The Minimalist's Buying Guide

I love the idea of owning nothing. With the advent of cloud computing, Spotify and Uber, it’s becoming more and more of a possibility. In Fight Club, after Ed Norton learns he has lost his condo and every possession in it, Brad Pitt tells him, “The things you own end up owning you.” Truth. If it isn’t sucking up your time in management and maintenance, then it’s probably creating a mental weight somewhere in your conscious or unconscious mind. That drawer filled with old bills, the boxes of Aerosmith CDs in your garage and all that clutter in your immediate visual field is mentally tugging at you and you probably don’t even know it. 

The late and great George Carlin has a brilliant bit about how “The meaning of life is just trying to find a place for your stuff”. Although having kids makes it much more difficult to travel light, those with less baggage have gone from owning homes, to renting apartments, to being lease-free Airbnb renegades. Carlin continues, ”That’s all your house is- a place to put all your stuff. If you didn’t have so much godamned stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.” 

James Altucher recently published a post about how he and his wife threw away 98% of their stuff last weekend. James and I both have tween daughters, so maybe her stuff was excluded from his 98%. Even scrapping 5% of my daughter’s stuff would result a 100% chance of crying for a month. Still, it was pretty inspiring. He did this to prep for an interview with Marie Kondo, author of “The Art of Tidying Up”. Better known as "KonMari", she suggests touching each object under consideration and seeing if it creates a spark of joy in you. If not, in the Goodwill pile it goes. On her lifelong quest of tidying, her pivotal moment arrived when she realized that decluttering started with recognizing the things you love, not trying to pick out the things that you do not. 

Although she strongly recommends doing this exercise all at once, I thought it would be an interesting mindfulness challenge to make a "Do I love this?" consideration with any of my possessions I handled over the course of three weeks. I went for a 21 day period of carefully considering the material possessions that I felt I really needed in my life. I tried out this touch-test, and what do you know? I have some stuff I really love. Incidentally, it’s stuff that I use every single day. If I had to light everything on fire tomorrow, here’s the stuff that wouldn't be kindling. 

Casio G-Shock Watch
I’ve had a ton of fitness trackers and they’ve all sucked. Some fell off my wrist, others got crushed by kettlebells and most just stopped working. The two things I used them for the most? To tell the time and to run a stopwatch. With over 800 five-star reviews on Amazon, this ugly chunk of plastic will survive your next gig as a deep sea welder or your hero role in the zombie apocalypse. It has the same simple interface as my Casio watch from 1981. Why? Because it’s perfect. One Amazon reviewer who failed at many attempts to destroy it, wrote: "Women will not fantasize about how big and hard your wallet is when they see the G-Shock. It looks terrible with a leisure suit, and worse with a tuxedo. Donald Trump would mot be caught dead with one.  It will not impress anyone at a power meeting in a corporate board room. Really does not go with the outfit if you are a male stripper with Chippendale's or a clown with Barnum and Bailey.” I wear mine every day with lots of love and zero fucks given. 

Simply put, this is the best money clip on earth. If you are seeking out the ultimate minimalist wallet, this is the way to go. The plates slide outward to give you leverage against the massive spring which holds seven cards and a wad of cash with ease. The lightweight plain versions are the least expensive or you can go total gangster and get one all blinged out with ice. I have the stainless steel version which has a nice weight to it and yes, I totally monogramed it. $70-$500

"Ewww I read on my iPad! The Kindle is so archaic with its black and white screen.” Yeah, when I read on my iPad, I also check on my email, get SMS messages and fall into the Facebook vortex. My Kindle Voyage is just for reading, and that’s why I use it every day and love it. If you want thousands of books but don’t like living inside the library from Harry Potter, this is your answer. The Paperwhite is also a great reader at less than half the price of the Voyage. A bit lower resolution, it still has a backlight and eInk display that doesn’t suck your soul out through your eyes like an LED tablet. A “Kindle” is also what you call a family of kittens. Now I bet you really want one. Backlit model is $119-$219

Sonicare Toothbrush
There’s no getting around brushing your teeth twice a day, so why not make it as efficient as possible? Although the brush heads need occasional replacing, these base motors will seriously last forever. I think my wife’s is over a decade old. There’s an ongoing debate over which is best between the Sonicare and the Oral-B. Many moons ago, before Philips purchased Sonicare, I worked for a robotics company that did the mechanical assembly of the brush heads for them. I met with some of the Sonicare engineers who told me about the patented ultrasonic frequency they developed for the brush. 
It is perfectly matched to the diameter of the little legs of these plaque microbes, breaking their grip to dislodge them from your teeth. Super gross, and super awesome. I’ve used one ever since. $40

13” Macbook Air 
At the time of this writing, the Macbook Air is the last Apple machine not to offer a Retina display. I’ve actually been putting off updating my 2012 machine because of all the release rumors that have come and gone over the last year. Even though it is not my main work rig, I use it every day and I love it. The form factor and unibody case are beautiful, it’s super light and the solid state drive makes OS startups blazing fast and most software will run very snappy. This notebook probably isn’t the best setup for running something heavy like Photoshop along with ten other apps, but it is near perfect for light to medium on-the-go use. For $200, you can go from 128GB to 256GB. Or you can just buy a 128GB SD card made for that machine for half the price off Amazon. I never go to a meeting without it and it’s the perfect notebook to travel with. 

2015 Cannondale Badboy 2
Every day I bike my short commute to work and my longer haul to the gym. That means that I also pedal to local meetings or anywhere else I might need to run errands that day. For years I rode a fixed gear bike until one day my wheel got stolen. Before finding the time to replace it, I subbed with my mountain bike and noticed two things: gears made life a lot more enjoyable and having that front suspension made all the construction zones and shitty pavement much easier to contend with. On a friend’s recommendation, I got this bike and couldn’t be happier. Aside from looking like a Stealth Fighter, it has a piece of fully adjustable front suspension hidden above the fork, ranging from lockout to 50mm of travel - all via a control level on the top of the stem. It also has an USB rechargeable integrated LED headlight that sits flush in the one-piece handlebars/stem setup. I made a couple tweaks like cutting the otherwise wide handlebars down to a respectable 30” to better squeeze through traffic without catching any rearview mirrors. I also added 
Speedplay Drillium pedals and a Thompson laid back seat post. $1,520

Brookstone Napform Eyemask
Unless you are the one of the lucky maniacs who have dialed in the ultimate blackout curtains for your bedroom and removed every appliance with a glowing LED, you probably have some light sneaking into your sleep cave. To fully get into your Circadian groove, the darker sleep time is, the better. Ideally, our sleep would sync with the setting and rising sun, but if you’re like most, life's schedule doesn't always follow natures rhythm. I tried a half a dozen sleep masks before settling on this one. It’s not the lightest or coolest to wear on warm nights, but there’s a give and take with the overall thickness and the ability to fully block out light. These go well with a pair of foam earplugs to create your own private sensory deprivation bubble.  $35

It’s a chore to stay on top of proper hydration and convenience plays a big part in any success. My former go-to was a Klean Kantean, but I took a recommendation and like this much better. This stainless vacuum insulated bottle is both light and durable but won’t seep BPA cancer concentrate into your water. I went with the 40oz version after deciding long ago that the 27oz version required 
constant refilling. The downside is that there aren’t many cupholders that work with that large of a diameter bottle. The wide mouth opening is big enough to feel like you're actually drinking from a cup as opposed to something in-between that leaves you wearing most of the water. My favorite part is that cold water will actually stay that way for an entire day- even in the heat.  $33

Marmot Kompressor Plus
I’ve had a myriad of laptop bags, but this day pack is my absolute favorite. It’s a super lightweight yet strong nylon material with a wide drawstring opening under the top flap. There are two additional pockets and two more strap cinches that let you make it as big or small as you like. My favorite part is the foam-lined compartment along the back panel that looks like it was specifically designed for a 13” Macbook. It’s perfect for commuting to work on my bike or a carry-on, but big enough to be a gym bag or even an efficiently packed overnight tote.  $55

Eagle Creek Pack Cubes
Made out of the same style thin-yet-tough nylon as the Marmot backpack, these little stuff bags take up no room nor weight nothing when empty. They are my favorite way to store clothes when traveling, but I use the smaller one on a daily basis to bring my change of clothes to the gym and transport my wet clothes home. I also use their little bathroom bag every day which is made out of the same type of nylon.  $38

Reusable Nylon Shopping Bag
I hate collecting paper shopping bags at home only to recycle them all later. In Santa Monica and San Francisco, retailers will actually charge you extra for a bag, which I think is great. I have a load of canvas bags for big grocery shopping trips, but sometimes find myself needing to grab some stuff when I hadn’t planned ahead and brought them. This little nylon bag is super strong and stuffs into its own integrated pouch, where it can easily fit in your pocket or clasp to your keychain. I always just keep one of these in my backpack and one in my glove compartment. $3-$7

Aeropress Coffee & Espresso Maker
I had heard from several java snobs that this device made the best tasting cup of coffee they had ever had. I resisted because it looked a tad complex, but I finally gave in and it has become part of my daily ritual. From the minds of the Aero Frisbee and Rocket Football (seriously) comes an impressive combination of taste, speed to brew and ease of clean up. I've since abandoned my pour-over method and have experimented with various beans, grinds, water temperatures and brew methods (such as standard vs. inverted and different bloom times). Paired with one of these little ceramic burr hand grinders, you'll have the portable skills to put even the most heavily bearded barista to shame. $28