How I’m Making 6 Changes in 2010

December 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

Have you seen Leo Babauta’s new project, 6 Changes?

6 Changes is a brilliant no-nonsense antidote to the often failed new years resolution.

On the blog, Leo lays out in his signature uncomplicated prose his new simple philosophy towards habit change. Pick 6 habits you want to incorporate to your life in the next year, then dedicate 8 weeks to building each habit. This gives you roughly 2 months to develop each habit in a year, and by the end of the year you’ve made 6 changes in your life.

Well, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Leo’s work. His approach to life often aligns perfectly with my own.

For those who aren’t familiar with Leo’s other blog, Zen Habits, I suggest you check it out. It’s a brilliant blog on how to simplify your life and achieve your goals.

You might have noticed that I’m giving away two copies of his ebook A Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life on January 31st to two dedicated readers who sign up for free email updates.

If you haven’t checked out Leo’s book on being minimalist, I highly recommend it.

I’m taking 6 Changes for a test drive after New Years.

I have some very important habits I need to adopt for next year to be successful, and I hope Leo’s philosophy for change can help achieve my goals.

Maybe you’re interested in joining me?

The six changes I’m going to make in 2010.

  • Wake up at 6am in the morning daily
  • Eat locally grown food
  • Move to Seattle
  • Pay off my student loans
  • Train to be a yoga teacher
  • Cultivate this blog until it’s primary source of income

Now I realize some of these might seem like big changes to expect to achieve in a year, but as Leo suggests in his blog, it’s important not to focus on the end point. I’ll focus on the small details, and just focus on one habit for two months at a time.

I did some pretty crazy things in 2009, so I expect with a little help from Leo’s 6 Changes philosophy, I can hope to achieve my 2010 goals as well.

Last year I adopted these habits:

  • Reduced my possessions to 100 things
  • Quit my day job
  • Adopted a location independent lifestyle
  • Began doing yoga most days of the week
  • Started Far Beyond The Stars and began publishing articles three days a week

None of that was easy, but I realized that if I took simple steps towards achieving those goals, I could realistically expect to complete the goals in a year.

You can make these changes too, but first you have to make the decision to change your life.

My first change for 2010: becoming an early riser.

I’ve decide to build a habit of waking up early for my first big change. I’ve wanted to start waking up before the sun comes up for a long time. I’m one of those people who enjoys sitting in the comfort of bed for a long morning.

I have a lot of goals to achieve next year, not to mention the fact that I’m self-employed now.

The time has come to kick the extended bed habit and get up earlier.

I believe that I’d really enjoy the extra time in the morning to do yoga and then focus on creating incredibly useful content for Far Beyond The Stars. Having a healthy work

Build anticipation for the change.

According to Leo’s 6 Changes philosophy, I’m not allowed to start exactly on the 1st of January. Start on New Years is just too dramatic, plus I’ll probably have a hangover from celebrating with my family.

In order to set a realistic agenda for healthy habit development, I have to anticipate the change.

So I intend to start working on developing the habit of early rising on January 7th 2010.

This is the first day I’m back in New York, and the change in scenery always help me with changes in habit, so I anticipate a good start.

The trigger for the first of my 6 Changes.

Leo’s 6 Changes philosophy suggests using a trigger to help you form a healthy habit (or kick a bad one.)

For waking up early, the trigger is obviously the alarm. However, relying on an alarm could lead to failure, so I have to create a trigger.

For my trigger, I’ll be placing my iPhone (which is my alarm clock) on my yoga mat in our living room in Brooklyn. I’m going to simply get out of bed, turn off the alarm, and sit myself in child’s pose on the yoga mat.

I’ll begin to breathe, gradually wake up, and then begin practicing yoga.

I already do yoga almost every day, which I enjoy very much, so having this as my trigger just seems natural. Simple, achievable, enjoyable.

Set small achievable goals.

I eventually want to wake up at 6am every day, but right now wake up schedule is not a schedule at all. Some mornings I wake up at 6am, others I wake up at 11am. There is no system, there is no regularity.

I need to change this to a regular system, so I can start to develop a healthy creative habit in order to focus on my work and creating awesome content for this blog.

I have two months to develop this habit, so I want to start with realistic expectations for myself.

Leo suggests breaking your habit down into 8 ridiculously easy steps, and the easiest way for me to do that is to gradually work my way down to 6am by 15 minutes.

Here is my plan to gradually work up to waking up at my desired time.

  • Week 1: 7:45am
  • Week 2: 7:30am
  • Week 3: 7:15am
  • Week 4: 7:00am
  • Week 5: 7:45am
  • Week 6: 6:30am
  • Week 7: 6:15am
  • Week 8: 6:00am

Once I hit 6:00am I’ll have established a habit of waking up early, and it won’t be hard to get out of bed.

You must have accountability

One of the most important elements of Leo’s 6 Changes philosophy is accountability. In order to develop a habit, there has to be peer pressure involved.

Often I rely on self-motivation, which is sometimes successful.

Waking up early is a habit I’ve tried to form at least 7 of times without succeeding, so I need you to help me.

I’m going to be posting my daily wake up time on a Daytum that I’ve set up. As you can see, right now my wake up time is basically schizophrenic. Once January 7th comes around, I’m going to start committing to the wake up times that I’ve described above.

If you’re interested, feel free to follow along as I progress. If I’m not doing well (which I doubt, you’ll all be watching me.) drop me a line on Twitter and tell me to get back on track.

Click here to visit my Daytum to track my wake up time.


If you’re interested in making decisive changes in your life, I highly recommend checking out 6 Changes. Check out the 6 Changes Quick Start Guide for a brief overview.

And if you’re a dedicated reader, don’t forget to sign up to receive free updates for your chance to win a free copy of Leo Babauta’s A Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life.

I definitely suggest checking out A Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life, even if you’re not interested in subscribing to this blog. You can read the first three chapters for free. Leo’s book is the definitive guide to being minimalist, and I highly recommend it. The ebook is only $9.95 and 50% of the price goes to support my work at Far Beyond The Stars.

Thank you for your time, and good luck with your changes for next year!


Are you going to make changes in your life in 2010? Let me know what they are in the comments!

8 Ways to Say Goodbye (to your stuff)

December 28th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

I know how hard it can be to make the decision to give up material possessions.

There is always this little voice in the back of your head saying ‘I might need this someday!’

I had to give up a couple of things, when I was reducing the stuff I owned to less than 100 things when I moved to Portland earlier this year.

That little voice has a point, everything ‘could’ be useful someday. However, I’ve known people with rooms filled with stuff that they ‘could use someday’, but they never do.

Do you have rooms like this? Most of us have a closet like this, some of us have a box like this.

The problem with this mentality is that when you save everything ‘just in case’ these objects end up gradually taking more and more time away from you.

When you continue to gather stuff that you’re not using in this moment, you end up spending time cleaning, sorting, and organizing. I’ve known people who spend every free hour of their life, when they’re not eating or working, sorting through stuff they ‘might use someday.’

If you are living like this I really believe you should take action to change your life situation around now.

Some people can even convince themselves that this daily organizational duty is not a burden. I can understand that view, possessions can have a powerful control over the mind. You’ve invested your money these things, you’ve invested your time in creating a wonderful world for your things to live in. It’s only natural for a feeling of obligation to your things to spring up in your mind.

You have to fight it that sense of obligation to your things. Don’t be a prisoner to your possessions.

The time to make a change and overcome your slavery to the material world is now.

Here are a few simple methods that I’ve developed for people to learn to say goodbye to the objects that they love, but don’t use anymore.

  1. Create an outbox. The simplest and easiest way to start a healthy habit towards your stuff is to create an outbox. Find a cardboard box and place it near a junk problem area. Just place one object after another into the box. Let the box sit for a month (or a week, but sometimes that can be painful.) Did you need to go back for any of the objects? Well, you probably don’t really need them. You can apply this outbox philosophy to any of the methods below.
  2. Get a second opinion. Sometimes it can help to get a friend to give a second opinion. Make sure this is someone who can impartial, someone who is not family or a significant other. Ask them to give you an honest opinion as you are sorting through your stuff. Ask them questions like ‘do you think this object is useful to me?’ and ‘do you think I will use this object in the next year?’ or ‘Do you think this old ratty lamp I’ve been saving since 1979 looks cool?’ This impartial person will give you an honest opinion, and this can give you the perspective you need to make the decision to free yourself of your belongings.
  3. Observe how much time you spend with your possessions. Start a notebook and record every interaction you have maintaining your stuff for one week. Do this with everything, even when you take an overflowing bag of old knitting supplies you haven’t used since second grade off of a chair and place it on the floor. That counts. After a week tally up the result. If this result is 10 hours, that’s 520 hours you will spend this year organizing your crap. That’s 5,200 hours over the next 10 years. Think about how much money you could earn in 5,200 hours of not sorting your stuff, or how much time you could spend at the beach.
  4. Have someone get rid of them for you. Sometimes it might be easier just to not have to watch. Hire an impartial person (this is no job that should go unpaid…) to go through your stuff and make a series of boxes which contain your stuff. Place these boxes in a closet for one month. During that month make a list of things you think are in the boxes, and need for whatever reason. At the end of the month you are allowed to retrieve the items that you knew were in there, the rest have to go. You’ll be surprised just how much stuff you forgot was in the boxes, and hopefully this will help to break your bond with them.
  5. Declare bankruptcy in the material world. Sometimes it’s all just too much. Pack a bag of 100 things, and just leave. Go to Costa Rica and sit on a beach for a month, it will do you some good. While you’re gone, arrange for someone to have an estate sale for you — give them a percentage of the sale. The rest of the proceeds can go towards your trip to Costa Rica.
  6. Give them to someone who can use them. It can help, both you and other people, if you give your stuff to a place that will use them to help people in need. In some cities you can arrange for the Salvation Army or other object-oriented charity to drop by your house with a truck and load up all of your stuff for you.
  7. Spend a significant amount of time away. Make yourself so busy for a month that you don’t have time to sort your stuff. You will see just how much attention they take from you. Your bedroom or house will fall into disrepair in this month. It’ll be really gross, people will think you’re insane. But by the end of the month you’ll recognize just how of your life your stuff is taking from you.
  8. Set a goal that you can’t achieve without being free. You probably have some dream that you want to achieve that is being made inconceivably expensive by your stuff. Say you wanted to study aboard in France for the summer? If you have lots of stuff, you’ll have to keep paying for your apartment, and an apartment in France. This makes studying impossible, because you’ll not be able to earn money to pay for your apartment full of stuff while you’re studying. Set a goal that’s impossible to achieve without get rid of your stuff. This will give you the incentive to become free.

Your stuff is probably a prison, and in many cases it’s not your friend.

It’s keeping you from achieving real change in your life, and the time to take action is now.

Don’t wait, now is the time to make a change in your life. You can achieve minimalist freedom. You can live with 100 things.

This future is possible, but only you can make it a reality.

“The things you own end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden


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Don’t Listen to Anyone

December 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

Many people I meet have a story about someone they know who failed.

People love to tell me these stories.

Maybe you’ve heard them too?

There’s the one about the girl who moved across the country and couldn’t find a job and ‘now it’s so hard for her’.

Or that one boy who decided he was going to be a musician and went to New York and he works retail and ‘it’s so hard for him’.

Everyone knows someone like this. They keep this person’s story ready to go, and take aim at your dreams with him or her as evidence. ‘Look at this person, they couldn’t do it, you can’t either’.

Then there’s the story about some mythical creature that ‘puts in the long hours for their company, and now they’re set for life.’

No one seems to know anyone like this, and yet they’re all so sure this is a reality.

Where are these ‘set for life’ people? I want to meet one please. Have one of them send me a post card.

Everyone I know who is doing well right now has their own established remarkable reputation.

The most common variety of person I encounter is settled for life. They gave up long ago, and now they drag out that story every time I tell them I’m moving again to pre-prove that I can’t do it …again.

Here’s my view of reality: you can do anything you want to, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice your ability to undermine yourself.

There are no failures, only the people who choose to use other brave people as defense against their own settled mediocrity.

Don’t listen to anyone’s fail stories. They just keep them in their back pocket to defend their decision to be scared, to stay put, to not change.

You can move anywhere and do anything if you’re willing to trade secure normality for knowing that you’re doing something awesome.

Where are you going next year?

5 Simple Methods to Be More Minimalist in 15 Minutes

December 23rd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

I recently spoke to a reader who was thoroughly overwhelmed with the idea of embracing minimalism. While he was well aware of the high level of clutter in his life, trying to wrap his head around how to solve the problem was it’s own problem entirely.

For someone like this, I think the advise of thinking about ‘the end’, when you have less than 100 things, is just too overwhelming. Don’t. Think about small changes that can lead to that goal.

It’s so important to remember that becoming a minimalist is about small changes in habit. These are decisive steps that you take in a mindful way.

The decision to take fifteen minutes to clear your kitchen table, is one way that you can manifest a more minimalist lifestyle.

We don’t reach the freedom of being minimalist by throwing our all of our possessions a way at once. This would hurt us too much, it would cause us to suffer. We would miss all of those things that we had and then we didn’t.

Think about simple, and achievable, ways that your can bring about this lifestyle. Making a small regular change is so much more effective than a huge impossible change.

Here are five ways to apply minimalism to your life in a small way.

1, Pass on buying a beverage. If you’re out to eat, it’s customary to purchase some sort of drink to go with your lunch. Consider skipping the drink and just having a glass of water. You’ll have a few dollars, and water is very good for you.

2, Clear your desk. Take fifteen minutes and just clear the surface your desk of all objects. Consider each object, ask yourself if it is important. Of it is, find it a home, perhaps in a drawer. If it is not important, consider getting rid of the object. Once your desk is clean you’ll be more productive.

3, Walk slower. Everyone rushes everywhere. This takes away valuable time which we need to do thinking, to contemplate our lives, to think of new ideas. Slow down, if you worry that you’ll be late, leave a few minutes earlier and take your time. You’ll be calmer and more useful when you reach your destination.

4, Sort through one drawer. Almost everyone has a drawer that fill with stuff they don’t want to think about. Consider confronting this drawer and the objects in it. Take each object out and consider whether you need it or not. If you do, find it a home. If you don’t, consider getting rid of it. Once the drawer is gone, it’ll be natural to start on another when you have more spare time.

5, Cook a meal at home. Take one regular meal that you eat out and cook that meal at home. It’s very hard to over eat or eat unhealthily at home, consider fixing one meal in your own kitchen. Beginning to cook at home may be a challenge, but you’ll slowly build a lasting habit that will create a lifetime of healthier and less expensive living.

These are all small, and yet startlingly effective ways to apply minimalist philosophy to your life. I hope you’ll try one tomorrow, if not, perhaps next week. Don’t do everything all at once, just try one and see if it feels good. If it does, consider adopting it as a regular habit.


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How to Liberate Your Email with Inbox Sub-Zero

December 21st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

One of the most important changes you can make in your life, to reclaim your time and get important things done, is to adopt Inbox Zero is a regular habit when dealing with your email.

For those who don’t know, Inbox Zero is a system that was invented by productivity guru Merlin Mann a couple of years back. Now he’s working on a book by the same name, which I’m incredibly excited about.

I won’t go into the fundamental details here, because those are Merlin’s domain.

Check out Merlin Mann’s guide to Inbox Zero.

Here’s the basics for Inbox Zero, just in case you don’t have time to read Merlin’s stuff right now, or you just need a refresher coarse.

Information overload is ruining your email productivity.

With information overload being what it is these days, it’s incredibly important to be able to know in a single glance what emails you have to deal with, when you sit down to do email.

You just want the emails in your inbox to be emails you need to deal with now. The rest need to go.

I’ve been a huge believer in Inbox Zero for a number of years. I’ve worked out an extremely minimalist email system that reduces the number of emails I receive to around 5-10 a day.

By taking control of my Inbox I can spend more time writing and less time answering emails that don’t benefit me. I’d like to share this system with you.

Are you harboring an inbox with 500+ email messages that you need to reply to? Or worse, do you just leave any message you’ve replied to in your inbox?

If you approach email this way, you have to mentally sort through 500 messages every time you look at your email. This is a very ineffective approach. Inbox Sub-Zero will save you from wasting hours of time on email, I promise.

It’s 2010 people, let’s get a grasp on this stuff.

I’ve taken Merlin’s ideas one step further: I don’t want any useless emails entering my email box at all.

Every unimportant email needs to go, because it’s probably harming my ability to do important work like writing this blog, creating stories for other people’s blogs, and doing freelance work for important people.

I assume that 80% of the emails I receive are probably not worth reading, and I create filters so I never have to see these emails again.

In honor of how cold it is outside right now, I call this philosophy Inbox Sub-Zero.

Inbox Sub-Zero hinges on Gmail’s filter and archive functions, so if you don’t have gmail this will be a little harder to achieve. I’m just going to assume you have gmail, but if you’re unwilling to make the switch you can probably adapt these ideas to other email clients, they just won’t be as effective.

The fundamentals of Inbox Sub-Zero:

  1. Every email that I receive must create value for you.
  2. Unsubscribe to anything unimportant.
  3. Filter everything that is questionable.
  4. Read, act, and archive remaining emails immediately.

Simple enough?

Prep work for Inbox Sub-Zero

If you have 500 emails in your box, I want you to just select them all and hit archive now. Put them away, don’t deal with them.

Sorting through that many emails is going to take you hours or days, which probably means you’ll never get around to it –you haven’t already, have you?

If there is anything important in there, they will probably email you again or give you a call when you don’t reply. Use the excuse “Oh, sorry, I’m so busy I must have overlooked that email.” and you should be fine.

Making the decision to archive all your emails now will instantly liberate you from your past email overload.

Once you’ve learned the techniques outlined below, you can apply them to any new incoming emails.

Don’t go back and do this to all 167,054 emails in your archive. Just apply these techniques to new emails.

Archiving everything now makes reclaiming your inbox manageable. I want you to actually achieve Inbox Sub-Zero. The easiest way I can think of to do that if you have 500 email messages in your box, is by archiving everything and just dealing with incoming emails.

Got it? Okay, archive them. Thanks!

Every email you receive must create value for you.

I use my email primary to communicate with clients, my friends, and my social network. So these are my priorities. When I glance into my email box in the morning, I just want to see messages from people who I am working with, or who I enjoy talking to.

These are emails from real people, who are writing emails to me. These are not from robots, I don’t want to hear from machines.

Decide what your priority emails are. Chances are they are emails coming from real people.

Here’s a mostly complete list of the emails I want in my inbox in the morning:

  • Emails from my girlfriend
  • Emails from my friends
  • Emails from clients I am currently working on projects with
  • Emails from clients that want to work on projects with me
  • Emails from real people who have enjoyed or want to comment on my work

These are the only emails I want to see in the morning. You’re probably thinking “but what about all of the other emails?” We’re so used to receiving 300-900 emails a day, it’s become kind of comforting to know that we’re so popular. But in actuality, we don’t need to read 80% of these emails.

We’re just reading them out of habit, they’re not contributing anything to our lives.

Unsubscribe from anything that is unimportant

You archived everything that was in your inbox already, right? Good. Because this rule applies to incoming emails.

Whenever you receive an email, ask yourself this powerful question:

Do I need to read this? Answer:

  • Yes
  • Maybe
  • No

If you answered ‘yes’, then continue to the filtering routine I’ve outlined below. If you answered ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ I want you do one of two things immediately.

Do not WAIT. Do not let the email sit in your inbox and collect dust while you deliberate for three days over the merits of whether or not you need to read this email. By that time you’ll have 500 emails in your box again. Just decide now and take an action.

  1. Unsubscribe from the email. If there is an unsubscribe button, go ahead and hit it right now. Follow the instructions to stop receiving that email.
  2. If you can’t unsubscribe, (or really can’t bring yourself to) create a filter in gmail to archive the email. This will send the email to the ‘all mail’ folder, where you can search for it if you happen to need to read it at any time.

DO NOT create a label for any of these ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ emails. Remember, this is Inbox SUB-Zero, which is my approach and is a little harsher on the emails than Merlin’s approach. Any email that I have the slightest doubt about wanting to read, I don’t want to see anymore.

Filter every other email that you receive.

Use filters to labels for emails you actually want to read, that are sent by real human beings.

Why this is important: I want to spend the least amount of time and effort on emails as possible. I imagine if you’re reading this, you want to do that too. My intention with this article is to give you the skills to liberate yourself from email, so you only have to spend 30-seconds to twenty minutes on email a day, instead of 4 hours.

For many of the regular emails that you receive that you actually need to read, you need to create a filter.

Here are the regular emails I receive that I actually need:

  1. Requests for edits from a copywriting client that I work for sometimes
  2. Social networking messages
  3. Emails from useful blogs and newsletters that I subscribe to, that I actually read.
  4. Financial emails from my bank and payment receipts

I’ve created filters, using gmail’s ‘filter emails like this’, which sends these emails into specific labels.

I use the labels ‘work’ ‘social’ ‘reading’ and ‘financial’, you are free to develop your own system based on your needs. Just remember, keep it simple.

Emails from my girlfriend and friends are not labeled and go straight to my email box.

In the future, if any of these labels is piling up with unread emails you really need to consider changing the label to send these emails to the trash.

Take action on creating the labels NOW.

DO NOT WAIT, do not deliberate for seventeen days on which label to use. Just send them to a label, you can always change this later if it’s the wrong one.

Read, act, and archive all remaining emails immediately.

Now that you’ve dealt with the email you don’t need to read, you need to deal with the emails you do receive.

After you’ve read an email, ask yourself this powerful question:

Do I need to reply to this? If no, hit the archive button and send it away.

If yes, reply to it now. Then hit archive.

Sometimes there are emails that are more important than most, like ‘hi Everett, can you send a proposal to redesign and relaunch my internet magazine with 300,000 subscribers. We want to pay you $80,000 to do this’. I haven’t received an email like that, but when I do, I want to take a few days to come up with a solid business plan.

At this point though, I want to take this out of my email. I put this on my to-do list. My to-do list isn’t long, because I deal with most of my projects and emails immediately in the morning when I receive them.

For important life-altering emails like the one above, send a brief note thanking the sender and tell them that you will get back to them in a few days. Make a note on your to-do list. Hit archive.

Repeat these steps for every email that you receive.

Eventually you will have only important emails entering your inbox. At this point congratulate yourself, you’ve achieved Inbox Sub-Zero!


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What is Your Minimalist Destination?

December 18th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

Being minimalist is having the flexibility to do what you want, when you wish to do it.

Think about it, if you wanted to, could you do these things:

  • Can you fly to Peru next Friday?
  • Can you start your own company in a month?
  • Can you relocate to Vancouver next week?
  • If you lost your job, would it be devastating?

I don’t believe you should just be minimalist for the sake of being minimalist. The philosophy has to have another reason, and it’s important to write that down.

Think of something impossible, an objective that you’ve always wanted to achieve, but that everyone told you was impractical. Make that your goal for next year.

Write that goal down.

When I quit my job and flew to Portland Oregon in August, it was easy, because I could carry all of my stuff. I lived a sustainable life, so surviving on $3,000 for three months wasn’t a problem while I worked my freelance contacts online.

Many people are trapped in their own lives by their stuff. But the reality is, we don’t need any of it anymore.

Despite what they might tell you on television news, we live in an age of abundance.

You can have everything you ever wanted, it’s down at the corner store. It’s important to recognize that you can have everything that you want, but if you limit yourself to the essentials you will open a world of possibilities for yourself. You can live anywhere, you can work in anywhere.

It doesn’t matter who you are, the possibilities are open if you get rid of the physical, mental, and emotional stuff.

You can be free. You can do the impossible.


Here’s my ‘impossible’ goal for next year:

I want make Far Beyond The Stars my primary source of income. A handful of people have told me this is impossible, but I don’t believe that is true now. Leo Babauta has done this, Chris Guillebeau has done this. Many others make $60,000-$100,000 a year off their blogs.

I’m aiming for a more modest $30,000. That’s a little more than I need to survive, with those extra dollars I’ll buy my girlfriend a birthday present.

I’m going to keep writing posts that help people. I want to continue to teach people how to simplify their lives and be happier.

How can you help me do this? Share my stories with a few friends. If you enjoy an article, there is a ‘share’ option at the bottom of the post. Post my story to Twitter, Facebook, or email it to a couple of folks. This is so easy, it takes 10 seconds, and it’s the only way that my articles reach new people.

Only share my post if you enjoyed it, only do this if you think they will enjoy reading it too.

It also helps if you sign up to receive free updates via RSS or email.

I created a support page, which has a donate button on it. If you ever feel like my words are bringing value to your life, if they help in any way, consider giving a small amount.

If only a handful of people give a small amount this year, my goal is no longer an impossibility.


What impossible goals will you set for yourself next year? How will you achieve them?

How to Achieve Minimalist Freedom: Two Methods for Less Stuff

December 16th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

My backpack

I just did morning yoga, now I’m sipping coffee and observing the caffeine begin to flow through my veins. Coffee is great.

I flew from New York back to Chicago on Monday night. I’m staying with my family for the holidays. We’ll be celebrating Christmas, and for New Years my grand parents are taking us all up to an isolated quaint old ski lodge that we’ve frequented for a number of years. There are few people up there, so it is quiet.

It’s a good time to reflect before the next year. In fact, I already find myself reflecting.

A reflection on Buddhists and stuff

There were three Buddhist monks on the plane from LaGuardia to O’Hare. Two men in their mid-twenties and a ten year old boy.

Buddhist monks don’t carry anything with them except a small satchel. In comparison, it was funny to watch all of the Americans lugging their giant rolling suitcases out of the overhead bins, and then half of them stroll down to luggage where they pick up the other rolling suitcase they couldn’t bring on the plane with them.

I’m carrying only half a backpackers’ bag full of clothes these days, with a yoga mat strapped to the side, plus a laptop bag with a couple of books in it. I still felt like I had too much stuff.

What if you traveled with nothing?

Can you imagine what it would be like to simply fly from New York to Chicago with just a satchel bag?

I think it’s important to regularly reflect about which of the things you carry with you are essential. Which possessions do you absolutely need?

Think about how easy it would be to move if you had only the essentials. How easy it would be to go on vacation. How easy it would be to change your job, because you wouldn’t need to pay for a huge house or rent a large apartment anymore.

I’m living this life, and I think you can too.

Here are two ways I would like you to consider thinking about the stuff that you own.

1, What would you bring with you, if you had to leave now?

Say in a hypothetical situation you wanted or needed to leave your house at this exact moment. What would you bring with you? You have to go right now! There’s no time to sit around and mull over the decision.

Here’s my list:
5 shirts, 5 underwear, 5 pairs of socks, 1 pair of jeans. Suitable jacket for overnight weather at my destination. iPhone, iphone charger. Moleskin. Cash, credit cards, and ID.

If it was an emergency: sleeping bag, tent, any food available in my area, water bottle.

Less urgent situations: I’d bring my laptop.

Obviously this is a rather small list, but I actually don’t own many more things than this.

Think about what you would bring with you, if you had to leave now. Make a list. Maybe even pack a bag and see how heavy it would be. Consider if you had to walk 50-100 miles with that bag. Does it still seem doable?

This is a good mental list to have ready to go, you never know when the zombie apocalypse might happen –though this is probably very unlikely. You also never know when you might want to set off on an adventure, and these are always more fun when you’re not dragging to rolling suitcases and a backpack with you.

2, Consider adopting a 1-month rule.

I have a solid 1-month rule for everything I own. In addition to the 100-things rule. This means that I have to use everything I own at least once a month.

If it doesn’t get used at least once in a month, it goes in an ‘outbox’. Depending on how much stuff I have at any given time, the outbox is either a real box, or a mental list that I have.

When I have time, I take a look at the box and I ask myself some serious questions:

  1. Will I use this next month?
  2. What purpose does it serve in my life?
  3. Do I need this professionally?
  4. Does anyone I know need this more than me?
  5. Can I get another one of these in three years if I discover I need one again?
  6. Do I use this seasonally?

After 30 seconds of deliberation, I bring the items to vote. They either stay or they go. They’re either useful or they are not.

Then I give the items to someone who would find them useful, I donate them to an organization who can use the items, or if all else fails I recycle or discard the item.

This is a little extreme for some people, but I think it’s worth contemplating. What would pass this test if you were to ask this of every object you own?

I know some people who have a piano in their living room that they haven’t used in 10 years. In fact, they never learned how to play the piano. How much freer would their lives have been if they had decided they didn’t need it?

I know some people who have three cars that don’t work in their backyards.

I know people who keep all of their college textbooks, even though they are never going to pick them up again.

Reflect on the true cost of stuff.

People feel that just because they spent money on an object that they have to keep carrying it with them, the problem is, over time the cost of an item becomes greater. The longer you live with an item, the longer you have to provide for it.

If you have 1,000 items, you need more house. If you have 10,000 items, you need even more house, and probably some storage too. What if you only needed a house with one room, how much less would you spend on your living situation?

Considering the true cost of every item in your life can make you realize just how much you’re responsible for, and just how much you are holding back your life by not taking this opportunity to slim down your belongings.

Imagine if you had a life where you could put everything you own on your back and just leave.

You would have many more options than you do now.

You could live anywhere. You could work from anywhere.

The possibilities are infinite, why not try it? Or at least think about it.


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A Minimalist Approach to Washing the Dishes

December 14th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Before I work on an important project with a person, I like to get a good look at their kitchen sink. This is sometimes difficult to accomplish, but it is worth the extra effort. I’ll try to get myself invited over to their house, if that fails I’ll try peering into their kitchen window.

Why do I do this? Because a person’s kitchen sink is a fundamental judge of their character.

A person can disguise many of their inadequacies. They can fake it until they make it with reputation, showmanship, and publicity.

But, it’s really hard to fake the fact that you can’t do your dishes.

Those dishes are right there in the sink and they are dirty.

I know this because I’ve lived with a lot of people in the past. At one point I was living with ten people in Brooklyn, in a huge old school house that was awesome. These roommates would come and go, and so over the 2.5 years I probably lived with 35-40 people. I realize this sounds crazy, but it was a big house, and these were some of the most remarkable people that I’ve ever known.

That being said, some of them didn’t know how to do dishes, so I observed them.

Based on simple observation, and the fact that I used the kitchen at least twice a day, it was easy to cross-reference dish washing ability with other personality traits.

[Update]Please note, I’m being a little silly here. Don’t take me too seriously. I do believe doing the dishes is beneficial, but I got a little carried away in how I explained things. Please forgive the slightly humor that attempted poorly to employ.

People who do their dishes immediately after eating are:

  • Generally happier
  • Accomplish more with their lives
  • Are less overwhelmed by life
  • Make more money

People who don’t do their dishes are:

  • Constantly struggling to keep up
  • Have trouble dealing with clutter in their lives
  • Have panic attacks more often
  • Are sometimes depressed

This is by no means a scientific study, but I believe the findings could be proven scientifically if a scientist were to study them.

You might be thinking that this blog post doesn’t apply to you, because you live alone and have a dishwasher. However, I’ve had experience living with people who have dishwashers, and you can simply change the heading above to ‘People who don’t put their dishes in the dishwasher are:’ and you get the same results.

Actually, if you do own a dishwasher, I’d like you to consider not using it for awhile.

Learning to wash dishes can have a profound effect on your approach to a minimalist life. If you adopt the habit of taking personal responsibility for the mess you create after every meal, this important habit will carry over in to other aspects of your life.

The reason that dish washing has such a profound effect on character.

Doing dishes is a basic habit that crosses into many other areas of your life. Chances are, if you can’t do dishes, you also can’t clean out your closet, or you can’t say no to buying a third car.

This is why the first step of trying to become a minimalist is to start with the kitchen sink.

This is a practical way to create a habit that will benefit you for the rest of your life, and all it involves is the simple choice to do your dishes immediately after every meal. If that seems like an impossible task, try doing your dishes before you go to bed. That being said, I’d like you to gradually work up the ability to clean your dishes within fifteen minutes of eating.

How to do dishes to create a more focused minimalist life.

  1. Make the decision now to start doing your dishes after every meal. This is the most important step, don’t let yourself off the hook. Take the time to do the dishes now, and you won’t have to do them later.
  2. Take pride in doing other people’s dishes. When you live with other people, take pride in doing the dishes for them. Some people insist on spending hours if their lives arguing over who is going to do the dishes, but this is counter-productive. The best way to encourage a person you live with to do their dishes is to take initiative and do all of the dishes in the sink. Eventually they will recognize the burden they’ve put on you and begin to do their own dishes. This will make your shared living space much more enjoyable.
  3. Put away all of your dishes. Now that all of your dishes are clean, dry them and put them away. This way your counter top is completely uncluttered.
  4. Have less dishes. You may find that you have too many dishes. Some people have 25 coffee mugs in their cupboard, why do you have 25 coffee cups? You can clean the cup you used for coffee in the morning and use it again. You only need one cup per person, plus as many as you might have guests for tea. I find that three coffee cups is more than enough for a person who lives alone, four if you live with one person. If you throw a dinner party tell your friends to bring a mug, or invest in recyclable plastic or paper cups for the occasion.

Eventually you the habit of dish washing will become a habit that you do regularly and with great appreciation. Your kitchen sink will never be full of disgusting dishes. At this point congratulate yourself, you’re awesome!

You’ll be surprised, doing the dishes regularly will effect many other aspects of your life. The part of your mind that is always worrying that you have to clean the dishes when you get home will be silent. You’ve entered a brand new world full of clean dishes and an uncluttered kitchen.

“To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and that fact that I am here washing them are miracles!” -Thich Nhat Hanh


If you enjoyed this story, please share it with anyone you know who could use some improvement in the dish-cleaning department. You know who I’m talking about.

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Minimalist Blogging 101: How to Blog Less With More Impact

December 11th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend who recently started a blog. She eventually wants to take her blog to a professional level, but was getting distracted by all of the bells and whistles that surround the platform.

She inquired as to why the workflow for my blogging was so effortless. Why it seemed like my blog posts just seem to go out, without hours of labor on my part.

I don’t spend a lot of time blogging, because I don’t need to.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the social networking options, WordPress widgets, let alone deciding on what topic to write about.

This is why I subscribe to a minimalist approach to blogging: do only what you need, when you need to do it. This is a philosophy that I stand by.

There are far too many ways to get distracted while blogging. It’s important to stay focused and not waste timing taking actions that aren’t productive. You should be out in the world living your life, not spending hours in front of a computer gaming the blogging industry.

Focus on what is important for your blog. Don’t worry about what is important for other people’s blogs.

I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people trying to make money blogging. I think this approach to blogging might help them find success. If you know an upstart blogger who is spending too much time blogging, perhaps send them this article?

This is my minimalist philosophy for blogging.

I hope these observations can help you with your blog.

  1. Make each tweet important. I only Tweet when I feel that it’s contributing to my reader’s lives. I don’t tweet about my stories multiple times a day, because I assume if my readers are interested enough in what I have to say they will find my Tweet or subscribe to my RSS feed. The most important aspect of Twitter, for me, is sharing stories with my readers that other bloggers in my niche are writing. I never tweet about what I ate for breakfast.
  2. Automate what you can. Many aspects of blogging can be done automatically. Why tweet your morning story, when you can have WordPress do it for you? I have as many plugins as I can enabled that share my blog stories with the world. This way I don’t have to manually share each story on every social networking site.
  3. Set aside time for writing. I make time to write my posts, usually this is around 5pm. I have the biggest ideas around that time, so this time works for me. Other people work better in the early morning, or later at night. Write at a time when your brain works best. During my writing time I turn off everything and just write. I use a program called WriteRoom, which turns my computer into a simple word pressor. I don’t turn off WriteRoom until I’m done writing for the day.
  4. Do your research before you write. If I need background information for my stories,  I make sure to fetch it before my dedicated writing time. This way I don’t get sidetracked during my writing process.
  5. Check stats once a week. I know, stats are addictive. I try to check my blog stats only once a week, on Monday morning –okay, sometimes I’ll cave midweek and check in just in case, but I’m trying to be better. I take a quick inventory of which stories did well in the previous week, and which did not. You don’t need to stress over stats, they inevitably fluctuate, there’s nothing you can do about that. Spending the time you use on stats on writing, and I promise you the stats will get better.
  6. Write only posts that are valuable to your readers. I sometimes have bad ideas. Just because I wrote something, it doesn’t mean I need to actually post it. As a blogger, you are responsible for your reader’s time as well as your own. Ask yourself if the story you’re writing is valuable to your readers. If it’s not maybe there is a way to make it more useful. If there’s no hope, scrap it. There will be other ideas for blog posts.
  7. Don’t mess with the template. Once you get a good template set up, don’t change it! I’ve struggled with this in the past, because I love tweaking a design until it’s perfect. I spent a week at the launch of my blog making the template perfect and now I just leave it. When you make changes be sure to think them through and execute them decisively. Don’t change your entire template unless absolutely necessary, this will confuse your readers.
  8. Don’t write about your frustrations with monetizing your blog. Making money from your blog is hard. Instead of venting your frustrations, maybe consider spending that time writing up a business plan, visit Problogger for tips on making money blogging, or check out some of the tips at Leo Babauta’s A-List Blogging Bootcamp.
  9. Keep posts short. Long posts take time to read. Try to condense your information into the smallest space possible. A short post that conveys an equal amount of information as a long post will do many times better.
  10. Blog less. I find that three posts a week on Far Beyond The Stars is plenty. Sometimes I might have a big idea and just want to get it out there though, but most of the time three posts is more than enough. If you need to post twelve times a day to keep the traffic coming, that’s a sure sign that you’re not contributing value to your reader’s lives.
  11. Let your value do your marketing. I don’t spend time marketing my blog. I don’t spend hours commenting on other people’s blogs in the of chance their visitors will take an interest in me. I don’t add 10,000 people on Twitter and hope they add me back. I see people doing this, and I don’t understand why they would want to. They may get followers this way, but few of them will really care about the content. Instead, spend as much time creating insanely valuable content. This way your content will do your marketing for you. When your writing helps people, they will share it for you.

This is how I blog. I can get all of my blogging done in under an hour (or two, if it’s a particularly challenging post) a day. Because I get the blogging over quickly, I have more time to spend cooking dinner for my girlfriend, exploring the world, and generating ideas for my blog while sipping coffee and people watching.


If you enjoyed this post, please send it to a blogger that you know. Thank you!

An Interview with Chris Baskind on The Minimalist Century

December 9th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Interview by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

Every week on Far Beyond The Stars I interview an important person on Being Minimalist. Last week I interviewed the author and minimalist legend Leo Babauta. Do you want to be interviewed? Drop me a tweet.

This week I spoke with Chris Baskind. Chris is the director of web operations at Vida Verde Media and writes the blogs More Minimal and Lighter Footstep. We spoke about the advantages of going car free and the dawn of the new minimalist century.

On to the interview!


Everett Bogue: You’ve been blogging about being minimal for a number of years now, how has your approach to being a minimalist changed over that time?

Chris Baskind: I started writing More Minimal back in 2006. To be honest, its take on minimalism was a little scattershot, but it lead me to building Lighter Footstep, a green website with a strong “use less, do-it-yourself” emphasis. If my approach has changed, it’s that minimalism — or simplicity, if you prefer the term — is now fundamental to how I look at everything. I still write about green and environmental topics, but these flow from my conviction that a more minimal lifestyle isn’t just necessary to restore balance to society: It’s a healthy and fulfilling way to live on its own merits.

Everett: Do you have any current minimalist goals?

Chris: I still set goals for the same reason I look for street signs: they help you know where you are, and which way to go next. But I agree with people such as Leo Babauta that they can be a trap, too. Minimalism is an ongoing process, not a series of achievements. That being said: I still have too much stuff, and plan to further reduce my personal clutter. I’ll be exploring minimalist cooking. Most of all, I want to spend more time talking to people who are also in the process of radical simplification. I learn more things from my readers than I have time to write down.

Everett: Do you have any areas of being minimalist that you struggle with, or wish you were better at?

Chris: Productivity. I think we all struggle with this to some degree. I’m a naturally curious person, and am happy to chase every rabbit that happens past. The richness of my online life isn’t always helpful in this area. Focus is crucial.

Everett: You’re a big advocate for a car free culture, but you live in Pensacola Florida. I imagine that Pensacola isn’t a huge biker town, like Portland or New York. What sort of challenges do you face getting around on a bike in Florida?

Chris: Let me start by saying every town can be a good cycling town. It’s just a matter of getting out there and riding. Not everyone has access to multimode transportation — I can’t ride my bike to a train station here in Pensacola — but the vast majority of things anyone needs is with a few miles of the front door. Perhaps you can’t commute to work, but you can run errands in the evening or on weekends. Here, I’ve had to learn which businesses are bike-friendly. It’s tougher to find suitable places to lock a bike in a small city. There are fewer bike lanes, and people still see my cargo bike and my riding gear as an oddity. At least these tend to start some interesting conversations.

Everett: Can you recommend one way that readers can begin to transition to a car-free lifestyle in car dominated cities?

Chris: The big mind-shift is the first few times you use the bike to do something that would normally be car errands. There’s a real satisfaction when you realize your bike isn’t just a toy: it can get work done. You can do this on pretty much any bike that rolls, but I’m a big believer in being properly geared. Your bike should be safe and comfortable in any weather. That means going out and buying rain gear, proper lights so you’re not chained to daylight, racks and panniers so you can carry groceries, and tools, so you feel confident relying on your equipment. None of this stuff is cheap, but a full cycling kit only costs the equivalent of a couple car payments. Make the investment, and you’re more likely to ride.

Everett: In a recent post on More Minimal you wrote that we are entering a minimalist century. Can you describe how you came to that realization?

Chris: Every century brings change. The 20th century was all about BIG, particularly in the consumption of energy. Practically everything we think of as “progress” is predicated on the ready availability of cheap energy, which has so far meant fossil fuels. Our demand for energy and raw materials is beginning to exceed a very finite supply, and things simply cannot continue as they have. Sustainability isn’t a goal: it’s the law of nature.

People say, “Well, we’ll invent new technologies before things run out.” Our technology is amazing, but it has its limits. We let the energy crisis of the 1970s pass without really changing much, and the tools we’ll need to sustain what we all consider an acceptable standard of living require huge lead times in development and testing. It’s too late to expect innovation to be the sole answer. We’ll have to learn to use less — period. This is the heart of minimalism. Whether we like it or not, we’ll all be minimalists in the 21st century.

Everett: What changes do you think the average person needs to make in their lives to bring themselves into this new minimal century?

Chris: The first and most important change is to decouple the consumerist tendency to equate “lots” with happiness, and “less’ with want. Minimalism isn’t mere austerity — it’s being open to new ways of thinking about things and letting go of the non-essential. This leaves us more time and resources to enjoy the rest. What makes sense will be different for each person or household. For me, part of the answer was getting out of my car. So now I have the resources I’d otherwise pump into insurance, car repairs, and gasoline left to save or apply to other things. I can buy better quality clothes and food. I can pay down debt. Find something that equates to meaningful change and do it now, while the choice is still optional.

Everett: Can you recommend one simple habit that our readers can adopt as a first step in moving into a minimalist century?

Chris: Learn to move under your own power. Walk or start riding a bicycle for something other than recreation, even if it’s just short-range errands. Equip yourself. Learn the safest routes. Remind your body of the beauty of human motion, and it will quickly become habit. We needn’t be slaves to our cars and all the trappings of an automobile-based society. You’ll be healthier for it, your life will become simpler, and you’ll be creating personal equity in the Minimalist Century.


Thanks Chris for the interview! Don’t forget to check out More Minimal and Lighter Footstep.

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