Minimalism Game Days 29-31: This is the End, Beautiful Friend

Often life is a series of false starts and half-assed attempts.  We have great plans and great intentions, but then the day-to-day grind gets in the way.   Work, friends, significant others, kids, and all the myriad collection of duties that become our responsibilities.

And then there’s the worst enemy of them all . . . the wane of enthusiasm.

You have so much passion and energy and you just can’t wait to start.  You’re propelled to action by some mysterious force, and you know this is thing you must be doing. If there were a bit, you would be literally champing (or chomping) at it.

And then, just as quickly as you were drawn to it, you lose interest.

With the Minimalism Game, keeping away from alcohol, and this blog, I’m thankful my commitment never wavered.  My daily routines threw down some obstacles, but never enough to stop me.  And while I can’t say my enthusiasm throughout the month was ever as high as Day One, I remained excited to see these projects through to the end.

So did I make it to April Fool’s Day sober and with 496 less possessions?  Let’s find out . . .



Hodgepodge Day

For March 29th I knew it was going to be hodgepodge, higgledy–piggledy kind of day.   For the final two days of the Minimalism Game I planned an assault on my bookshelves.  So for the third-to-last, or near penultimate one, I had to scour every crevice of my apartment to find things I did not need.

There was my whole array of electronics.  My 10 year-old desktop computer that I wasn’t even using when I lived in San Francisco, but thought it would be a good idea to ship to Hawaii.  My Toshiba Laptop that I accidentally dropped on the floor over 2 years ago and then would not start.  My twelve-year-old coffee maker, which at one time was top-of-the-line, had been replaced a few months back by a French Press (also pictured above), which was then replaced by an even better stainless steel French Press.  The infamous iPod that killed my CDs, which now only plays music through one earphone.  Three old cell phones, including the first one I ever owned (hard to believe, but I actually held-out from joining the cell phone world until summer of 2004).  A remote control.  And then a clunky printer/scanner that came with the apartment but has never worked.

Then there’s the category of stuff that can best be described as “everything else”.  A beat-up REI bag that I once had a strong affection for, gray shoelaces, a blanket from United Airlines, a plastic sword and its accompanying Gladiator costume, a cigar-cutter from the 90s, various semi-used toiletries, an empty inhaler, a water-infuser, an unopened adventure gift-set, a VHS concert of Frank, Dino and Liza Minnelli, a DVD rom (remember those), and a plastic gas can (for the scooter I sold in February).

I could have got rid of more assorted stuff, but I wanted on the final two days find 60 books to donate.


Two Questions Decide Their Fate

In choosing books, there were two questions I asked: (1) What are the odds I would I read it again and (2) if I hadn’t read it, what are the odds I would?   If the answer was less than 50% for either, I put the book in the pile.  Here’s some notes on ones that are going away:

  • Flimsy Plastic Miracles, was Ron Currie Jr’s follow-up to his outstanding Everything Matters! While I enjoyed Miracles and I’ll be looking forward to Currie’s next book, I just don’t see myself reading it again (where I’m certain I will pick up Everything Matters! a few more times in the future).
  • Last Call is a well-written, engaging story set mostly in Las Vegas and involves gambling, tarot cards, otherworldly elements, and a battle for souls. I highly recommend it and have read the book twice (once a few years back) . . . which is why I’m giving it away.
  • I love Kurt Vonnegut and he’s one of my favorites, but I just could not get into Hocus Pocus.     The other books in here for various reasons I could not get into were The Sportswriter, The Stones of Summer (which as the book that inspired the documentary I referenced earlier in the game The Stone Reader), The Spellman Files, Spade & Archer (a prequel to The Maltese Falcon, one of my favorites), The Heart Aroused (unfortunately not mine), and The Mortdecai Trilogy (the Johnny Depp film did not make me want to revisit this 2010 purchase of mine).  I know all of these are fine books and maybe at another point in my life I could get into them, but I’d rather set them free to find owners who will enjoy them now.
  • Travel books for two places I’ve never been (Tahiti & Greece), that are now outdated.  I still want to get to both of those places, but I’ll get updated versions when that happens.
  • Two hiking books for California (Peninsula Trails and Big Sur). I got my use out of the former, but only got to do a couple of hikes in the latter.  I had a camping trip to Big Sur planned for 2008 that unfortunately had to be canceled after a big forest fire.
  • I really enjoyed Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, but it’s a massive hard cover book that I’m not likely to read again anytime soon.
  • I bought The Chandler Apartments at a cool bookshop in Prague called Shakespeare & Sons, and while it was a good souvenir (it’s even autographed) and a good read, I most likely won’t go cover-to-cover with it again.
  • The Grifters is a book I’ve read at least three times over the last fifteen years and I’ll probably again, but I have another copy of it (my brother bought me a new one a few years back).
  • There are some writing/publishing books in here that I got my use out of and now time to make available to others.
  • I have somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen Phillip K Dick books in my library, but I just never connected with the two I’m giving away: Voices From the Street (published posthumously and non-sci-fi) and Counter-Clock World (a great premise in that time is running backwards).

It wasn’t easy, but I got my sixty.  And while the bookshelves are still full, they are no longer bulging.  The next project will be to reorganize them and do some dusting, but I’ll save that for another day.

So there you have it . . . I successfully completed the Minimalism Game.  I’m happy to say I have no regrets or any “giver’s remorse”.  The resolve to do this started on Leap Day and ended on April Fool’s Day . . . that is rife with symbolism but it’s too late on a Sunday evening for me to do it justice.  I need to get some more distance from the Minimalism Game.

Right now I’m just glad it’s over!

As for drinking, I guess I could say the same.  I made it the full thirty-one days, and then on April 1st stopped the madness with a few beers.  For the record, the first one was an Occidental Bohemian Pilsner (Portland, Oregon) at Real Gastropub, and it was downright delicious.


Minimalism Game Days 26-28: Wardrobe Malfunction Part Deux


Eighty-one and done

As I hunted through my closet for more things to purge, I felt a big goofy grin spreading across my face.  No, I had not been doing shots of whiskey (it’s still twenty-eight days and counting without any alcohol).  So why was there such a pleasant buzz going through my body?

The joy of fifty or so pounds of unneeded possessions soon to be leaving my life, and the relief there’s only 72 hours left to the Minimalism Game.

With days 26-28, I successfully completed the Great Clothing Catharsis of 2016.  Sayonara, ties.  Adios, suits.  Dress shirts and pants that have been collecting dust in my closet since I moved . . . so long, suckers.  Shoes with holes or worn soles, I’ll see you in hell (no, just kidding, shoes, I meant the trash barrel).  I also got rid of a pair of underwear, a pair of long johns, one sock, two bags, eight hats, 24 more t-shirts, and a batting glove.  Eighty-one items in all.

I’d say the things I was happiest to see go were my suits and ties.  Since moving to Hawaii, they have darkened my closet with their sneering attitude.  You need to keep us, Ostrowski.  You can’t stay in Honolulu forever, and when you go back to the mainland they’ll laugh at you if you wear aloha shirts to work.   Grays, charcoals, and dark colors.  You need us!

I don’t need you.

As Hunter S. Thompson once said, “all energy flows according to the whims of the great magnet”.  I’m not sure how long this Hawaii adventure will last, or what the future holds for me.  But I’m confident I don’t need a neck tie to get there.

Was there anything I hesitated over parting with?   Yes, and it actually did not end up in the pile even though it probably should have.  My Chicago Cubs fishing hat from 1991.


The hat that would not leave . . .and my toes.  

It’s dirty, it’s threadbare, and I’ll never wear it again.  But I couldn’t give it up because of the memories.  I got it the summer I turned twenty-one on a trip to Chicago, as a giveaway on the Fourth of July at Wrigley Field.  I’d seen the ballpark on TV so many times, but I wasn’t prepared for how green and vivid it was on first glance as we walked up the concourse ramp to our seats.

There were the houses hanging over the bleachers!  The Ivy!  And we could see Harry Caray up in the broadcast booth!  Simply put, you will never forget your first trip to Wrigley Field.

You also didn’t have to leave your seat to get beer, and we took full advantage of that convenience to keep cool that muggy afternoon.  We also got treated to extra innings, and Mark Grace sent the fans home happy with an 11th Inning walk-off homerun.  We left Wrigley for Grant Park, where we got to sample great food at the Taste of Chicago and then watch fireworks later in evening.

I can remember that day better than most that happened last month.  While I didn’t need that hat to conjure up those memories, it made me smile just holding it and feeling the stitching of the Cubs logo.  It might be going back in the closet to collect dust, but it stays.

Looking ahead, these final three days are going to be a challenge.  Ninety more things must go.  Come April Fools’ Day, we’ll see if I succeeded.

Minimalism Game Days 23-25: Rise of the Machines

“Because they battle me they’re really taking a risk.  You’re an 8-Track Tape and I’m a compact disc.”

-Young MC, from the track “I Come Off”, off the album Stone Cold Rhymin’ (1989)

20160325_224219 (2)

The Journey of these CDs continue on to Goodwill or end at the Recycling Center

I was late to the compact disc game, and it wasn’t until 1991 that I got a CD player.  For the record the first CDs I bought were Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, Buffett’s A1A, and Paul’s Boutique from the Beastie Boys (my tape player had just eaten my cassette copy).  They were purchased at Newbury Comics, a New England Cathedral of Music, which I’m happy to see is still in business.

While I would continue to play my analog cassettes for years after 1991 because I had so many of them, I fell in love with this burgeoning digital format.  Other than what I spent on food or booze, most of my disposable income of that time went into my music collection.  This was money well spent.

While the journey of most CD collections end in abandonment after the rise of iTunes (and mine does as well), I had a couple of pit stops along the way that are worth mentioning.  Between 1998-2001, my music collection was the victim of some unfortunate events.  Let me explain.

I moved from Boston to LA in June of 1998 to pursue my dream of being a screenwriter.  I knew it was going to be a challenge, and I thought the $4,000 I had saved would be enough for my relocation.  But this got quickly gobbled up from the road trip there (which was amazing, and a tale for another time), first/last/deposit for my apartment, and then buying supplies to assist in my quest to become a screenwriter (printer paper, ink, stationary, envelopes, and postage stamps . . . yes, this was before it was acceptable to email agents and producers).

It took me about a month to find a job, and by that time my bank account was anemic.  I was lucky to have been hired as a bartender at Pizzeria Uno’s West Hollywood, but we were far from being a hip spot and the tips were never consistent.  While we had busy nights and even weeks, there were shifts I was lucky if three people sat at the bar.  I was loving Los Angeles and I was making new friends, but I was going broke.

And then it happened.  It was sometime at the end of summer I did not have enough money to pay for rent, a first for me.  No matter how low on funds I’d been in the past, I’d never been in a situation where I couldn’t pay for my apartment.

I was about seventy-five dollars short, and I’m not sure how I came up with the idea but I sold off part of my CD collection to pay for it.  I can’t remember the name of the used record store in Burbank (but it wasn’t far from my apartment) and they paid around $3 to 4 a CD.  It was embarrassing to have to do this, and depressing to have to part with any of my beloved music.  This was also long before iTunes and the ability to copy CDs (I’m pretty sure the technology existed in 1998, but it wasn’t readily available to someone who couldn’t afford to keep their compact discs).

The view from my Burbank apartment in the late 90s, and me drinking in said apartment probably celebrating being able to pay rent.

Fortunately that was my low-point in Los Angeles (I guess if selling CDs to make rent is the worst thing that happens to you in LA, you’re not doing so bad), and I soon rebounded.  By 2000 I had bought either new or used copies of the CDs I had sold, and also added more along the way.  Things were looking up for Young Ostrowski.

But then my music collection received a double whammy.

On my flight home to Boston for Christmas in 2000, I left one of those hard plastic CD holders on the plane with about twenty of my favorites in it.  I didn’t realize this until the next day, and when I called the airline (I can’t even remember which one now) they said they would look for it.  I gave my parents’ phone number (no cell phone back then), but during the whole week they never rang.  When I called back, after being put on hold and transferred a million times, the airline informed me they were unable to locate my CDs.

Then about a couple months after returning to LA, I got robbed.  All the CDs in my car were taken, and in their place the thief (or thieves) left six small cylindrical pieces of scorched glass.   Apparently my car was used as a crack den, and my music was on its way to being sold for drugs.

In 2001 I was still living paycheck-to-paycheck, and this was a big blow.   I made the decision I would not even attempt to try and replace what was stolen, but fortunately this was around the time my roommate Fozzie got an iMac.  Not only did his computer look cool, he was able to make copies of CDs and also burn mixes.  Foz let me use his new toy, and I borrowed from friends to make copies of the ones I lost and also to add more music to my collection.

This lead eventually to 2006 and my first iPod, and the slow and unceremonious death of my CD collection.  My discs got imported and stored digitally, all available through those little white headphones wherever I went. For the next couple years I still listened to CDs on the stereo, but when I moved into my studio apartment in late 2007 I pretty much abandoned the format.

Fifteen years after the double whammy disaster to my music collection, I’m now happily giving away 72 compact discs as part of the Minimalism Game.  I would have no problem parting with dozens more, but I don’t think Goodwill or the Salvation Army will accept them without the jewel cases.  Several years back I liberated most discs in my collection from their cases, and along with the booklets put them in an easily storable zip-up album.

All of the CDs I’m giving away or recycling have been imported wholly or in part to my iTunes.  I could put them in an album, but I can’t remember the last time I dusted off the one I currently have.  And it also feels good to be physically getting rid of all this plastic, which fits into the reason why I began this Minimalism Game.

Just a quick note on a few of the CDs that are departing my home:

  • Jimmy Buffett’s Fruitcakes – This was one of my most anticipated CDs of all time, as Buffett had not recorded a studio album in five years. Upon its release in May 1994 I was living in Key West, and I biked down to Duval Street early that morning to the Margaritaville Café store to purchase it.  My buddy Paul was visiting at the time, and we listened to every track while enjoying cocktails in my apartment on Bertha Street.   Unfortunately this disc is scratched to shit, but I do have another copy.
20160325_224424 (2)

This will always make me think of Key West in the early 90s

Photo231 (2).jpg

Me in Key West in the Early 90s

  • CDs of Swing & Standards – Back in the mid to late 90s, I was listening to swing music and standards every day. While I loved the current stuff of my generation, there was just something about Frank, Sammy, Dino, Glen Miller, Mel Torme, Count Basie, Nat King Cole and the artists of that period that really spoke to me.  This was the music of my grandparents, and I couldn’t get enough of it.  While I still enjoy these tunes, hopefully my CDs will fall into the hands of a twenty-something who will turn off Kayne or Taylor Swift for a little while and find some appreciation in the classics.


  • CDs of singer songwriters – Marc Cohn, Kevin Welch, and Lyle Lovett are three artists who are very under appreciated. Cohn scored a huge hit on his self-titled debut with “Walking in Memphis” in the early 90s, but then pretty much disappeared off the charts even though he continued to record quality music.  The Rainy Season, his second album, (which is on my list) is quite good.  I especially like “Rest for the Weary” and “She’s Becoming Gold”.  Kevin Welch and Lyle Lovett are two alt country artists I’ve loved for decades, and I will never tire of listening to the former’s “Something ‘Bout You” and the latter’s “Song for Sonja”.  As with my Swing Music, I’m sure if a younger person (with good taste) were to listen to these great singer songwriters they would appreciate their soulful voices and songs.

20160325_224633 (2)

  • Mix CDs – These make up more than half of the 72 I’m getting rid of, and there are ones dating back to the days of my old roommate’s iMac. Since they’re already safely stored on my computer and in the cloud, there is just no logical reason to keep them.   And I was happy to learn that Target and Best Buy have recycling bins that will keep these pieces of plastic out of a landfill.

I’m behind a day with this post, so I’ll be back tomorrow or Monday with Days 26 & 27 of the Minimalism Game.   That makes six more days to go, and 171 more things I need to oust from my apartment.  Can I make it?   

Minimalism Game Days 21-22: Coffee Cups and String Cheese, These are a Few of My Favorite Things

I’ve always kept things pretty lean in the kitchenware department.

Before moving to Hawaii I lived for nearly five years in a tiny studio apartment in the Richmond District of San Francisco.  Without hyperbole, my kitchen area was not much bigger than your typical closet.  I cooked with two pots and two pans (one each medium sized, one each small) on a little combo stovetop/sink.   There wasn’t a conventional oven (the fridge was underneath the burners) or even a microwave.  Cabinet and counter space was scant at best, and I barely had room to utilize my toaster oven and mini George Forman grill.

I ate out a lot.

But I’ve always liked to cook, and I think I’ve done well through the years within my limited tools and knowledge.  So can I find a way to accomplish my food and beverage needs with even less?  I’m going to try.

The studio days are behind me, and my girlfriend and I live in a nice (but old) two-bedroom apartment in Waikiki.  The kitchen is on the small side, but there’s enough space for us.  And now that I raided the cabinets and drawers for the Minimalism Game, we should now be able to start entertaining large groups of guests with lavish parties (just kidding, I wasn’t able to magically increase the cubic feet).

The previous occupants left quite a bit of kitchenware (some nice plates, cups, and silverware), which we’ve utilized since day one.  While it was tempting to put some of that stuff in my Minimalism Game pile, I resisted.  I only chose items that I either brought with me to Hawaii, purchased while here, or received as gifts.

Glassware was a major opportunity.  And while I was able to successfully purge a bunch of it, I’m pretty sure what remains likely exceeds our needs (if anyone out there is able to put forth a justifiable argument on why one guy would need to own seventeen coffee cups, please share).  Maybe I’ll revisit this area later, but what I kept in my kitchen was either for functional purposes or because I consider them collector’s items.

I have so many glasses and cups commemorating championships won by my sports teams, and logic says I should get rid of some of them.  However logic often gets its ass kicked by nostalgia, and the only one I could part with at this time was actually a duplicate.  The rest of my collection span the last fourteen years, and if I ever end up owning a house I’d love to keep them all in a cool display case.  That, of course, would likely horrify any card carrying minimalist.  But no matter how impractical, I know I would really get a bang out of having something like that.

In random order, here is what ended up in the box to donate.


  • The four plates were the ones I primarily used for the five years I lived in that studio apartment. They served me well, but the ones remaining in the cabinet are nicer.
  • Of the five coffee cups that made the list, here’s some background on three of them. (1) I received two City of Champions mugs for Christmas of 2004, and I’ve consumed hundreds of cups of coffee in them since.   Even though I’m still keeping one, it actually wasn’t so easy letting the other go.  (2) The California Adventure cup was from a nice trip to Disneyland with my Mom back in 2001.  While it wasn’t an easy decision, I have plenty of pictures from that time to bring back all those great memories and I still have too many choices for my coffee.  (3) My New England Patriots Superbowl participant coffee mug from January 1997 is one of the oldest pieces in my collection.  My team lost to Green Bay, and I also got pulled over by one of Boston’s finest that night when I should not have been driving (let’s just leave it at that).  Although he let me go (I was decked out head to toe in Pats gear, and I think he felt bad for me), there aren’t too many nice memories attached to that day.  I’m actually not sure why I didn’t smash this in some kind of cleansing ritual years ago.
  • The Sam Adams Octoberfest mug dates back to my bartending days (late 90s or early 00s). For years I kept loose change in it, but after my last move I scrubbed it out and put it back in the rotation.  Even with this gone, I still have more Sam Adams glasses.
  • The ginormous pilsner glass was a White Elephant gift from two years ago that I’ve used once.
  • The rocks glass and beer koozie were recently acquired, but certainly not needed.
  • Their origins are hazy, but the ten shot glasses were somehow received as gifts from our friends Khara and Tom. They came over to watch football one Sunday, and I think brought them because they were trying to minimize their glassware (as well as ensure we had the ability to do Jager shots after our teams scored).  I still have six shot glasses left in the cupboard for the 2016 season.
  • The seventeen pieces of plastic cutlery have always been superfluous, but they’ve lingered in our kitchen drawer for quite a long time. I’ve gotten better at giving back the disposable utensils when receiving take-out, but these found their way to our home.  I’m going to walk these up to Diamond Head Market for reuse.
  • The two plastic to-go containers are part of a large contingent of Tupperware-esque items that live in our cabinet. There’s definitely more that can go, but need to consult my girlfriend before liberating any of the others.
  • And lastly we have a plastic cup that I brought back from my 2014 trip to Green Bay.  I met my buddies there to see the Patriots play the Packers, and even though my team lost it was still a fun time.  The people of Green Bay couldn’t have been any nicer, Lambeau could be the best venue in the NFL, and I had (out of this cup) one of the best Bloody Mary’s of my life.  In a completely genius move on so many levels, it contained two of my all-time favorite things (string cheese and alcohol).  God bless the good people of Wisconsin.
20141130_100146 (1)

String Cheese in a Bloody Mary…Genius Move, Wisconsin


Minimalism Game Days 18-20: Are you an Einstein or a Hughes?


Albert Einstein’s Desk

I’ve never been what you would consider a neat person.  Fastidious, anal retentive, or even well-ordered are adjectives I’ve never heard anyone use to describe me.  Tidy . . . maybe once or twice.  That is actually a lie of the dirty-rotten variety.  In all my years on the planet, I’ve never received a compliment (not even in the ballpark) that I was organized.

But am I messy?

Save for Oscar Madison or Oscar the Grouch (and maybe Pig Pen), most people would not readily admit they were messy.  In my younger days I might have shrugged or possibly given a wry smile if somebody called me that.  But in 2016, do I want the world-at-large to consider me a messy person?

Not that I’m admitting such a moniker applies.  I prefer to say that I’ve chosen a lifestyle of slight disarray.  And who’s to say you should go about your business being neat or messy, that one way is correct and the other wrong?

Well, turns out there’s actually a helluva lot of people.

There’s the famous quote by Einstein, who said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”  While I don’t think Mr. E = mc2 actually admitting to being messy, it sounds like he didn’t think it was such a bad thing either.  Plenty of studies have shown that a messy desk (or disorder in your work space), makes a person more creative.  I’ve always liked that (f-you, ya tidy bastards), and have used it to justify my unkemptness (still not capitulating to being messy).

In the other camp, there’s a ton of information that shows a strong tie between being organized and being productive.  In my extensive research on this topic (fifteen minutes of Googling), I learned from an Office Max survey that 77% of workers said clutter damages their productivity, 50% believed it had a negative effect mentally, and 20% thought it made them look bad professionally.  I also came across a startling statistic.  There was a study done several years back (by some publication called Fast Company magazine) where they determined executives waste six weeks per year looking for lost documents.

Since I read it on the Internet it has to be true, right?  Well, even if it’s only somewhat true (let’s say it’s two weeks), that’s way too long to be looking for shit.  I often waste time rifling through my papers trying to find things, and same can be said of my electronic files.

Shortly after starting the Minimalism Game, I took a couple of hours at work and went through my office looking for paper to either recycle or shred (if it contained confidential info).  I found a lot.  Buried under my desk in a cardboard box was a veritable treasure trove of useless documents, and I was able to excavate more from drawers and cabinets.  When I finished purging, I felt downright gleeful.

So last Friday before leaving for the weekend, I went around my office (mostly in the nether regions underneath my desk) finding various things (other than paper) I could either recycle, donate, or throw away.  Since I spend five days a week in this space (and probably more waking hours there than my apartment), I decided to extend the Minimalism Game to my job.  It wasn’t hard to find the 57 items I needed for Days 18, 19, and 20.


Spring Cleaning in the Office

There were 28 magazines (mostly Human Resources or hotel industry related . . . far from the “Industry of Cool”), 8 pieces of clothing that belong to two different Halloween costumes (yes, that is a Poodle Skirt you see in the picture, please don’t ask), 6 HR books (three I never read, the others antiquated), 4 Kuikui Nut Leis (I still have a couple if needed), 3 more t-shirts (they must multiple on their own), 1 turtle cup, 1 mason jar, 1 Hawaii themed wine opener, 1 “Kiss Me I’m Irish” plastic necklace (362 days until next St. Paddy’s Day), 1 button down shirt that is now too big for me, 1 tub of cleaning solution, 1 Tori Richards bag (kept from a Christmas present), and 1 moped helmet (I got rid of the moped last month, poor planning on my part).

I’m never going transform my desk (or life) at home or at my office into being completely orderly, and there will always be an element of disaray.  So I won’t have to worry about becoming Howard Hughes bat-shit obsessed with cleanliness.  And if Einstein was right, I need not fear sacrificing any creativity in this Minimalism venture.  But in my three weeks at this game, I’ve become pretty sure that being better organized (maybe you could call it trending towards tidy) will be a good thing.

Einstein and Hughes

Hughes and Einstein

Minimalism Game Days 14-15: “Industry of Cool”

Blog 3.15.16

GQ Wants Us to Forgive Justin Bieber

“I want to live in the world that these people are in (the world of magazines). No one ever says anything in there, have you noticed?  They’re all very cool.  Like, they’re all really deep.  It’s when people start talking that everything goes to shit.”

-Nessa Watkins, from the film Mumford (character played by Zooey Deschanel, script by Lawrence Kasdan)

When I was younger, I was a magazine junkie.

At various points in my life I’ve had subscriptions to Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, ESPN the Magazine, Premiere, Filmmaker, Entertainment Weekly, Empire, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Detour, Maxim, Rolling Stone, Men’s Heath, Men’s Journal, Esquire, and GQ.  I know I’m missing several magazines on that list, but you get the point.

Most of these subscriptions were from my 20s and early 30s, and my choices clearly fit into my socioeconomic demographic.  Sports, movies, music, and miscellaneous guys’ shit.  I was never a person who had an unhealthy obsession with the world of magazines, though looking back, I’m not sure how good they were for me.

Movie stars, top athletes, models, and assorted millionaires.  People I’ll never meet and places I’ll most likely never go.  Beautiful photos, fascinating stories, and all sorts of advice from “How to Find the Perfect Watch” to “More Than You Actually Need to Know About Shaving” to “How to Break All the Rules & Make New Ones”.

Aspire to a better lifestyle and consume.  All the latest styles and products for your review.  The best a man can get.

Whoa . . . channeling my inner Tyler Durden a little too much there.  I still actually enjoy reading these glossy periodicals on occasion, and this isn’t supposed to come off as an anti-magazine screed.  There’s a lot of great journalism being done in those pages, and any kind of reading is better than none at all.  But, like anything, too much of it (especially with the wrong perspective) just ain’t good for you.

While the quote that started this post is from Mumford (the movie, not the band), I referenced another film in the title.  Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous is one of my favorites, and Lester Bangs (based on a real person) delivers the line when talking about the music industry.  He said when it ceased to be real, it just becomes “an industry of cool”.

I see a lot of parallels to magazines in that statement.  Most of what we read and see in them isn’t very real (or at least does not reflect the reality most of us live in), and what we’re getting is just an industry of cool.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and these magazines can be very entertaining and even informative.  But I think back to the 20-something version of myself, and even if it was only at a subconscious level, I’m sure I was doing what I could to be like the people in those pages.

As I gotten older I’ve renewed less and less, and the last several years the only magazine subscriptions I’ve purchased were through my nephews’ fundraising efforts for their schools.  The last one of those (Esquire) expired, and now I’m only receiving my BU and Emerson alumni ones (thank you, college loans).  For some reason I still get random ones in the mail (just this month I got a GQ about forgiving Justin Bieber, and the last several issues of Better Homes & Gardens have found their way to my door), and I also still buy one-offs every now and then.  So I have no plans to stop reading them.

For the Minimalism Game, it wasn’t hard to find 29 magazines in my apartment that I managed to keep from the recycling bins.  Going through them while making my pile to photograph, I can see why I didn’t get rid of them.  I’ve probably read only about 20% of these issues.  And while I’m sure I’d delight in learning about Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney, and Esquire’s  take on The Meaning of Life, I know I will have opportunities to do so in other magazines in the future.

Industry of Cool

Screenshot from Cameron Crowe’s Mastepiece


Minimalism Game Days 11-13: Wardrobe Malfunction


Days 11 & 12

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

― Henry David Thoreau

I hate all malls, and shopping in general.  The clothing stores I usually frequent, like Ross or Marshalls, are an evil necessity I must mentally prepare myself for before visiting.  I shop online occasionally for clothes, but usually just workout gear.

I am also as far from hip as you can get.  Since I’ve been old enough to buy my own clothes, I’ve never even attempted to keep up with the trends and styles of the time.  You sure as hell won’t see me thumbing through the pages of GQ exclaiming “I need that”.

And then there’s this.  When I moved from San Francisco to Hawaii in late 2012, I donated eight garbage bags full of clothes.  Mostly they were warm weather items, but I also rid myself of things that no longer fit or I hadn’t worn in years.  I’d actually felt proud I’d jettisoned so many my garments before the movers arrived.

But I still consider my wardrobe excessive for what I need.

How did this happen?

Since we moved in together, my girlfriend J’Nell has been telling me I have too many t-shirts.  I knew she was right (in theory), but when I actually inventoried them this weekend I was astounded.  I have over eighty t-shirts . . .  that I know about.  There are storage bins in my closet I didn’t even open, and I shudder to think there are probably more.  Through the years it seems I’ve taken the cliché “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt” far too literally.

I can break my tees down into five basic categories: (1) Boston Sports Teams, (2) Jimmy Buffett, (3) Travel/Cities, (4) Work/Fundraising Events, and (5) Undershirts.  That is not an exhaustive list, and I think I might need another for all the awesome comp ones my buddy Marcos has sent from his company Wounded Apparel (shameless plug, but they do fine work there).  Regardless of how you break them down, I have too many damn t-shirts.

For Day 12, I took the easy route and focused on categories four and five.  Since I no longer wear a suit and tie for my job, my need for undershirts is at an all-time low.  With work/fund-raising tees, usually you wear them on the day of the event and then bury them deep in your closet or dresser.  It didn’t take long to complete my dozen.

In fact, on top of the twelve I put aside, I identified twenty more tees I’m fairly sure I can donate.  But even if I go through with those, that still leaves more than fifty!  Do I need that many?  Of course not, but getting rid of any that rate high on the nostalgia scale (categories 1-3) will be challenging.  I’m thinking of you, my Saturday Night Live 15th Anniversary t-shirt that I purchased in 1990.


No pockets, no love

Moving along in my wardrobe, on March 11th I selected eleven pairs of shorts to give to Good Will.   For the most part they were either too big, too short (who wears short, shorts?), or else I owned its doppelganger.  And then there was the work-out ones I’ve had for a decade (with the Italy insignia), but have probably worn less than five times.  They fit, but I always hated they didn’t have any pockets (a major deal breaker when it comes to shorts).   I must have kept them all these years out of stubbornness, which has no place in the Minimalism Game.

Day 13 was all about boxes.  Either I’d been keeping them just-in-case, or else I had wanted to see how long I could play an over-sized game of Jenga in the corner of the apartment.  Cardboard is clutter, and those thirteen boxes are all now on their way to being recycled.

I’m almost two-weeks into this de-cluttering project, and I’ve given up 91 of my things.  Only 405 more to go . . .