Minimalism: As a Military Member


As a military member, you are by default a nomad.  You’re going to move more times than you really want to.  Change is good and it’s important to grow professionally in our careers.  Each place we move to I dread the unpacking.  So much stuff!  In our most recent move, July 2016, we still have boxes packed!  Which means nothing in those boxes we’ve needed in the last 11 months.  

Sure, there may be some sentimental items in there, but for the most part I’m sure the ‘things’ in there we can afford to throw away or donate.  Every now and then I’ll rumble through trying to find something tiny like my tie clip.  I was attending a formal event recently and couldn’t find my tie clip.  Could I have done without it?  Yes.  I knew where it was, though so I went digging.  The point is the things we think we need are some things we’ll never use. 

Image how much easier moving would be if you owned less than you actually purposefully needed.  We spent four years at our first assignment.  In those four years we still had boxes packed.  At least three.  During the Summer of 2014 my wife and I took time off work to finally get to the last few boxes unpacked.  That morning I made a comment on Facebook, “Now that our last box is unpacked watch us get a new assignment.”  Later that day I got an email with notification of a new assignment.  Go figure.  It was now time to move again.  The crazy thing is we could have kept the box packed because for four years in one spot we never needed it opened, which means we could have got rid of everything in them, but instead we insisted on ‘thinking’ we ‘have’ to keep things.  Perhaps we have the mentality that if we bought it we need to keep it as long as we can.  It might be the case in some instances, but not all. 

Think of all the uniforms you have as a military member.  Your utility set, your services set and your physical training set.  That’s 12 sets of clothes given to you once you start basic training.  I never owned 12 shirts at one time in my life.  And now I have that plus my normal civilian clothes.  Over the years I’ve replaced old uniforms and bought new ones.  I recently donated all of my older uniforms that were serviceable for reuse.  The others I threw away.  My closet got smaller.  I did the same with the few civilian clothes I had.  I now only have 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of blue jeans, 2 pairs of cargo pants(my favorite) and 6 shirts, all black.  Other than furniture I will be able to fit everything I own in my trunk. 

Just a few days ago I saw a moving truck down the street.  The next day I saw a curb full of things that I guess the family didn’t need or want to take with them.  It was a lot of stuff.  We did the same during our first move back on 2014.  We left a curbside full of random things that we just didn’t need or wanted to take to our new home.  

I’ve come to realize that all that stuff that we think we need is not really necessary after all.  It’s okay to live with less especially when you know you’re going to be moving again.  For any military member out there, if you dread the move, think about minimalism as a way to make moving simple.  I am certain our next move will be a piece of cake.  

As a challenge for your next move, if you can’t fit everything that you essentially need in one vehicle, then perhaps you really don’t need it.  I know for a fact that for my next move I’ll be able to fit everything I need in the trunk of my Toyota Corolla and that is quite refreshing to know.  

Letting go of ‘Might Use”

Today, I went through five boxes of things that I “might use.”  As I was going through the boxes I would put things aside with the justification of, “I actually might use this.”  After a few minutes I would pick them up again and put them back down.  I did this about four times.  When I was throwing out my last trash bag I picked up the “actually might use” items and put them in the trash bag.  I was done debating.

One of my “actually might use” stacks were my songwriting notebooks that I’ve had for about 12 years.  I’ve written a lot of songs in them, but they were just sitting in a box.  What did I need them for?  Nostalgia?

I made a decision that “might use” wasn’t enough for me to hold onto anything.  It wasn’t enough to change my happiness with or without.  Thus, everything was thrown into the trash.  The best part?  I feel great about it and have no regret not keeping anything.

I was able to flatten five boxes and fill up four 30 gallon trash bags for the trash.  I will never have to think about all that stuff again.  It’s gone.  And guess what?  My happiness remains even though I let go of “might use.”

You’re valuable, your things are not.


I found myself looking around telling myself how I wanted this, I wanted that.  I liked the idea of ‘having’ everything I looked at.  I could have bought a few items today and I decided not to.  Not because I wouldn’t use them, but because I knew I didn’t need them and I knew they weren’t going to provide any value to my life.  My happiness wouldn’t change from having them. 

Consumerism consumes us in ways that overshadows the reality of what we’re doing.  What we’re doing is buying and buying not because of necessity or purpose, but because it’s what we’ve been taught to do.  

Our possessions become a part of us.  The things we have identify the type of people we are.  We put a monetary value in what we have and try to place that value on ourself.  You may have a brand new Corvette and that one object in your eyes puts a number on your life.  I’m worth this.  I’m worth that.  

We’ve all heard the saying, “To feel like a million dollars.”  I’ve never had a million dollars nor will I probably ever own that much money at one time.  Most of the world will never know that feeling so how do we begin to compare a price with feeling?  Are millionaires even happy?  

This rich and famous culture changes our perception on how we should live and feel.  We want what they have because they ‘look’ happy.  Media portrays people in the ‘good light’ and we rarely see inside the actual feelings of the rich and famous.  Social media provides many filters in the lives of people.  We can filter our life to look how we want others to see it, but behind the cell phone and behind the computer how do you really feel?  Is that happiness because of the items in your house or because you have made a decision to be happy with who you are and not what you have or don’t have?

I’m reminded of the quote from Jim Cary that I heard from Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things. 

“I wish everyone could experience being rich and famous so they could realize it’s not the answer.” 

What is your goal when buying new things?  Do you buy things just because you can and have they money to do it?  Do you replace the old item with the new item?  Do you find true non-monetary value in the items you buy?  Do they make you happy?  Do they increase YOUR value because of the price tag?  

You’re valuable, your things are not.  Your things serve a purpose, but things were never created to specifically provide happiness.  They’re created to fill a need.  A use.  A tool.  A resource.  I love coffee, but just because I like the taste or how it gives me a boost doesn’t mean that if I never had it again I’d be unhappy.  I’m valuable because of who I am, not what I have.  You’re valuable because of who you are, not what you have.  Though, there are some unique items that do become a part of us and do impact who we are, not every item provides us with that type of worth.  Know what does and what doesn’t. 

The Want vs. The Purpose


There comes a time when you realize you have the money you never had to buy the thing you’ve always wanted.  That’s certainly how it went for me.  I didn’t grow up being able to buy the things I wanted.  We didn’t have the money for the ‘want’ items.  Even when I had a job the income wasn’t great enough for me to buy random things that I wanted.  Later on when I did have a better income I began to buy things that were on my want list. 

I bought PA system to play music through.  I bought a new guitar.  I bought tools.  I bought a new computer.  I traded up for a new car.  I bought collectable items, wall art, movies, sports equipment.  It seems like the list never ended.  I was never was able to buy the miscellaneous items when I was in college, but now that I have a great career I don’t hesitate to buy pretty much anything I want.  Until recently.

Many of the items that I wanted just because I wanted them are purposeless.  They serve no purpose.  I don’t need them.  I don’t use them.  They take up space and they were actually a waste of money.  I always thought that by buying things I wanted that I would gain some sort of happiness out of them.  In reality it wasn’t the case at all.  I think it was more of a “I can buy this because I never could before” mentality.  It’s a toxic way of thinking.  It cost me money, space, time, and now it’s almost a burden to have things I don’t need sitting around.  Like I’ve mentioned before it’s as if every item sitting around is a stack of money that isn’t being used on anything with value or with purpose.  Every item that I plan on keeping will serve a purpose to my daily ‘operations’ around the house and work.  I say operations in the sense of ‘how and why’ I use things around the house.  

If you’re wanting to become a minimalist think about purpose, the real value(not monetary) that each item provides to you.  Can you live without it?  Do you really need it?  How often will you actually use it?  Will it actually make you happy or does the idea of having it overshadow the reality of not needing it?  

I wish I would have thought about this before buying all the items I have that have served no purpose.  As I continue my path to minimalism, every item will have a purpose to my daily interactions and operation.  Still a ways to go, but the journey continues…

Why Minimalism?


Many people have asked me why I’m becoming a minimalist.  My main answer to that is that I’m not becoming one, I’m going back to being one.  I used to live minimal when I was college.  I just didn’t know it was called minimalism.  I didn’t buy anything I didn’t need or anything that didn’t provide a purpose and I could carry everything I owned in both my hands.  I enjoyed having less.  It made mobility much simpler and I feel life wasn’t cluttered by things.

After understanding a bit more about minimalism I’ve concluded that the things I have in my life don’t provide the value that I thought.  All the DVDs, the clothes, etc…the possessions don’t give me happiness as I’ve been led to believe.  

The people in my life give me happiness.  The moments we spend together give me happiness.  I value their time and their company.  For the items that I am keeping have a value in them.  I love books because I love knowledge.  I reference them and I like being able to hold them in my hands versus digital copy.  I can find purpose in every item I have and not just because the items can be used in a basic way, but they provide a value to my passions.  Everything I own leads back to my passions. 

Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of everything I own.  It’s about getting rid of things that I believe don’t provide value to my way of living or my passions.  Just because you use something doesn’t mean it’s valuable.  It just means you use it.  Some things help your daily life, but not everything needs to be kept.  There are things like a lawn mower, fire extinguisher, cleaning supplies that you will need to keep because well, they’re pretty important items when you have a house or apartment(except maybe not the mower).  Many people become minimalists for different reasons.  Here is why I want to go back to being one. 

Things should serve a need for what’s most important to you.  I feel a lot of the things I have bought serve no purpose in my daily routine.  I want every item that I own to serve a need and purpose to the things I do.  My guitar serves a purpose.  I love songwriting so that is something I will keep because it’s one of my passions.  I have journals that are unused.  I use them as needed and the serve my need to write things down.  I like writing versus taking digital notes so it adds value to my life.  The funkopops (bobble heads) that I have serve no purpose other than a collectable item so I will get rid of them.  These are just a few examples.  Minimalism wakes you up the things that are most important. 

Mobility is so much better when you own less.  This is our 2nd move in under 3 years and it’s a pain unpacking boxes of things that really have no need to be unpacked.  After 4 years in our first house we still had boxes unpacked.  How crazy is that?  Four years and we didn’t need anything in the boxes so why did we have them in the first place?  Like I’ve mentioned before we have a room full of boxes that we haven’t needed after nine months of being in our new house.  For our next move we should be able to move ourselves rather than have movers move us.  We will move again within the next 2 years.  The less we have the easier the move.  We’re only in temporary houses until I get closer to retirement.  What’s the point of accumulating so many ‘things’ when we’re not even really ‘home,’ yet?

Imagine if you only bought things that served a permanent need rather than a temporary use?  How much money do you think you’d save?  If I were to add up all of the things I didn’t need or use in our house I’m sure the price value would be higher than I’d like.  Which means all of that money is sitting around for no reason.  That sort of blows my mind.  Why would I put money into something and not really use it?  If I continue to live on the philosophy of only buying needful items I will save money.  It’s a certainty.  It would be nice to save up and actually be able to buy a house later or take an awesome vacation.  Think of it as an investment.  Saving money is always an investment. This allows me to do so with strategic spending in mind. 

Don’t you just love having space in your house?  Getting rid of the excess items will help increase space.  The less you have the easier it is to clean and also keep it clean.  Think about the items you have in your living room.  How often do you use them?  Do you just use them a few times a month?  Daily?  Think about how you could go without them and see if it changes the value of you having them.  We had to specifically make a DVD rack just to hold DVDs.  Or we could have just got rid of them and saved the corner space in our living room.  I would make the room look bigger and probably a bit neater too.  I keep a lot of old track medals and awards and although they are an important time in my life they don’t really do anything for me now.  They sit in a box collecting dust.  Some people may like having side tables, coffee tables, more chairs than people and that’s fine.  If they provide value to you daily life then keep them.  If not, ask yourself if your happiness would change if you got rid of them.  

I hope this gave you an idea on why I’m choosing to go back to being a minimalist.  You may see it differently than I do and I hope you see the value in it.  I hope you are able to increase the value in the things that matter most to you.  


Minimalism: My Process to Less


I began thinking in bed last night on how I’m going to consolidate, remove, donate(or however else you want to call it) my ‘stuff.’  What’s the best way?  As I began to think on what I had and what I see on a daily basis I created somewhat of a checklist.  Since I took a step into minimalism a few months ago I was already on a path.  Now that I’ve taken a step back to look at my house, I believe I have a good plan to reach my goal of being as minimal as possible.  Here is my list in order. 

Clothing:  (I began this stage a few months ago.) Getting rid of clothing items is probably the easiest thing to do since you know what you wear most and don’t wear.  I had a lot of golf t-shirts.  Probably 75% of my shirts were golf shirts, but the crazy thing is I rarely golf anymore.  Those were first to go.  I many other regular t-shirts that I didn’t wear as well.  I had a few more shoes than I should have had.  Not sure how I even accumulated numerous pairs of shoes when I really only wear one…maybe two.  Those went.  Lastly, I took a look at my uniforms that I wear for work.  I got rid of the oldest and kept the newest.  Uniforms are good to have at anytime so I kept what I felt I needed.  I believe I have 3 sets, plus 2 combinations of blues.  I’m in the Air Force so blues is what we call our service uniform.  After I went through my clothes I donated 55 items.  That’s quite a bit.  Some clothes still had the price tag on them.  They’re gone.  What a relief?!

Entertainment:  I have so many DVDs and I rarely pop one in the DVD player.  We now have a lot of movies on digital download on Amazon.  A space saver!  We love movies so I think it’s a good idea to use technology to save space.  Digital downloads are just too simple.  I will keep my books because they do bring value to me.  I do reference them from time to time and I believe they are a part of me.  I could go digital with my books, but I’m old fashioned.  I like being able to hold a book and actually flip pages.  I’ll also get rid of board games and some of my drawing/calligraphy items.  Greatest thing about some of these is that I can sell them and at least get a few dollars out of them.  Including in entertainment are my old journals that I used to write in.  Random lyrics, music chords and ideas on songs.  These are a part of me, but I can let go of them.  I’m sure I’ll reread a few journals, but I’m actually looking forward to getting rid of them.  Sports gear is another set of things I’m including in entertainment.  I have a tennis racket, bowling shoes, a couple fishing poles.  Haven’t used the tennis racket in almost 3 years.  Haven’t used the bowling shoes in about the same.  I will keep a few fishing poles as that is something I do with my wife and daughter. 

Kitchenware:  I have a lot of coffee cups.  Honestly, I use most of them on a regular basis, but I don’t need more than a few.  It will at least make me wash them quick rather than waiting for the dish washer.  This includes water bottles too.  I have a few that I don’t use that often.  I normally grab a bottled water from the office anyway as I head to the gym.  I also have 2 barbecue sets of tongs and flippers.  One of them will have to go even though we use them a few times a week. There are other items that I can’t think of, but kitchenware is on the list.

Bedroom items:  We have a king size bed and two night stands with two lamps.  Not sure that the lamps are really needed, but still have time to decide.  I have a lot of hangers for clothes, but now that I got rid of a lot of clothes I need to get rid of the hangers.  Now that I think of it, our bedroom is pretty bare.  Not much to change there. 

Miscellaneous/Tools:  I believe in keeping lawn equipment such as lawn mower, water hose, weed eater and basic gardening tools.  We like the idea of growing our own herbs or whatever we can, really.  In our first house I had a big garage to work in.  I woodworked, well, I tried, and have quite a bit of tools.  I haven’t used them as much as I used to.  I may have to consider getting rid of them. 

Office:  I have more pens that I could ever need.  I love pens, but I sure don’t use them all.  I have a few other personal desk decorations on my desk that I will consider getting rid of.  Some of them are gifts from my first deployment.  Hard to get rid of something like that.  I have a lot of documents too that I feel I may need in the future, but perhaps I’ll scan them and keep a digital copy.  I will keep my planner and my organizer.  I don’t know what I’d do without them.  

As the process evolves I’ll see what other things I can reduce.  I’m not setting a timeline, but I just want to as time passes enhance my space by being minimal.  There are things that I may keep as I feel add value to my life such as books, but we’ll see how it goes.  So…here I go!

The Start of Less


I was in college and I owned very little.  In fact, I could carry all my possessions in both my hands.  I had two guitar cases and a laptop with a case.  One guitar case had my actual guitar.  The other case had every clothing item I owned.  I lived quite simple.  I didn’t even own a cell at the time.  

12 years later I have a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house.  I have thousands of items in my house and I couldn’t carry everything I own if I wanted to.  Then again, back then I was living in a dorm and couch to couch.  Today, I have a family and a house.  You tend to accumulate things as you grow and move.  

Our third bedroom is sort of like an office with a walk-in closet…well, it’s suppose to be a walk in closet.  We use it for storage for things we honestly don’t use.  Six months after moving into our house nothing in that room was being used. We’d occasionally go search through a box for something small, but out of thousands of items in that room we really only need less than 1%.

I keep old songwriting notebooks.  High school sports medals.  Trinkets, souvenirs, things that provide no real value to my daily operations around the house.  I won’t even go into what my wife keeps because I honestly have no clue what’s in there.  That shows how often we use anything in the boxes. 

I didn’t know it, but in college, I was a minimalist.  I rarely bought anything and I lived with very little. 

A few months ago, the documentary called MMINIMALISM: A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE IMPORTANT THINGS hit Netflix and it has just gone world wide via Netflix.  It’s gaining attention and has become a growing idea.  The whole concept is to look at the big picture of what you actually own.  Sometimes we chase happiness through material items and merchandise, but all the money in the world still wouldn’t make you happy because happiness is not something you own.  You’d have to see the film to get the full scope, but that’s a good summary. 

Two months ago I sorted through all of my clothing items.  I found 55 items I did not need.  Had shoes I never worn.  Had t-shirts and pants with price tags still on them.  I now own 3 pairs of paints and about 6 t-shirts.  I have a few uniforms for work and a few pairs of shoes.  I feel a bit more liberated with knowing that the next time we move I don’t have to pack so much stuff.  In fact, I could pack almost everything in just a few suitcases if I had really had to.  I still own a few things that serve no purpose and I will get to them.  The Minimalists like to say, “One day or day one.”  I believe I started day one two months ago, but I believe minimalism isn’t an overnight transformation.  It will take time and I believe I’m on the right path.  As The Minimalists said, “It’s not a radical lifestyle.  It’s a practical lifestyle.”

There are things that I will keep and things that I will easily get rid of.  I already know when I open my box of notebooks and journals that it will be a bit difficult to get rid of the writing I did 10 years ago, but I know I can do it and I know I will do it.  Besides, if they really mattered I wouldn’t have them in a box.  

My journey to be as minimal as possible is happening.  Stay tuned. 

You can see progress on my instagram page as I post items and such @iampeteblog.