Pack Like a Minimalist: Tom Bihn Synapse 25

After two years of research and planning, I’m delighted to finally be writing a minimalist packing post. For me, travel packing is a complex and enjoyable optimization challenge. Volume, weight, material, functionality, and style are all taken into account when I plan a domestic or international adventure. To this end, I’ve complied my packing list and thought process below for my latest trip.

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How I (Literally) Downsized My Apartment

For much of this minimalism journey, I’ve been challenging the limits of material possessions–constantly evaluating what provides me a happy and modest life. For the health of myself, the planet, and my communities, I’m choosing to be more conscious of what I buy and own. To that end, I’ve moved into more appropriate spaces based on my needs. With less than one week remaining on my current lease and feeling quite lean, I took on a unique experiment. Rather than reducing my possessions, I decided to reduce the space in which I lived. After selling our final piece of furniture on Craigslist, I physically shrunk my livable space nearly 70% to a frightful 314 square feet. Continue reading “How I (Literally) Downsized My Apartment”

Go Paperless with Google Drive


Paper hasn’t always been around. In fact, the wood-based pulp used ubiquitously today only came into production during the 19th century. Every year since then, tons (literally) of paper is created, consumed, recycled, wasted, or used to scribble passing thoughts without…well, a passing thought. In some doctor offices, physical records are still a way of life. To others, paper is an epidemic rearing its ugly head in the form of valpak or Red Plum circulars. (Those packets of coupons drive me nuts!) Some think eBooks are ruining paper’s true purpose–literary art, while others opt into credit card e-statements with zeal. It’s clear that paper has become an easy way to document and transmit endless amounts of information. In becoming more intentional with all my possessions, I realized I had a pulp problem of my own. Continue reading “Go Paperless with Google Drive”

Low-Cost Furnishing: The Multi-Year Craigslist Experiment

Today, all across the country, people are moving their belongings from one residence to another. Perhaps a new job has them headed for Atlanta, or maybe they’re interested in experiencing the charm of Portland life. Even empty nesters–people that haven’t moved in years–are downsizing. In each of these scenarios, folks decide what material possessions make the cut, and what doesn’t. As I go through the process of leaving my third post-college residence, I can’t help but reflect on my experience furnishing living spaces. Just like books, there are numerous methods to sourcing our appliances, tools, and furniture. After more than two years, I’m here to share the results of my multi-year craigslist experience. Continue reading “Low-Cost Furnishing: The Multi-Year Craigslist Experiment”

Discover Your Local Public Library

I define frugality as achieving similar results, for less. Less money, less time, and less energy. In turn, more of these resources are made available for the important things in life. Driven not by laziness, but optimization. This process of thinking is critical for designing an essential life. For example: how can I maintain my current social life, for less? How can I eat delicious foods, for less? How can I get direct access to the incredible minds of authors from around the world, for less? The last of these can be answered with a wonderful resource known to many, but used by few: the local public library. Continue reading “Discover Your Local Public Library”

Crafting My Capsule Wardrobe

I find clothing to be one of the most popular and approachable areas for simplification. When folks first hear about minimalism–the idea of removing the extraneous to accentuate the essential–they tend to decree their closet as ground zero. And it certainly makes sense. Physical decluttering is by its very nature, tangible. And this makes it all the more inviting and simpler to downsize. Furthermore, it seems as if everyone has fallen victim to owning far too many clothes. Mix its very affordable cost with frequent use, and you have consumer products ripe for over-consumption.

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I recently explored the differences between simplicity and minimalism, but I want to take the conversation a step further. I argued they are indeed mutually exclusive and both existing in their own domain–the physical and the emotional. I think your life can feel simple without necessarily pursuing minimal possessions. On the other hand, you can be a minimalist but maintain a complex mentality. One is a mindset, while the other is an extension of your physical space. Moreover, depending on the person, they can both hold their own unique definition. Continue reading “Essentialism”

Minimalism vs Simplicity

I was recently taken aback when a friend asked me to provide a distinction between simplicity and minimalism. While I tend to use them interchangeably, I have yet to sit down and craft my own definitions of these lifestyle elements. And while there are deep similarities, I do view minimalism and simplicity as mutually exclusive ideas.

Born from a sense of the aesthetic, I see minimalism as an approach to my physical world, namely possessions. I desire minimizing what’s in my space, whether tangible or digital, to my favorite essentials. Simplicity on the other hand serves a different function in my life. It is when I develop a more intentional approach with my belongings that I then experience a simpler lifestyle. I feel as if simplicity is rooted in my emotional state and outlook. Hence, I want my life to look minimal and feel simple. Continue reading “Minimalism vs Simplicity”

Sentimental Items

As I continue downsizing my material possessions to those items providing me a mix of high functionality, frequent use, and deep satisfaction, I discovered one category of great difficulty. While minor in volume, my sentimental items proved difficult to relinquish. A flurry of emotions and memories were deeply tied to these objects occupying the shoe box under my bed, bin in my closet, and folder in my drawer. You may know what I’m talking about–that box of old love letters, ticket stubs, award certificates, or machine stamped medallions with a red, white, and blue lanyard. I’ll go as far to admit finding a molar tucked away in a small envelope labeled “for braces”. The CSI-like nature of my bin prompted an immediate review.  Continue reading “Sentimental Items”