My Ongoing Process of Becoming a Minimalist

truck filled with furniture

Over the past year or so I’ve been on a journey to reduce my quantity of possessions and to live with a minimal amount of physical objects. I think I would agree with most people who think being a minimalist is very strange behavior, but with great support from close friends and family, I started ridding my life of extra stuff with the goal of being unbridled, lightweight, and free.

I started by using an old brown bag from a clothing retailer and doing an initial scrape of shirts, pants, shorts, belts, and shoes that no longer fit me. I used a principle that I learned while watching What Not to Wear on a sick day at home: own clothes that fit you now and not for what you want to become. With this first bag of stuff, I ran over to Goodwill and donated them. It felt really good to give some breathing room to my closet and to know that others would benefit from my perfectly fine clothing.

Fast forward to today, and I’m much further than when I began, but I’m nowhere near my final quantity of 150 things.

Instead of creating goals for the year, I’d like to operate from a core set of pillars and have goals eminate from each of them. For example, one of my pillars is going to be generosity, which along with the pillar of flexibility aligns very nicely to my movement of becoming a minimalist.

One of the tactics I’ll be starting this weekend is the Donation Sunday approach as proposed by Danny Dover in his blog post and video called “How to Become a Minimalist”. (Fast forward to the 4:16 mark for more information on Donation Sundays.) Danny has been an inspiration for me because of his authenticity, transparency, and optimism. He’s given me a lot of great ideas!

As a Christian, I believe my time will be better spent in ministry, fellowship, prayer, meditation, and learning, rather than in ownership, maintenance, or acquisition. It’s a journey—and let’s be honest—somewhat of a game. But I think it’s a fun challenge that has a positive benefit, too!

Let me know what you think via Twitter or Facebook.

Go to an NFL Game

From the upper balcony, top row, a panoramic view of LP Field in Nashville during the Titans vs. Colts NFL game.
From the upper balcony, top row, a panoramic view of LP Field in Nashville during the Titans vs. Colts NFL game.

It was pretty cold, but nothing compared to the moody winter chaos that I left in southwest Michigan just a few hours prior. After having snowed over a foot in under 24 hours (properly dubbed “Lake Effect” snow to those in the know), I welcomed the light breeze and cold fingers because the ground was simply uncovered. No slush, crunch, wet, or slickness.

My brother and his wife were gracious enough to gift me one of my 30 Before 30 items for my birthday—a ticket to an NFL game. At LP Field in Nashville, we hobnobbed in the very top row of the upper balcony, laughing at the surrounding southern slang. And since none of us had any allegiance to the Titans or the Colts, we could simply cheer for “offense!” and “football!”

An NFL game demonstrates American excessiveness at its pinacle. Not one, but two extremely large video screens paralleled each other on opposite end zones. Dee Jay Silver picked just the right heart-pumping beat and crowd-pleasing pop song in between every play. The announcer, “Duke,” had an almost drunken sound to his aging voice. Periodically, the Titans’ cheerleaders would bounce in time to music. I guess you could call it dancing, but with all the blond hair and partially unzipped jackets I’m not sure anyone was paying attention to their moves.

The three of us at the Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts NFL game.
The three of us at the Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts NFL game.

There was no such thing as dead time, even during commercial breaks. Honestly, everything was so well produced that it felt like one of my childhood video games and not a real event.

We joked about what it would be like for a foreigner to experience this kind of unnecessary American opulence. Would it be overwhelming, sad, or gross?

Another one down, thanks to my generous brother and his beautiful wife. Less than a year left, and I’ve got quite a few to go!

Visit Yosemite National Park

This past weekend I decided to extend a business trip and knock off another one of my 30 Before 30 items: visit Yosemite National Park. I’ve been really looking forward to this one for many reasons.

Ford Mustang Rental Car in Yosemite National Park

It all started with some good fortune when I went to pick up my rental car and was handed the keys to a bright red Ford Mustang! Driving from San Francisco, I crossed the bay on a long bridge and turned up the radio.

I should’ve thought ahead. This being the dry season, a huge forest fire had started growing outside the park and was spreading west and south along one of the entrances into the valley. Of course, that wouldn’t stop me.

From a distance, I could see the smoke rising on the horizon and a golden haze settling over Modesto and Merced. A local told me to drive with the windows up and let the car’s air filter take care of the rubbish. But it was sunny and I was driving a Mustang, so that wasn’t going to happen.

Driving from Merced to Yosemite

It smelled like a fire and looked like a fire. Birds seemed skittish. I drove faster toward the mountains and past brown, grassy fields filled with orchards.

Climbing and descending, the road twisted along the route, winding past mountain towns and local eateries.

And finally, I entered Yosemite.

Although a summer weekend and the National Park Service’s birthday—meaning free admission—the crowds weren’t bad.

Hiking the Mist Trail up to Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park

Hiking was my priority, and so I began the trail to Vernal Falls. I guess my many runs paid off because I ascended quickly and passed many out-of-breath tourists with sweat stains and fanny packs. It took about an hour to reach the very top.

What a surreal experience. It was beautiful and peaceful. Everyone was partially clothed and laying on various rocks along the shore of an ice cold lake, spires of ancient rocks overhead. And so I joined—resting on my own rock with my eyes closed and the sounds of the Sierra Nevadas all around. Rocks changed color as the sun descended.

Item #14 is now complete. This one was fun.

I’ve included some more pictures below. Enjoy!

Ryan Ricketts above Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park
Laying out near a lake above Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park
Woman in bikini walking across the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park
A meadow and some cliffs in Yosemite National Park

30 Before 30 Bucket List

Inspired by Danny Dover and with some prodding by my own restlessness, I’ve been toying with a list of 30 things I want to accomplish before I turn 30 years old which I’m calling my 30 Before 30 bucket list. There is something to say about publicly posting these—maybe it will hold me more accountable?

I would call this my first draft since I’d like to get feedback before it’s final. But I’ve had a few of these on my list for over a year, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating by marking them as complete.

I have until August 6, 2014, to finish this list.

  1. ✓ Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail
  2. ✓ Give a best man’s speech
  3. ✓ Drink a Guinness in Dublin
  4. ✓ Go whitewater rafting
  5. ✓ Visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York City
  6. ✓ Eat lobster in Boston
  7. ✓ Go to a house concert
  8. ✓ Learn how to make sushi
  9. ✓ Go stand-up paddleboarding
  10. Eat at Alinea in Chicago
  11. Go to an NFL game
  12. Live in another state
  13. ✓ Speak at a conference
  14. Visit Yosemite National Park
  15. ✓ Grow a plant from a seed to full maturity
  16. See the Badlands
  17. ✓ Visit the Hoover Dam
  18. Learn how to tie a bow tie
  19. ✓ Get a straight razor shave
  20. ✓ Take a bartending class
  21. ✓ Visit the Grand Canyon
  22. Go to a rodeo
  23. ✓ Become debt free
  24. ✓ Go to a hookah bar
  25. ✓ Get a professional massage
  26. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  27. Build a six pack
  28. Buy a same-day plane ticket
  29. ✓ Bake a cake from scratch
  30. Go to an MMA fight

Let me know what you think via Twitter or Facebook.