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Extreme Minimalism: Andrew Hyde and the 15-Item Lifestyle
If you aren’t familiar with Andrew Hyde, he’s a technology mogul and consultant. Like many in his field, he’s constantly on the move, working out of New York and Silicon Valley in equal measure. He is also the founder of Startup Weekend, and organizer of the TEDxBoulder conference. He mentors young companies and is working on a new business venture that will create art out of discarded vinyl records.
Sounds like a pretty typical business professional, right? Well, Hyde does have one other claim to fame that sets him apart from his competition.
Andrew Hyde only owns 15 things.
Hyde is intentionally homeless. After leaving his job as community organizer for the New York-based start-up incubator TechStars, he sold all of his posessions and decided to travel the world. And for Hyde, everything is coming up roses.
Minimalism is something I’ve been intrigued by for years. In fact, one of my first posts here at Lifehack was about 100-item minimalism. And while I’m making a concerted effort to through the clutter in my own life, paring down all my belongings to 100 items is something I’m not sure I could ever achieve, let alone the incredible challenge of selecting just 15 items to live on. So one has to wonder…just what 15 items would you choose to live with?
In this picture of Hyde, you can see him and all his worldly possessions. In addition to the clothes on his back, you’ll see two pieces of outerwear, some workout clothes, an orange backpack, a pair of socks, a pair of sunglasses, a phone, a laptop, and a few other sundry items. In other words, everything he needs for a tech job on the go. (You can read the full list of Hyde’s belongings circa 2010 here.)
And while not having a permanent home certainly helps to limit the number of possessions a person can have (unless you’re investing in a long-term storage unit), just 15 items seems crazy to most people, especially to anyone who likes fashion and wants to have more than 1 pair of shoes.
But it’s worth remembering that just because you don’t own any given item doesn’t mean that you can’t ever access one, should you need it. The larger your network of friends is, the fewer items you need to own. You can always borrow what you don’t own from friends or colleagues, whether it’s a suit for a formal occasion, a casserole dish for cooking dinner for your in-laws, or even a whole house while your friends are on vacation.
And while you might think that there are just some things a person can’t live without, there are decent alternatives for most of them.
Cooking basics like pots and pans aren’t needed if you are traveling and either eating out for every meal, staying in a hotel, or staying in accommodations provided to you by your employer.
You don’t need furniture if you don’t have a home or apartment.
You don’t need a TV or a cable box to watch your favorite shows, as long as you have a laptop. Same goes for video games, books, and magazine subscriptions.
And think of the savings. No car payments, no mortgage, no cable or utility bills. Without those burdens, you could probably afford to go our to dinner every night and travel extensively.
So how would you go about paring down all your belongings to just 15 items? For Andrew Hyde, it was a slow process: “I started with my clothing basics: 2 shirts, 1 pant, 1 short, 1 sandals, 1 sunglasses and underwear. I added a few ‘must haves’ for me like an iPad and camera. I added a backpack, toiletries kit, towel, and a few random things (pen, connector cable, chargers) and tried it out. After five weeks of the trip, there is more that I have not used in the bag than there is in the bag.”
Socrates once said, “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” For a guy who lives with only 9 pounds worth of personal belongings, Andrew Hyde is living a Socratic ideal that meshes surprisingly well with our modern perceptions of what a person needs to be happy.
Could you ever live with just 15 items? What 15 things would you choose? Tell us in the comments below!
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