Using Technology to Live With Less

If you had to live with just 10 possessions, what would they be? The topic of living with less seems very much in the zeitgeist. Perhaps born from the pains and pits of a recession, people are embracing the idea of paring our lives down to the necessities, using technology to simplify their lives down to the things that matter (what those things are vary from person to person). Others are just trying to escape the grasp of technology in our everyday lives; our own boss recently documented his losing battle while being on vacation unplugged).

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There's a popular story going around right now originating from the BBC News, Cult of less: LIving out of a hard drive, which notes the spartan lifestyle of a 22-year-old software engineer who has whittled down his possessions to a "laptop, an iPad, an Amazon Kindle, two external hard drives, a "few" articles of clothing and bed sheets for a mattress that was left in his newly rented apartment."

Another Less Is More Cultist (our label, not their own) is described as living from just a "backpack full of designer clothing, a laptop, an external hard drive, a small piano keyboard and a bicycle - an armful of goods that totals over $3,000 in value," noting the freedom he's experienced since digitizing his life has unchained him from responsibilities such as organizing, cleaning and dusting. Something tells us he never really had much to clean or organize in the first place, as minimalists tends to be born, not made, but it is a notable achievement, nonetheless. How many of us could give away all our possessions and live with just enough to fit into one large box?

We've been adopting similar, though much more modest, habits with similar hopes of uncluttering our lives. One doesn't have to throw away everything and give up nearly all their possessions to appreciate what these more extreme practitioners have learned (note, these examples seem like young, single men who live in urban areas). We started by simply digitizing albums we hardly listened to anymore and stored it away in duplicate on a couple of external drives. The same was done with the bulk of our DVD collection, since most movies were watched just once or twice before becoming quasi-decorative items (maybe huge DVD/CD collections could benefit by organization by colour). The space we got back was notable (both my girlfriend and I have a collector's itch that we scratched all too often).

My current personal challenge is avoiding purchasing any new physical books for the rest of the year. I can do without new clothes or music, but I do love my books, graphic novels and other printed matter. On one hand, that must sound horrible to lovers of printed matter. But then again, I am enjoying books for their content via my Kindle App on the iPad, while also using that tried and true public resource, the nearby public library. As someone who lives in a modest space, I'll eventually restart purchasing books, but will adopt a much more stringent requirement to live happily with less and only keep books I truly want to revisit. Less can be more...but sometimes it's just less.

How has technology helped you in paring down your life? Or has it? And if you were asked to keep just 10 possessions, how many of them would be technology items?