Tag Archives: minimalism

Goodbye Google, Hello DuckDuckGo!

Nothing is forever. I’ve recently made a change I want to share. We all use search engines, mostly without much thought. We type something in, look through the results, and click on a promising link or three. Most of us have been using the same search engine for years, and it’s probably Google. We’re used to it, and it seems to do a pretty good job. Why change? Sometimes change is good.

Goodbye Google

No, I haven’t stopped using the internet, nor quit using search engines — I’ve just realized that Google is no longer the Good Thing and Good Netizen that it once was. I’m not sure if their motto is still “Don’t be evil” but if it is they need to change it to better reflect reality.

Learning that they will now be keeping a permanent and uniquely identifiable  record of all activities (linked across all Google properties, too)  took me aback. Not just what I search for, but which results I actually click on. I’m not comfortable with them amassing all that data, and not comfortable with the thought of what could happen to it. Even if they claim that it is only for their own use, who knows what might change down the road and who they might sell it to. Furthermore, if I should ever become a target of law enforcement or government, I doubt Google would hesitate for even a second before turning my records over to authorities.

Same Search, Different Results

Even if you don’t think you have anything to hide (and I’ll even spare you the “slippery slope” speech just this once), there’s another problem with Google and how it uses the data it collects about you.  If you and I were to simultaneously type the same search string into Google, we’d both get the same results, ranked in the same order, wouldn’t we? One might think so, but one would be wrong. Google tailors the results to the individual user, based on history of his or her prior searches and click-throughs. Creepy, huh? You aren’t getting the best results, but rather the results Google thinks you’d want.

Hello DuckDuckGo!

Time to find a new search engine. Yahoo? They’re OK as an email provider and news aggregator, but I wouldn’t trust them with search. Bing? Even if I could stop wincing at the the name long enough to actually use it, why bother – it’s been proven to be repackaged Google results, despite their denials. Then I found this:

Enter DuckDuckGo – a search engine that doesn’t track me and doesn’t filter my search results.  It’s actually pretty cool, too. Not just a front-end that adds a layer of privacy, but a real search engine with some pretty cool features. And if you like to get involved, you can even join the community or work on development.

Call Me Google Free

I’ve successfully managed to deGoogle my browser, removing all references to Google from its various nooks and crannies, and adding DDG where appropriate and useful. While I don’t expect many of you will jump off the Google bandwagon just on my say-so, I really think you should at the very least read this and this to get an idea of what Google really does, and then make your own decision.

Comments Are Open

What do you think? Are search engine tracking and the “filter bubble” real problems? Or do you think I’m just being paranoid? After reading the facts, do you think you’ll change your search habits?

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Intersection of Naturism and Minimalism

As some of my readers may already know, I’m a naturist. If you aren’t quite sure what that means, think nudist. While some draw distinctions between naturism and nudism, for the purposes of this discussion we can consider them close enough to synonymous. While much can be said in favor of a nude lifestyle and naturist philosophy, my goal here today is to explore how not wearing clothing is consistent with minimalist values and a simple, frugal lifestyle.

Minimalist Wardrobe

A naturist’s wardrobe is the ultimate minimalist wardrobe. Ideally I’d not need to own any clothes at all. In reality, I have to go out in public from time to time, where society’s laws and norms compel me to cover my body. There are also times, even here in the desert, when it gets cold enough that clothing becomes necessary for one’s health and comfort.

My entire wardrobe consists of a pair of shorts, a pair of long pants, a few t-shirts, a couple polo shirts, a sweatshirt, and a winter jacket.

Saves Time

I do laundry about twice a year, and it all (aside from the winter coat) fits in one load. I save time by not washing, drying, ironing, folding and storing clothes, but it doesn’t stop there. How much time do you spend deciding what to wear each day? I don’t. How about time spent getting dressed and undressed, multiplied by how many times you change clothes each day? Not me. Taken separately, it may not seem like much, but it all adds up over the course of a day or week. I shop for clothes even less often than I wash them — even more time saved.

Saves Money

With my small and seldom-worn wardrobe, I spend very little money acquiring, maintaining, and replacing clothing. I can’t remember the last time I went clothes shopping, or even bought a bottle of laundry detergent for that matter. Without a layer of clothes insulating my body, I can be comfortable in room temperatures five to ten degrees warmer than a clothed person, allowing me to keep the thermostat higher in the summer – saving electricity saves money.

Saves Worry

When I wake up in the morning, I don’t worry about what I’ll wear today. I’m already wearing it! I don’t have to worry about ruining my clothes by getting them torn, worn, or dirty if I’m not wearing any. On the rare occasion I don clothes it isn’t a problem either because what little clothing I own is simple and inexpensive (and often from thrift stores). I’m not terribly concerned if something gets soiled or damaged.

Saves The Environment

Think of all the water I save by not washing clothes. Imagine if a whole city turned naturist how much water could be saved. And all the phosphates and chemicals from detergent I’m not using. Digging a little deeper, one could consider the environmental impact of clothing manufacture as well. All the water used to grow the cotton (or, worse, petroleum products used to manufacture synthetics). Energy to run the machines in the factory. And all the fuel consumed and pollution generated in transporting from field to factory to warehouse to store to home. As a bonus, by buying fewer clothes, I can afford to be choosier about what I buy and how it’s made, and hopefully avoid contributing to third-world sweatshops. Also, the electricity I save by needing less air conditioning in the summer doesn’t just save me money — it helps the environment, too!

Saves Space

How much space in your home is occupied by clothes? Closets, dressers, hampers. I’ve seen wardrobes bigger than my whole house. More space to store clothing care items – washing machine, detergent, softener, lint brushes, iron, ironing board.

Saves Distraction and Discomfort

It has been suggested that we avoid wearing labels and logos. What easier way to avoid those gratuitous marketing cues than avoiding clothes entirely?

Does your clothing irritate you? Does it ever itch? Restrict your movement? Make you uncomfortably warm in the summer? Not me.

But Wait, There’s More!

I’ve already mentioned how lack of clothing simplifies my daily routines, lightens my workload, saves me money, and reduces my environmental footprint. While I’ve been primarily pointing out the practical advantages of a nude lifestyle, there are other benefits to be had that cannot be measured in dollars, hours, or square feet. When looked at in a social context, nudity further simplifies my life by reinforcing my minimalist values while simplifying and enriching social activities.

Simplify Social Intercourse

Our opinion of other people is influenced at both a conscious and subconscious level by what they wear. That’s why there exist sayings like “Dress for Success” and “The Clothes Make the Man.” As much as most of us would like to think otherwise, our first impression of another person’s manner and style of dress as well as quality and cleanliness of their attire often makes a lasting impression, deserved or not. It can also have an profound effect on how (or even if) we choose to interact with that person.

When we all are nude, we all are equal. It is much easier to see the real person within when we don’t have the distraction and (often subconscious) prejudice created by their wardrobe. Likewise, other people see us for who we really are. Our preconceived notions are cast aside and we must engage in conversation to learn about our fellow humans, rather than drawing assumptions based on their choice of textiles used to cover their bodies.

Comments Are Open

Naturist or not, minimalist or not, I’d love to know what you think.

Exploring RV Living – Camping vs. Living

(This post is part of a series. If you’re new to my blog or this is the first you’ve seen of this series, you might look at the introduction first.)

Let’s clarify what I mean when I say camping. Some people would go so far as to say that RVing isn’t camping at all. Well, according to my dictionary, camping means “lodging in a camp” with no mention of what or even if any shelter is involved. While there may be different styles of camping, and some folks may prefer more primitive camping, RVing is indeed camping. The confusion can also go in the opposite direction. One might think “if you live in your RV, are you then camping all the time?” Maybe so.

Let’s Go Camping!

For the purpose of this discussion, “camping” is what someone does when they leave their normal home for a period of time, and pack what they expect to need for the period of time they plan to be away. Like a vacation. They do not usually carry all of their earthly possessions with them. They know that they will be eventually returning home.

Home Is Where I Park It

No matter where I go, I take my home with me. All my possessions. Everything. Whether I’m spending the night in a parking lot, a month in the middle of the desert, or a year in a small town, there’s no going home because I’m already here. And so’s all my stuff. While the vacation camper only needs to pack what he or she will need for a week or so, the full timer takes everything. Well, that’s not always true. Some full timers do store off-season clothing or items they aren’t ready to part with. Not me.

That’s Life

Campers need only be prepared for their planned trip. The full timer must be prepared for every day life. While this includes the obvious things, such as food and clothing, it also includes things that one doesn’t give daily thought to. Stuff like business records, passports, birth certificates, medical records, and more. Maybe work-related tools or equipment. Even the obvious isn’t as obvious as it seems. Take clothing, for example. Unless I want to maintain storage at some permanent location, and return to it as needed, I must carry with me clothing appropriate for all seasons and any climate I expect to travel to. To complicate matters further, most RVs are designed with the occasional traveler, not the full timer, in mind, with precious little storage space.

Not Always a Holiday

The recreational RVer might enjoy leaving cares behind, forgetting about computers, telephones, bills, and other responsibilities. To live full-time in an RV is not the same as always being on vacation. In a future installment of this series, I’ll get into things like mail, telephone, and Internet, as well as how to stay on top of bills and other obligations.

Minimalism Helps

As you can imagine, if you want to carry your home and all its contents with you everywhere, a minimalist mindset will make things much easier. You will want to own only what you really need or really love. Although I downsized 90% of my possessions when I moved out of my 1200 square f00t home and into my 126 square f00t RV, I’m learning now that I still have a long way to go. Experience has really been my best teacher. If you’ve been following me for a while (and if not, feel free to browse the archives) you know I’m still working on my clutter, in order to live more comfortably in this tiny space.

One-Size-Fits-All?

That’s not to say you have to be able to fit in 100 square feet. Still, you’ll probably be significantly downsizing from whatever you live in now, unless you already live in an RV, a hotel room, or a really really small studio apartment. The tiniest pop-ups and pickup campers are well under 100 square feet, while the largest, most luxurious motor homes and trailers are barely 300 square feet. Still pretty small by traditional standards. If you’ve ever thought about living in an RV, or any sort of “tiny house”, you might consider the following experiment. Try living for a month in just your kitchen, bathroom, and smallest bedroom. In fact, if you have a large eat in kitchen, try confining yourself to just the kitchen and bathroom. For the whole month, all other parts of the house are off-limits, except for navigation purposes. This includes their contents, so before you begin, make sure everything you’ll need is in your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

Are You Experienced?

Have you ever been RVing? Have you ever imagined spending more than a week or two in one? Are you a fellow full timer, or have you been in the past? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comments are open; questions are welcome.

Decluttering Decisions – The “Lost Or Stolen” Test

(For those of you eagerly awaiting the next installment of “Exploring RV Living,” it will be coming later this week. If you haven’t done so yet, subscribe via email or RSS to make sure you don’t miss it. Links are over in the right-hand column, below my mug shot.)

I’ve always been a thorough researcher when it comes to major purchases, and have read my share of online product reviews. While trying to come up with a relatively easy rule to help me decide what to keep and what to eliminate in my decluttering efforts, I remembered a question I’ve seen asked by at least one review site, and is frequently volunteered by reviewers on other sites, especially musician’s gear sites: “Would you buy it again if it was lost or stolen?” In the context of a product review, it’s an excellent question. If something is so useful or desirable that you couldn’t be without it, that’s about as good as a personal recommendation can get.

Not Just For Reviews

It turns out that the “lost or stolen” question makes a really good test during decluttering. What we would do in the event of the sudden disappearance of an item is a good gauge of that item’s actual necessity and value to us. The low hanging fruit (or maybe the fruit that’s already fallen from the tree?) is quickly eliminated by asking ourselves “If this was lost or stolen, would I even notice?”

What Would You Do?

Where “lost or stolen” really shines, though, is after the first few rounds, after the obvious fluff has already been eliminated. Now the decision process is more challenging. We need to separate the “that’s really nice” stuff from the “I really need that” stuff. As you look at an item, ask yourself “If this were lost or stolen (or broken beyond repair) would I immediately run out and buy another one just like it?” If you can honestly answer “yes” to that question, then the item is probably a keeper. If, on the other hand, you answered that you’d figure out how to get on without it, then you probably don’t need it. If your answer is “I’d have to replace it, but probably not with one like it,” that’s a sign that it serves a needed purpose, but is probably not a good match for your current lifestyle. In that case it might be worth considering replacing the less-than-ideal item with something more suitable. No hurry, though — you can wait until it needs replacing anyway.

Terrific Test

While this isn’t the answer to all decluttering dilemmas, such as what to do with sentimental and decorative things, the “lost or stolen” test is a great tool for making decisions regarding practical things. Can you think of any other  simple tests to help with decluttering decisions? What have you found that helps you separate the wheat from the chaff? Comments are open — don’t be shy!

Exceptions to Decluttering Rules?

There are two “rules” frequently cited to help with decluttering as well as to avoid re-cluttering. The first helps us decide what to get rid of by suggesting that if something hasn’t been used in X length of time (one year is the most common, but I’ve seen recommendations range from three months to two years) then you don’t need it. The other rule helps us avoid accumulation, and it is usually called the “one in, one out” rule. Let’s look at each of these rules and see if there are times we might not want to simply follow them blindly.

If You Haven’t Used It…

This rule is designed to help us decide what we don’t need. If something is stashed away in the bottom of a closet or the back of a drawer and we have not even seen it, let alone used it in months or years, what makes us think we’ll suddenly need it one day? The truth is that we probably won’t. There are exceptions, however.

Emergency!

If you drive a car, you probably carry a spare tire, a jack, and a lug wrench. If you regularly ride a bicycle any significant distance, you probably carry a patch kit or spare tube, a tool kit, and a pump. These are things we may not have used or even looked at in months or years, but we continue to carry them around because we don’t want to be stranded by the side of the road should we experience the misfortune of a flat tire. Along the same lines, we might keep first aid kits in our homes or vehicles, but hope we never need them. Ditto for fire extinguishers. Perhaps we can call this the emergency equipment exception. You can probably think of more examples, and they will vary depending on your individual situation. Just make sure you aren’t using this exception as an excuse to keep all kinds of “just in case” stuff that you probably won’t ever use and could easily re-acquire if needed.

Got Plans?

Another exception might be “I plan to use it.” This works if you have something that is already earmarked for a specific time or occasion in the future, when you know that you will use it. Don’t confuse this with “I might use it,” “I hope to use it,” or “I want to use it,” which are all excuses for keeping what we really don’t need. A variation on that exception, which I am experiencing right now, is “I plan to use it once I’ve decluttered enough room for it.” While I have to be careful that I’m not using this as a blanket excuse for keeping stuff I should be getting rid of, I think that if I have something that I honestly feel I will use and get function or pleasure from once I have the space to enjoy it, then I can at least leave it for last. Once I’ve decluttered to the point where I can comfortably accommodate the item, if I find that I am still not using it or have lost interest, then it becomes subject to expulsion.

One In, One Out

This one is very popular in the RV and Tiny House communities, where space is at a premium. It can even be expanded to “one in, two out” during active decluttering. This rule aims to maintain a static quantity of items if strictly followed. It isn’t so much subject to legitimate exceptions as it is to “creative interpretation.” We need to be sure we are following the true spirit of this rule. Getting rid of a worn out pair of socks shouldn’t justify bringing in a new TV and a game console. Yes, that’s two items in for two items out (a pair of socks), but using that kind of logic will only get you deeper into consumerist clutter. Ideally, an item goes out to make room for an equivalent but better, smaller or simpler item. Replacing several items with a single multi-function item could result in a two, three, or more-for-one trade! In any case, the items going out should be the same size or bigger than those coming in, the goal being to maintain balance or reduce clutter, not to increase it.

More Examples?

Can you think of other decluttering rules with legitimate exceptions? How about ways you or other household members try to “cheat” on the anti-clutter rules you’ve laid out?

How I Discovered Minimalism

Notice that I didn’t call this “How I Became a Minimalist.” While I’m certainly displaying tendencies in that direction, I’m not quite sure I deserve to wear the label “minimalist” — at least not yet.

Making Changes

All of us who are or who aspire to be minimalists have our own reasons for initially seeking this path. Often as we learn more, our own point of view changes, and along with it, some of our goals take different shapes and priorities.

When I made the decision several years ago to move from a three-bedroom house to a tiny motorhome, many people considered that to be a very minimalist move. I suppose it was, seeing as I parted with over 90% of my possessions to do so. Would I miss them? Would I feel deprived?

A New Feeling

Guess what? Instead of feeling deprived, I felt liberated. Free of the clutter. Free of the responsibility of maintaining and protecting it all. Free of the fear of it being stolen or damaged. No more spending weeks (or months!) packing and unpacking if I had to move.

Clutter Returns

I was feeling liberated by my tiny mobile dwelling and my lack of stuff. So far so good. I wasn’t really thinking too much about it as a lifestyle or a philosophy, though. I just sort of lived my life. Now and then I’d realize I needed something I lacked, or, more often, I just wanted something I saw, and eventually, after a few years, I realized that I’d accumulated an awful lot of stuff in my tiny home! Uh-oh. Not so liberating anymore. Especially when moving was taking nearly a week of rearranging and cramming so as to make this thing drivable, and then a half a day of unpacking and rearranging just to be able to use my bed, kitchen, and toilet once I’d arrived at my next destination.

A New Quest

It seems that when I had first downsized and simplified, I hadn’t made the necessary changes in my habits and behavior to sustain that simplicity. Funny how clutter can creep up like that. A trinket here and a gadget there doesn’t seem like much at the time, but they slowly, almost imperceptibly accumulate until suddenly you look around one day and go WTF? I wanted to get back that feeling of freedom and serenity.  I consulted my favorite research tool, the internet, looking not only for decluttering tips, support, and inspiration, but perhaps some help on figuring out how, once I get things back to how I’d like them to be, to have them stay that way.

A New Community

I found a small but thriving (and growing) community of bloggers, most of them calling themselves minimalists, each at his or her own stage of dealing with a similar situation, and sharing their experiences for each other and anyone else to benefit from. In addition to practical how-to advice, I was also reading about  why and about the results and how entire lives were being changed, enriched by removing needless clutter and excess material goods. As I became more involved, and started participating in the comments, I found not only inspiration for my decluttering challenges, but also a renewed interest in my own blog.

Thank You!

I’d like to express my thanks to this community, of which I now feel I am at least a small part, for not only all your words, but for inspiring me to write more of my own words. You’ll find most of the blogs that I regularly read are listed in the blogroll in the right-hand column. Maybe you’ll find some you haven’t visited before, or haven’t visited lately. And thank you to my readers and commenters, who remind me that my own blogging is a worthy endeavor.

My Current Goal

My immediate goal, at least with regards to stuff, is to get things to the point where I could easily pick up and go at any time, with a minimum of hassle. I want to be able, while in traveling mode, to still have access to all the necessities without that sensation of being in a tile puzzle.  The closer I get to that goal (which, looking around me, is still a ways off), and the more I work on decluttering, minimizing, and simplifying, the more I seem to be absorbing of the deeper meaning of minimalism. Not just decluttering, but why. I’m seeing how I am not defined by what I own, and how too much of it can weigh me down, and getting rid of the excess sets me free. And not just the physical things, either, but how simplifying life and my approach to living it makes it better and gives me more time for what I want to do. So perhaps I am a minimalist after all. Or at least well on my way to becoming one.

How about you?

Do you consider yourself a minimalist, or at least seeking that path? Do you maybe lean in that direction, but prefer a different label? Do you find yourself occasionally straying from your chosen path, and need that occasional jolt of reality (or reading about someone else’s) to set you right again? What is your immediate or next goal?

Extra Challenges of Decluttering a Tiny House

I live in a tiny house. True, it isn’t what most people imagine when they think “Tiny House”, but at 100-150 square feet, depending how you measure, it is indeed tiny by most people’s standards, and even by some minimalist’s standards. Living in such a small space presents some unique challenges when it comes to decluttering procedures.

Stuff-To-Space Ratio

If I were to take everything I now own and put it in my old 1000 square foot house, I’d still have oodles of space. If lumped together, it would barely fill one room. If appropriately distributed throughout the house, it would probably look pretty minimalist.  But put it all back here, and it fills this tiny space quite thoroughly, and it is painfully obvious that I have too much of it.

The Task

There are probably as many ways to declutter as there are declutterers, but they tend to be variations on one of two basic methods: either empty the zone being decluttered (room, closet, drawer, whatever) and then put back only that which you are intentionally choosing to keep, or go through the zone being decluttered and remove everything except that which you wish to keep. In either case, some sort of staging area is needed for the removed items as they are sorted for discarding, donating, freecycling, or selling. In a bigger house, even if very cluttered, it is usually possible to empty part of a room, covered porch or patio, or at least clear off large table, or something, even if it means temporarily making a larger pile elsewhere.

My Problem

There isn’t really enough space in here to reserve any of it as a decluttering staging area. My bed and seats can be used very temporarily, but not for anything that lasts even overnight (especially the bed). I’m left with outdoor space, which means I have to hope the weather cooperates. And I certainly don’t want to leave anything of any value (although I may have decided that I no longer need something, it still has value and is worth protecting until it becomes someone else’s responsibility) out in the dust and dirt and sun and the various desert critters for very long.

If I knew exactly what to get rid of, and I was ready and able to dispatch the cast-offs instantly, It would be a lot easier. Trash (including various trinkets that are of such little value they aren’t worth the effort of doing anything other than trashing) can be eliminated quickly and easily. Items for donation can collect in a box or bag until my next trip into town. Items for resale are a bit trickier. They need to be tested, cleaned, and if they’re going on eBay or Craigslist, they need to be photographed and descriptions written. And then they need to be kept somewhere clean, dry, and safe for up to two weeks with eBay (or even longer if they don’t sell on the first try).

How I’ve Been Doing It

First I made an overall sweep for obvious cast-offs — stuff that I knew needed to go without any real thinking about it. I just pulled the individual items out and dealt with them as appropriate. Next, and this is the stage I am currently in, I go through small zones — perhaps a corner or a storage bin — that I can expect to complete in less than a day, using the bed or table as a sorting area. Since I don’t really have room for a “think about it” or “hide it and see if I forget about it” pile, anything I’m not certain that I am ready to part with goes back from whence it came, at least for now. Then I move to the next box, bin, or drawer. Once I’ve gone through them all, I start all over again, finding more things I can live without. It seems each round I have a bit more insight — becoming more attuned to minimalist philosophy perhaps. Often more of the “maybe” items go, but sometimes something that I thought was a definite keeper eventually gets the boot the second or third time around.

And So It Goes

Slowly I progress. Or so I hope. Sometimes I think this stuff multiplies all by itself while I’m not looking! WIth such a small place to work in I sometimes feel like I’m doing one of those puzzles where you have a frame full of tiles except for one and you must arrange them in a certain order by shuffling them one at a time in and out of the single empty space. I’m open to suggestions, especially from those who have already completed their major decluttering and/or are living in a very tiny space. Don’t be shy now, that’s what comments are for.

Towel Day

I almost forgot (and didn’t get this posted in time, either): Today is Yesterday was Towel Day. Do you know where your towel is?