Monday, October 15, 2018

Merging Website and Blog

I have updated my personal website and imported all my blogger posts into  I won't be posting here anymore.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

A Tribute to Doug

Today I was deeply sadden by the news that Doug had succumbed to his three year struggle with cancer. Like many people, and especially Candy, I will miss him, and look forward to seeing him in the next life. As I pedaled my way into work today I couldn’t stop thinking about the powerful influence Doug and Candy had on my life. Here are a number of things that came to my mind.

Help Adapting to the Bay Area

After a number of months living in Palo Alto I found myself feeling frustrated.  Doug said  “You are suffering culture shock”. I said “that can’t be true, I love it here” Doug then helped me see how there were things in the Bay Area culture that didn’t fit with my values and previous experience. He encouraged me to adjust my expectations, but also to hold onto things that were valuable, even if they didn’t “fit in” with Bay Area culture.

For example, I was used to spontaneously getting together with people in Columbus. In the Bay Area it seemed like no one was prepared to do something spontaneously. I would suggest getting together with someone, and they would pull out their Day Planner and say “I have 1.5 hours free three thursdays from now at 7pm. Should I pencil you in?”  Doug’s response was different. Like others he was often busy, but he said “I would love to join you but I already have something scheduled tonight, but please keep inviting me to do things spontaneously, and please continue to invite others to do things spontaneously because this is something our community needs.” I took Doug’s encouragement to heart in two ways. The first was I continued to invite people to do things spontaneously. Second, I purposely left 2-3 nights unscheduled each week, so there would be room to be available to others when unexpected things came up.

A Model of Trusting People and God

Doug and Candy opened their home for a young couples bible study. Libby and I had been married for ten years, but we were about the same age as everyone in the group, so we decided to give the group a try. Late after the study ended we were talking with Doug and Candy in their kitchen. At the end of the evening Doug said to me. “If you are interested, I lead a Sunday school in the west wing of the church. If you would like to take a turn teaching that group, or here in the couples group, I would be happy to give you a slot”.

In the church I grew up in this would never happen. You had to prove yourself. When one of the church’s elders switched to our house church, he didn’t start teaching until people in our house church got to know him. How could Doug offer to let me teach having just met me? Doug had seen me interact with people during the couples group and had reason to believe I had a decent grasp of the Bible. Odds was that I would do an adequate job... but more than this, He trusted his God. Doug knew that even if I was a crackpot, that God was bigger than me. If I taught something crazy God would use it for good. He trusted that people would know I was wrong, corrections would be made, and everyone would grow.

Doug’s trust in the Lord enabled him to extend amazing trust to others. To give broken people extraordinary opportunities to try things, to take risks. Sometimes these things went better than planned. Sometimes they “failed” spectacularly… but people always learned, grew, and God was magnified.

An Authentic Life

As Libby and I got to know people in the young couples group we quickly noticed that there were couples that we were drawn toward, and others than we never got close to.  The people we were drawn toward were authentic. Their lives were messy, but they lived with wholeness and honesty. Doug and Candy modeled this authenticity and encouraged others to join them. We watched as a number of couples started to drop their defenses and started to honestly engage with each other, maybe for the first time. I am sure this transformed many lives. I certainly made us feel welcome and encouraged us to “keep it real”.

A Model of Godly Parenting

I grew up in a non-Christian home, as did many of my friends. Many people I saw who grew up in “Christian homes” seemed worse off. They struggled with legalistic and were often extremely hypocritical. I honestly wondered if it might be better to grow up in a non-Christian home.

Doug and Candy changed my perspective. I saw what a difference parents could make in the lives of their children. I saw how a mature faith could be a blessing to children rather than a lodestone. Candy and Doug models how to love children. Their example gave me the courage to start a family. Their example and words of wisdom made me a better parent.

True Ecumenism

Before getting to know Doug I could be pretty narrow minded when it came to interpreting the Bible and thinking about how a Christian life should be lived. I was happy to tell others how things should be, done, or understood. Doug by example and teaching helps me learn some humility. He helped me see that there are different, but equally valid ways to look at many topics. Sure, there were some absolutes, but then number of these was much smaller than the number of things I was prepared to take a stand on. Doug taught me to understand what was essential, and what was just my opinion. Doug taught me how to extent respect to people who looked at the world a bit differently than I did, and to learn from them. Over the years Doug’s humility and gentile spirit inspired me to find common ground with others, to learn from great authors like Henri Nouwen, and to be able to see the faith journeys of others who were seeking the same Lord I was.

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself. 
-- II Timothy 2:1-13

Retro on from my Shopping Diet

I just finish my second, one year long shopping diet. During the shopping diet I attempted to purchase nothing but food,  household consumables like cleaning supplies, and items that wore out like the tires for my bike, light bulbs for the house, or toner for the printer, and gifts for others. I realized three thing which I will expand on below:
  1. many of my impulses to purchase items are short lived
  2. my shopping and purchasing desires are often driven by ego rather than need
  3. “technology news” is increasingly covert advertising

Desire are Often Short Lived

As I wrote earlier, I have found a shopping diet very liberating. It seems I am often exposed to “great deals”, “must have products”, etc which would often have me considering purchasing an item which I had no idea I needed or desired minutes before I saw the advertisement or read the “news” story. During the shopping diet I was committed to not purchasing things, so it was much easier to ignore these bids for my attention, especially sales that ran for a limited time.

Sometimes I wasn’t able to just dismiss the appeal of an item. Rather than break my diet, I would drop the item into a wishlist and then put it out of my mind. This week I finished my diet and looked at  the wishlist accumulated over the last year.  I immediately was able to dismissing nearly 2/3 the items on the list. A “cooling off” period from my initial purchase impulse allowed me to I realized that I had no need or lasting desire for many of the items. There were a few were items I choose to purchase. There was a small number of items that remained on my wishlist because they will likely be useful in the future, but they are not immediately needed.

Shopping can be Drive by Ego

One item on the wishlist I dismissed  was the very pricy shure kse1500 electrostatic headphone system. Finding this on my wishlist surprised me. A few years ago I decided that a pair of Sennheiser H800 headphones driven by a Chord Mojo DAC was my “end-game” headphone system. I had listened to, and owned better sounding headphone systems, but the sound quality didn’t justify the investment given how often I used headphones.  I would rather use speakers so Jackie and I can enjoy the music together.  Why was I tempted to purchase some pricy headphones that I wouldn’t use that much? I realized there were several reasons.

The first reason I considered purchased these headphone was driven by my curiosity. I was interested to see if these headphones were as wonderful as reviews suggested, and how my perceptions compared to the people who wrote such positive reviews. Second, I was experiencing a bit of  FOMA… what if these reviews were correct?  Maybe I was missing out of some amazing sounding headphones which could bring me musical bliss. Third, these appealed to an imagined future life which allowed me to have superior sound quality while having great freedom of movement. Unfortunately, while all three of these reasons made purchasing these headphone attractive, that was an even stronger reason these headphones had ended up on my shopping list. I wanted to be an expert consumer.

I realize I take a fair bit  of my identity from having good taste and from having a comprehensive knowledge of a product space. I felt compelled to find “the very best” items. Over the years I have created a number of web pages which included a survey of well regard products where I share what I have learned.  I tell myself I am making these lists  to help others, but I think it’s primarily driven by ego. A way to show how smart I am. To demonstrate I have good taste and know what is world class.

When I think about the legacy I want to leave, it’s not that I am an expert consumer, it’s that I have made this world a better place and had a positive impact on people I encounter. Being an expert consumer is not something that significantly advances either of these things. I don’t want to spend my time refining my ability to be a good consumer. I don’t want to invest countless hours creating and then maintaining web pages about products that people consume. Going forward I plan of avoiding spending my time writing product reviews or maintaining product lists, and instead spend my time investing in people.

Tech New is Advertising

This experience has also made me see how insidious advertising has become.  It seems that many of the news outlets, blogs, twitter feeds etc which used to feature information seem to be filled with “reviews” and "news" which promotes consumer products.  For example, I recently noticed than almost 1/3 of the articles in lifehacker are able products which are now on sale. Maybe it's always been that way and I am just noticing this trend, but I think this is a new thing. I am seeing the same trend, if not an even higher percent of storing in other outlets. For example, why is there an articles about the 2018 Miata getting a boast in horsepower in a blog about computer technology. I am sure several of the articles I see area really paid “product placement”. In the next few months I am going to see if I can modify my news sources and filtering rules to be more about important ideas and technologies, and less about new consumer products that someone thinks I should buy.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
I Timothy 6:17-19

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Health and Fitness in One Page

Over the last six years I have tried to answer the question "What is a Healthy Lifestyle?". The following is a brief summary of what I have learned. By applying what I have learned I am in better condition in my 50s than I was in my 20s. In the coming months I will do longer posts that look at each of these areas in more detail.

Sleep At Least 7 Hours

There is ever increasing evidence that sleep is absolutely critical to a mentally and physically healthy life. It is believed healthy adults need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night and children require even more sleep. While we don’t yet fully understand all of the ways sleep impacts our health, there are a number of important processes that primarily activate while you sleep, particularly during the deep, delta wave stage such as:

I experienced the importance of sleep first hand when my body rebelled after a nine month period when I was averaging less than 4 hours of sleep / night. It took years for me to fully recover. I was further convinced of the importance of sleep by the book The Promise of Sleep written by one of the pioneers in sleep research. Since this book was published there have been numerous studies that only strength the case for sleep. 

Eat Healthy Foods

Lifehacker’s the only three things everybody agrees on is a good starting point when developing a healthy diet. I would elaborate / expand their list slightly
  • Eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you can, especially those that have deep colors. The caloric density of these vegetables is small enough that you will not eat too much. The vegetables are packed with health promoting micro nutrients and good quality nutritional building blocks. This will also get your fiber consumption up to an healthy level. Fiber is critical to your micro-biome health.
  • Limit or avoid highly processed food including bread, pasta, fruit juices.  A combined Stanford and NIH study found that when it come to weight lose, the quality of food was the single most important factor.
    • Minimize the sugar in your diet, and eliminate any products that have added sugar. There has been significant evidence since the 1960s that sugar is directly linked to a number of health issues including heart disease.
    • Eliminate all “foods" which are high in trans-fats. There is significant evidence that trans-fats have only negative impacts to health.
  • If you eat meat, focus on cold water fish and free-range / grass fed animals
  • If you need additional calories: eat whole foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, or fresh fruits. 
A great resource for thinking about healthy eating is Reframe Health Lab's Healthy Eating page which contains links to a short screencast and several resources available on the Internet.

Stay Active… Move!  Get some Exercise.

Our bodies are made to move and our brains are made to direct that movement. One of the most natural and health promoting activities is walking.  We should walk at least 30 minutes each day, ideally walking several hours to accumulating 17,000 steps / day. Besides the physical benefits, walking engages our brain, strengthen our creativity, and ability to focus.

Vigorous exercise has many positive impacts. It helps control stress hormones, strength the circulatory systems and metabolic systems.  It is often recommended that we should engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activities that raise your heart rate to above 80% maximum 3-5 times a week, with 2-3 of these exercise periods to include strength exercises. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program could produces the same results in 30 minutes /week what more traditional aerobic training programs accomplish in 90-300 minutes.

Push Beyond Your Physical Comfort Zone

Humans are the most adaptable species on the planet. Our adaptability comes from our bodies natural ability to physiologically adapt to highly varied conditions as well as our ability to transform the environment we live in. Civilization has favored adapting our environment to provide a "comfortable" experience rather than encouraging people to exercise their physiological adaption "muscles". I believe we need to periodically move outside our comfort zones so our body doesn't "forget" how to adapt to changes. Example of the adaptability we should cultivate:
  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) produces better performance improvements than more static training in short periods of time.
  • Short duration exposure to heat (sauna) and cold (ice baths) improves overall health in numerous ways
  • Periodic fasting reset several human systems and can be an effective treatment for several conditions.
Thanks to Paul Roy to mentioning that something should be added... 

Practice Mindfulness

There is a growing body of scientific evidence, not to mention millennia of traditions / wisdom that a intentional mindfulness in the form of meditation or contemplative prayer literally re-wire our brains for the good producing improved physical and mental health. There is stunning imagery from fMRI scans while people practices these disciplines showing changes in the areas of the brain that are activated. Mindfulness can improve empathy and gratitude which in turn leads to more joy in everyday life which results in a significant protective effect to health. Gratitude and joy, unlike happiness are not dependent on external circumstances, but rather are an internal response which we can choose. Though I am not Catholic, I found the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius to be very helpful. A while ago I wrote about how start with the mind and spirit might be the best way to improve the human condition.

Have Strong Social Connections

The Harvard / MassGeneral  Adult Development Study started in 1939 has studying the the lives of two cohorts and now their children found that one of the strongest predictors of a healthy (and happy) life was an individual's quality of social relationships. Researcher Susan Pinker found that the secret to living longer may be your social life due to the correlation between social connections and people who are 100+ years old.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
I Corinthians 6:19-20

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Great Stuff for Me and Maybe You: 2018 list of gear and clothing for life

Minimalism led me to simplify my stuff, keeping just the items that are regularly used and give me joy. I considered taking the 100 Items Challenge, but decided I would be too focused on curating stuff rather living a meaningful life. I am following an organic process... holding on to things that are adding value to my life and remove those that are a distraction.

Here is a list of all my possessions excluding our family's furniture and kitchen. Items in bold are exceptionally great... I regularly finding myself telling people about them. I am happily use items marked with “*”, but they won't be replaced if lost. Making this list was originally inspired by one bag lifestyle and Tynan’s Gear posts. I hope this list might encourage others to surround themselves with items that truly bring them joy and remove items that are a burden... and not to encourage people to just consume more. My travel packing list is a subset of what's in this post.

Everyday Carry Items

Garmin 935 Watch: is a do everything watch which is light enough that I don’t mind wearing it everyday.  It has decent integration with my phone and provides every fitness and activity tracking feature I want. I appreciate the alert on the watch when it loses bluetooth connection with it's paired phone that reduces the likelihood of leaving the phone behind. The Garmin Vivoactive3 is a cheaper, smaller, and more attractive alternative if you don't want to track multi stage events and are willing do without some of the more advanced fitness metrics. Suunto Spartan Trainer is a lowest cost decent triathlon watch.  I love the integration between iOS and the iWatch, but the combination of it's poor battery life, touchscreen interface that doesn't respond to sweaty fingers, and accuracy recording high excursion exercise stopped me from using an iWatch I won in a raffle.  Years ago I started with Fitbit, the eco-system is nice, but I was disappointed using any of the models for more than basic activity tracking. I think Garmin is superior at every price point. For someone looking for an inexpensive smartwatch I would recommend the Amazfit Bip which is often on sale for $69. Decent phone integration / notifications, warns you when you loose connection with your phone (why doesn't the  iWatch do this yet?!!), always on display, great battery life: 4 days if using all the feature and some runs using GPS to >30 days if you don't use GPS and display updates 1/minute.  Only downside is the heart rate sensor is extremely poor, often off by +/-25%  making it completely useless. Ray Maker's Buyer's Guide is an incredible resource for anyone who need good recommendations / reviews related to Tri gear (cycling, running, swimming).

Flowfold Minimalist Wallet which holds my IDs, credit cards, and a few bills taking up minimal space. The Nomatic Wallet is another good minimalist wallet.

Uni-ball Vision Micro-Point Rollerball Pen and Post-It Notes for jotted down ideas until I can get them into an electronic system.

Victorinox Rambler Pocket Knife is the smallest, most usable tool I have found with a phillips head & flat screwdriver, scissors, knife, bottle opener, and nail file. Even though the blade is tiny, TSA will confiscate this knife. When flying I switch to a Swiss+Tech Utili-Key which is not as usable as the Rambler, but for years has made it through TSA checkpoints without being confiscated.

Apple iPhone 6 on Verizon. At some point I will switch to a new iPhone for a significantly improved camera so I don't need to carry a second device. Apple’s iOS usability used to be superior to Android, but Android has mostly caught up except for management of audio I noted with the Pixel 2 below. I continue to use an iPhone because the rest of my family is in the Apple eco-system (iMessage, Photo sharing, iTunes, etc) and I like it's more security oriented stance. I continue to use Verizon because I find their coverage best in the places I spend my time. Verizon is "overpriced", but I value working coverage over saving money.

Apple AirPods  have decent sound quality while letting in ambiance noise providing situational awareness, stays in place during the most vigorous exercise, no wires to get tangled, has good user interface with Apple products (would be perfect if I could change volume) and ok with others, acceptable sound quality, the ear buds run 5 hour, fully recharges in 20 minutes, with a carry case which can recharge them 4-5 times. With Apple products they just work! They aren't rated for water resistance, but after more than a year of using them while sweating heavily, rides and runs in the rain they continue to function flawlessly.

Zojirushi Double Walled Mug (1 + 1*) can easily be used one handed, locks so it doesn’t open accidentally, pours at the perfect speed, the mouth is wide enough for ice cubes, and best of all does a better job insulating than any other double walled mug I have used. Liquids stay fairly warm or cold for up to 24 hours.  I have a silver colored mug. I often misplaced it at work. When it was misplaced for more than a week, I purchased a replacement thinking it was lost for good. Realizing findability was important, I purchased a Deep Cherry color mug which is much easier to spot across the room. After several weeks I found my original Silver mug. Now I have the Red mug which lives at work, and the silver which I use when not at work. Zojirushi makes a number of other excellent styles of mug and Snowpeak makes a beautiful Titanium double walled mug.

Tech "Survival Kit" which is stored in a small mesh pouchRAVpower Portable Charger/Flashlight is small enough to fit in my pocket while proving power to recharge my phone. Aukey Ultra Compact USB Charger is one of the smallest chargers with two slots and up to 2.4A amps. 6” USB Lightning, USB micro, USB mini, and USB-C cables with some adaptor tips which let me connect pretty much any two USB devices.  A Lightning to HDMI converter. A USB thumb drive because sometimes I need to transfer / store files.

Macbook 13" Pro Laptop.  I have tried using tablets but still find myself prefering a real laptop. I would love to find a lighter and more compact laptop, but I like 13” screens, and am still pretty much committed to OSX because it has the applications I use and the good integration with iOS devices.

Matador Freerain24 is a nicely designed daypack which: carries well even when running, weights only 5.5oz, easily folds into it's own pocket, and keeps contents dry even in the worst rain.  I actually own a PNW Sea to Sky Waterproof Backpack which is a ripoff of the Freerain24.

Home Electronics (Mostly No Pictures)

Roon software isn't really an item, but it effected many of my decisions related to audio playback. Roon integrates my iTunes library which is made up of CDs ripped using ALAC codex with the TIDAL streaming service to provide loseless audio to multiple speakers around the house. Roon would be perfect if the remote clients supported off-line caching of music so playlists and favorite music was accessible when out of the house, and was a bit less buggy (it sometimes stops playing which requires me to restart the app on my Macintosh). I carry music on my phone by exporting play lists from Roon to TIDAL, and then use the Tidal client on my iPhone to do offline playback. If I didn't care so much about sound quality I would be using Spotify which would make everything simpler.

KEF LS50 wireless monitor speakers with a built in DAC and amplifier designed for the speakers. Good quality sound that fills a room, excellent for near field use in a nicely designed, compact package. Can take TOSlink, USB, Bluetooth, analog, and several IP based streaming protocols inputs over ethernet or WiFi. Roon can stream directly to it over the network, but it's not Roon-Ready so can't be synchronized with other Roon-Ready systems.  The iOS remote application is poor.  I drive the LS50 via USB on a computer running Roon which remove the need for the KEF remote and the speakers can be synchronized with other Roon Ready end-points giving me whole house music. I still prefer the sound quality of electrostatic speakers with audiophile grade full electronics, but I am happy that I downsized my stereo so I could focus on other things.

Pulse Flex Wireless Speaker allows me to have syncronized whole house music since it's Roon Ready. It also supports inputs via USB, Bluetooth, AUX, a number of streaming services like Spotify, and many free sites via URIs.  Has a decent iOS and Android remote control app. Controls on the top let you select one of 5 user-defined “channels” without using the remote. I have the optional battery pack so it can be used in our backyard. It can be used away from it's home, but you have to reconfigure it's WiFi settlings which is a pain. Sound quality is significantly less than KEF LS50. For people who aren't using Roon, I would recommend Sonos: for it's lower price point, better streaming options, and slightly more processed sound quality which everyone but audio purists like me typically prefer.

Anker 60W PowerPort+ 5 with 1 USB-C and 4 traditional USB ports has enough ports to charge every device I use on a daily basis including my 13” MacBook Pro. When MacBook isn’t being charged can rapidly charge all my devices.

La Crosse Battery Charger which does a great job charging any combination of 1-4 AA or AAA batteries.

Eneloop Pro Batteries are the best rechargeable batteries I have found. Near maximum capacity for the form factor while retaining most of their charge for months.

Olight I3S EOS Flashlight* is slightly larger than the single AAA battery which powers it. Selectable output of 8,50,80 lumens permits the user to make a trade-off of runtime vs brightness. The combination of the flash on my Phone and the RAVpower Portable Charger/Flashlight rendered this flashlight unnecessary, but when I take walks around the neighborhood at night I find myself reaching for this tiny light.

Brother MFC-J880W Multifunction Printer, Scanner, Fax, Copier has been a reliable device for me unlike several other multi-function devices which failed within a year. WiFi enabled, supports AirPrint, Google Print, and several other standards.

Google WiFi Mesh network access points easily install and just work when you have an area than a single WiFi router isn’t sufficient. There may be faster / more featureful options out there, but the Google devices work flawlessly and are visually appealing.

Kindle PaperWhite* lets me carry the majority of my library with me and every book can be displayed with large print for my aging eyes. Love being able to quickly search for notes / hi-lighted passages. I miss physical books and knowledge retention with paper books is still better than when using an e-reader, but the connivence of the Kindle outweighs this for me. I often use the Kindle reader on my phone, but the larger display surface of the Paperwhite, much longer battery life, and usability in sunlight means the PaperWhite goes on most trips I take.

LG OLED55B6P SmartTV* purchased for the family movie night and other group activities that use a screen. I would be content using the screen on my laptop or even iPhone for the occational video streaming I watch. That said, the picture quality is amazing and the webOS based controls work well.

Westone 5ES custom In-ear-monitors (IEM) with excellent sound quality and comfortable enough to wear on 14 hour flights. They reduce noise by 35db which makes travel much less fatiguing for me while being much smaller and having better sound quality than active noise canceling headphones. I got them well below retail, otherwise I would still be using a cheaper universal IEM such as the etymotics hf3. Stored in a medium size HumanGear GoTubb with adapters.

Sennheiser HD800 Headphones* for when I want very high quality sound and don't want to bother others too much (sound does leak).  These are the second best sounding pair of headphones I have ever used, at 1/3 the cost of the best (Stax SR-009) and 1/5 the cost of similar quality speakers. They are best driven by high priced amplifiers such as the Headamp GSXmk2, but the HD800 can sounds great driven by reasonably priced components. I have written about other headphones.

Chord Mojo DAC* offers a nice design, good quality sound, good price / performance ratio, portability, has enough power to happily drive Sennheiser HD 800, and has an internal battery which enables it be driven via USB from phones and portable DAPs. I have written about other DACs.

Travel and Activities

Tom Bihn Synapse-25 Backpack is my travel luggage. Wonderfully designed with just the right amount of organizational features. Large enough for nearly every trip I have taken, while small enough that it fits under every seat I have used and has never been viewed as “luggage” by transportation operators. The laptop cache works brillantly.

Patagonia Ultralight Courier Bag* is perfect size for day use and compact enough that I can pack it away in my backpack when moving between towns. Easy access without taking it off, in hot weather maximized ventilation, and can be used at the same time that I am carrying a backpack.

Water Bottle Sling Nancy brought back from South America. Great for days I just need water and nothing else. Sometimes borrow my wife's Chico Water Bottle Sling because it's more compact while holding my water bottle + my umbrella or windbreaker.

Montbell Trekking Umbrella has the best balance I have found between small/light and canopy size. It has survived fairly strong wind/rain storms. In warm to hot weather much more comfortable than wearing a rain jacket.

PackTowel Ultralight (Bodysize/XL) dries amazingly quickly, is compact, and is very effective. The XL is large enough that I can wrap it around my waist like a small sarong.  For awhile I used a medium/face size which packs in a tiny space. I found the face size sufficient for me to dry myself after a swim or shower, but I am willing to carry a larger towel for the added versatility and ease of use.

TYR Corrective Optical Performance Goggles so that I can actually see when I am swimming. I keep the goggles with a  generic swimming cap because some pools require them, and small combination lock.

Stryd Footpad captures workout intensive better than using pace or heart rate. The Garmin Running Dynamics Pod might be a cheaper way to get the same sort of data. The RunScribe Plus now syncs to Garmin and other eco-systems and might  provide more actionable insights about running form that other running power meters.

Wahoo Tickr X Heart Rate Strap because optical heart rate monitors aren’t sufficiently accurate for HRV measurements and aren’t responsive enough to track interval training. I mostly use it as a basic HRM, but if you use the Wahoo fitness app there are a number of other metrics that it can record. There are plenty of good HRM including Garmin’s Tri HRM which can be worn swimming and the Viiiva HRM which can be used to bridge other sensors between BlueTooth and ANT+. These days I mostly use Power rather than heart rate to track intensity, and the optical HRM on my Garmin 935 is almost good enough to replace the strap.


Pictured Above

PolarBuff is a versatile item which can be used as a neck cozy, balaclava, beanie, hair band, and in a number of other configurations. I typically use it as a beanie.

Tilley LTM2 Hat provides good sun protection while offering decent ventilation. I think it’s one of the more stylish hats which provides good sun protection. My wife says I am wrong... that my SunRunner is better looking, but is willing to put up with me wearing this hat when the sun is big.

REI eVENT Rain Hat (not shown): a discontinued ball cap made from waterproof/breathable eVENT. Used when hiking or running when I know it's going to be raining.

OR SunRunner Cap* (not shown) ball cap with a removal veil that is very packable. Downside is that it looks a bit silly when used with the veil and air flow when using the veil is less than when I wear the Tilley. I use this hat when I want some shade for my eye but don't need a full brim,  when I need a hat that's more compact than a Tilley, or when I forgot to grab the Tiley hat (the SunRunner lives in the trunk of my wife's car).

Mountain Hardware Grub Gloves (not shown)  medium weight PowerStretch gloves with a quilted mitten cover which folds away into the back of the glove making it comfortable to wear in a wide variety of conditions.

Outlier Slim Dungarees (5) softshell pants in the style of jeans. Wonderful fit, looks good, excellent mobility. Thanks to the NanoSphere treatment very stain and water resistant. They are perfect except when it's >80F and I am active. They seem pricy, but the per day cost of wearing is about the same as denim jeans. Maker & Rider makes a nice alternative.

BPL Thorofare Trekking Pants (not shown and no longer made which is a shame) are ultralight, ultra-compact pants which are surprisingly weather resistant, quick drying, and feel comfortable against the skin. They aren't used in day-to-day life. I used them for cool weather backpacking and on trips where the weather is perfect for shorts (e.g. too hot for the Outliers) and I will need to wear long pants to be culturally appropriate. When the Thorofare pants wear out I will replace them something like Royal Robin Global Traveler, Patagonia Quandary, or ArcTeryx Rampart pants.

White Dress Shirt purchased to be worn with suit or blazer when more formal clothing is required.

Pink Button Down Shirt*  for when my wife wants me to wear something at is a bit different than normal (for me).

Black Checked Button Down Shirt* for when my wife wants me to wear something nicer than a tee-shirt but less than a suit, white shirt, and tie.

Wool and Prince Blue Oxford Shirt* (not shown) is a blue dress shirt my wife loves. Crisp look and a slim fit while still having all the advantages of 100% wool.

Icebreaker Wool Hoodie: (4) Oasis 200wt merio wool hoodie with 1/4 length zipper. Worn when it gets too cool to wear just a tee-shirt. Icebreaker seems to have discontinued this model.

Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Hoody for cool/cold weather outdoor activities. Without wind protection the grid weave lets air flow through letting heat vent out. With a shell it insulates well. Comfort down to 30F when running without a shell, below that with a shell. When walking keeps me comfortable down to 40F when combined with a wind shirt.  I am reasonably comfortable engage in high energy activities when it's 65F by fully opening the zipper and pushing the sleeves up to my elbows. Dries amazingly quickly and feels more comfortable than any other shirt I have used when it's wet.

Montbell Tachyon Windshirt is a 1.8 ounce wind shirt that can be compressed into something slightly larger than a cliff bar. Windshirts, especially when combined with a air permeable middle layer provide comfort over a huge range of conditions. I could use my Norvan SL as a wind jacket, but given the durability/expense of the Norvan it makes sense to use a cheaper jacket when I don't need rain protection plus the Tachyon is lighter, more breathable and packs more compactly.

ArcTeryx Norvan SL Rain Jacket is one of the lightest, most breathable rain jacket currently available. I can actually wear it comfortably jogging in cool, rainy weather. I have been using mine for more than a year without any durability issues, but people who aren’t as careful as me might have issues. The first jacket I owned had a defective zipper which leaked in the rain. ArcTeryx replace my jacket free of charge (and offered to switch me to the heavier and more expensive Norvan since even the replacement Norvan SL’s zipper is only water resistant, not waterproof). I stuck with the SL because I preferred it’s fit, feel, breathability and the SHAKEDRY fabric. The zippers still leak a bit in heavy rains but I think the breathability offsets this. Rumor is that ArcTeryx is going to rework the zipper at some point. There are a number of good alternatives which have breathability that's approaching the Norvan SL, are light weight, and more durable such as Hyper Mountain Gear "The Shell" and Westcomb's Focus LT. There is a large number of cheaper rain jackets, but I haven't found anything that provides enough breathability for me to use them comfortably when hiking.  I found the original O2 Rain Jacket to be one of the cheapest and most breathable jackets for people who don't care about fit or looks and don't need off-trail durability.

Zpacks Vertice Rain Pants are simple, light, breathable, waterproof rain pants. Used when commuting by bike, hiking, or backpacking in the rain.

North Face TKA80 (not shown): Fleece which is lighter weight and less bulky than most. I love the convenience of a full zipper. Unfortunately this has been discontinued. My wool sweater can be worn in a wider number of situations, but isn't as convenient or durable.

Mid-Weight Merino Wool Sweater is a bit less convenient to take off/put on compared to a full zipper fleece, but provides similar insulation and is much more appropriate to wear to a business event or when going to a nice restaurant.

Uniqlo Ultralight Down Vest is decent quality, low price, with just the right amount of insulation for me. Combined with my sweater and a shell keeps me warm enough in the coldest weather I normally encounter.

Patagonia Down Shirt with 23andMe logo.  Even though it's bit more insulating that I need around town, I want to show my company spirit and my wife thinks it looks better than the combination of the above items. The Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody using PlumaFill insulation would be better for back country use thanks to it's superior water resistance. The Montbell inner down jacket continues to be the price performance champ, and Uniqlo's down jacket is a good alternative for someone on a tight budget.

Boss Blazer Jacket. Used when going out and it's appropriate to be wearing something more dressy than a hoodie, but a full suit is too formal. I often wear the blazer over my tee-shirt rather than taking a more traditional "outdoor" jacket.

Boss Wool Suit slim/european cut in suit cover bag. Fits me perfectly though not bespoken. First suit that I wear rather than the suit wearing me. Light enough that it’s usable in the summer. I use it anytime I need to be very dressed up: weddings, funerals, special nights out on the town.  Have two ties... one that is "serious" and one that is "fun"

Outlier New Way Shorts (4) are nice looking shorts which fit me perfectly, don’t have cargo pockets, are durable and dry reasonably quickly. I am sure there are less expensive shorts that I would like, but I don’t need more shorts so haven’t bother to look.

Zootsports Performance Tri Shorts works well cycling, running and swimming. They are comfortable for all the activities I engage in, in a wide range of conditions. They have reduces issues with chaffing,  dry fairly quickly, and are reasonably comfortable  when wet. They have side pockets large enough to hold some nutrition and my phone so I don’t need to use a special cycling jersey. I never need to think about what shorts to wear when I am going to engage in vigorous physical activities.... I just grab my pair of zoot.

Icebreaker Anatomica Tee-shirt (5) merino wool with just a bit of lycra for a body hugging fit. This tee-shirt fits me perfectly, looks good, is super comfortable, doesn't smell after several days of wear on the road, and dries fairly quickly.  There are two downside.  First, they are pricy especially in view that they wear out more quickly that a cheap cotton tee.  Second, they don’t work as well as synthetics when engaged in  high energy activities where you are sweating a lot. There are a number of other good merino wool shirts from Smartwool, Outlier, and Wool&Price.

Icebreaker Long Sleeve Oasis Crew (not shown) orange & grey color which was a Christmas gift from my wife to add some color to my wardrobe.

Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero Shirt (2): Picture shows a blue shirt which has been discontinued,  but there are other models which use Omni-Freeze fabric that helps cool when working out in moderate to hot conditions. The blue one has since been retired to be replaced by an orange Columbia Titan Trail Running shirt which I really like. Pretty much any "runner" weight shirt would work well as could my Icebreaker Anatomica tee.

Patagonia Featherweight Long Sleeve Wool Crew shirt (white) which I wear when engaging in all-day outdoor activities when it is hot and sunny so I don't need to worry about suntan lotion on my arms.

Icebreaker Anatomica Briefs (7) the most comfortable underwear I have worn. Downsides are that they start  getting holes after a year and they are expensive. Some people prefer boxer style but I see no reason to have extra fabric on my thighs. Good alternatives are the synthetic travel oriented briefs from Ex Offico and the comfortable but expensive underwear from Saxx.

Darn Tough Socks (8) are unsurprisingly durable since they come with a lifetime warranty. I found they fit and perform very well and come in a wide variety of thicknesses, lengths, and colors. I like the endurance light socks. Icebreaker and the Smartwool PhD line are good alternatives.

Injinji Ultralight Toe Socks (2) for long distance runs / hikes. Generally I prefer wool, but I found light weight wool toe socks get holes very quickly.

Rocky Gore-Tex Socks are the best way I have found to keep my feet reasonably clean, dry and warm in messy back country conditions. Often worn with Keen sandals to maximum breathability and speed drying once they are out of the water.

Keen Clearwater CNX are the lightest sandals Keen makes. I liked the minimalist sandals made by luna and Xero Shoes but the toe protection of the Keens makes them a clear winner for me. If worn with gray socks they can pass for shoes. Comfortable in a wide range of conditions. I can run in them when I don't have my Alta running shoes with me.

Alta Running Shoes are the best running shoes (trail and road) that I have used. Wearing these shoes with toe-socks has allow me to do marathon length runs and 20+ mile days backpacking with no blisters or foot pain.  Just one week after purchasing my first pair of One V2.5 I completed the Big Sur Marathon without issue.  I like the models with minimal cushion.  I currently use One V3 for road running and the Superior V3 for trails.

Vivobarefoot Gobi II are extremely light weight, zero-drop, minimalist ankle boots which can be worn with casual clothing and my wife tells me they are acceptable to wear with a suit. Love them because they are light weight and comfortable. Two downside are that they take longer to put on and take off than low rise shoes and my feet can feel tired if I have been walking 14+ miles each day, for several days.

Carots Shoes* are formal looking zero drop shoes. These are the only minimalist shoes I have found that looks like traditional dress shoes (heels and and tapered toe) that are sufficiently comfortable for day long wear. These were purchased before I discovered that the Gobi II were acceptable footwear with my suit.

Skinners* (Not Shown) Socks with durable flexible coating on bottom so they can be used like shoes. Small and compact. Use as slippers, when I biking somewhere and then want to walk around without cleats, or when I am in the mood for barefoot running.

Topo Running Shoes* (Not Shown) are zero drop minimalist running shoes. My model is a bit lighter than their current zero drop road running shoe. These shoes live at work for the days I ride my bike and don't want to clomp around with cleats all day.


Withering Body WiFi Scale (Not shown) makes it easy to track weight which is well integrated to Garmin, Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, and numerous other health tracking eco-systems.

Oral-B/Braun 4000 Electric toothbrush (Not shown). Oral-B and Sonicare both make excellent toothbrushes which are significantly more effective than using a manual toothbrush.

REI Micro Shower Bag is the perfect size for my toiletry kit while providing just enough organizational features to make it easy for me to find everything quickly. Holds a number of the items listed above in the “bathroom” section.

Gillette Mach-3 Razor + Pacific Natural Shaving Oil.  I am sure there are better razors and many people would suggest that shaving oil is a prep step which should be followed by shaving cream… but I have found this combination effective, reasonable cost effective, and compact when traveling.

Listerine Floss (use to be Reach) is the most effective dental floss I have used. Gentle to the gums while still getting plague and food wedged between teeth out.

PaRaDa Nail clipper with a trimmings catcher to make cleanup easy.

Retractable Bristle Hairbrush which is compact but effective

Small first aid kit which includes waterproof Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, anti biotic cream, superglue, a couple of safety pins.  Small size HumanGear GoTubb to store aleve and a few nyquil caplets.

Ziplock bag with two weeks work of supplies: dropper bottles filled with Dr Bronner Soap, Shaving Oil,  shampoo, skin lotion, and a few single use woolite packets

Precision Xtra Ketone and Blood Glucose Meter* (not shown) for times I am fasting or engaged in a new diet and want some objective data.

Bicycle Stuff

Cervelo R3: pricy but amazing road bicycle. Comfortable enough for an endurance ride, but responsive like a race bike. Fitted with an Infinity Seat, and a small seat bag which holds a pump, inter-tube, bike tool, and 2 tire levers. Moots makes some great Titanium bikes but you have to special order them.

Power Tap P1 Pedals because I like objective measures about how my physically conditioning is changing. The Garmin Vector 2 pedals integrate better into the Garmin eco-system, use standard Keto cleats, and are lighter / more streamlined at about the same price point.

Cygolight Expilion Bike Headlamp are bright enough to illuminate when I am riding fast and has a swappable rechargeable battery. Have a Cygolight HotShot rechargeable taillight.

Giro Air Attack Shield Helmet provides protection, good ventilation while having a very streamlined aerodynamic profile. Has snap on optical shield which is great because with my eye prescription, it’s hard to find sports oriented sunglasses. If you ride a bicycle, wear a helmet!! I am alive today because I was wearing a helmet when I was in an accident. Giro has newer models which have better ventilation and aerodynamic profile and also cheaper models that will protect your head.

Bicycling Shoes with Cleat for PowerTap peddles.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr* is a great trainer for when you can’t get outside. Integrated power meter and variable resistance which can be controls via ANT+ or BlueTooth. Wahoo build the Kickr with an open API so there are numerous companies which have applications which can control the Kickr.


I have a separate 3-season packing list which makes use of a number of the items on this list and has several items which are specific for backpacking.


There are a few items I have kept as a specific way to honor people I have lost.

Libby's pins of a nativity scene and of a mother and child. Originally worn by Libby on special occasions they became daily decorations for the hats she wore during chemotherapy. They remind me of Libby's courage and the two things most important to Libby, family and Jesus.

Carl's Rolex Oyster Watch to remember his craftsmanship, love of teaching, and ironically his frugality.

Jules' sculptures of musicians made from nails because he passed on a love for music and art.

WWII Era Wool Blanket (not shown) Originally owned by Carl or maybe even my grandfather. It has been on countless fishing and camping trips and to virtually every picnic and outdoor concert I have ever attended. Everything I see the blanket I think of my dad and many wonderful moments.

Recently Retired

Google Pixel 2 on Google Fi has great integration with Google Apps, a best of class phone camera, and I find Google Assistant much more useful that Siri. In the locations I frequent in the USA, Google Fi has coverage that is competitive with Verizon and better than any of the lower cost carriers, while still being one of the cheapest plans. The plan really shines when traveling internationally, providing good coverage which is hassle free at very reasonable prices. I hoped the Pixel 2 on Fi would become my primary phone, but I found it's management of audio (switching between built in speaker/mic, bluetooth ear buds, car bluetooth, and a USB DAC) to be buggy / inconvenient compared to the iPhone. In situations where the iPhone would automatically switch just as I would desire, Android would stay stuck on a particular audio output channel. I would have to go into the control panel and manually disconnect and maybe unpair/pair a device to get the phone to select the correct audio out I wanted to use. For me, this was a deal breaker.

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag (Small, Coated Nylon) is just the right size for my day to day needs with just the right amount of organizational pockets. I prefer courier style bags over backpacks because they are easier to access on the go and leave my back with more ventilation. This has been the bag that has carried my daily items to work 2001-2018. I appreciate that it is waterproof, and the fabric is heavy enough to retain it's shape, but light enough not to be a burden. The Classic is available in a number of other trims / materials. People who prefer a backpack might look at the Peak Designs Everyday Backpack, or the excellent daypacks from Tom Bihm. I started to commute to work by running rather than biking in mid-January at which point I switched to using Matador Freerain24.

Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine Pens are the nicest flowing pens I have ever used but often leak after air flights due to pressure changes.

Sony RX-100 is a camera which truly fits in my pants pocket. In daylight it has image quality which is good enough to rival full size DSLRs, and adequate performance in modest light situations. I had the III edition... the VI edition  sensor is about the same but has a much better focus system and a lens that goes from 24-200 making it the perfect travel camera. If you can live with a fixed lens, the Ricoh GRII work better in low light while still fitting into a pocket.  The camera on my wife’s iPhone 8 or the Google Pixel 2 is good enough to retired the Sony.

Outlier NYCO Oxford Shirt when I need to wear a button down. Fits me well, made from durable nylon weave so it dries quickly and doesn't wrinkle when traveling while looking nicer than many "travel" shirts. My wife prefers the how my cotton button down shirts look, and I just wear tee-shirts when traveling.

Arc’Teryx Atom LT Jacket is a lightly insulated jacket with side panels which are very breathable. A useful mid-layer insulation layer which looks good around town,  and performs well in the back country. Was retired when I started to use my 23andme down sweater.

Arc’Teryx Squamish is a light weight wind shirt which has a good balance of lightness, next to skin feel, and durability. See my recommended wind shirts for an explanation of why wind shirts are useful. The Norvan SL is light and breathable enough that it can do double duty as a rain jacket and wind jacket.

Salewa Ramble GTX Shoes are attractive leather shoes which are breathable, waterproof and provide all day comfort. Generally I prefer more minimalist shoes, but wife really likes the way these shoes look, and apparently a lot of other people do too because I regularly get asked where to buy a pair.  Replace by Gobi II which are more comfortable.

Vibram Five fingers shoes for running about backpacking. Loved the lightness, ground feel, and lack of blisters, but I kept stubbed my toes when on trails. Retired when I found Alta shoes which give me the blister free experience I first had with the five fingers while providing more protections to my toes.

Simplifying Stuff - My Journey into Minimalism

Minimalism has become an important tool for my life. I like Joshua Becker’s definition of minimalism found on his blog becoming minimalist "The intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it”. Brian Gardner points out that  minimalism isn’t about stuff, but redefining our relationship with “stuff” is often the starting point for people on a minimalist path. I will do a later post about the more internal aspects of my journey to embrace minimalism.

Francis Schaeffer observed that we live in a world that worships “personal peace and affluence”. Our culture tells us that we should put comfort above all else which leads to a self centered life. Advertisers buy our attention to convince us more stuff will make our lives better. They tell us we should “keep up with the Jones” if not the rich and famous. This encourages us to be dissatisfied with what we have rather than to be grateful. This sort of outlook leads to a consuming hunger that never satisfies our hearts.

The minimalist movement rejects the materialistic driven society while looking for something better. People are discovering once their basic needs are met, that more stuff doesn't make them happier. You can see a growing interest by stories in the media on topics such as downsizings, decluttering, tiny houses, one bag lifestyle, and how kids don't want their parents stuff.

My Path

I was first introduced to a minimalism by my dad’s life. At the time it wasn’t called minimalism… we called it living simply. If something was working, no reason to upgrade it. No reason to buy something to impress others… function ruled. My dad's greatest pleasure might have been simply being outside, experiencing nature. I learned to love simplicity and nature. I dreamed of building a small sustainable cabin like Henry David Thoreau described in Walden. I didn’t want to be weighed down by lots of stuff, with the possible exception of books and music.

In college I became a Christian and joined a church community that had a communal oriented lifestyle dedicated to service. I was introduced to the Christian discipline of simplicity by Richard Foster’s writings, was challenged by a talk by Ralph Winter about a wartime mentality and Ron Sider’s book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. I tried to resist the “gospel” of personal peace and affluence. I desired a life which was light on stuff and heavy on meaning and purpose.

I found that getting married and then having a child made it harder to maintain a minimalist lifestyle. It's not that minimalism is incompatible with being a good spouse or parent, but when more people are involved, it gets more complicated. It's often easier to just add an activity or item than to figure out what would be most valuable to the family as a whole while not overly restricting any individual. In the quest to provide the "best life" for my family, more got added than was necessary. We resisted giving fully into the consumer oriented culture: we drove a modest car, purchased a house that was affordable on one income, kept commute short, was generous to charities, and tried to put time into activities that mattered. Still, life grew ever more full with things and activities that didn’t matter to me. What's sad is some of the things and activities didn't really matter to the rest of the family either... I just thought they did.

In 2011 life was uprooted when I lost my wife Libby to cancer. I found myself in a new chapter of life. I wanted a simpler life full of meaning. I was concerned that I would pass on my dreams because I was afraid to give up my high-tech salary and the comforts it purchased. I decided that I needed to learn to live with less stuff and less money so that I would be free to pursue whatever God had for me. Six years later I share my life with my wife Jackie as we seek to live meaningful lives.

Simplify Clothing by Adopting a Uniform

Many of the articles I read about minimalism suggested the first place to start downsizing was clothing. It’s one of the easily areas for people to take a more minimalist lifestyle, and it’s something that you experience every day. People often start this process by removing clothing they no longer wear. My approach was a bit more radical.

None of my clothing fit because I had just lost more than 30 lbs. I decided to purchase all new clothing and then give away all my old clothing except for my sandals and running shoes. I had read about wearing a uniform in Insanely successful men wear the same thing every day and the women’s version why i wear the same thing to work everyday. I was intrigued by some of the traveling minimalists whose clothing fit in a small daypack. I purchased only what I needed and would be happy to wear every day.  It was summer and I had nothing that required me to dress up.  I purchased 3 pairs of grey shorts, 3 black wool tee-shirts, underwear and a windbreaker. In the fall I added a few pairs of long pants, a wool hoody, and some winter outerwear. As Christmas approached I purchased a suit, a tailored button up shirt, and a pair of nice shoes for a friend’s upcoming wedding and so I had appropriate clothing if I needed to attend a funeral or any other event that required me to be "dressed up".

I love my “uniform” for several reasons. The first reason was unexpected. Every time I put my clothing on I feel grateful. My clothing are comfortable and feel like "me", not a costume I am wearing to please others. I find my heart content. Second, and the original reason for adopting a uniform was to eliminate unnecessary decisions. Every morning I will take whatever is on the top of the stack of nearly identical items and get dressed which requires no thought or planning. Finally, I found I spent a lot less time “shopping” and am able to resist “deals” which used to lure me to buy things that I really didn’t need or enjoy wearing. I can now immediately tune out advertisements because my uniform is all I need. I only purchase clothing when something is wearing out, and then it's a simple replacement... I purchase the identical item

Declutter Home

Once I had cleaned out my clothing closet I decided to declutter the rest of the house. I started with some basic principles from Organizing from the Inside Out which stressed everything should have a place near whether it was used, ideas from Declutter Every Room in Your House and then added to it some of the tidying up ideas from Marie Kondo which is nicely covered in Spark Joy.  I decided that the best thing would be to work on one room at a time, get the room completely finished and then move onto the next room. 

I started with the kitchen. The drawers were filled with countless utensils, many of which I didn’t use and often were on top of the utensils I was looking for. I pulled everything out of the drawers. In the process I found that we accumulated several of the same utensils because we “replaced” an item we had “lost”. Once the drawers were emptied I selected only the items I was sure I would use at least weekly. I thought about how I worked in the kitchen and stored the utensils near where they were used. Everything else went into several boxes placed in the garage. I found that a bit of creativity often allowed me to avoid the hassle of going into the garage to retrieve the rarely used utensil. Over the next six months I retreived just few items from the garage. After six months I gave most of the unused utensils away. I found the streamlined kitchen made cooking more enjoyable. When I needed something, I would pull the drawer open and immediately see what I needed. I also found that a well organized drawer was attractive to my eye compared to a drawer crowded and filled to the brim with items.

Once the kitchen was completed I worked through the house using a method similar to Declutter Every Room in Your House. After the "first pass" I just continued to remove things that weren't added value to life using principles very similar to Colleen Madsen's Ten Principles to Help Anyone Clear Clutter. There are plenty of other articles, blogs and books about minimalism that have been helpful as I trying to simplifying "stuff" in the house, but most don't add substantially to Colleen's simple post. After a while I found material on minimalism to be a bit repetitive, though each person has a different backstory to tell which can be inspiring.

When Jackie and I got married we combined out households. Thankfully, we were quite compatible and found that we both wanted a fairly simple and uncluttered home. The number of "family" items grew slightly compared to what each of us would have had in a house by ourselves, but way short of doubling. For example, the core of our kitchen is pretty much the same as what one of us would have owned (Jackie's plates, my mugs, a mix of our glasses). There was some growth where one of us used something regularly that the other didn't such as Jackie's wok, and my baking pan and blender. Our extras were used to equip other households. We saw a great benefit from our minimizing when we moved out of the house I had lived in for 26 years. We managed to pack the house on Friday in less than 12 hours and were fully moved into our new home by the end of the weekend: all our stuff was put away, all the moving boxes were folded flat, and pictures had been hung on the walls.

Some General Challenges to Minimizing Stuff

I used to struggle giving things away because I might need them some day. I have come to believe someday is often so far away it never arrives. Meanwhile, the items sits around, taking up space and not being used. Something that has really helped me let go of currently unused objects is that I can imagine the object I am no longer using crying to fulfill it's purpose.  It’s saying “I want someone to love me”. If I am not loving the object by using it, I am happy to sent it to a home that will love and care for it. As I have practiced downsizing, it has become easier as my confidence has grown. There are only three times that I gave something away, only to discover I really wanted it back. In each case, I was able to re-aquiring the item without difficulty or a high cost.

Sometimes I know it will be difficult to re-aquire an item because it's one-of-a-kind, handmade, or no longer manufactured. In these cases I will set these items aside in a "holding" box. If I don’t think about these items in a year, I give them away on the theory I won't miss them in the future because I will have forgotten I ever had them.

The harder I worked to acquire an object the less likely I felt comfortable giving it away or selling it. I would focused on the labor I had invested. I have come to appreciate that rather than thinking about what it cost to acquire an object, I should think about the cost of replacing it in the future. These days using services like Amazon can significantly reduces the work to find the right object, and ever increasing efficiencies in industry often reduces the cost of items over time. When factoring in the cost of storage, it is often cheaper to sell or give away an item, even if you will need to repurchase it several years later.

Another challenge are items that have sentiment value.  I came to realize that pictures are almost as good (sometimes better) to promote good memories that the item would trigger, but takes up no physical space, and are easily accessible anywhere and anytime. So I tag these special photos so I can easily immerse myself in memories. There are some sentimental items I have held on to which I specifically choose to keep as a way to honor someone who was very special to me.

My Biggest Challenge: Books

The most difficult thing for me to downsize was my book collection. To me, books are almost sacred. I grew up in a family that cherished books and learning. I like to think of myself as educated and an intellectual... having lots of books is part of that self identity. When I started to downsize my book collection I had ten, or was it eleven, full size (36" x 72") bookcases completely full, often with books double deep. I couldn't bring myself to part with my old friends in one go, it took several years.

I started by looking at large reference books since these had the lowest emotional attachment and took a disproportionate amount of space. Those no longer used, or that could be replaced by resources freely available on the Internet were given away. I replaced any reference materials I used regularly with electronic versions. Even though this cost money, it saved space and made the materials more useful to me.

The first difficulty were books I hadn't read. Often there is a reason I haven't read the book after purchasing it. Maybe I started the book but just couldn't get "into" it. Maybe my interests changed or I had purchased the book because someday I knew I would be interested in the topic. It seemed wrong to give away something I hadn't used, but I realized there is not enough time to reald all the books I am interested in. Keeping these unread books just made me feel guilty. Any books that I didn't have plans to read in the next six months I gave away.

Next, I went through my books and asked the question "Is this a book I am likely to read, re-read or recommend to someone in the next few years?" If the answer was no, I gave it away. I was down from ten bookcases to less than four bookcases.

I changed tacts to identifying books I really wanted to keep. I asked the question  "Which of these books changed my life or I think it's so great that it might change someone else life?"  Those got put into a special bookcase or in some cases purchased for my Kindle and given away.

For all the remaining books I asked two questions. The first was "Is this book on my reading schedule in the next six months?". If yes, I held on to the book. The second question was "Can I get this book again?"  I looked up each book on Amazon. If it was still in print I put it on an Amazon wishlist and I gave the book away confident I come get it back if I needed to.  What's left? Less than one bookcase of largely out of print books. Every quarter or so I looks through the remaining books and ask the question "Do I think I am going to ever read this book or loan it to someone?" Each time I do this there are several books my honest answer is"no", and they get donated to our church or the friends of the library.

The Process Continued

I considered doing the 100 Items Challenge, but decided  my attention would be on how to curate possessions rather than on living. Rather that shooting for a particular number, I just asking the question “Does this item enrich my life on a regular basis?”. If the answer was yes, I would keep it.  Otherwise it went into a box that would ultimately be given away or sold. I posted a Great Stuff for Me (and maybe you) which records where this process has taken me so far.. down to around 140 items.  Along the way there were a couple areas that took some focused attention because I couldn't easily tackle them one item at a time.

I had to work at simplifying electronics... I am a technologist and a geek. I consolidated all the data I needed onto my laptop (backed up into the cloud) which removed the need to have a file server in the house. I stopped running a computing infrastructure which could run a medium size business by switching to use Google Apps and a few other cloud services. In the process I got rid of several servers, a lot of upkeep, and a number of older computers I was holding on to “just in case”. Three large moving boxes filled with cables was reduced to three quart size ziplock bags. I realized I really didn't use the home phone and answering machine so they were dropped and I just used my cell phone. Rather than multiple portable audio devices I decided I would use my phone or if I didn't have my phone, forgo music. Rather than having multiple stereo systems with a complex (and somewhat fragile) streaming infrastructure I switched to a single system based around my laptop and a pair of audiophile grade powered speaker.

Camera equipment was another area that took a fair amount of work. I had a high end pocketable camera that I had with me always (a Sony RX100) because you never knew when you might need to take a picture. I had a camera that was particularly good for in low light conditions without a flash that was perfect for candid shots at events. Finally I had a couple of camera bodies, and numerous interchangeable lens. I had several tripods, flashes, and camera bags. One camera bag could hold nearly all my equipment. Another was good for outdoor events, and I had my original Domke F-5XB which I used whenever I wanted to minimize the amount of camera gear I carried. Every time I was going somewhere I would have to figure out what camera gear to take, and then what bag to use. My downsizing came in three stages. The first was reducing my gear down to the pocketable camera which I always carried, one camera with a couple of lens, and some accessories which would fit into the Domke bag. If an event was "photographic" in nature I would grab the camera bag, otherwise I would use the pocket camera. After awhile I noted that I wasn't grabbing the camera bag very often. I just didn't want to carry it around.  I was mostly happy to make do with the pictures from my pocket camera. A couple of years later I realized that I wasn't happy with my pocket camera. My camera didn't focus as fast as my phone (the newest version of the RX100 is much better), it didn't geotag pictures, and was too big to be in my pocket all the time. I also noted that while the RX100's image quality was better than my phone camera, I found the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X to be "good enough" in most situations. So now I am just using the camera on the Pixel 2 and am generally happy. I have said to myself I can always rent equipment for a specific event, like when I went whale watching... but I haven't done this since I downsized our camera gear. I would rather focus on the event than hassle with the camera. Besides, there is almost always someone else with a good camera who is happy to share the images they captured when were were together. The best of both worlds.

Shopping Diet

In the middle of 2016 year I went on a “shopping diet”.  I decided that I wouldn’t purchase anything new for myself in the next year except to replace (1:1) items that wore out or broke. Of course I would buy food,  pay for activities, and I let myself purchase kindle books that whose price had dropped more than 65% since I put it on my wishlist.  I also permitted myself to purchase gifts and items needed by other family members. I was amazed at how much of an impact the shopping diet had on my time and focus. I never realized how much the constant bombardment of “deals” I see in social media drove my consumption. Even if I didn’t ultimately purchase the item it ended up taking time as I researched the deal and spent time wondering if this was something I might need. Now I just ignore any “deals” I saw. I started to experience that "it’s better to want less than to have less.”  After a year I ended my diet for a few months, but found shopping started to take more of my time and energy, so toward the end of 2017 I decided to do another year long shopping diet and am loving it.

for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

1 Timothy 6:7-8 (ESV)