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Simple Manifesto #63: Carry less stuff

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This is part of our series on Leo Babauta’s Simple Living Manifesto. We invite you to join us on the journey.

The 63rd idea in the manifesto is:

Carry less stuff. Are your pockets bulging? Consider carrying only the essentials.

Emptying my pockets to start another work week

Emptying my pockets | Photo by Jonathan Blundell

Want to lighten your load? Simple – carry less stuff.

I remember several years back, I seemed to take after my dad and fill my giant jean pockets with a fat wallet, a massive set of keys, a pen, a Sharpie and usually a pocket knife as well. And depending on how far you go back, I was also likely carrying a phone or pager on my belt as well.

I hated carrying around that wallet and all those keys.

The wallet was uncomfortable to sit on and the keys were always poking me in the leg.

But I had made up my mind that all those random cards and receipts in my wallet were a necessity and I had to have all those keys handy at all times.

And then I took a trip to Nigeria in 2006.

I quickly decided that rather than risk losing my wallet or my keys somewhere in the middle of Africa, it would be best to leave those things behind at our hostel.

So I opted for a much simpler option — I carried a small amount of money and my debit card in an empty pack of gum (turns out Orbitz gum packs are the perfect size).

For two weeks, all I carried with me was my small makeshift wallet and my camera.

It was amazing how leaving behind those other few things behind lightened my load.

When I came home I immediately made the decision to toss the wallet and switch to a money clip that would hold only a few essential ID cards and debit card and a small amount of bills.

I also got tossed a number of keys on my keyring as well. A number I simply tossed out, or others were moved them to a separate ring I kept in a drawer for safe keeping.

It’s made a huge difference.

Still room for improvement

Now, I’m still accustomed to grabbing a pen (or two), my phone, my keys, my money clip, my knife and my watch — but more and more I’m leaving the knife and my watch at home.

Not that those things don’t come in handy from time to time — but I’ve realized they’re far from essential in my day to day life.

If I don’t expect to use it several times during the day — why bring it?

And in reality, if I could just re-train myself, I could do with even less.

(If I wasn’t so picky about my pen selection, I’d probably be a lot less likely to carry a pen around with me — there’s always a pen within reach — but then again, there’s just something about those uni-bal pens. :-) )

So perhaps today is your day to purge your pockets or purse.

Go through your wallet, your keyring, your pockets, your man bag and figure out what you really need to weight yourself down with.

Try remembering the last time you used each and everything. If you can’t remember — leave it behind.

If it’s something you may use from time to time, try leaving it in your car as a neutral place.

And as a challenge, take a before and after photo.

Show us what you’re carrying with you today — and then show us what you’re carrying tomorrow. Share a link to the photo in the comments below.

Join us!

Write a blog post about the point above and then share the link in the comments below…

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8 to “Simple Manifesto #63: Carry less stuff”


  1. Bill Gerlach says:

    This is so timely. For the last few days, I’ve been thinking about this in regards to the satchel bag I carry. Walking to and from the subway with a sore shoulder brings in home. I’ve started dropping a lot of peripheral stuff for my laptop when I clearly don’t always need it. By leveraging digital files instead of paper, I also avoid carrying folders worth of stuff during the day. As far as the wallet goes, I clean it out at least once a week. The key I have found — like your Orbit trick — is to make the vessel (wallet) as small as possible. Going through this kind of exercise with all our stuff is so worth while.

    • “make the vessel (wallet) as small as possible”

      That’s such a great pointer for so many things! It’s hard to carry more when you have less room to carry it in.

      I have a couple different pairs of dockers, each with different size pockets. I definitely don’t carry as much with me on the days I wear the pants with the smaller pockets.

      And if my house is smaller, I’m also not as tempted to buy as much stuff to fill it as I would be with a larger home.

      Great advice!

  2. On the pen thing, I have found a little trick that helps… buy refills, and use them instead of the whole pen. They work just as great, and take up much less space in your pocket. Plus I can afford to get a better pen, because I’m only paying for the refill. My favorite is a medium Cross gel pen (it comes with a cap so that it won’t leak in your pocket).

    People will look at you strange, but it works and is cheap!

  3. I took a 2hr walk a few weeks ago with nothing in my pockets. I felt so self-conscious in the beginning, but as time went on, it was an incredibly feeling of freedom. I don’t have much to begin with, and I don’t think I could pair down more than I have, but it’s definitely something people should evaluate.


3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Reply to: Carry less stuff | Live [Simply] Free 25 06 10
  2. Carry less stuff – Leave your burdens behind | we live simply :: learning to live simply so others may simply live 28 07 10
  3. Carry less stuff – Leave your burdens behind 28 07 10

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