30 For 30/30 #7 - Digital Minimalism

This is the seventh post in my 30 for 30/30 series where I am publishing a new post each day for the next 30 days within a 30-minute window without much of a plan. You can read about why I’m doing this by clicking this link.


On February 5, Cal Newport, a professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University will release his new book, Digital Minimalism. The marketing copy says this:

"Digital Minimalism will teach you how to rethink your relationship to social media and rediscover the pleasures of the offline world. It'll help you implement a thirty-day 'digital declutter' process, making sure you're in control of your tech and not the other way around."

I won't argue with Cal on this point that social media has overtaken our lives. I say that while also sharing with you on the screenshot above how I have three social media apps at my fingertips (not to mention those 600+ unread emails).  :roll: 

Digital Clutter

In a Facebook post recently on my friend Heidi's thread, the topic of minimalism and books came up. We traded comments about books and digital books and I wrote that even digital clutter weighs heavily on me.

I own about 15 physical books, although I use to have several bookcases full of them. I have probably close to 100 digital books spread across PDF's on my computer, and ebooks on my Kindle and my Apple Books app on both my iPad and iPhone. 

Just as physical clutter affects me and makes me feel anxious, so does digital clutter and it requires vigilance in deleting rarely used apps that I no longer use and removing digital books that I've read from my devices.  

Knowing that apps and digital books are there can seem heavy, hence the continual monitoring and subsequent deletion cycles. If I find I want to read them again, all I have to do is download them again.

Books and Ego

I think there are four reasons people have a hard time getting rid of books (it was very true for me, too): 

  1. They like the aesthetic that books impart to their homes and offices
  2. They feel smarter knowing they own them; they're an intellectual security blanket of sorts
  3. They want to read them and not just keep buying them (that never happens)
  4. Owning books gives their ego a boost

I'm all for feeling better about ourselves, but I'm more for observing a simple lifestyle. I used to have bookcases jammed with medical textbooks, novels, non-fiction books, coffee table books, etc. They were no different from the ones that you most likely own. All of the reasons I cited above definitely kept me from passing them on. 

When I made a significant downsizing move a few years back, I decided to get rid of 99 percent of my books, except for a few that held sentimental value. These weren't the medical texts that I never reopened after medical school, but a few novels and non-fiction books that were life-altering when I read them. 

Over the ensuing years, I revisited them; some I passed on while some I kept even though I'd read them several times.

These are the books I'm intentional about owning.

Earlier while visiting my doctor (the flu is now viral bronchitis and has forced me to cancel my travel this weekend to see Karen), I came across this passage in my novel. I screenshot it and posted it on Heidi's thread. 

"Books should be shared, not hoarded." -Kamal Ravikant, Rebirth

(30 minutes even)