Fewer things

Two years ago, I started pruning my possessions while processing the clutter around my apartment.

Last year, I deleted my Facebook account.

In December, I saw Tron and Sam Flynn’s shipping container home. Was this possible? The internet told me: yes. I found sites dedicated to shipping container homes, simple living, and minimalism. That’s when I really started getting rid of things:

  • A sombrero chip and dip platter I’d never used.
  • A S’Mores maker I’d never used.
  • Shampoo. I use soap instead.
  • A wine rack. I never have more than one bottle at a time.
  • Three old backpacks.
  • A pair of rollerblades.
  • Many books. I donated and recycled these.
  • CD cases. I liked the art and design of some of the booklets, so I kept those.
  • A futon.
  • Clothing. A lot of this, I hadn’t worn in over a year.
  • Chest of drawers. (I’d gotten rid of so much clothing, I needed three fewer drawers.)
  • Two bookshelves and a TV stand. I replaced these with an Expedit. I’d gotten rid of so many books that this was a better fit. The Expedit was perfect: book storage, places for my consoles, TV, board games, and even a drawer unit in one of the squares. It’s the only visible storage in my apartment.
  • Two bins worth of “stuff”: baseball cards, old certificates, posters, trophies (junk, basically).
  • Two storage bins.
  • Two shelving units.
  • My 1 bedroom apartment. I moved into a bachelor apartment, because after getting rid of all this stuff, I needed much less space.

Very few of these were thrown in the garbage. I was able to donate, sell, or give away much of it. I’m still far from living out of a shipping container, but much closer than before. I’m going to start trying to get rid of one more thing each day, because there’s still a lot of excess. There’s only a small marginal cost to each item, but together, they make for a more costly and distracting experience that takes more time, attention, and space to maintain.

Donate your books

I’m filing this under “Productivity” because minimizing clutter helps you devote your time, attention, and space to things that are important to you.

Old books are common clutter items. But, where can you get rid of them in Vancouver?

Selling books is usually not worth your time, especially for very out-of-date textbooks. This only works out if you sell a textbook immediately after you are finished with it and if it’s required reading for the next term.

In Vancouver, you can recycle both hard and soft-cover books (from Vancouver recycling’s FAQ):

For soft cover books, they can go into the “mixed paper” bag or “paper products” cart for recycling. For the yellow bag, you have to be careful not to exceed the 20 kilogram (44 pound) limit as the crews lift these by hand, so you may have to do it over a number of weeks. You can also drop off the soft cover books in the mixed paper bin at our recycling depot for free.
For hardcover books, remove the paper from the hardcover and binding/glue on the spine by cutting or tearing. The paper can be recycled as mixed paper (listed above) and the covers and binding/glue will go into the garbage.

You can also donate your books. One charity that takes any type of book, including textbooks, is Reading Tree. They have collection bins all around Vancouver, and even will arrange to pick them up from your place. Find a bin near you using their bin locator.

Update: Reading Tree has ceased operations and transfered management of their collection boxes to Discover Books. Find collection bins near you at http://discoverbooks.com/index.php/get-involved.


A white and dark glass gem, used as marking stones for the game Zendo.
Marking stones for the game Zendo.

I almost have Zendo! I ordered some pyramids that should arrive tomorrow, and just bought some glass marking stones.
This is a fun logic game. One person is chosen as the master. The master creates a secret rule or test. You win the game by being the first player to correctly guess the master’s rule. The rule describes valid arrangements of the pyramids. An example of a rule is: “the arrangement must have at least one green pyramid”.
To begin the game, the master creates two example arrangements, one that follows the rule, and one that does not follow the rule. The master places a light marking stone beside the arrangement that follows the rule, and a dark marking stone beside the arrangement that does not follow the rule.
Players then, in turn, create arrangements and ask the master to mark them. The master marks arrangements that follow the rule with a light stone and marks those that do not follow the rule with a dark stone. By doing this, players gain information about the rule.
There are special guessing stones that you need to obtain if you want to make a guess at the rule, and there’s a special way to acquire these. It’s all explained in more detail at the Wikipedia article.
When you finally are ready to make a guess at what the rule is, you spend one guessing stone and tell the master your guess. If you are correct, you win the game. If your guess is incorrect, the master constructs a counter-example, and marks it appropriately. The master either builds an example that your rule would have marked light, but is in fact dark, or builds an example that your rule would have marked dark, but is in fact light.
Zendo’s a good game if you’re looking for something abstract. There’s no board, so it’s very portable. All you need is some space on a table to set up the examples. Depending on the difficulty of the rule, how good the players are at guessing, and how much information comes from the master’s examples, each game should take between 5 and 20 minutes. There’s as much fun in being the master as there is in being a player. The pyramids cost $24 from Looney Labs during their closeout sale, and the stones about $10 from a craft store.

Monopoly Deal

A person holding a hand of "Monopoly Deal" cards.

I discovered Monopoly Deal this weekend at the Ultimate tournament. It isn’t anything like Monopoly. It reminded me more of Dominion than any other game I’ve played. You draw cards into your hand, and choose to either drop them into your bank, use them as action cards, or build up your collection of properties. It seems it is at about 70-30 on the luck-skill scale.

Games are quick: we almost finished two games before the food arrived at a restaurant, and that was with the upper limit of five players. The rules are simple: all the info you need fits on a single rule card, and each action card is self-explanatory.

See? Totally not Monopoly. I bought a copy at Chapters for $10 today. Let’s play!