Why I Live With 57 Things (and what they are)

July 30th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

The less you have, the more epic your life.

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

Long time readers of this blog, and anyone who’s picked up a copy of The Art of Being Minimalist know that I’ve had a storied relationship with the personal possessions that I own and acquire.

Why you have so much stuff.

Basically, I think that we’ve been duped into buying things by an advertisement-dominated society for the last 50 years. The Internet is just now allowing us to break free of this mess and start to realize that the junk doesn’t matter.

Because I live with less stuff, and don’t buy much, all of the money I make from my minimalist business can go towards experiences such as travel and learning.

In my mind experiences are what life is worth living for, not possessions.

Last year, when I quit my job with $3,000 in the bank and moved to Portland, Or. I had 97 things. By the time I wandered back to the East coast, I had 75 things. When Alix and moved to San Francisco bay, I reduced my possessions to 50 things and a few weeks after I confessed that I really needed to live with more stuff than just 50 things.

Well, I just did one of my occasional stuff-counts, and it looks like I was right but not by much.

Even after saying that I was going to scale up the stuff, I only have 57 things.

Disclaimer that every minimalist blogger does about their stuff:

Now, obviously Alix and I have a bunch of shared items such kitchen and bedroom stuff. We got two used stools for our kitchen, we found an inexpensive couch and chair. We have a bed. I also hang my jackets on hangers. So before you leave a comment asking if I sleep on a bed, the answer is yes, I do.

Our kitchen stuff is just the essentials, but we recently purchased a blender/food processor which is decidedly un-minimalist, but allows us to have one of the best simple breakfasts known to man: freshly made fruit smoothies. My energy levels have skyrocketed and I’ve continued to lose weight because of this investment.

I’m counting my underwear and socks together because every other minimalist blogger does too. We’re allowed to cheat on undergarments because we always have. :)

I also have a few books that I’m reading right now. I usually pass my books on to people who really need them. For instance, I just read Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to be Rich, which I’m giving to my brother because he really needs some personal finance advice at the moment.

Big purchases since moving to Cali.

I’ve made two big purchases since moving to Cali. The first was a new bike, a Surly Steamroller fixie. I’ve always wanted one, so I decided now was the time. The bike market here is outrageous, so I would have spent almost as much on a good used bike as this simple fixed gear bike, so I opted to order it from online.

I also purchased the new iPhone 4, because my old iPhone screen broke when I was in Brooklyn. I use the iPhone as a way to keep in touch with readers over Twitter and to write 85% of my blog posts. I’ve also started using Internet tethering on the iPhone which gives me Internet anywhere that I go and eliminates the need for Internet in our house –though there are bandwidth restrictions, which might be problematic if you watch a lot of TV online. We’ve gone over a once so far but it still seems to be cheaper than a dedicated line.

In the outbox:

A good minimalist always has an outbox, and I’ve put one thing in mine that I think are important to note here.

I decided recently that I should give away my Canon SLR camera. I haven’t used it more than once since moving to San Francisco, and only a dozen times in the last year. It definitely isn’t fitting into my ‘one-month-rule’, and so needs to go. This is hard for me, because I was a photographer for a long time. As some of you remember, I closed down my photography business for good around six months ago in order to focus exclusively on writing.

To be honest, I’ve made 2000% more as a writer than I ever did as a photographer, so that was a good move from a business perspective. It’s still hard, because the camera cost so much in the first place and the resell value is incredibly low now that consumer cameras are everywhere.

All of the photos you see on this blog were taken on my iPhone (including the one above) — you can see all of my photos here. It’s honestly way better for casual captures than my Digital Rebel ever was.

I’ve discarded a significant amount of clothing because of wear and tear over the last few months as well, so my clothes have actually become more streamlined. For instance, I used to have two hoodies, now I only have one new one. However, I’ve purchased more underwear, which has helped with not having to do laundry so much. I also have more pairs of jeans and more shoes than I used to.

Here’s my list of 57 things:

  1. MacBook Pro
  2. Macbook cleaning cloth
  3. iPhone 4
  4. iPhone earbuds
  5. Black Yoga Mat
  6. Moleskin notebook
  7. Pen to write in moleskin notebook
  8. Surly Steamroller Fixie
  9. Helmet
  10. Bike lock
  11. Frye Boots
  12. Belt
  13. Gray Converse Allstars
  14. Tom’s Shoes
  15. REI two-person backpacking tent
  16. Sleeping bag
  17. Gray hoodie
  18. Wind breaker
  19. Sunglasses
  20. Army jacket
  21. Tweed jacket
  22. Black heavier jacket
  23. Gray backpack
  24. Black Diamond Gray Backpacking bag
  25. Jeans
  26. Jeans
  27. Cutoff old jeans
  28. Purple tank
  29. Purple tank
  30. Gray tank
  31. Gray long-sleeve sweatshirt
  32. Gray long-sleeve T
  33. Coffee tank
  34. Gray v-neck
  35. Gray v-neck
  36. Black v-neck
  37. Blue v-neck
  38. Purple T
  39. Gray T
  40. Gray T
  41. Black T
  42. Toothbrush
  43. Deodorant
  44. Swim Trunks
  45. Keys to apartment + bike lock
  46. Minimalist “wallet” (really just a paper clamp that I keep my cards and cash in)
  47. Gray sweatpants
  48. Brown sweatpants
  49. Brown button cowboy shirt
  50. Gray button-down
  51. Socks (about 10 pairs)
  52. Underwear (about 10 pairs)
  53. Sewing repair kit for clothes
  54. Travel towel
  55. Knit hat that Alix made me
  56. 1 TB harddrive
  57. 500 Gb harddrive (looking into cloud backup options)

Obviously you don’t need much to have a great life. I certainly don’t have much of anything.

The point is to focus your possessions around what really matters to you, so this number will be bigger or smaller depending on your specific interests.

I live a location independent life working on the Internet, my main interests are writing and practicing yoga. This allows me to really only need two things for my interests: a yoga mat and a computer. Your life might be different, and it’s okay to have more.

I’m flexible with my things though, so I may buy more things. I may get rid of them. Who knows, I’m not really stressing about a specific number. Once I start traveling, I imagine I’m going to travel with less than 57 things, because I have a home-base here in Oakland now.

Why carry so many things when I can travel with 25 or 30 things?

The idea is that we need to curb our consumerism in order to focus on the important. This is why I live with less, because I’ve decided to stop consuming and start living.


For Monday I’ve written an epic post (over 4500+ words!), which is already scheduled about how I work less than 2 hours per day, and how you can too. Don’t miss out, did you know you can sign up to receive my blog posts in your email? Otherwise, it’s always great to read my blog via RSS.

[UPDATE: The epic blog post I had scheduled kept being deleted by WordPress, so I’ve decided that I’m going to release the post as a free e-book instead. Check back on Tuesday for the free e-book: Minimalist Workday.]

Stop back on Monday, it’s worth your time, I promise.

Joshua Becker on Controversial Values, Minimalism with Children, and Inside-Out Simplicity

July 28th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Interview by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

If you’ve been reading about minimalism for long, you know Joshua Becker and his family. Joshua started blogging about minimalism two years ago, and quietly gathered a large following on his blog Becoming Minimalist.

There are a lot of ‘being minimalist’ books coming out these days –these things tend to happen when a topic becomes so incredibly popular so quickly,– so I’ve started to become incredibly selective about which books I recommend to my readers.

The reason I’m recommending Joshua Becker’s new book is because it’s challenging, it’s engaging, and it really asks some tough questions about why you’re pursuing this lifestyle, and how to maintain your decisions in the long run.

Joshua Becker didn’t just write a book about simplicity because it’s a good business decision –in fact, he was scared to write this book, see below. He wrote it because he and his family actually live a minimalist life, and have for a number of years now.

So without any delay, here is my interview with Joshua Becker on controversial values, minimalism with children, and why Joshua believes that we will never have a simple utopian society:

Everett Bogue: You say in the opening pages that Inside-Out Simplicity was the book you were terrified to write. Why is that?

Joshua Becker: The short answer is that I was afraid of controversy.

Although, the book is not particularly controversial, the book is weighty. It deals with some very deep, heart issues – such as contentment, gratitude, and forgiveness – not to mention chapters on sexuality and spirituality. And I think that whenever you start to talk about such things, you never know for sure how people are going to respond.

It can be pretty difficult for people to deal with some of those issues in their own heart. But I still wanted to write about those topics and inspire them to pursue some of those key life-changing principles and find simplicity in life because of it.

In the end, I decided that I look forward to the disagreements. After all, if you agree with everything that’s written in a book, what’s the point in reading it?

Everett: You mention continually throughout the book that simplicity comes from inside you, which I think is totally true. I think it could really help our readers if you explain how you came to this conclusion and how it effects how we think about simplicity.

Joshua: Early on in our journey towards minimalism is when I came to that realization. I was surprised at the emotional response I was feeling to the practice of minimalism. It caught me completely off-guard.

As we went from room to room removing things, I kept asking myself the question, “How did I get all this stuff? Why did I buy it in the first place?” Luckily, I kept pursuing those questions until I found some answers in my heart and soul.

We will always live out our heart’s true desires. We can mask over them and change our lifestyle for a time, but our true motivations will eventually win out. That’s why we’ve got to develop those life-changing principles in our lives… because a life of simplicity is not possible in the long run without them.

Everett: You know what really blows my mind about this book? This line:

“…many people go through life having no clear sense of their true values. Instead, their desires are molded by the culture and the advertisements that bombard upon them each day. As a result, they find no consistency in life. No unity. Their desires change as fast as the culture and they are quickly swept off their feet by the newest fashion, the most recent technology, or the latest diet fad.”

I guess that says it all, but here’s my question: how did you come to the above conclusion, and how did this knowledge improve your life?

Joshua: Super-early in the blog when we were still just telling our story, a reader posted a comment that went something like this, “I think that minimalism forces you to recognize your values. It helps bring clarity to them.”

I hadn’t thought about our minimalist journey in quite that way prior, but he was absolutely right and helped me identify some of the emotions that were going through my mind. Minimalism is ultimately about values. And if your values are changing, it is very difficult to find simplicity in life. For me, the realization of that truth caused me to sit down one day and actually write out my values on paper.

I still vividly remember the morning and where I was sitting. It was freeing to define them and intentionally choose to pursue them about everything else.

Everett: One of the main differences between our blogs, lifestyles, etc. is that you have two children –whereas I don’t have any. This is one of the main reasons that I’m always saying ‘if you have kids, go read Joshua’s blog and stop emailing me saying you can’t have a simple life because you have kids.’ How has having kids influenced how you apply minimalism?

Joshua: It certainly makes it a bit tougher. Kids need stuff. And they are constantly changing (size, maturity, interests), so their material needs keep changing too. You can’t just settle in on a set of possessions.

You are always making adjustments. It forces you to think a little bit more. But more importantly, my kids have become my great motivation for minimalism. One of the greatest benefits of paring down is that I have so much more time with them.

My desire to spend time with them and invest into their lives is one of the reasons I continue to embrace the lifestyle.

Everett: Finally, one last hard question. Imagine for a second a world in which more people adopted the simple values that you describe in your book. What would this world look like?

Joshua: I once wrote a post on The Utopian Impact of Desiring Less. As I was writing the post, I came to the conclusion that a world where people desired less rather than more is not possible.

It will never happen on a global scale. But, it can happen on an individual scale! It can be true of my life and there are countless benefits to my own life and soul by choosing to desire less. In the same way, a world where everyone adopted the principles in this book is not going to happen.

Instead, I’d encourage people to ask the simpler question, “How would my life look different if I adopted these principles? How would my days look different if I was more generous, more committed in my relationships, and more forgiving?”

Because that is something that can actually happen. And one good reason you should pick up a copy of the book.


You can find out more information on Joshua Becker’s new e-book Inside-Out Simplicity here.

To learn more about Joshua Becker read his review of Minimalist Business, and check out my interview with him earlier this year about the power of rational minimalism.

The Secret of Ultra-Mobility Without Owning a Car

July 26th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

You don’t need the gas, insurance, and car payment to have mobility when you need it

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

My girlfriend and I took a three-day mini-vacation last week, driving over to Lake Tahoe and down through Yosemite. We camped for two days on the banks of the Truckee river and enjoyed s’mores’ and wine by an open fire.

A few people emailed in to ask how I could possibly go all of that distance without owning a car. Well, this is true. I don’t own a car, and I only drive a few times a year.

The way I see it, the object of not owning a car is not to live in a hole, without the ability to travel when necessary.

A few of you are probably guessing already how I was able to go all of that distance without owning a car, but first I want to go over a few reasons why I don’t own a car.

The reasons not to own a car.

  1. Cars are expensive, costing the average American $8,000+ a year. When people buy cars, they only look at the sticker price-per-month, but they don’t think about car insurance, damage, problems, and tickets. If I had a car, I’d have to make more money to pay for it. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends.
  2. Maintaining a car can be stressful and time intensive. You have to get the oil checked, and make sure all of your papers are in order. This would take time away from my business and pleasures. Instead, I opt not to own a car.
  3. Cars are bad from the environment. They emit greenhouse gases, and most use a diminishing resource called oil, which is currently still spilling out all over the Gulf of Mexico, and we’re still mired in two wars over. If we’re ever going to live free, we need to stop being so dependent on oil to get around on a daily basis.
  4. Driving every day increases the likelihood that you will die or kill someone with your vehicle. Cars are dangerous weapons, enough said.

That being said, a few times a year it might be necessary to have the mobility of a car to leave the city and explore the greatness of America.

Please note: Before you head straight for the comments and scream ‘hypocrite’ at me for driving a few times a year. There’s a huge difference between driving a car for hours every single day over the course of a year, and driving a car for a few hours a couple of times a year.

Yes, occasionally I drive. It is necessary sometimes in order to escape the city. No, I wouldn’t dream of commuting two hours both ways to work every day like so many Americans do.

The secret to ultra-mobility without owning a car.

I’m a member of Zipcar.

For those who don’t know already. Zipcar is a car-sharing program that has been expanding rapidly in most cities in the US.

The premise is simple: most people don’t need to drive a car every day. If you treat a car kind of like a library book, thousands of people can share one car throughout a year.

By crowd-sourcing the cost of the vehicle, the cost on any one individual is greatly diminished.

If I needed a car right now for a quick run to a place that I couldn’t reach via public transit, I could have my choice of more than 20 different vehicles within a mile of the coffee shop where I’m writing this. Most of them cost around $9.50 an hour or $88 a day. If I know I need the Zipcar in advance, the cost is even less. If I were to take an ad-sponsored Zipcar, like the Wicked-wrapped Ford Focus over at the Bart stop, I’ll only have to pay $6.50 for my hour of driving.

Here are some other benefits of being a member of Zipcar

  1. You can change up what car you drive. Sick of driving your Prius? Switch it up and sport a Mazda Hatchback. Every time I drive, I have a completely new driving experience. Over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of test-driving over a dozen separate vehicles for long periods of time.
  2. Gas, insurance, licensing and maintenance is included in the cost-per-hour. Every Zipcar includes a gas card, which you can use to fill up for free at any self-serve gas station. I can’t over-stress how important it is that you don’t have to worry about these costs. Imagine not having that sinking feeling in your stomach when you’ve just put away $30-40 for a full tank of gas in this economy? Eliminated by Zipcar.
  3. Using Zipcar so incredibly simple. I can reserve a car in route via my iPhone, or on my computer in advance. I use a simple plastic credit-card-like Zipcard to let myself in and out of the car when I get to the location. Then I’m driving within seconds.
  4. If the Zipcar is damaged in an accident, you only have to pay a $500 damage fee. This can also be offset, if you’re for whatever reason more accident prone, by paying an additional insurance fee to Zipcar. I’ve never damaged a car in my life, I have driving reflexes like a cat, so I’m not too worried about this.
  5. You can use Zipcar in any of 50+ cities across the United States and the UK. For example, if I were to fly into Brooklyn for a few days, and needed to get upstate, it’d be no problem for me to reserve a car there. If I headed to San Diego, no problem! London, a Zipcar is there waiting for me. Imagine trying to get your car to another continent? That’d be expensive, but this way there’s very little cost involved.
  6. Zipcar reduces your impact on the environment. Zipcar estimates that for every car they put into action, it takes 15-20 cars off the streets. I imagine as time goes on, that number will rise dramatically. The more cars we share, the less we need our own. Almost all Zipcars are brand new fuel efficient/hybrid vehicles, so you’re also never going to be driving a clunker (which is the alternative budget car for most people.)

For a full list of Zipcar benefits, visit their website.

If you join soon, Zipcar has authorized me to give you $25 in free driving credits.

This reduces the fee to join Zipcar to essentially only $25. That’s pretty much nothing compared to the $8,000 and all of the time you’d save if you got rid of your car, isn’t it?

If you live in an urban area, there’s really no reason not to ditch your car and join Zipcar. Save yourself tons of money a year, free yourself from the obligation of maintaining a car, drive a different car every time you take a trip, and save the planet. Not a bad deal, right?

Subsection for power users: how to use Zipcar for free.

Here’s a final tip, and with the right amount of effort can work for the right people:

It’s possible to use Zipcars for free.

How? Zipcar has an affiliate program that allows you to sign up drivers for driving credit commission. For example, if you were able to sign up 100 drivers via your blog, you’d be able to drive Zipcar anywhere from $2500-$5000 ‘Zip Credit Hours’, depending on which affiliate link you use.

I choose the ‘you get $25, I get $25′ for these links, because I want you to have some free time riding around in the car as well. This way you’ll know how to write about Zipcar on your own site in order to get your own free driving time.

I used my affiliate link to Zipcar in this post. So, if you sign up for an account, I’ll get a small credit that I can use towards my own driving. You can do this too, once you get the account.

Obviously results will vary depending on the size of your network. I have almost 5,000 subscribers to Far Beyond The Stars, so chances are a few dozen (probably many more) will take me up the offer. Your blog might have a larger or smaller following, so results will vary.

This works just like the affiliate system for my e-books –the only difference is that my affiliates get paid in cash. To read more, check out the affiliate section of the new Minimalist Business Bookstore.

For more on driving car-free, I definitely suggest checking out my friend Tammy Strobel’s blog, Rowdy Kittens. She’s an expert on this subject.


I’m interviewing Joshua Becker about his new book on Wednesday. Don’t miss out, sign up to receive my blog posts via EMAIL or RSS.

Oh! And don’t forget to check out my guest post on Julien Smith’s (co-author of Trust Agents) blog: One Way to Abolish Risk.


If you enjoyed this post, I’d love if you’d share it on Twitter or StumbleUpon. Thanks so much.



How to Imagine Your Ideal Reality (because it matters)

July 19th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

Here’s an exercise that’s super important to do every couple of months, at least once a year.
Take a moment and imagine your ideal life.

If you don’t, you’re likely to stagnate or not know where you’re going. How will you know if you’re headed in the right direction?

How I’ve imagined my reality in the past.

Last year at this moment in time, I really wanted to live a location independent life, so I could work from anywhere in the world. In February of this year I more than achieved that goal.

Then I imagined living in San Francisco Bay. Within a few months I’d relocated!

You can accomplish anything.

When you put your mind to it, it’s easy to accomplish most things. The problem is that we don’t usually put our minds to anything, and thus we end up standing still. We don’t go anywhere. We’re unhappy, but we make excuses. We don’t get anywhere.

I know, I’ve been there. I spent an entire year at my day job not really caring why I was there. Sometimes it takes some time to wake up and realize that you need to make changes.

This isn’t just wishwashy ‘manifest your life’ bull crap. If you don’t actually decide what you want to do, you won’t do much of anything.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible if other opportunities come your way. It doesn’t mean you don’t give up early if your dream of being X turns out to be not exactly what you had in mind. It just means you’re constantly reaching for something greater than the status-quo.

Where dreams go to die.

If you don’t imagine the way you want your reality to end up, you will inevitably start drifting. You’ll settle down and say to yourself “this reality is fine, it’ll do for now.”

Well, your reality is NOT fine. If you settle, you’re just doing what everyone else is doing and that’s not enough. The only way to achieve ambitious goals is to realize that you can achieve them and start.

If you don’t take a moment and decide where you’re going, you’ve settled. You’re not persueing the important, you’re simply making the rounds, settled into a routine.

That works for most people, but it doesn’t work for me, and it doesn’t work for you.

Why I’m writing this article.

I didn’t think this article was a good thing to write because it’s good SEO (in fact, I have no idea.) I decide to write this because it actually matters.

In the last post I wrote about a few things such as achieving location independence and moving all over the place in the last year.

A few people emailed me saying that the only reason I was able to do these things was because I’m smarter and more ambitious than most people.

That’s a cope-out attitude, and is simply not true. Everyone can achieve anything if they want it badly enough. Don’t give up, start to dream bigger.

Strategies for imagining your ideal life.

1. Think unrealistically and aim for one year in the future.

Dare to dream big. Take out Evernote or a piece or paper and list the things you want to accomplish in one years time.

For instance: buy and live on a boat, go to top-10 university, negotiate 50% bump in salary, quit job to work for yourself, etc. All are very doable, if you put 100% of you attention on the goal.

2. Eliminate everything you don’t want to do.

This is key. In my experience it’s much harder to accomplish a goal if you’re also doing a lot of other unimportant stuff.

In my ideal world, I only do three things besides what I want to accomplish with my life. 1. Eat good food. 2. Go to Yoga. 3. Sleep.

Notice that all of these things also support my goals, because they make me stronger and my mind more focused.

If you’re trying to make a car payment and also dreaming of working for yourself, you’ll spend most of your energy trying to make a car payment. This will destroy your ability to reach your goals.

Eliminate the unessential (basically everything) in order to focus on your ideal life in one year.

3. Start taking small strides toward your goal to build momentum.

Break down you ideal goal into actionable steps. And start to execute them. Start by doing an intense research session on your ideal life, read every good book you can on the subject (but don’t over-do this. Knowledge doesn’t proceed action.) Ask people who’ve done it how they did it, politely.

DO NOT ask people who haven’t done it how to do it. Most who haven’t achieved will tell you a goal is impossible. You can only learn from success stories. Non-achieving people are a lot more likely to be naysayers.

Now, decide on your first step and work until you’ve achieved it. For example, if you want to live on a boat, going sailing a few times first can bring you up to speed on how a boat actually works. Taking lessons will guarantee your knowledge. Earning money and buying a boat will solidify the deal.

4. Achieve your ideal reality.

Give yourself one year to complete your unrealistic goal of an ideal life. Don’t get sidetracked by stupid stuff that doesn’t matter.

Tell everyone you know that you intend to do what you want to do. Start a blog and write about how you’re achieving your goals in order to get feedback and possibly income to support your goals.

In one year you’ve done it, and if you haven’t it’s no one’s fault but your own. You are the decisive element.

Imagining my ideal life.

Alright, so I can’t leave you with all of this information without telling you how I imagine my ideal life. So here we go.

In one year I hope to have visited at least 10 foreign countries on a few different continents. I hope to spend at least a month in a few of them, vagabonding if possible.

Why? Because I haven’t been out of the country since I was 16. Now that I’m set up to work from anywhere, it doesn’t make sense not to travel as much as possible.

There are no vacation days involved in being a location independent professional.

I don’t want to bring my computer with me on most these trips, so I’ll need to either outsource or eliminate certain functions of my business in order to keep it going. My minimalist business is largely automated anyway, so this shouldn’t be too hard.

Now, how will I achieve these goals?

First step is getting an adult passport, since my kid one expired. I’ll be filing the paperwork next week. Next I’ll research my first location (South America, probably Peru), find an inexpensive ticket and go.

In order to fly more, I’ll be buying Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flier Master and invest a significant amount of time to learning how to travel hack from one of the master.

Notice how this is much easier now that I live a location independent life.

If I’d aimed to travel before I set up my business I would only have been able to take short trips during vacation time or time spent desperately searching for new temporary work. Now I don’t have to worry so much, and instead can do whatever is necessary in any place I land to facilitate my experience.

I’ll be writing more about my plans to travel the world as a minimalist digital vagabond. Don’t miss out, sign up for free updates via EMAIL or RSS.

Here’s another post with a similar vibe, if you liked this one: How to Succeed By Being Completely Unrealistic.

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person humanized or de-humanized.  If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.  If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming. – Goethe

12 Lessons Learned from Year One of Jobless Freedom

July 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

How I didn’t end up living in a ditch down by the river

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

This week (July 15th 2010) it will have been exactly one year since I quit my day job photo editing New York Magazine’s blogs, and started on an unexpected adventure in self-employment via minimalism.

Here’s a short recap of what happened in that year:

1. I hopped on a plane Portland Oregon on August 22nd 2009, reducing my possessions to what would fit into one carry on, one computer bag, and a camera bag — 97-things in all.

2. In October I started Far Beyond The Stars, a blog where I wrote about my minimalist journey escaping my day job and living a simpler life. I threw a party for myself when I hit 23 subscribers. Now I have 4000+ subscribers and 50,000+ monthly readers. Wow, thanks for being here everyone!

3. I drank a lot of coffee in a lot of different cities. Stumptown (Portland), Blue Bottle (Oakland), and Ritual Roasters (San Francisco) rank high on my roast choices. Intelligensia in Chicago doesn’t even compare, sorry guys.

4. At the end of November I left Portland and took the Empire Builder Express (named after Chris Guillebeau’s epic guide to self-employment) to Chicago where I spent the holiday with my family, went skiing in the upper peninsula of Wisconsin and started writing The Art of Being Minimalist.

5. In January 2010 I flew back to New York with every intention of leaving asap. My girlfriend missed me, so I convinced her that we had to move somewhere other than Brooklyn eventually.

6. During January I finished The Art of Being Minimalist, which teaches people how to apply minimalism in order to survive without a job for long periods of time, among other things. In February I released the e-book, and surprisingly the profit from the e-book started paying for my minimalist lifestyle.

7. People started emailing me about how I was able to make a living from a little e-book on simplicity. I tried to help as many people as I could individually, but the emails became too much, so I decided instead to write another e-book.

8. In May I pre-relased Minimalist Business before it was done. Perfect is the enemy of done in my mind (more on that later). A lot of people went out of their way to purchase Minimalist Business before it was done. Thank you everyone! From what I hear, many people liked it.

9. On May 15th my girlfriend Alix, myself, and Lola the cat relocated to Oakland, CA. I reduced my possessions to 50 things for the move, but afterward realized that I needed a few more shirts so I wouldn’t have to do laundry so much.

10. In June I released Minimalist Business. My income surpassed what I made at my day job around this point (ie, a little more than I need to be making to support my minimalist lifestyle.) Now a legion of extraordinary individuals are applying the theories in the e-book to build their own minimalist businesses. Yay!

Not bad for one year since I quit my day job!

That being said, I’ve learned a few things since making the transition.

This is why I’ve compiled this list of 12 things I’ve learned since quitting my day job.

1. Moving anywhere isn’t as scary as you think.

I was absolutely terrified of moving to Portland. Everyone told me that I’d end up in the gutter at the edge of the river under the bridge with the bums.

In all honesty, here’s what people are scared about: the choices they have to decide on in order to make a long distance relocation a reality. Mostly this involves giving up your wall-sized entertainment system, and all of the knickknacks that you’ve been keeping in boxes since high school. They’re too freakin’ big to fit into a carry on bag. This junk is also not important, because you don’t use it.

I had to give up some things to be able to live anywhere. The 20lb light kit that I’d purchased in order to pursue the dream of becoming a photographer (which was never happening anyway, because I wasn’t really interested in it.) was one of the causalities. I also had to donate some jackets I never wore.

Of course there was more, but I forget now what that stuff was.

The reality is that freedom is much more important than your stuff, and anything you lose can be regained if you truly miss it.

2. You know what really scares me now?

Being forgotten, saying nothing important, living a life that I didn’t believe in. If I ever find myself in a place where I’m afraid that I’m not doing what I think is important, I will do everything in my power to change that.

I hope you will too.

3. It’s easier to live and work from anywhere if you make it easier.

Many people make it incredibly hard to work for themselves, and that’s why they fail.

The #1 culprit for self-employment failure, in my observations, is over-extended life overhead.

The reason I’m still standing here, one year after leaving my day job, and now making MORE money than I did at New York Magazine (and working 1/4th as much as I used to,) is because I was able to survive for the first three months without any income at all. It takes a long time to build the momentum to make a business happen, and if you’re feeling the pain of high-overhead, you’ll fail before you see results.

If your monthly overhead is $7,000, it’s much harder to succeed than if your monthly overhead is $1,000.

What is the easiest way to lower you overhead? Adopt a minimalist lifestyle. Ditch your car. Move somewhere cheap and live in a studio apartment or with roommates. If you truly want to live and work from anywhere, you have to sacrifice your consumerist tendencies and focus on the important until you see results.

4. You need to tell a simple story.

Look to the right of this blog post, in the sidebar of my blog (if you’re reading this in a feedreader or in email, visit my site.) What does it say?

“Hi I’m Everett Bogue. I’m the author of The Art of Being Minimalist and Minimalist Business. I live with less and work from anywhere in the world (currently Oakland, CA).”

People need to know exactly what you’re about immediately — because most people are only going to see your work for a 1.52 seconds. 80% of the people I come across on the Internet haven’t made it clear what they’re about, and that’s why they don’t get traction.

In reality my story is much more complicated than the one above, but you need to dig deeper to find that out.

You need to define yourself as a leader in order to make a living from anywhere in the world. The most effective people I know have tell people what they’re about in a very simple and direct way. Ashley Ambirge rejects the status quo and rebels against mediocrity. Glen Allsopp teaches people about how to use viral marketing to get their message to the world. Karol Gajda teaches people how to live free anywhere in the world.

In order to break through the noise you need a simple message that can spread. Make it fit into a tweet. Make it memorable, so if you meet someone on the street they’ll be able to remember you later.

Some call this an elevator pitch, but I don’t really use elevators anymore. I’d prefer to refer to it as a simple message that defines your work.

“Hi. I’m Everett Bogue. I teach you to apply minimalism in order to live and work from anywhere.”

5. Ignore Everybody.

This is the title of Hugh McLeod‘s book (he’s one of my heroes.) It’s a mantra that’s stayed with me through all the entire year — especially for some of the harder months in the beginning when things were first getting started.

Whenever you try to do something against the status-quo, such as starting your own business or pursuing your art, the naysayers will do everything in their power to let you know that you’re going to fail.

Over the last year my family thought I’d fail, my girlfriend thought I’d fail, everyone who I’d worked with previously thought I’d fail, some of my readers thought I’d fail. The only person who knew I wasn’t going to fail was me.

They all said ‘why don’t you just get a job like everyone else?’

Would I been successful if I’d given up because everyone thought I’d fail? Nope.

We only define success after a person has been successful. This means that you will never be successful when you first get started. No matter who you are, or where you’re coming from, you can never have a successful beginning.

This means you need to tune out everyone who tells you to take the safer road, and trust your gut.

6. The safest thing is often what everyone isn’t doing.

Believe it or not, the safest thing you could probably ever do is to do something that everyone thinks is impossible — most people don’t try to do impossible things, they try to do easy things. When you’re competing with 50,000 people trying to do the easiest thing, you’ll inevitably have a really hard time making a living doing that easy thing.

For example: getting a job in a coffee shop is basically impossible in Portland, because there are thousands of indie kids all competing to pour your coffee. Only the really talented coffee pourers win in this situation.

The tinier the niche you’re trying to fill, the easier it is to find success. I’m one of the very few people that teaches people how easy it is to live and work from anywhere by applying minimalism, this is why I haven’t encountered many brick walls on this path.

If I tried to write about celebrity gossip, I wouldn’t have been so lucky, because everyone does that.

7. Authenticity is in living the change you believe in.

Write what you believe, from the place where you’ve actually been. There are a lot of minimalist blogs out there, if you’ve noticed. I believe the number one reason that mine has been so successful is because I’m actually a minimalist, and I actually live and work from anywhere in the world.

If you write from a place of ‘look at this hypothetical idea that I’m not actually going to try.’ people aren’t actually going to believe you, because you’re not doing it.

I actually threw out my stuff and lived with 50 things for awhile. I actually moved across the country a few times. If you’re writing a guinea pig blog, you’d best actually have guinea pigs. If you’re writing a ‘save the planet’ blog, you’d best not be driving a car anymore. If you want to end world poverty, writing about it isn’t enough, you should actually be feeding people. If you write about raw food, you’d best actually be eating it.

If you don’t, no one will believe you.

How do I know that creating a minimalist business is a lot more fun than having a day job? Because I run one.

8. There is no original.

If you set out to be the most unique person on the planet, to only have original ideas, to only say something that no one has ever said in the history of the planet, you will never be able to say anything.

Everything has happened before, and everything will happen again. You can’t avoid that.

It’s being you that brings the originality. It’s your approach that makes it unique. It’s the fact that you’re actually doing something that inspires people.

Don’t worry that you’re stepping on Thoreau’s toes. He doesn’t mind.

9. Be ruthless with your attention.

You only have so many hours in your day. Don’t waste it on stupid things that don’t matter.

There are millions of channels to tune into in the Internet age, you can’t listen to them all.

In order to succeed you need to cut through the noise by using your attention wisely.

  • Unsubscribe to a blog if it bores you (even if it’s mine.)
  • Unfollow someone on Twitter if you don’t care anymore.
  • Don’t answer that email if you know you’ll just get another one in return.

Your attention is always best spent on your work. Your work is actually creating things.

Track all of your other time. Social networking, email, reading noise, etc. Chances are you’re probably finding some hidden way to procrastinate against the actual process of creation.

Don’t do anything else until you’ve made work that matters.

10. Test all of your assumptions.

Everything you learned in college about how the world works was probably a lie. This isn’t because people are intentionally deceptive, it’s because the way the world works fundamentally changed in the last five years — most college professors still think it works the old TV-industrial way. It doesn’t work that way anymore.

Every time you find yourself assuming that the world works a certain way, make sure you test that theory out first. Because it is just a theory, assumptions aren’t necessarily reality.

I was told every single day in college that the only way to get my work published was to get an internship at a newspaper and work my way up newsroom ladder until I was a senior editor, and then I’d be able to say whatever I wanted. Two years later most newspapers in the country stopped being profitable. Now no one with any sense reads newspapers anymore.

You wouldn’t believe how many of my journalism school colleagues still think this false idea of current reality is true, just because a professor told them it was.

There are obviously a million examples of untested assumptions that people insist on believing. The record label is the only way to bring their music to the world (there is no music industry). The only way to be happy is to buy things (buying things makes you unhappy). McDonald’s hamburgers are made out of meat (mealworms?). Etc. None of these things are true, but you haven’t tested them now, have you?

Make sure you prove theories through execution, and not just because some old guy told you it was true.

11. Everything changed after 2003.

According to The Long Tail, 2003 was the last year that there was growth in the mega-artist industry. Remember the blockbuster albums from when you were a kid? There are no blockbusters anymore. Sure, there’s still somewhat popular stuff like Twilight and Lady Gaga, but this stuff will never be as popular was it was when the TV controlled what we heard and saw.

You are in control now. You are responsible for every single element of getting your message to the world. No one will pick you up and dump you in success-land. This also means that you can be successful with a very small group of people… some say you only need 1,000 true fans, and I concur, because the fans of my work support me.

The world is an equal playing field thanks to the Internet, and you have no excuse but to step up and start playing the game. Yes it’s hard. But do you know what’s harder? Sitting at a desk all day hating your life.

12. Your business shouldn’t cost anything.

The one sure-fire way to never be able to support yourself is to make your business cost as much as the revenue you have coming in.

I don’t care about your revenue, I care about your profits. My business works because every single dollar coming in either goes to an affiliate (because I pay my fans to support me) or it goes to me.

I know it’s obvious, but so many people just don’t get it. I wouldn’t be living and working from anywhere if my business overhead was more than my profits. If you start out thinking that investing tons of money in an idea is how money comes back, you’ll end up going bankrupt, not building a business.

Instead try the opposite approach: only invest what you need to, when you need to do it. Chances are you can build a business for free, or for very cheap. This is how to build a business: not the expensive way.

Thanks for reading this long blog post. I can’t wait for the next year, it’s going to be great!


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Oh! and before I forget. My buddy Tyler Tervooren interviewed me about running a minimalist business at Advanced Riskology.

How to Make Money No Object (with very little)

July 7th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Why It’s Easier to Succeed if You Have Nothing to Lose

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

“If money were no object for me I’d…”

“When I win the lottery I’ll…”

I hear these sayings all the time, we all do.

I want to take a moment to help you discover how to make money no object with very little money.

Why? Because I honestly think the idea that you need to wait until you have a large amount of resources is holding people back from achieving a reality where they can live and work from anywhere — or whatever your plans are.

I feel that eliminating excuses through simple experimentation has gone a long way towards helping me discover my own full potential, and I hope this will too.

Why the risk is really what you fear to lose.

When we truly dissect the above excuses, we can see quite easily what is really at stake: losing everything.

We’re afraid if we pursue the reality that we always dreamed of, we’ll end up losing the reality that we have now.

So we wait for the day when money is no longer an object. When we’ve made the millions that will support our every dream and ambition.

There are two elements that make this assumption completely absurd.

First I’ll break down the assumptions, and tell you why they’re wrong. Second, I’ll show you how to make money no longer an object through one simple practice that I’m sure you’re already aware of.

…and they are:

1. You’ll never make millions if you never take risks.

People think that if they sit around at a desk, someday they’ll get promoted and make millions. This isn’t true, because employers have an infinite choice of hiring potential. Who are they going to hire when it’s time to fill a new position? Someone new, exciting, and who appears more ambitious than you in a 45 minute interview. Also, while you sit around, you’re getting older and your dreams are rapidly turning to stone.

2. You’re not simply going to ‘get lucky’.

You can’t win the lottery if you don’t play. Buying a lottery ticket is a risk you have to take for impossible odds. If you don’t play, you also can’t win. This is a metaphor, of course, because it’s dumb to actually play the lottery. If you don’t risk something, you can’t move to the next level.

Okay, so now that I’ve dispelled those myths, I want to show you to beat the system. How to make the risk of following your dreams negligible.

Reduce what you’re risking as much as possible.

Risking putting everything on the table when you have a lot to lose is an awful lot to ask. ‘What if I lose the Porsche? How will I ever survive?’

One of my heroes, Julien Smith the co-author of Trust Agents, has a saying that “Cultural Transparency ÷ Risk = Upward Mobility“. From my experiences, I genuinely believe this to be true.

In order to move up in society, you need to both take risks and learn about how the world actually works — which is oddly enough not how everyone tells you it works.

So this is what you need to do, in order to eliminate as much risk as possible in order to pursue your dreams — which could be much more profitable and ultimately rewarding than the life you’re currently leading.

1. Eliminate anything, and everything, in your life that you fear to lose.

You can’t feel the pain of loss if you have nothing to lose. Give away the Porsche, junk the flatscreen TV, downsize to a smaller house, donate the Gucci handbag to someone who doesn’t need to risk anything.

Make a list of everything you think you can’t live without.

Now, sell everything on that list.

You can keep your clothes and your laptop if you think you need them. Maybe you need shoes. Maybe you don’t!

All of you junk is holding you back from your pursuit of your dreams. It’s best if you eliminate everything to the point that you’re living out of a bag or somewhere close to that.

I’ve been living out of a bag for a year now, this is the single most important factor in my ability to take risks in order to build my business to be as profitable as it is now.

2. Pay off all of your debts.

Every debt that you take on makes it harder to take risks. If you pay off all of your debts and resolve never to take on another again, you’ll be able to risk it all so much easier.

For more on paying off your debts see my article on Minimalism Vs. Debt.

3. Start taking risks.

You have to start small. Now that you have nothing to lose, I want you to go ahead and start taking some small risks just to be uncomfortable. The object is simply to push your boundaries and nothing more:

A simple risk taking activity to inspire you:

During a busy rush hour commute I want you to go to a public place where, more than 150 people are present — public transit is best, but a mall or plaza can do, with headphones and some sort of music playing device such as an iPod.

Now, pick a song that’s danceable and has lyrics you know by heart. I usually do this with Smashing Pumpkin’s ‘Ava Adore‘, but you know what you know.

Now, turn the song on, walk into the middle of the public place and start dancing + singing as loud and as extravagantly as possible. Stay in one place in the most crowded location possible. Do not stop until the song is over. There is nothing illegal about singing and dancing, you will not get in trouble.

People will probably look at you like you’re a crazy person. That’s okay.

Once you’re done, just walk out of there like nothing ever happened.

I realize the idea of doing this is terrifying to a lot of people. Being weird is frowned upon everywhere.

The idea is not to be weird, or to attract attention, it’s to start exploring what it feels like to take a risk. You might look like a fool if your simple business bombs. You might feel bad when your wife asks where the Porsche went. Feeling weird is part of risk taking.

The truth of the matter is that you’ll never succeed if you don’t try.

And the easiest way to try is to have nothing to lose.

I believe this is one of the fundamental lessons behind Minimalist Business.

24 Hours in the Life of Everett Bogue

July 5th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

Me, on a not-so-average day, sailing

I’ve been receiving a considerable number of emails and Twitter messages asking for me to write about my average day.

So yesterday, I sat down and tried to figure out what I did every day, on average.

I ended up making up an ideal day that didn’t really reflect reality, that had never been lived and would not be lived.

Why I don’t have normal days.

This made me realize that I don’t really have a routine, I simply wake up every morning and do what I feel inspired to do from start to finish.

The ability to be able to do whatever you want on any given day can make life look relatively random when you attempt to scale it down to a post on your ideal day.

This makes the title of this post incredibly misleading, but I hope you’ll forgive me.

When I used to have average days.

When I worked at New York Magazine, I had average days. I’d wake up every morning at exactly 8am. I’d roll out of bed, turn on my laptop and immediately sign into email and AIM. Five minutes later I’d start to receive requests to put photos on the stories that other people had written.

This continued all morning, while I made coffee in the kitchen and made myself breakfast. Eventually I’d tell my assistant to cover for me while I jumped on the Subway and headed into Manhattan.

Then I’d sit at my desk making the photos on blog posts look great until 2, when I’d run out and grab lunch to come back and eat at my desk, and then at 5pm on the dot I’d turn it all off and continue on with my life. I did this every day, it was very average.

Now I don’t live like that anymore, because a year ago I quit my job and now I’m in control of my own destiny.

I don’t recommend living the day job average-day lifestyle, so far having random days where I discover what really interests me is much more profitable than sitting at a desk every day was.

That being said, there are things that I might do on most days that I think can help you emulate my day, if that’s the reason why you’re emailing me to tell you what my average day is like. These aren’t very revolutionary things, they’re just normal human things.

Here are some of the key elements of my day:

1. Writing. I write when I have an idea worth writing down. Other times I’ll write just to see if an idea will come — if it doesn’t I’ll stop writing. I don’t do this on any set schedule. For instance, I’m writing this at 6am in the morning, because I couldn’t sleep any longer and the idea just wouldn’t leave my head. Some days I’ll go to a coffee shop and write, other days I’ll sit down somewhere after Yoga and write. It all depends on the day.

2. Wandering. Another good portion of most days is spent wandering. I find that exploring the city is a great way to both generate ideas, and to simply discover new places and experiences. The most important element of wandering is not having an end destination. For instance, many people wander to the mall to buy something — this isn’t wandering, it’s consumerism. Wandering shouldn’t cost too much money. I recently picked up a new bike (I haven’t had a bike since I was in Portland last year) so now I can wander on wheels.

3. Reading. I read a lot, in order expand my knowledge of how people think. Right now I’m trying to decode Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan, Chris Guillebeau and Charlie Gilkey’s new Unconventional Guide to Freelancing, and I’m in the process of reading Derek Sivers’ blog from start to finish, because he has a lot to offer. I used to read the New York Times for two hours every day, but then I realized that it didn’t really help me. I’d know everything about the sad things happening in the world, but I really couldn’t do anything about them, so in the end I decided it was more important to read things that could help me achieve my goals instead of simply reading for the sake of the action. Be conscious of what you’re consuming, information is addictive and often meaningless.

4. Yoga. Yoga centers me and I think might keep me from going crazy. My recent yoga schedule is mostly taking the BART into San Francisco’s Mission District where I practice at Yoga to the People, a donation based studio that originally opened in New York. 95% of the time Scott teaches, but my friend Carly from dance school also teaches there remarkably enough.

5. Eating. The rest of my day is usually spent in pursuit of food. I’ll either cook meals from scratch or sometimes I’ll go out to eat. There are a lot of great meals to be had in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, so I’ve been exploring the food choices. The most important element is to be healthy and make sure the food is enjoyable. Why eat junk food just because you’re hungry, when there’s so much great food out there?

6. Disconnecting. Finally, every day I spend as much time as I can disconnected from the Internet. There are a lot of distractions out there, and I think the most important skill you can have is the ability to turn them off. Many people get caught up in rudimentary communications like checking blog comments and answering emails — this is all surface stuff in life, and doesn’t really matter. You can spend ten hours a day answering emails, and you’ll never really accomplish anything. This is why I do my best to turn it all off. I check email once a day, a few other times a day I’ll check on Twitter to see how everything is going. The rest of the day I turn it all off, and do whatever I want.

I realize this isn’t exactly what you were looking for when you asked what I did in my average day, but I hope it helps. Some people enjoy living this way, but I’ve met other people who go absolutely insane when they realize they can do everything they ever wanted.

Some days I just don’t do anything, because that’s what I feel like doing. And that’s okay, because I realize it’s important to follow my intuition about what is important to me.


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