Zeromalist – Zero is more

This manifesto documents my minimalism and simple living guidelines.

Embracing minimalism on different aspects of your life has plenty of benefits, like peace of mind, knowing where things are, and being low-maintenance in general. By pushing for minimalism all the way to actually reaching zero, you unlock features. These can be significant (like letting you rent your apartment on Airbnb) or minor (like not having to check-in any luggage at the airport).

Disclaimer: Each of the following points makes me personally happier, because I find joy and excitement in optimizing my life. I believe most people would benefit from these techniques in terms of reducing stress, saving time, space, and money. If optimization does not trigger any joy for you though, a lot of what you will find here will seem ridiculously too intense. If that's your case, I'm sure you can still put things into perspective and only focus on what's relevant to you.

Contents

Productivity: Inbox Zero and Tasks Zero, Feeds Zero, Phone and Notifications Zero

Computer: Local Files Zero, Computer Zero, Paper Documents Zero, Desktop Zero

Home: Clutter Zero, Hidden Stuff Zero, Pockets and Wallet Zero

Travel: Commute Zero, Luggage Zero

Clothes: Wardrobe Zero, Cotton Zero, Colors Zero

Health, and more: Meat Zero, Shampoo Zero, Drugs Zero

Productivity

Inbox Zero and Tasks Zero

Pros: Not forgetting tasks, getting things done quick, eliminating mental reminder loops like "oh crap, I forgot again that I have to do this thing". It reduces your stress significantly.

Feature unlocked: Knowing you have absolutely nothing to take care of at the moment is extremely liberating and will free your mind to do things that matter.

How to: Read about the GTD workflow and similar strategies, and apply them with modern tools. For emails and to-do lists, I highly recommend Inbox by Gmail. It has been conceived with inbox zero in mind, integrates reminders, and lets you postpone emails. A must-have. Here are the slides of a presentation I gave about going from regular GTD to to-do zero.

Problem: Addictive. An empty inbox or to-do list usually means you've done the urgent things, but not necessarily important things. Don't go too crazy with task-killing and keep an eye on the most important things as well.

Solution: If an undone task bugs you and prevents you from working on something important, plan a task-killing session later and postpone it to buffer it with other tasks.

Feeds Zero

Pros: Empty homepage feeds will save you huge amounts of time by making Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat completely pointless to look at.

Feature unlocked: Depends on your level of addiction, but in my case it probably saves something like than 10 hours per week. That is literally 22 days per year!

How to: Unfollow all of your friends on Facebook, but turn on notifications for the truly important ones (if they're not spammy). When you open Facebook you'll immediately see if they posted something, and since your homepage feed is empty, there is really nothing else to do there, so you will leave immediately. For Twitter and Instagram, just unfollow everyone. For Snapchat, make your account public and remove all the friends that are not truly your close friends. This way everyone can still send you things, but you won't be tempted by watching uninteresting stories.

Problem: Following 0 people will make you look like a total selfish jerk who is not interested in what other people have to say. That's particularly true for businesses.

Solution: Find and follow 10 people who have zero posts. That will keep your feed empty. If people click on your followings and see weird accounts, that's not too much of a big deal. If some of your friends find out you don't follow them anymore, just say the truth. Explain you unfollowed everyone, not just them, because you need to spend less time on these sites.

Phone and Notifications Zero

Pros: Smartphones are a huge source of distraction that needs to be eliminated. Save huge amounts of time by making them less tempting and disruptive.

Feature unlocked: Just like with Feeds Zero above, some people can literally save dozens of days per year by being less tempted to waste time on their phone. You also get work done faster and more efficiently if you don't get interrupted by notifications.

How to: On Android, remove all icons from the home screen, and even remove some from the bottom launchbar if you don't use them more than 5 times a day. I personally only have Chrome and Inbox by Gmail, which I both open probably more than 10 times a day, and that's it. For anything else, I open the app drawer, which takes less than a second. You should also remove junk apps that you don't use, and even Disable the stock apps that you can't uninstall, to have a clean minimal app drawer with easy to find apps. Turn off as many push notifications as possible too. Your phone now looks super sleek, but boring and not fun, to dissuade you from wasting time on it.

Bonus: Keep a clean install checklist, like for Computer Zero below.

Computer

Local Files Zero

Pros: Organized files increase your efficiency. Backed up files protects your work and important personal data.

Feature unlocked: The ability to lose / break / reformat / upgrade / get your computer stolen knowing that you haven't lost a single file.

How to: Have all your important files on Dropbox / Drive. Do an offline backup of your entire Dropbox once a month in case an internal flaw on their system deletes your files (both on their server and on your main computer). You can for instance have an other user account on your computer just to have a separate instance of Dropbox syncing to a custom folder located on a large capacity external hard drive.

Problem: Small internal hard drives, particularly SSDs can't necessarily handle all the data you own, so you can't always have your entire Dropbox synced locally in your main computer user account.

Solution: Selective sync. Only keep in your main computer user account the folder and files you actually need on a daily basis. Upload small files via the web interface. For bigger files, have an Upload folder in your Dropbox for the transfer, then move the file to an online-only folder via the web interface to remove it locally.

Computer Zero

Pros: Local Files Zero protects your personal data, Computer Zero protects your programs and settings. It consists in keeping an exhaustive checklist of what is installed on your computer to be able to restore it in the future.

Feature unlocked: Being able to restore the exact state of your computer, programs and settings, easily and fast.

How to: Every time you install something on your computer, or change important settings, write it down in a document. Update this list by removing outdated stuff once in awhile as well. Whenever you'll need to start fresh, all you'll have to do is follow this checklist mindlessly for an entire day; but then you'll be good to go, knowing that everything has been restored to the exact state you wanted.

Paper Documents Zero

Pros: Digitizing and accessing your documents online is a huge improvement in quality of life, compared to keeping tons of them at home. Paper can burn, get stained, ripped, lost, is heavy and cumbersome, and a hassle to deal with in general.

Feature unlocked: Retrieving any document or personal information in a few seconds, from any computer or phone. Administrative tasks that require paperwork become a walk in the park.

How to: Get a small scanner if you don't have one already, scan all of your documents, and organize them nicely in your Dropbox folder. Once everything is backed up, you can throw away the documents that can get re-printed easily, but keep the original important ones (payslips, taxes, social security, contracts with original signatures, documents with complex watermarks...). Put those in a nice well-organized binder.

Desktop and Downloads Zero

Pros: An empty desktop is liberating and inspiring. An empty Download folder ensures everything else is backed up on Dropbox / Drive.

How to: Remove all icons and shortcuts from your desktop. On Mac, if you show hidden files, you'll need to deactivate the Desktop completely using a command line to hide .DS_Store and such files. You then have a beautiful space to pick a great wallpaper. I personally use a simple black wood one, which looks very sleek and zen. Keep your launchbar to the very minimum as well. Treat your Downloads folder like a to-do list. Any file there must be treated like a normal task. You usually either trash it or save it online. Keeping your Trash empty is also nice and soothing.

Home

Clutter Zero

Pros: A decluttered and tidy home feels great. It's easier to clean, you find your things instantly, it makes moving easier. It should feel like you're walking into a (good) Airbnb apartment; all clean and made for you to relax.

Feature unlocked: If your apartment is as clean and tidy as an Airbnb, well you can Airbnb it! When moving out, you should also try to have as few things as possible, so that everything can be moved in only one car trip and without movers.

How to: For every item of your house, ask yourself the following questions. Is it something you haven't used or wore in a year or more? Trash it, sell it, or give it. Is it something that you keep for memories but probably won't use or wear in the future? Take a picture of it and trash it, sell it, or give it. Pictures convey the same "aww" memories effect than the object itself, so as long as it's not a very important object, you're fine with just a photo of it. Is it something you use or wear often, or love so much that a photo wouldn't replace it? Keep it.

Hidden Stuff Zero

Pros: Containers are your enemy. Boxes, drawers, closets, hidden spaces like under your bed, trick you into thinking your mess is tidy by hiding it. I prefer keeping most things I own somewhat visible for better control. It forces me to reconsider getting rid of unused junk more often.

Feature unlocked: Since I barely use storage, I don't need much of it. It saves money and space. Being able to estimate the volume of things you own in a glimpse makes it easier to plan when moving. No surprises like a forgotten big box in the closet.

How to: The general rule of thumb is to avoid putting things in places that are difficult to see. Avoid the highest shelves that require a chair to reach, or putting items behind others, making them invisible and forgettable. If you thoroughly decluttered your home, you shouldn't have much left, so the visual pollution should be pretty minimal.

Bonus: An extension to this approach of preferring content over containers is to apply it to smaller things as well. Overly-packaged food, office supplies, hardware items... basically everything comes wrapped in plastic or in a box. Ask yourself if you need the container or if the content is enough.

Pockets and Wallet Zero

Pros: Walking with the bare minimum: phone, keys, and tiny wallet feels good, and you lose less things if you lose your wallet. It also doesn't stretch your pants pockets.

How to: Take out all those useless cards from your wallet, get a tiny one, with just your ID, debit card, public transport card if applicable, your health insurance card if applicable, and a $20 or 20€ bill just in case. Keep all your coins in a separate pouch or jar somewhere home, and use them or give them away as often as possible. Only keep your home keys, mailbox keys, and possibly car keys on your keychain. Here is my wallet and keys, connected by a tiny carabiner to easily add or remove keys.

Travel

Commute Zero

Pros: Living very close to your workplace, or working from home, is an incredible increase in quality of life for those who are used to commuting a lot.

Feature unlocked: No need for a car (if there is good public transportation in your area), which saves tons of money and worries.

How to: Look for an apartment that is close to your workplace (within walking distance, ideally, but a quick bus or train trip is fine), gives you access to all the local businesses you need, particularly a grocery store, and lets you reach major train stations and an airport relatively easily. Once you have the perfect location, a public transit card, a few Uber rides, and comfortable shoes to walk around is all you need!

Problem: Without a car, exceptional medium-distance trips become trickier, even though I consider the everyday life comfort to be more important.

Solution: You can rent a car, or have a long and painful public transportation trip once in awhile. If it's a group trip, some of your friends will probably be fine with taking you with them.

Luggage Zero

Pros: Traveling lightweight is great for mobility, reduces the risks for losing stuff, and saves time when packing.

Feature unlocked: Having everything you need in one backpack allows you to skip checking baggages at the airport, and waiting for them at baggage claim. It also lets you start visiting right out the airport without having to drop off a cumbersome suitcase at the hotel / Airbnb first.

How to: Check the weather beforehand, so you don't take any unnecessary clothes. Shave, put on your nail polish, or whatever it is that you do, right before leaving instead of bringing stuff with you. And just generally prepare your bag with a minimalist mindset with only things you will absolutely need. Always pick Airbnb places that provide bed sheets and towels, or bring a microfiber towel.

Clothes

Wardrobe Zero

Pros: Aim for 1 model per type of clothes, times 7. Having this sort of uniform reduces decision fatigue. It basically engineers clothing to make it functional and optimal.

Feature unlocked: Reduces the time spent picking clothes down to 3 seconds - you just grab the first item of each pile and you're done. You'll never wonder what to wear ever again, and it saves tons of space. If you lose or get your luggage stolen while traveling, you'll reconstitute your wardrobe very easily.

How to: Get 7 of the same best pairs of socks, boxers, and shirts, 2 of the same best pants, 1 or 2 of the best sweaters, 1 pair of the best shorts, and 1 pair of the best shoes. Have a bag of "occasional clothes" like flip-flops, a swimming suit, a suit shirt and jacket, sunglasses, etc., but keep these to the very minimum. Make sure you get fitted pants and shorts to not need a belt (it saves time every single day, and makes airport security checks smoother and less awkward).

Problem: It's obviously very repetitive.

Solution: You probably won't mind wearing the same model of underwear, pants, or shoes every day, but having a few different (but similar) shirts is pretty efficient at making you feel like you're wearing a different outfit.

Cotton Zero

Pros: Synthetic sportswear fabric is softer, breathes better than cotton, dries almost instantly, and I personally think it looks futuristic and cool. Plain tennis polo shirts can look elegant like a shirt. It gets less moldy than cotton in humid environments.

Feature unlocked: No need to iron it, no need to use fabric softener. Wearing sportswear also makes you seem more like a sport guy on his way to the gym, which looks tougher and is less inviting for people who would want to mess with you.

How to: Go to your local sportswear store and buy a bunch of synthetic fabric shirts, pants, and whatever you'll need. I ordered all my underwear on Amazon, which makes it very easy to replace some.

Potential problem: It's unclear whether wearing synthetic fabric every day on the long run has negative effects on your skin or not. My guess is that if it's bad, it probably won't be too bad. I suppose some people's skin might not tolerate well some types of synthetic fabric.

Colors Zero

Pros: Wearing only black and white makes your life simpler. It always goes well. Not mixing black with black-ish clothes, and white with white-ish clothes, will also make these last longer. If that's your thing, you can go hardcore and only wear black, but I personally like contrast a lot, so I'll stick to black and white for the moment.

Feature unlocked: No need to do laundry for colors, which actually saves quite some time, I'd say half an hour per week.

Problem: Well obviously, to many people, this is depressing as hell. Being an ex-metalhead, it doesn't bother me to wear a lot of black, but it would definitely be an issue for people who like to wear joyful clothes, or people who care about their looks.

Solution: I wear colorful bracelets, which make the overall look more friendly and fun. Shoes or shoelaces can be colorful to compensate as well.

Health, and more

This is a special section for my other personal zeroes that are mostly related to health. They are not really minimalistic, but I thought I'd share a few more ideas here.

Meat Zero

I am a vegetarian. I love the taste of meat, but I don't like killing animals for 2 minutes of pleasure, and I'd rather not have heart diseases or some form of cancer that comes from consuming meat. I would go vegan if my country – France – wasn't so dairy-oriented. I also drink Joylent (Soylent for Europe) every other day.

Shampoo Zero

Also known as the "No Poo" method. I use baking soda or Ghassoul clay to wash my hair, and apple cider vinegar for conditioner. Basically, shampoos disrupt your hair's natural ability to clean itself, and using more natural products allows you to wash it less without it feeling dirty. A neat feature is that you don't need to bring shampoo if you travel for less than a week. Go water-only.

Drugs Zero

I don't smoke cigarettes or cannabis, and don't take any recreational or harder drug. I drink alcohol when hanging out with friends, but don't get drunk like I used to do in high school or university. The reason for this is both avoiding wasted hangover days, and keeping my liver in good condition. I also prefer staying away from medical drugs, unless absolutely necessary.

About Me

I am Jonathan Verrecchia, a French software engineer and electronic music producer. If you are interested in what I have to say, feel free to follow me or subscribe to my newsletter below to hear more.

Upcoming topics: Google Docs Zero, Passwords Zero, Physical Memories Zero.

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