Full Minimalist Life

I have been bitten.

By the ‘minimalism’ bug.

Now all my paragraphs will be one-phrase sentences.

Only kidding!

(I have a 1.5-year-old, so we borrowed Taro Gomi’s 1977 classic ‘Everyone Poops’ from the library. In it is one of the best-est two illustrated pages of human literature EVAR. “A one-hump camel makes a one-hump poop and a two-hump camel makes a two-hump poop. Only kidding!” You’re welcome.)

This is after reading ‘Simplify – 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life’, the wicked cheap e-book by Joshua Becker.

Much to my surprise, getting rid of stuff… to have less stuff… to start feeling like the toga partying Stoics of Ancient Greece… wasn’t the point. Neigh Nay, fair horse citizen! ‘Twas for the purpose of a higher ideal.

It ends up being more about the journey than the destination – the verbs in your life rather than the nouns. (I’ve just summarized the best bits of this blog. And the meaning of life. Congrats. You can now put aside your glowing rectangle, hike to the nearest fjord, graze off the land, gaze upwards, and contemplate the stars.)

How did I get to this conclusion incorporate this mindset into my daily adventure? We’ll pick back up, and fold in Agility, after my e-book e-notes:

  • Minimalism defined: the intentional promotion of the things we most value (deciding what is most important in my life) and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.
    • How we spend our time, the art we display, the clothes we wear. Removing the urgent for the sake of the important.
  • A simple minimalist home is calming.
  • Do I use it or love it?
    • Clutter: stuff I don’t use or love.
  • Clutter: too much stuff in too small a space.
  • ‘Rational minimalism’ is the type that works for me.
  • Intentionally promote the things we value
    • and remove anything that distracts us from them.
  • Decorate in a minimalist style.
  • Remove every item from a space, then KEEP / MOVE / DISCARD.
    • KEEP: high-use in front, low-use in back.
  • Is it essential?
    • If no, remove it.
  • 20% clothing worn 80% of time.
  • Become a fan of the lasting, invisible things.
    • Key to not buying more after getting to less.
  • Impress others with my life, not my stuff.
  • We were meant to live simply, enjoying the {experiences, people, journey, not things} of life.
    • We were never meant to live life accumulating stuff.
  • Surround myself with things I love, not what I should keep.
  • You don’t need to chase everything you’ve always wanted if you already have everything you need.
  • Every piece of clothing I own is my favourite clothes.
  • Do fewer things, better.
  • (Have fewer, better things.)

(The last two bullet points really do it for me. That last one is a pithy abstraction, summarizing the approach to the things in your life, but since the ultimate focus is on verbs versus nouns, I underscored this with parentheses. And if you’ve never heard of the oxymoronic practice of underscoring with parentheses, you have now.)

Didn’t read all that? Fine. Here’s a Bruce Lee quote that’ll catch you up:

Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.

To be clear, my understanding of minimalism is that it is the practice (so, constant action) of promoting the essential, while removing distractions. I take this a step further, since, yes, you’ll end up promoting & removing both verbs & nouns in & from your life & life, but focusing on what you do (the verbs), not have (the nouns), will bring you durable fulfillment. I see minimalism as a way to get there.

What does this have to do with Agile?

Let’s start from lower-level activities.

In Kanban, there is the practice of ‘limiting work in progress’. This results in more things getting to a done state more often. Using some illustrative numbers, let’s say you complete 1 thing per workday, instead of 5 things at the end of the workweek. This means, each day instead of each week, you have something you can release to the wild public to see how the animals your customers will react. This means you have more opportunities, each day instead of each week or five times more in this example, to get feedback and see if you’re on the right track with what you’re building / selling. The extreme example I use with Teams to illustrate another side of this point is:

Would you rather have 10 things 80% done, or 8 things 100% done?

Kanban’s preference for working on just a few things at a time can be seen as a result of minimalism’s call to constantly figuring out what’s important, constantly removing distractions, and then only working on what’s important, which can’t be everything, or even many things, but end up being a few essential things. Whether it reflects your essence, or the top priority items of the product backlog, these are small in number. (One might say… a minimal amount.)

Now let’s address higher-level thinking.

In ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries, validating a hypothesis requires an experiment that is targeted, reflected in what you measure & build. Because you want to get at the essence of what you want to learn, you won’t always need code or a prototype to get there, an intriguing characteristic of the Minimum Viable Product.

Creating a MVP thus requires a minimalist mindset in implementing the Build-Measure-Learn cycle, since at each stage (starting with what you want to learn, then how you want to measure it, then building something that includes the ability to measure that) you promote clarity of what you value (just learn this, so just measure these things, so build just enough to get these measurements), while removing distractions (let’s learn something specific, so don’t bother measuring these other things, so don’t spend time building more).

Ah. ‘Minimalism’ and ‘MVP’ share a root word. This reflects how minimalism & applied Agility have shared values. (Let us all agree that the following abbreviation is just to spice up mathematical proofs with the Latin equivalent of a mic-drop.) Q.E.D.


Picking the mic back up for a second, maybe y’now see how incorporating a minimalist mindset is not a stretch when living in an Agile way. Doing (…and having) what reflects your essence means a greater part of your days reflects what you value (…and not what you don’t value). This means a greater number of your days are full. Meaningfully full. Through minimalism.

Full Minimalist Life.

This blog post’s title wasn’t motivated by a pun after all.

Only kidding!

Lemme gently place this mic back down here…