the world.  

The plane lands, airplane mode goes off, and...service. It's that easy. Flat fee is $20/month plus $10 for each GB of data used. I rarely go above 2GB here, so I'm paying $30-$40 a month for service anywhere in the world.

The only other comparable plan out there is T-Mobile, which gives free service anywhere in the world.

-

I've had this guy for almost 3 years now.

It's ultralight but extremely effective at blocking wind. Which means 20+ degrees of warmth when it matters. The cuffs and waist pull tight to keep warmth from escaping. And it's water resistant to boot.

There are other comparable wind jackets out there there, but this one made the look the most like a ninja. Which is, of course, the #1 priority.

-

The newest addition. Bought it half off on Ebay.

I'd heard people praising the wonders of merino wool for ages, but, being the skeptic I am, I held off on it for ages. Finally gave in when I needed a shirt for a wedding.

I could wear this for weeks without washing. Fits well, doesn't itch, and I can wear it to more formal events. 

-

Merino wool t-shirt that looks good and doesn't itch. 'Nuff  said. I wore this to the gym 3 days in a row. No smell. No itch.

These are only available in Japan. And it was only $38––half of what the competition costs. In retrospect, I would buy the midweight version. (You can see some nipple poking out).

-

The god of techwear, Outlier. I was a skeptic, but their pants are amazing. Wears like a sweatpant but looks good, resistant water. It's like they bred a tank with a ball of cotton candy (I am the king of analogies)...

Only complaint is that the pant legs are a little long; I need to get them tailored.

-

The best quality down jacket for a budget price. 

It's ultraportable (folds down to nothing) and light, but blocks the wind and keeps me warm in the winter. I usually wear this along with the wind jacket from Arc'teryx.

-

Assorted Clothing

Arranged in this beautiful triangular shape for your viewing pleasure...

2x Uniqlo Airism Underwear 2x Athletic Shirts 2x Gym Shorts $10 Shoes / $3 Flip Flops Smartwool Socks

2x Uniqlo Socks

Nothing impressive here. Just your typical athletic shorts and athletic shirts. I'm at the gym 2x a day most days, so I like things that dry fast and wick sweat. In a pinch, I can wash things in the shower too.

-

A flexible tool for warming up, bulletproofing your shoulders, lassoing wild oxen, planche variations and stretching. A lot of people in the movement world swear by these.

Most people won't need this, but I'm a movement fanatic and training 3+ hours a day; it's easily worth it for me.

-

I use this to hold chalk for the gym. It's great for any barbell exercises, leaving white handprints on your landlady's furniture, gymnastic ring exercises, brachiating on monkey bars, rock climbing...anything that requires grip.

I like this one because it twists shut so that chalk doesn't leak into your bag.

-

This is all you'll need for your electronics to work in any country.

Light, cheap, flexible–what's not to like?

-

Miscellaneous Tech

Google Fi Backup Battery Miscellaneous Cables Pen and Paper Smartphone Tripod

The battery was a free present from Google. The tripod is for filming workouts. The pen and paper, well... that's the most important thing I own.

-

That's all! And combined together it looks like this...

Yes, I forgot to take a picture of the duffel. Have a cookie.

---

Honestly, I don't think what you own specifically is that important. More important is (a) having a habit of eliminating what is not useful and (b) the self-identity that forms from the choices you make.

Liked this? I've got tons of nerdy content in the pipes:  My "emergency" shopping list for when I get robbed, the BOA (buy on arrival) philosophy, how to actually start simplifying, my "Do Not Pack" list, minimalism in life (work, friendships, decision-making), and much more. 

What do you own? What do you NOT own? Why? Thoughts and comments appreciated. As always, I read everything.

––Charles

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