Saturday, October 1, 2022

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Drop social media. Ditch your car. Declutter your living space. Detox your diet.

People I Work With:
“Hey, man, it was great to work with you. I’m going to add you on Facebook.”

“Sorry, dude, I am not on there.”

People I Work With:
“That’s cool. I’ll just get you on Instagram.”

“Not there either.”

People I Work With:

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“Nope, but you have my number and email address.”

People I Work With:
“I guess this is goodbye forever.”


Rumors and false ideas have been floating around about minimalism that need to be cleared up.

Misconception No. 1: Minimalists are poor. Despite what many might think, we are not allergic to cash.

Misconception No. 2: Minimalists are nothing but pinko commies who want everyone to spread their hard earned money around so the whole world can live in harmony. Wrong again. We are actually far more financially conservative (and stable) than most so-called conservatives. We spend less on excess, and we think more about our long-term future versus the impulse purchase.

Misconception No. 3: We live in one-room apartments with no TV or furniture. We just have a cot and a single chair so we can stare at a wall — or if we are feeling frisky, out of a window. No. Contrary to this, we own homes. In fact, some of us own TVs and furniture. But we only have one TV or one couch. We don’t have three of everything.



Around the end of 2014, I decided to shut down a movie theater I ran in Fairfield. It was something I took a lot of pride in, as I used the little money I had earned from my early career in filmmaking to get it off of the ground. However, after two-and-a-half years, I realized that it couldn’t work. It didn’t make enough money, and I had sacrificed almost three years of my career trying to make it happen. It was a hard decision, and I knew that the moment the announcement was made that I would be receiving countless private messages from people asking me questions. The community had the right to be curious, but I wanted to exercise my right to not give an answer. The most efficient way to do that was to shut down my Facebook account prior to the theater’s closing.

After a few months of “my lawyer fighting with their lawyer,” the dust settled. I was finally able to jump back into my normal life, but the world felt different. I started to notice more people staring down at their screens. It was a weird feeling not knowing what to do with my own eyes anymore. I had nothing to stare at. Even though many of my peers were just posting food pics, sharing meaningless philosophical breakthroughs and stalking their exes, I felt like I was out of the club. They would converse with each other regarding a post or a response to a post. I had no idea what the hell was going on in the world. Weeks had gone by without me eavesdropping on anyone. I loved it.

The feeling of relief was overwhelming. My life was my own again. Facebook is sort of like alcohol where people have a similar “liquid courage” to say and do things they would never do in public. They lash out, melt down and even cry for help. I watched so many relationships come together publicly by changing their “status.” They would spend a year or two posting pictures of themselves together until the “____________ is now single” pops up, and the sharks would come circling.


I didn’t walk away cold turkey. I still had Instagram and Snapchat until January of 2017. It was really hard to let go of these two because they were my “quick fixes.” Instagram is a feed of images and short videos users can scroll through. Snapchat’s postings would disappear after so long. In fact, I really enjoyed checking out photography posts and was getting inspired every day. There was also a handful of fellow ex-Facebookers who were only lurking on Instagram. It was fine until I noticed everyone (including myself) was turning into one big marketing machine. Nothing was personal or creative. Everyone would seemingly have 10 hashtags or more of #lookatme, #imanartist and #givememoney.

Along with the sea of hashtags, my sources of inspiration were turning into obsessions. I spent way more time looking than I was doing. It was probably harder for me to let go of Instagram than it was anything else. I was really pushing my photography, and it seemed like a great outlet for that. But it was an outlet for anyone, and I have not been someone who follows trends. So I told myself, if I wanted people to see my photos or read my opinions, they would have to be good enough for someone else to want to publish them. I shut down my account and began working toward taking everything I did creatively to a more professional level. This includes only having my best photos published and writing articles for magazines or newspapers (as opposed to status updates or blog posts). If something doesn’t work out, the world of social media addicts will never notice.


It was the spring of 2016, and I was on my way to Kansas City for a gig when I heard the tone of my engine change. There wasn’t smoke, but I could smell something burning coming through my air vents. I pulled off and parked my car at the gas station in Eagleville, Missouri. My car never started again. I spent four hours waiting for a tow truck to drive down from Knoxville and bring me back to Des Moines. Luckily, that gas station had a large selection of fireworks and ice cream for sale. (I purchased some of both.)

You never really know your city until you have walked it. I started a morning ritual of walking a mile and a half one-way down to Zanzibar’s for coffee. Then I would turn around and come back. I walked three miles every morning before 9 a.m. I figured I could do better than that. I walked to our Des Moines Arts Festival meetings that took place every Wednesday at 3 p.m. at West End Salvage. That was two and a half miles, one way. Without a car, I was forced to learn more about my own neighborhood, as well as the city. One of the most fascinating, and probably my favorite aspect, of walking everywhere is when I run into people I know I am having real conversations with them. I will stop into Zanzibar’s and see a few friends sitting down. So I intrude and visit with them for maybe 15 minutes. It feels like quality time versus a comment here or there.

The downside (or an upside, depending how you look at it) to being car-free is you have to plan your outings very carefully. You can’t just run out because you forgot something. Everything has to be carefully planned out. This helped me become more organized in my day-to-day activities. I still go on my morning coffee walks, and if I need to stop at the grocery store on my way back, I can do so on my way home. No, I can’t carry a ton of groceries, but I don’t need to. I just buy what I need.

Currently, Des Moines isn’t the best city for public transit. I was working the Super Bowl in Minneapolis earlier this year, and I was able to take a Greyhound Bus (also an opportunity for improvement) up to the Twin Cities and use the Metro Light Rail to get almost anywhere. It only cost $3 a day. We easily spend more in gas when we make our commutes. When Uber and Lyft moved in, there was some noticeable improvement, but we have a long way to go to make this city more appealing to car-free living.


You end up spending way more time in your home when you are car-free. You also learn about the excess junk you have been collecting for the last decade that does nothing for you except sit on a shelf, in a drawer or in your basement. Yes, you have it, but you don’t need it. And, frankly, it’s doing more damage to your psyche than you think. When you walk into your house or your apartment, do you have stuff like papers or mail piled up on every surface? Do you hold onto things you think you might need someday? We all do. But you don’t need them. When I started to spend more time at home, I began to notice all the things that were causing me anxiety or making it so I could not relax. There was always something that needed organized or put away.

Creative people often say they need to take a retreat to a cabin or someplace secluded to think or come up with ideas. Shouldn’t your own home be that place? Physical media, electronics and the biggest vermin of them all — collectibles — prevent that. It’s all junk, so get rid of it. Unless something brings you true happiness every day, dispose of it. The worst thing that ever happened to me was having a basement in my house. All the things I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of were put in the basement. This was a terrible idea. There are so many resources now that you can use to help in this process: eBay, LetGo, Craigslist, Goodwill, etc. When you are dead, no one is going to want to deal with it. The “stuff” holds no real value, despite whatever niche collectors tell you. Things are only worth the money someone is willing to spend on it. If you have lots of papers, invite some friends over and have a scanning party. Aside from birth/death certificates or anything that can’t be easily replaced, you should scan and put it all on a cloud device and then throw away the physical copies. You don’t need them, even though you have convinced yourself that you do.

A constant conversation I have about getting rid of things is physical media. You know the argument, “I don’t like the idea of not being able to hold it in my hands. What if iTunes or Apple Music disappeared, and I lost my music and movies?” Let’s be frank; if Apple or iTunes disappeared one day, that means the Internet no longer exists, and we have all been enslaved by an opposing power. We will have much bigger problems to deal with besides not being able to “Netflix and chill.”


I was never a big drinker, but I have also been over the whole craft beer fad for years, so walking away from the constant nightlife was easy. The general population I saw on those nights were people who were either unhappy with their 9-to-5 cubicle gig, or there was trouble in their family lives. People who are unhappy with their  Monday through Friday routine tend to chase the feeling of escape. If it’s not the nightlife, it can be constant vacations or frivolous spending on things that you don’t need. Sometimes you need to ask yourself, “Am I only buying something so my friends can see?” No, you don’t need to outdo someone else’s food photo or their new house purchase. You never needed it in the first place. The newest epidemic is faux marriages — people getting married and posting the engagement photos, not because their relationship is ready for the next level, but because they see their friends doing it and getting so much attention. The same goes for children. Just because you saw more than 100 “likes” on your friend’s photo with her newborn baby doesn’t mean you need to hurry up and get pregnant so you can post hundreds of photos about it.

I have heard stories from friends who have tried to let go of all this. Humans love to watch other humans. We love to be validated by other humans, even if it’s just from a few “likes.” That validation used to come from the people
closest to us. Now we look for it from people who are practically strangers. It wasn’t hard for me to pull away from all this nonsense because I’m arrogant and have a superiority complex when it comes to these things. I will be the first to say that I felt the benefit of it immediately. No one was watching me anymore, and I felt no obligation to keep up with anyone. Weeks and months go by, and all you are doing is living your life without anyone infusing their opinions on your decisions. The world isn’t your hovering parent, so don’t give it that kind of access. I reclaimed my own identity and felt the weight of excess lifted.

Remember, minimalism is different for everyone. My needs and your needs are completely different. If life feels good, then you’re fine. But if you are shaping your life based on images posted to Instagram or Facebook, and you are constantly feeling anxiety from stress or debt, then you need to take a minute and think about how important
“things” are to you. This minimalism quote says it all: “Use things, not people. Love people, not things. It doesn’t work any other way.” ♦


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