Real Life Minimalists: Sancho

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

It’s my pleasure this week to introduce you to Sancho—who, after an experiment in minimalist living this past summer, was inspired to continue paring down his possessions and living with less. Check out his blog to learn more!

Sancho writes:

I’ve had the chance to live minimally this summer. I moved to Mountain View for three months and decided to bring and buy only what I really needed. I ended up bringing 66 things and acquiring a few more. The first advantage was the ease of getting to, from, and around the airports. Minimalist travel makes for a much nicer experience: less or no checked baggage, actually being able to fit your things into the overhead compartment, and ability to use public transport at either end. My minimalist travel strategy also gave me more freedom during my first week in a new city, letting me couchsurf while finding a more permanent place. Because I didn’t have many things, I ended up renting a small room for a price that most people don’t think exists in Silicon Valley. It’s been great to see how close I’ve come to living with only what I’ve needed. This experience will definitely influence me when I return home to my Vancouver apartment.

My conversion to minimalism began when I started using David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method. The initial processing of my things had me discard many of them. Among these were an old cell phone and a $4 winning lottery ticket that could only be cashed in 2000 km away. This was the most satisfying part of my introduction to GTD: getting rid of stuff. I never stopped. I got rid of stuff, then got rid of the storage. I got rid of more stuff, then got rid of more storage. I discarded so much that I moved into a smaller apartment in the same building because I just didn’t need the space. In addition to discarding things, I’ve also pruned areas of responsibility from my life that distract from a small number of important goals, another carry-over from GTD.

What drives my minimalism is a desire for focus and freedom. Every item brings with it a small need for space, care, and attention. Books need bookshelves, clothing needs cleaning, and electronics need updating… Minimalism in my things and in my priorities helps me dedicate resources and attention to what is important to me.

This summer has been a fun experiment and I hope to bring what I’ve learned back to my already semi-minimalist life in Vancouver. What other microcosms of minimalism have you encountered?

You can read more about what I’ve discarded, the 92 things I ended up with this summer, and other ideas on minimalism and productivity at http://sanchom.wordpress.com/category/productivity/.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

23 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Sancho

  • I really enjoyed reading this article. It certainly makes you think about the extra ‘baggage’ that comes with each new item you let into your life.

    My husband and I downsized from a huge Victorian 4 bed house to a single bed bungalow with a spare office room for each of us. We still have too much stuff, but we’re getting there!

  • Jackie s

    Hi! Love your blog, i dont have a wordpress account so im going to comment here with my question. What brand merino wool shirts do you wear? Im looking for some great quality everyday shirts. Im a woman though, so im hoping they have them for women too!

  • Elizabeth

    I’m so glad you brought up the point of clearing out responsibiities and commitments. These are equally important in an over-committed and stressed out world. Many good wishes on your journey. You sound contented and satisfied. Kudos!

  • […] The second one stresses paring down things in our lives and homes to free up more time. Click here to read.  […]

  • Carolyn

    I like this one! I live near Silicon Valley, and I, too, have had a similar experiment going. Due to hidden mold in my house and extreme mold sensitivity in me, I’ve not lived in my own house since mid August. While staying in various friends’ homes and temporary rentals, I started noticing what I really need. I am now living in my own driveway in a camping trailer! A (mostly) fun small-scale-living experiment. (Thank goodness we live in California, so we’re not freezing!)

    Since everything in the house is contaminated, I anticipate getting rid of a lot of it, so we’ll have less to clean. Reading this and other blogs has really helped me to mentally let go of things which I hope will make that task easier. And there’s a lot! This is a 3000 square foot house where we’ve lived 35 years, raised 3 children, and received things as parents have passed away. Though I’m only in the early stages of the process, this small living experiment and reading about other people’s experiences has given me a goal to keep in mind, and I’m optimistic!

  • Ariel

    I see you discovered that a little research (in your case Mt View climate in summer) can save you some space! I totally agree. When I moved to the UK I was a bit panicky about them not having the brands I was used to, so I brought a year’s supply of all my own toiletries, including nail polish. It turns out they have ALL the same brands there anyway, but I should have just relaxed and bought what I needed when I needed it. Despite only really bringing clothes and small things, we had so many bags upon arriving at tiny Belfast City Airport, they thought we looked suspicious! Unfortunately, I bought more at that end, and we had even MORE baggage coming home! It was really embarrassing. I’m impressed with how much you have been able to pare down your needs; thanks for the inspiration! My next trip should be better. :)

    • CJ

      Yep, we’re not totally backwards here :-) :-)

      • Ariel

        :) I just didn’t realise some brands had a monopoly on the market! I assumed the UK would have their own brands of deodorant, etc. Had to laugh at my blonde moment though when I brought along Rimmel mascara, arrived in the UK and realised oh yes, Rimmel is FROM here! :)

  • This is my favorite part of the week, hearing from other minimalists. Long may you all prosper and love xx

  • Sancho, I have also gained a great deal from David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. I have found his ideas helpful in setting up a complete inventory of everything I have to do, and all my areas of responsibility, so that I can creatively think about how I will do things, rather than try to remember what I need to do. When I “downloaded” everything like that, it really impressed upon me the magnitude of what was on my plate, and it was a big inspiration to pare back.

    All the best for your minimalist journey – I like your focus on a small number of priorities that are important to you.

  • Lee (a bloke with minimalist tendancies)

    I think your post really encapsulates what it means to me to venture down the road to ‘Minimalism’.
    None more so than when hiking or travelling light! You carry only the lightweight essentials needed in a changing environment. Good for the soul. Half a world away from a crazy Black Friday sales crush and neighbours that can’t park cars in their garage because it’s wall to wall with stuff.
    You soon realise what is important in life – I’ll be working hard towards this mind shift, freeing myself up to experience more of life & the people I share it with.
    Happy travels!
    (check out wiki for more info on Ultralight backpacking & Thru-hiking if interested)

  • “Every item brings with it a small need for space, care and,attention”. A perfect statement of why being a minimalist is most beneficial to individuals.
    In our stressed world our minds are bombarded with constant imput and it is these items that require “space, care and attention” that contribute to diversion of our attention from the truely importantant things in life.
    Minimalism has lead me to the realisation of “stuff” being more of a liability rather than an asset as “stuff” results in a loss of my time, space, serenity and freedom.

  • I have found it very useful to keep a note of my various commitments, how often I do them and when I began them. I find I have an attention span of about three years! After that I like to make room for something else to come into my life so it is useful to know what I can drop. People are usually OK about it I have found and I try to give plenty of notice. I am also trying to say “no” when I am asked to do something that in my heart of hearts I know I dont want to do. But it is difficult! I also loathe committee meetings and have to be very careful not to let these creep into my life! Again, realising that I have an attention span of two hours maximum for a meeting when I do have to go to one, means that I am now fairly unabashed about saying I have to go and going. But it takes a lot of mental effort. We are taught not to be rude and not to be selfish and it is difficult to realise that we are not necessarily being rude or selfish when we do these things.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Sancho!
    We have to realize that everything we say Yes to, means that we have to say No to something else. We need to make sure that we are saying Yes to the most important things. It is easy to get caught up in the “good” things, but we need to save our time for the “best” however we each individually define that.
    Bernice
    Are you collecting rocks or diamonds?

  • Hi, I am not very messy but I am not organized either. My dream right now is to organize me house keeping it minimalist while still comfortable. Where and how do I start?

  • […] The second one stresses paring down things in our lives and homes to free up more time. Click here to read. […]

  • Tina

    I read older posts I’ve missed and learn a little more. A new give away pile is growing and I threw out a moldy rug today. Tomorrow is e-recycling day in our town and that drawer is full so that’s tomorrow’s plan.

  • Tina

    I gave away a box of china today. It was sitting in my closet for 20 years and never used. Before that it was in my MIL’s closet and never used in all the years I knew my mother in law. I am looking for more things to give away. I mentioned to someone today that I never buy more than 6 rolls of toilet paper at a time because my mother always had 80-100 rolls taking up space in our house and this much younger woman said her mother filled closets with paper goods, too. We discussed our adventures trying to declutter hoarders.

  • Tina

    I have given away a big bag of stuff every week for the past year. That’s not counting the books and magazines I’ve donated to the library. Sure enough, there is another bag, half full waiting for a few more items and it will go, too. I also have a bag of craft supplies for the children’s room at the library. I went shopping with my daughter last night and all I bought was a roll of scotch tape. She brought me magazines passed on from her friend. I look for craft projects for the kids programs I work with.

  • Tina

    I saw some cute things made out of fabric scraps. I have some clothing too worn to give away as clothing so they may be used for the fabric and buttons. I only buy yarn at Goodwill or at a Salvation Army a little further away. My mom gets new yarn as she is fussy about the colors. All my art supplies fit into 2 small bins so if they fill up, something has to go. My detergent caps, since they can’t be recycled, are used for rooting succulents..

  • My son’s FIL told him he’s getting rid of a lot of his books too. Especially mysteries, how many times can you read the same one? I have a lot of beads I’ve collected over the years and some beading books. I am giving them to a friend who makes gorgeous jewelry to supplement her income. I am only going to keep the ones I actually have used. Like my crochet and paper crafting supplies, I only need a small plastic bin for each hobby. My sister gave me origami supplies I haven’t even tried.

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