Defining a Career

To say careers today look different than careers in generations past would be a major understatement. A Gallup (2016) report revealed that 21% of millennials have changed jobs within the past year; three times the highest figure in any other generation. According to the same report, only half of the millennial generation strongly agreed that they would be working at the same job a year from then, and around 60% said they would be willing to leave if a new opportunity arose elsewhere.

This isn’t to say all members of the millennial generation share the same sentiment, or that all members of every other generation are perfectly content in their current job, but one thing is certain: The word “career” doesn’t mean the same thing today as it did in the past. That’s why it hit home for so many of our Only What Matters community members when Quintin asked, “What does a career mean to you?”

“Some view careers simply as a means to financial stability,” Quintin wrote, “while others focus on their careers being personal achievements to themselves and society.”

What was most fascinating about the responses that followed was that while there wasn’t a clear consensus, but there was clear contentment.

Christine, Only What Matters member and UX designer, wrote that for her “work is a way to feel personally fulfilled and to grow, and contribute in a positive way.” She added that she doesn’t subscribe to the traditional “corporate ladder” view of a career.1

Another member, Christopher (not to be confused with the author of this blog post), spoke to the notion of climbing the corporate ladder, “Sounds exhausting.” On Quintin’s post, he wrote about his recent departure from his former job,

I wanted my career to be something I believed in, and gave myself for twenty years to it, but in the end they didn’t value my contributions. In retrospect, I would have skipped the American Dream entirely, pursued something that was personally important to me, and been a minimalist from the start. I just got sidetracked by all the glitter in front of me and all the pushing from behind that I didn’t know how to resist.

Indeed there is a positive feedback loop buried within the traditional definition of a career that can be incredibly hard to break. By working hard, one can earn a promotion, which encourages hard work, which leads to another promotion, and so on. This loop not only provides positive feedback for past labor, but also incentive to continue with the company, as more promotions can be expected in the future. It is no wonder it is a difficult, if not frightening, loop for many to break out of. The loop (id est ladder) is ideal for someone who has found their calling and who doesn’t mind their passion becoming their primary source of income. But what about for everyone else?

Community member Justin puts his focus into the “life” of the work-life balance, writing, “Work is ideally somewhere I benefit others in a meaningful way and make a living doing so. Failing that, it is a way for me to make enough to maintain a relative level of comfort while pursuing what I find meaningful.” He continues, “The point at which I realized a job is just a job and not my ‘passion’ or ‘calling’ was liberating.”

A study published by the Pew Research Center (2016) shows Justin is not alone. Three-in-ten Americans responded saying their current job was just a tool used to pay the bills. This can be hard for some people to find contentment in, as so often we find our identity in the work we do. Often, the first question we’re asked when we meet someone new is, “What do you do?” Justin concludes, “Not binding how I derive meaning from life to how I make a living allows a certain degree of flexibility and takes the pressure off when job searching.”

We would love to know what you think about the word “career.” Discuss this post below or in the Only What Matters member community.

  1. While cliché, it’s worth noting here that “career” has two definitions in the Merriam-Webster dictionary specifically pertaining to one’s work. One, “A profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling.” The other, the corporate ladder: “A field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life.” ↩︎

15 Minutes to a Finer Financial Future

“Budget” is a word that takes on a radically different meaning depending on who you talk to. To some people, it is ranked among words like “dentist” and “surgery” and is likely to be followed by a shameful ellipsis. To others, it’s more like “ice cream” and “freedom” and is certainly accompanied by a proud exclamation point.

How is it that one word, referring to the exact same thing, can be interpreted so differently? The answer is context.

The first person described above, Mr. Ellipsis, is likely someone who is not in great financial shape. Mr. Ellipsis has likely waited until reaching a disastrous state of financial affairs to create a budget that he hopes will rescue him from his status quo. While he will likely correct his course with time, the word “budget” will be used as a barrier to his enjoyment of life many times along the way. “I can’t go out tonight, I have a budget...”

Contrarily, Ms. Exclamation took a different approach. She got her first job after graduating and—before making any substantial financial decisions—took less than an hour out of an afternoon to put all of her monthly expenses on paper, both those that were known and those in the future. She knew she didn’t have to do anything over-the-top (no spreadsheets needed, unless of course that’s your thing), but rather just enough to have a plan for where she would send her money and how much wiggle room she had each month. As a result, the only time she had to think about her budget was when her friends asked, “How could you afford that?” To which she could proudly reply, “I have a budget!”

The 15 Minute Minimal Budget

Step 1. Figure out how much you make

Let’s assume an income of $34,285 per year. If you’re wondering why it’s such a specific number, it’s because I’m also assuming 30% for taxes, retirement, and insurance which gives us almost exactly $24,000 take-home pay, or $2,000 per month. That’s the number we’ll put on our budget.

Income:       $2,000

Step 2. Figure out how much you NEED to spend

“Need” is really the keyword here, this typically boils down to rent, utilities, food, and existing debt payments. That’s it. 

Income:       $2,000

Rent:         - $650
Electricity:   - $60
Gas:           - $50
Groceries:    - $150
Eating Out:   - $200
Student Loan: - $250
TOTAL:          $540

These numbers don’t have to be exact, but they should be honest. Utilities and food spending will fluctuate month-to-month, but as long as you’re close you’ll have a good idea of what you can and can’t afford. When in doubt, round up.

Step 3. Figure out how much you WANT to spend

This is where you put everything beyond the bare essentials. Cell phone plans, gas, subscriptions, you name it, it goes here.

Remember, $540 is your baseline leftover from Step 2, which is a significant portion of your take-home pay (27%!). If you’re in debt or are rapidly accelerating toward being in debt (especially high interest debt such as credit card debt), you should very carefully consider what expenses you list during this step. Every dollar you don’t spend on unnecessary luxuries is a dollar you could put toward paying down that debt, should you choose to do so.

Income:       $2,000

Rent:         - $650
Electricity:   - $60
Gas (home):    - $50
Groceries:    - $150
Eating Out:   - $200
Student Loan: - $250

Cell Service:  - $60
Internet:      - $50
Gas (car):    - $100
Netflix:       - $13
Cloud Storage:  - $3
Newspaper:     - $14
TOTAL:          $300

Step 4. Decide what to do with what’s left over

This part is entirely up to you. I’m not going to tell you what you should do with this leftover money since there are plenty of successful finance gurus that all have an opinion on this.

The only thing you should take away is that this number is why having a budget is so important. Knowing you have an extra $300 at the end of each month is the critical first step to being able to make confident spending decisions at each and every juncture. Using just 15 minutes of your life to put this all on paper is the difference between knowing and guessing, and it makes all of the difference in the world.

Discuss this post below or in the Only What Matters member community.

10 Minimalist Packing Tips For Your Next Trip

Packing for a trip can be challenging. Packing for long-term, extended travel can be a nightmare. 

And while minimalists tend to assume this stuff will be a breeze—”I only have 3 shirts anyway”—it doesn’t always work out that way. Turns out you kind of need things like toiletry containers, outlet adapters, and other random things in order to keep living your life semi-normally on the road.

Luckily, we’re experts in this kind of stuff. Check out the video or read on to discover ten tips from the Pack Hacker team that will help you keep things minimal and pack better for your next trip.

10 Minimalist Packing Tips For Your Next Trip from Pack Hacker on Youtube.

1. Lay it flat.

One of the best ways to figure out what you need to take on a trip is to lay out everything in front of you, either on a table (if you’ve got one big enough) or the floor. To really keep things minimal, we suggest trying to cut everything in half. Don’t literally cut your clothes in half, but try to take half the number of items you initially think you need. You’d be surprised what you can get away with.

2. Compartmentalize your gear.

Compressible Packing Cubes | 📷 Pack Hacker

Compressible Packing Cubes | 📷 Pack Hacker

Storing your stuff—preferably all of it—in packing cubes or pouches keeps your gear organized and lets you to easily find what you’re looking for. We love packing cubes, but even a plastic grocery bag or a Ziploc can work wonders.

Pro tip: We recommend grabbing a few different sizes and colors so you can hold a variety of items and easily remember which cube has which stuff. 

3. Consider multi-functional items.

Merino Wool Buff | 📷 Pack Hacker

Merino Wool Buff | 📷 Pack Hacker

Always be on the lookout for items that can serve multiple purposes. Here are a few common examples: a compressible lightweight jacket can double as a pillow, a buff can double as a scarf/hat/eye-mask, and one multi-use adapter can eliminate a few cords. Versatile items are the key to keeping things minimal and optimizing your travel kit.

4. Get some merino wool.

If you travel often and you’re not rocking some merino wool…you’re doing it wrong. Seriously. Between the anti-microbial properties and multi-climate usage, you really can’t go wrong. If you’re looking to pack light, you pretty much travel perpetually with two of everything (shirts, socks, and underwear), if they’re all merino wool. This way, when you do need to wash your stuff, you can wash/dry one outfit while you wear the other. We love this stuff—that’s why we wrote an entire guide on merino wool.

Pro tip: No one cares if you’re wearing the same clothes! Especially when you’re traveling, most people won’t even notice. They will, however, notice if your clothes stink. So don’t let that happen.

5. Keep everything fresh.

Cedar Wood for Freshness | 📷 Pack Hacker

Cedar Wood for Freshness | 📷 Pack Hacker

Let’s not beat around the bush—things can get a little grimy when you’re traveling day in and day out. In order to keep your pack—and the contents in it—fresh, we’d recommend throwing a cedar wood chip in. It’ll keep everything smelling nice and keep any bugs away from your stuff! (Shoutout to tip #3.) Dryer sheets, essential oils, or potpourri sachets can work here too, though we tend to prefer the natural cedar scent.

6. Get some solid soap or a shampoo bar.

And to be clear, we mean non-liquid soap. (Yes, you should still get some “solid” soap, as in good soap, but the gist is that bar soap is better for travel.) There are countless benefits here—solid soap doesn’t eat into your TSA liquid restrictions, it takes up barely any room, it lasts a long time, it’ll keep your bag fresh and, if you get the right bar, you can even use it for shampoo, laundry, and dishes. Boom. 

7. Bring a compact bag.

Sling for Quick Access | 📷 Pack Hacker

Sling for Quick Access | 📷 Pack Hacker

If you’re traveling with one backpack, it’s good to have a smaller bag to use when you’re out and about. We prefer packable daypacks or slings, but you could also get by with something as simple as a reusable grocery bag. The point is, you don’t want to be lugging around your huge travel pack as you’re walking around a new city. If you’re going the digital nomad route, we would recommend opting for a legitimate packable daypack as it’ll be able to handle a laptop and all of your gear a lot better than a simple bag. As a bonus, this bag can pull double-duty as your personal bag on the flight home when you realize you’ve somehow acquired more items than what you left with. (We’ve all been there.)

8. Plan your flight.

Having all your necessary in-flight items—like water, snacks, headphones, etc.—close to you during your trip can be the difference between an enjoyable flight and a miserable one. If you’re using packing cubes or pouches, consider grabbing one that can pull double-duty as a sling for your time at the airport and on the plane. At the very least, keep that pouch accessible at the top of your pack so you can grab it as needed.

9. Strategize to save money.

High Calorie Snacks on the Road | 📷 Pack Hacker

High Calorie Snacks on the Road | 📷 Pack Hacker

A little bit of planning can save you a small fortune on the road. We’ve found the three biggest areas you can save in are food, electronics, and data. Eating on the road tends to be unhealthy and expensive—so packing some calorically dense food in your carry-on can save you a bunch of cash at the airport. Try to buy all of your electronic cords and adapters beforehand, as buying these things in the middle of your trip can be far more expensive and they’ll likely be of inferior quality. And lastly, make sure to limit your data usage and avoid fees when you’re on the road by downloading content onto your devices before you leave. (That whole “downloading Netflix shows from the app” thing is life-changing.)

10. Practice your trip.

One Bag Travel | 📷 Pack Hacker

One Bag Travel | 📷 Pack Hacker

At the end of the day, a lot of this stuff is up to you. That is why we always recommend practicing your trip beforehand by loading up your pack and going about your daily routine using only the items inside. Do this for a couple days or weeks and you’ll quickly figure out what you need, what you don’t need, and how you’d like to configure your pack.


What you get with less

roman-bozhko-251947-unsplash (1).jpg

Nothing motivates a material detox quite like moving to a new apartment does. Before moving, I was motivated to reduce the amount of material objects I owned (which meant less for me to pack) and to approach life through the lens of less. You never realize how much stuff you have until you’re forced to pack your life into a million different boxes. With the help of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, my space emerged from the process delightfully spare (sort of), and it felt pretty damn good.

Now, when I talk about paring things down, I’m not talking about extreme, buzzy and trendy minimalism, the kind where you get rid of practically everything you own. Extreme minimalism is simply a different form of cultural capital when it comes to owning things, even if it is less. Radical minimalism can take up just as much time and space in your mind, causing stress just as much as clutter might.

As ubiquitous as the concept of minimalism is and how to practice it, it’s easy to forget why we do it and what you actually get with less. When I moved, I didn’t go crazy and get rid of everything I owned, I got rid of the things that were causing me more stress than they were doing good. So, when I talk about material detox, I’m talking about the kind of minimalism that feels right for you and the kind that leaves you feeling whole—not uncomfortably naked (figuratively and literally). After a successful purge of unnecessary material objects, I realized there were a lot of unforeseen benefits to minimizing the things I owned.


What you get with less:


The less things I own, the more time I seem to have to myself. I quickly realized I was spending much less time agonizing over what to wear and less time packing for trips because I know my closet’s items more intimately and because my wardrobe consists only of items I look or feel good in.

Another example: I spend less time sorting through kitchen utensils to find the right one while cooking (why did I think I needed three of the same type of spatula?), and less time cleaning and organizing—it’s amazing how easy it is to keep organized when you have less items to clean and organize. With fewer things to pick up and put away, fewer things to collect dust, and fewer things to move in order to vacuum, my cleaning routine sped up a significant amount. That means more time and energy spent in the places I want, like out surfing or hiking.

Peace of mind

Marie Kondo’s book suggests filling your life with things that trigger happiness, which implies we have an emotional connection with the things we decide to keep. This decision isn’t simply about what we choose to have around us; it’s deeper. It’s about the things we want as part of our life. It’s about who and what we are loyal to.

By ridding my apartment of the unnecessaries, I was enabled to be more mindful and aware of the things that were taking up space in my life both physically and mentally. According to psychologist Sherrie Carter, clutter can “bombard our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile) and cause our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important.” With less clutter, my environment no longer feels chaotic, and I now look forward to coming home and relaxing. All that clutter really affected me and it’s only now that I can refocus on the things I find most important.


With renewed focus on the things I own, I began to spend much less. I started to only spend on the things I needed, or the things that brought me real joy. It wasn’t easy at first, but thinking a second longer around the impact of the purchase I was about to make helped me step out of the consumer cycle and fight the thrill of a purchase. Not only am I saving money on things I don’t really need, I’m also wasting less. The less you have, the less you ultimately waste. And now I’m going to continue selling and recycling the things I don’t need.

All this minimalism seems to be doing wonders for my well being. Unfortunately, while my material world is looking more orderly, my virtual world is not. My phone and laptop remained a cluttered hodgepodge of applications. Do I really need three different to-do list apps? Clearly I still have a problem—a virtual hoarding problem. Looks like it’s time to apply the same sort of practice to my virtual world.

5 ways to prevent unwanted gifts

In the member forum, Andy asked:

How do you deal with loved ones who, as an expression of their love, want to buy you stuff?” How do you get them to “cut it out without hurting them”?

Ever had a flier pressed into your hand as you walk down the street? Whether it’s a coupon for a buy-one-get-one-free toaster or a pamphlet forecasting the end of the world, it’s as though the person is saying: “Here, please throw this away for me.”

Andy raised a similar but far more interesting question. It’s different from the question of what to do with stuff you already own that you don’t need (the subject of a future post). And it’s more difficult one to manage, because it’s not just you who needs to take action; you’re trying to change someone else’s habits.

And habits can be tremendously hard to change. Plus, who could file a grievance against someone who just wants to take care of others? It’s a tough case to make.

But for the sake of argument, let’s go a little over the line with our analogies: If, as they say, one is not an alcoholic when they’re drinking with others, then one is not a shopaholic when they’re shopping for others. Take away the “others,” and all that’s left is a bad habit.

If that bad habit is giving you grief, as it does for Andy, try managing it in these five stages:

1. (Polite) Denial: “Sometimes it’s as easy as, ‘Please don’t buy me anything,’ and that’s the end of it,” Chris responded to Andy’s question in the OWM member forum. It worked on his dad, who used to bring him home t-shirts from events he attended. It could work on your loved one, too. But…

2. Bargaining: Asking politely doesn’t work on everyone, and that’s when it’s time to start negotiating. Try the sandwich approach—delivering the “meat” of your argument between two positive slices.

• Thank them: “I love you. I appreciate you care enough about me to buy me this.”

• Be blunt: “When I sell or donate this, it’s not personal.”

• Make a better offer: “The best gift is spending time with you. Next time, let’s take the money you would have spent on [insert gift here] and sit down over a fancy cup of coffee.”

3. How About Some Light Anger: Negotiation doesn’t always work. “My mom has always been the gift-giver, and she’s very motivated to try to ‘outsmart’ my minimalism to buy me something I didn’t even know I wanted,” Chris writes. “My conversation with her is ongoing, but I’ve had to employ tough love at times.” Just don’t be too tough. In fact, it’s safer to skip this stage.

4. Depression: If the above fails, you might be tempted to resign yourself to doing nothing. It’s no use staying in this stage long, though. Sure, you couldn’t change their behavior, but there’s still one thing you can change…  

5. Acceptance: You can change your own mindset, by accepting the fact that it just might bring someone as much joy to hunt for things and pay for them as it does to actually give them to you. If that’s the case, then you might try giving up on trying to change them and “live and let live.” In which they give you stuff and you give it away—giving as little effort and feeling as little anxiety as possible. Hopefully that doesn’t mean throwing it away. Sell it. Give it to a friend. Drop it off at Goodwill. And feel good about it.

Whether anything you try will work, as Chris wrote, “it depends on the loved one.” It also depends on you.

Happening Oct 15: AMA with Tynan at Only What Matters

One week from today—noon Pacific Time on Monday Oct. 15—the blogger, author, and coach Tynan will join the Only What Matters community for an Ask Me Anything.

Tynan has written extensively about all kinds of topics of interest to us. He’s traveled full time with only a small backpack. He’s written about “the two main things worth building in life… an amazing group of friends and enough money to survive for a long time.” He’s put in time thought over many years to design a lifestyle focused on (you guessed it) only what matters.

Members can participate in the Tynan AMA. Non-members can join now—for free, by the way. Just make sure to sign up in advance, so you have time to get familiar with the community.


A Few Relevant Reads from Tynan’s Blog

#vanlife and the practice of living simply

Doing more with less isn't easy. It takes practice. And one way to get a lot of practice? Try living in a van. 

Arctic Campers

Here's a shot of my wife Caitlin on our honeymoon in Norway. We lived out of this van for just 6 days, and I can confirm that it's no picnic. Sure, it's a lot like moving constantly from picnic to picnic. But the difference is your picnic basket contains all your clothes and supplies, and gets 20 miles per gallon. 

"Van life" does have its perks. I'll spare you the full vacation slideshow, but we toured the epic coastline of the Lofoten Islands, explored beautiful Norwegian fishing villages, and made our best attempt at hiking like the Norwegians. And we got to spend entire days in places we never would have made it to otherwise.

It was everything we hoped for and more. And "more" included a few downsides. Like that time that Caitlin decided to air out her socks by hanging them above my pillow. Or that time that I overheated in the middle of the night and spent five minutes struggling to delayer. Or that time that we thought someone was pranking us only to find a herd of goats rubbing up against the side of the van.

All that makes the prospect of living out of a van full time a daunting one. But people do it, and they seem to love it. The New Yorker profiled Emily King and Corey Smith, who run @wheresmyofficenow on Instagram. They fund their life on the road—and days spent kayaking, mountain biking, and driving through national parks—through product placement in their #vanlife posts. 

They've been at it since 2015, which makes them total pros. But even after all these years, I bet they'd be the first to say they have yet to perfect their already very minimalist lifestyle. Take an example. 

In May 2018, Emily and Corey decided to remodel their van, which they named Boscha. An Instagram story revealed one thing they could use less of: clothes. 


Corey: "You've been packing your clothes for four hours—like, I tore apart the whole van."

Emily: "That's true. It's a lot of clothes."

—Instagram @wheresmyofficenow

Again, it's hard. These are professional minimalists, who live out of the tiniest mobile home: a van. If their wardrobe can be allowed to get out of hand, what hope do any of us have? 

The good news is we have something more practical than hope. And it's also more tangible than "a minimalist philosophy." Because minimalism is a practice—and it takes practice. It's not something we have, it's something we will always aspire to have—no matter how good we get at living the dream, in a van, down by the surf. 

Here's what we do have. Instead of trying to figure it all out on our own, we have a community of people who are all working together to own less, waste less, and do more of what we love. 

That's what Only What Matters is all about. It's the place to share tips and tricks, and lessons learned. To build on what others are doing. To help others avoid the mistakes we made. And to enjoy the experience—the practice—with people who have the same values we do. 

Mindful Wardrobe Challenge Recap

Committing to the year-long minimalist challenge taught me plenty, but not having the flexibility to add an item or two to my core wardrobe was, as you can assume, quite limiting and frustrating at times. The Mindful Wardrobe was created as a more accessible year-long challenge with the following goals:

  • Mindful and intentional purchasing
  • Shift spending to used good (eBay, Craigslist, Grailed)
  • Shift spending to smaller brands with aligned values
  • Better discipline donating/selling items

I created this Google spreadsheet to track everything in my wardrobe, all physical object purchases, and sales/donations. Food, gas, services, business purchases, and digital purchases such as eBooks were excluded from the tally. 

Coming off a year wearing as few items as possible, I filled the gaps in my closet with some pieces I had in storage and a couple Wool&Prince samples.

What I learned:

  • It’s nearly impossible to put together a year of perfect purchases. On the same day, I bought a pair of shorts that were too short and bought a pair of pants that had a deal-breaker design detail. It took me a few wears to realize their respective flaws and by that point, I couldn’t, in good conscience, return them. I chalked these lousy purchases up to impatience and noted to, in the future, bail on shopping trips that turn into "get me out of this store asap".
  • My system of highlighting areas in my wardrobe “looking to buy”, “sell or donate”, and “interested in” was the most impactful tactic to improve visibility of wardrobe needs and improve the process for thoughtful purchasing. Prior to this process, I procrastinated on purchasing decisions without giving them proper thought and would end up making a hasty purchase.
  • Maintaining discipline with a wardrobe challenge can be difficult. Visual reminders like keeping certain drawers empty or a simple “do I need this?” note in the wallet or on the computer monitor can be helpful. Getting friends and the OWM community involved was helpful.
  • Wearing a quality garment until it fails is quite satisfying. At this point, you can objectively measure the garment's "body of work". Also, when you're trying to minimize the stuff in your life, determining when to or when not to buy something can be an arduous task. In the case of a well-worn, failed garment, the should I buy calculation is simple: wore for x years, costs x dollars, was it worth it?
  • Wardrobe creep. It’s real. Even when I don’t buy anything, my wardrobe will grow to a cluttered within a year. Maybe it’s because I own an apparel business or I have a mother who loves shopping at costco and gifting.
  • Prioritize garments that work together. My Pendleton jacket fits on the small side and my Wilson&Willy jacket fits on the large side. For temps under 45 degrees, I’ll layer them. They work so well together that people ask if the Pendleton is a jacket liner. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts with these two items.
  • Develop your uniform. I had two go-to outfits that I wore five out of seven days during the colder months. 1) Burgundy button-down with jeans 2) Heavy crew with khaki chinos.

What’s next:

During the Mindful Wardrobe challenge, I had moderate success with the goal of shifting more purchases to second-hand goods and small brands. Frankly, I could have done a better job here. The convenience and price of large generic brands is a powerful advantage. Going forward, I'll continue recording my purchases, sales, and donations, but I'll be taking a closer look at why I bought each item. I want to do a better job supporting brands that align with my values:

  • Does the brand have great customer service and a quality guarantee?
  • Is the brand growing sustainably? Self-funded or aligned capital? Non-gimmicky marketing tactics?
  • Is it a place where employees are passionate about their work and care about their impact?

What I Learned From My Year-Long Minimalist Wardrobe Challenge

I was looking to follow up the 100 day challenge with another minimalist clothing experiment and wanted to try something that encompassed the full wardrobe. And something that was a bit more realistic for others to attempt.

The year long minimalist challenge started with the selection of 26 core items that I would wear for the entire year. (I had some event specific items such as basketball gear, cycling bib/jersey, snowboard pants, and a wedding suit that I did not count in the core item total.) And unlike the 100 day challenge, washing my clothing was allowed.


If you are looking at this and thinking, either this guy is lying or has a completely different lifestyle than most people, let me explain. I don't have the typical office job. I work from home, but I'm generally not lounging around in sweats and a t-shirt. I have in-person meetings throughout the week that require a professional look, so I normally dress for the entire day depending on my schedule. I like to do at least one active thing each day which normally involves playing basketball, biking, or jogging. Aside from not seeing the same people each day in the office, I imagine my lifestyle isn't too dissimilar from many of you. 

Here are the things I learned over the year:

    • This is obvious, but spend some time thinking about what you want to wear for a year.
      • A month in to the experiment, I wanted to take back some of my choices. I was stuck with two unattractive items:sweats and rain jacket.
    • Three pairs of socks for a year is limiting, but I had no trouble with three pairs of underwear
    • Jeans will become your go-to pant if they aren’t already
      • Prior to starting the minimalist challenge, my favorite pants were stretch khaki chinos. They look good paired with a t-shirt or a button down and they are light and comfortable. However, as winter rolled around (and the Portland rain, sigh), I found myself reaching for the denim seven times out of ten. Compared to the chinos, the jeans held their shape better, hid dirt better, and generally looked more presentable after multiple wears. If my jeans had stretch, they’d probably be more comfortable, but they would have required washing to tighten them back up after the elastic stretched out.
      • If you can’t wear jeans, look for a heavier weight chinos with mechanical stretch.
    • Some things in the closet just need to be given a chance
      • We all have a shirt or a pair of pants in our closet that we don’t wear for one reason or another. The denim that I referenced above is a perfect example. I was accustomed to a stretch denim but for some reason, I selected my selvage jeans (that I rarely wore) to be one of three pants for the following year. My rational at the time was, I only wear chinos, so I’ll rarely wear these jeans, but they could be nice to have. As noted above, they became my go-to pant. 
    • Mending/Fixing garments is easy
      • Why don’t more people do this? Sewing on a loose button or patching a hole is an easy at home DIY project. And if you can't figure it out, take the garment to a tailor for $15.
    • Wash on cold / hang dry (or even better, hand-wash) makes your clothing last longer
      • Most of the wear and tear on a garment is from cleaning. If you can reduce the heat and friction during cleaning that’s a start. If you can reduce the number of times you have to clean something, that’s even better.
    • Air out your garments before deciding to throw in hamper
      • Easiest thing to do is just toss a worn garment in the hamper after each wear. (Something that is even easier for guys who don’t do their own laundry.) But realistically, most garments can be worn multiple times. Washing garments after each wear is more of a habit instead of a need. Should we wash our bed sheets every day? (not exactly the same as clothing, but you get the point)
    • Sleep naked
      • You can get multiple days out of a pair of underwear a lot easier this way
    • Find shoes that don’t smell 
      • I’m still on the hunt, but I try to wear leather or wool over synthetics shoes
    • People won’t notice that you wear the same thing each week
      • If you rotate between three button-down shirts, people don’t notice or care.
      • And if they do notice, who cares! Chances are that they will ask for tips on cutting back on their wardrobe.
    • Choosing what to wear takes less than 15 seconds.
      • Even with a wide variety of events and activities, your options are just limited. It’s quite refreshing.
    • During the last few months, the novelty of the year-long minimalist wardrobe challenge wore off a bit. I missed the creative freedom of fashion. Going into the year-long challenge, I expected unforeseen functional shortcomings with my selected wardrobe, but the creative displeasure with limited wardrobe options surprised me.

    Well, if you’ve made it this far, I'm guessing you're interested in simplifying your wardrobe. Here are some recommendations:

    • Start with what you currently have in your closet. Don’t go run out there and buy all the “minimalist clothing” you can find.
    • Prioritize three things: versatility, durability, and natural fibers (yes, I'm biased when it comes to natural fibers and wool...but mother nature has the best odor resistance.)
    • Check out our private community. You'll get the support and accountability needed as you start your own minimalist challenge journey.