Table of Contents

Table of Contents


I was watching a YouTube video the other day by this content creator called Mrwhosetheboss, about how he bought all this minimalist tech. A lot of it was quite expensive, and while yes, some of it was pretty cool, I also felt like it wasn't really worth it.

But that seems to be the impression that people have of minimalism, that it's expensive, with very flat designs and just general emptiness. The kettle in the video, for instance, had no buttons, no window to look at the amount of water, and was pretty much just an expensive matte black kettle with a fancy nozzle. Sure, for the people who want to enjoy their tea/coffee/hot water beverage making, that might be worth it, but I don't think that's what minimalism is truly about.


I think minimalism is about being intentional. That's how I define it, and as far as I'm aware there's no international minimalism organisation who dictates the rules, and even if there were, I wouldn't really care.

In my eyes, minimalism doesn't mean going out to buy different expensive things that all have multiple functions and look fancy, it means having a good reason to have those things. For instance, in terms of tech, I have a laptop, a phone and headphones. That's it, no fancy standing desk, no electrically heated water bottle, no fancy matte black kettle, none of that. I don't even have a smartwatch like everyone nowadays seems to have, and I'm honestly tempted to not keep a watch after my current one stops working.

Truth is, I don't think I need any of those fancy techy things, I do just fine with my laptop, phone and headphones. I use my laptop for most things that I do, like coding, working on assignments, studying, entertainment, emails, talking to people, etc. I need it for those things, so I have it. I used to do a lot of that on my phone, but the MacBook screen is just so much nicer for a lot of those things, so now I don't use my phone for a lot. I pretty much only use it when I don't have my laptop with me, or as a camera (the Pixel's camera is so good!). My headphones are to listen to music when I'm outside by myself, I don't bring it if I'm going somewhere with someone.

Looking around my room, you wouldn't guess I'm a minimalist. I've got a bunch of stuff laying around, with very little of it in that flat, matte design that you always see online. But almost every single thing I have lying around, I can give a pretty good reason for having, and that is what minimalism is about. Intention.

Am I a minimalist?

There's a few pretty easy ways to tell if you're a minimalist. If you like getting rid of things more than you like getting new things, that's a pretty good sign. If you don't like buying things for the sake of buying them, or window-shopping, or just shopping in general, another good sign. If you can look around your room and very easily spot things that you don't need to have and can probably get rid of, probably a minimalist.

If that doesn't sound like you, but you still want to be a minimalist, here's an easy way to get started. Take a look around the room you're currently in, look at every single object in the room, and for each one, think to yourself, "How different would my life be if I didn't have this?" Don't come up with excuses to keep stuff around for some one-off thing, really think about it. You might find that a lot of things aren't as important as they may seem, and you can start getting rid of them.

That's only the first part, though. The next part, which is the hardest one, is to be content with the things you do have. Sure, you might no longer have that one specific thing for that one specific situation you planned for, but maybe you can make do with some of the other things you have. And minimalism doesn't mean you have to stop buying stuff entirely, if you need something you should probably get it, but all that it asks is for you to really consider if you need it.

Digital minimalism

I first found out about digital minimalism from my cousin's blog post. He's since taken his blog down, unfortunately, but that was one of my first introductions to the concept of minimalism. I don't remember exactly what he talked about in that post, but I do remember intentionality being one of the big things. I didn't understand much of what he was talking about, nor did I particularly care at the time, I was more interested in playing Minecraft or something, but I remember soon after that he became quite difficult to contact, probably because he'd either deleted or turned off notifications for most of his communication apps.

Similarly to him, I've always been kinda hard to get in touch with. I don't try to stay hidden from the world, I just don't really enjoy being on social media much. I've tried using Instagram multiple times, but didn't last longer than a week each time. Twitter was the same story. Reddit was one of the few ones that I think I actually stuck around on for a while, at least a few months, because I really enjoyed the chronological order of content, and the forum-like nature of the communities. It's the same reason I like Discuit right now. But in the end, I always end up leaving because I recognise that that's not really how I want to be part of the internet. I joined and left a bunch of social media, I'll probably end up leaving Discuit at some point, and I'll probably continue to join and leave communities in the future.

Why did I bring that story up? Because I think it's related to this topic. Truth is, I hate making accounts for things. I really don't like signing up for services, because that's an additional entry in my password manager that I have to keep track of. Ideally, I'd just make everything I need myself, that's entirely curated and customised to my liking, and only accessible by me. Obviously that's not really possible, so I have to concede in some places, but I'd better have a good reason for signing up.

It all comes back to intentionality. Why do I have a GitHub account? Well, I need somewhere to host my code. Why do I have an Amazon account? I occasionally buy stuff from there. The list goes on. Coming back to social media, I think I can't stick around because I don't feel that I need to. If you asked me why I have a Discuit account, the only reason I have to give is that the people there are pretty chill. And so the moment I feel like they're not chill anymore, I'm more than happy to delete that account, just as I am with any other service I happen to end up feeling like I don't need anymore.

The phone apps survey

Back in 2021, I did a survey for how many apps people had installed on their phones. Granted, my sample size wasn't the largest (about 100 people) and mostly consisted of my extended family, my parents' friends, and possibly some Redditors, but even with that I found that most people have around 50 apps on their phone on average. This ranged from teenages up to people in their 60s, with phones from many different manufacturers.

Survey and data collection ethics aside, this showed me that people have a lot of apps on their phones. I then went on to highlight some points about why having so many apps was bad. I mentioned how phones have limited storage and memory, how apps can burn through battery and mobile data, and how it was bad for privacy and security. A lot of those points still stand, but things have changed in the 3 years since I did that survey. Phones have larger storage and battery capacities, more memory, better security models. Mobile data is cheaper now, and Wi-Fi is more accessible. However, apps have also gotten bigger and heavier, and the OS takes up more storage than it used to, and people have accumulated files from over the years.

Personally, I only have around 30 apps on my phone, according to the criteria I set for the survey (open your app drawer and count the number of apps). At the beginning of every year, usually in the first week or so, I'll take all the files (usually just photos) that I accumulated over the previous year, and back them up to my hard drive and cloud storage. That way my phone stays empty for most of the year. Now that I've also started using my phone less, it lasts over a day. Whenever I'm out with someone, I'm not constantly getting notifications, and I can actually focus on the person. I haven't made myself as unavailable as my cousin had, but I've made it a habit to not look at my phone whenever I'm outside unless I have to.

The UNIX philosophy

There's an idea in programming called the UNIX philosophy, which basically boils down to, "do one thing well". For example, there's a command line tool called cd, which stands for "Change Directory". That's all it does, you can use it to change the directory you're in. Let's say you're in the ~/Downloads/ directory and you want to go to the ~/Documents/ directory. All you need to do is run:

cd ~/Documents/

However, you can't use cd to create new files or directories, or rename them or move them around. It does one thing, changing the current directory you're in, and it does it well.

There's something nice about how simple and intentional it is. There's no confusion about what's going to happen when I run cd because it can only do one thing. That's kind of how I try to make my own programs. I made a command line tool called random, and all it can do is generate random numbers, and flip a coin. I made another tool called lsdeps that lists the number of dependencies a package on npm has.

lsdeps is an interesting one, because my motivation for it was to show how bad the dependency problem is in JavaScript land. I go into more depth with my reasoning in the README file in the repository, so if you want to read that, here you go. Essentially, I was tired of having to install thousands of packages just to make something as simple as a static blog or gallery website, only to have stuff break when I updated it. I was tired of having occasional security warnings for packages I didn't even know were part of the repo. I was tired of frameworks trying to do everything at once.

So I stopped. I got rid of Astro, the framework I was using, and rewrote the entire blog and gallery websites to use as few dependencies as possible. Now, my blog has a total of 17 dependencies, and my gallery 48, compared to over 1000 that I used to have. No hate to Astro, I genuinely enjoyed using it, and I learned so, so much from my time using it. Even today, their documentation is inspiring to me with how amazingly it's written. I just needed a change from all that.


I'm not fully sure I have a point to make exactly. I'm pretty much just writing this because I had some thoughts on the topic. I don't have an "experience" to talk about as a minimalist because I've kind of always been like this as far as I can remember, whether I knew it or not. Sure, there were toys and things that I wanted as a kid, but I don't think I asked for a lot. Plus, minimalists are allowed to have fun.

Now, I've reached a point where I will try to avoid buying things wherever I can, and I get joy out of getting rid of the things I do have. I feel happier deleting apps and accounts than I do making new ones. I suppose that's my "experience", but I don't exactly have anything to compare it to.

Maybe it's weird to some of you reading this post, maybe you don't understand how someone can feel this way. That's fine, all I ask is that if you have a minimalist friend in your life, you respect them and their wishes, not as a minimalist, but as a friend.

Oh, and if you're wondering what to gift a minimalist, the answer is always cookies!