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May 2015

The Pursuit of Essentialism: Saying No

I set a schedule of Tuesday postings for our pursuit. Today should have been our one month postiversary, but I missed our date (I even let a scheduled, barely-started post make it to the internet and for that I am sorry). It wasn’t without a pang of sadness that I let the date slip by and, if I’m being honest with myself, if I had one more sleepless night I could have completed a post. Then I had to reflect on our second post and ask myself, “Would that have been the best use of my time?” Probably not. So here we are this week, back to becoming Essentialists and talking about the reason I can justify not posting last week.

The reason? I said ‘no.’

Just as important as recognizing how much (or little) time you have is understanding your ability to choose what to focus on during that time. There can be great internal and external pressure from your job, friends, and family that leave you feeling like you’re pulled in many different directions. You sorted out a whole day to support the people you love when all of a sudden your sister has an art show, a friend could use help moving, your significant other is hosting a BBQ, and one of your oldest friends is in town who you haven’t seen for ages. All that free time you worked so hard to gain has been hijacked!

In the real world, we are finite beings. That means there are inevitably going to be trade offs but the non-essentialist will try to fit in all of these activities. They believe they can help their friend move, bring their out-of-town friend to the BBQ and still make it to their sister’s art show. The problem is this logic isn’t sound. Maybe you’re late to the art show, or you miss the BBQ, or you half-ass helping your friend move knowing you have to be somewhere soon. That’s the reality of trade offs.

This is where we learn the difference between our options (external opportunities/uncontrollable’s) and our actions (internal choices/free will).

“In an insightful op-ed for the New York Times, Erin Callan, the former CFO of Lehman Brothers, shared what she had sacrificed in making trade-offs by default. She wrote: “I didn’t start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list, and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left.”

Her story demonstrates a critical truth: we can either make the hard choices for ourselves or allow others—whether our colleagues, our boss, or our customers—to decide for us.”

Excerpt From: Greg McKeown “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.”

This means instead of asking, “How can I do it all?” you should be asking, “What do I want to go big on?” and ultimately that will mean turning someone or something down. You will have to say ‘no,’ and believe me, I get that saying no can be hard.


In this case, I went big on playing because that’s always a good decision.

I have huge FOMO (fear of missing out). There is also the fear of letting down your friends and family who you feel are counting on you. Worse than that though would be stringing someone along until you realize you can’t make it and, at the last minute, backing out. If you had said, “I would love to help you move that day, unfortunately an old friend will be in town and I’ve committed my time to them for the afternoon,” your moving friend would have the time to find other people to help them. It’s unlikely that your friend will hate you for saying no to something like this. Hopefully, after seeing how you stick to your other commitments, they’ll even recognize that you’re a solid friend and know when you do commit to them, they can expect the same great follow-through. If they get totally bent out of shape (and if that happens often) this may be a good time to revisit essentialism in your relationships. Drama is unnecessary, creates additional problems that didn’t exist before and solves nothing.

What does all this have to do with me skipping last week’s post? It all came down to the fact that I had some projects that I had committed to, including a music video for Greg Drummond we’d been working on (on and off) since July 2014 that was now in production and included a tight timeline. I made a choice. I could probably have produced the video as well as posted the article, but I chose to focus on making the video the best it could be and waiting until I had the time to do the same thing with this article.

So, what will you go big on?


  • by Brandon William Fletcher
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  • May 26, 2015
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May 2015

The Pursuit of Essentialism: The Capsule Wardrobe

This week in our Pursuit of Essentialism we’re going to tackle my closet. I’ve been reading about the concept of the capsule wardrobe lately and it began to resonate with me. Stefan Sagmeister once wrote — as well as created a personal typography project around — “trying to look good limits my life.” When I saw this, I both agreed and disagreed with this statement.

While here he was likely talking in regards to design, I’ve chosen to think of it in regards to getting dressed. Waking up to a closet full of clothes and being too overwhelmed, not knowing what to wear, it had become a time drain.

Back in February I followed some tips from “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” about cleaning my closet. I removed about 1/3 of the items I had in it but after a vacation and ‘helping’ a ‘few friends’ update ‘their’ wardrobes, I found I’d already run out of hangers in my closet by the beginning of April. This wasn’t supposed to be the plan. So what happened? In this way, trying to look good was limiting my life. During this time I remember one specific morning where I laid in bed for 40 minutes, staring at my closet, trying to think about what I would wear when I should have been making breakfast and getting my work day started.

I saw a way out when I came across Denaye’s article “Why I Got Rid of My Wardrobe” from the Dallas Moms Blog. Yes, I’m drawing a parallel between a yoga mom with an over-packed closet and myself, but it sticks. If you’re on Instagram or Pinterest you undoubtedly know someone with a set of immaculately curated images exhibiting their picture-perfect lives. Maybe someone you know shared a picture of a closet that looks like one of these?

Where do you live?

Fuck you, anyway.

Does your bedroom double as a retail storefront? Are you squatting in a shopping center?

This started to get me thinking; if I could reduce my wardrobe choices to what I actually need and wear, I wouldn’t have to spend near as much time getting ready in the morning. In theory, even if I were to dress in the dark, I should be decent enough to go straight to a nice dinner, a meeting, or even a night out.

So what is a capsule wardrobe and how do you set one for yourself? Caroline, the Austin-based blogger of Unfancy, describes a wardrobe capsule as:

A mini-wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you totally LOVE to wear.

She advocates for maintaining a 37 piece wardrobe: 15 tops, 9 bottoms, 9 pairs of shoes, 2 dresses, and 2 jackets. Obviously this is meant for a woman and 37 is a number that worked for her, but it was a great starting point. At first I thought “Jeeze, only 15 tops?” but then I ended up finding out I only wear 13 anyway, if I’m counting the 4 nearly-identical black v-necks I have as 1 item. She has some great tips for building your own and how often to update it. Find out about your own Capsule Wardrobe.

If you’re having a hard time removing pieces you feel you may want to wear in the future, McKeown’s “Essentialism” has great advice there as well.


Instead of asking, “Is there a chance I will wear this someday in the future?” you ask more disciplined, tough questions: “Do I love this?” and “Do I look great in it?” and “Do I wear this often?” If the answer is no, then you know it is a candidate for elimination.


Let’s say you have your clothes divided into piles of “must keep” and “probably should get rid of.” But are you really ready to stuff the “probably should get rid of” pile in a bag and send it off? After all, there is still a feeling of sunk-cost bias: studies have found that we tend to value things we already own more highly than they are worth and thus that we find them more difficult to get rid of. If you’re not quite there, ask the killer question: “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” This usually does the trick.

For more great advice, I recommend picking up his book.

It’s an incredibly liberating experience and I feel like once I started it got easier and easier. It was great to see our whole house get involved as well. After a while we had collected 6 garbage bags between everyone.

We mostly just run around naked now.

The best part is you don’t even have to feel guilty because you don’t have to throw it away. If you do some research in your area, you can see what your city does for old clothes. Charities or local organizations can resell them for a fair amount, or you can trade with friends and family as well. We already have enough rags so clothes that were too stained or shabby to donate I was able to take to H&M where they work to reuse fibers, keep material out of landfills and reduce energy consumption. For every old H&M/grocery bag I brought in I got a coupon for $5 — if you spend $30 or more — which is the equivalent of free black v-neck in case one gets wrecked.

Sagmeister himself “found that the utilization of good or appropriate style can be very important in communicating content. So I started to take it more seriously. I still don’t like stylish pieces that have nothing to say (in the same way I don’t appreciate well dressed people with nothing to say). But if dressing well gets you heard, why not do it?” Regardless that he was still mostly referring to graphic design, the literal interpretation rang true to me. Now I can dress well with minimal effort while gaining one our most essential and costly resources, time.


  • by Brandon William Fletcher
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  • May 12, 2015
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Jun 2012

Derek Low, a student at Berkeley, set out to create the most ridiculously automated dorm ever. From automatic drapes and a morning alarm to a lighting set-up that can be switched to party or romantic-mode, this dorm is like something out of the future. What may be the best feature in the room is an emergency party button that turns the room into a pulsating, strobe lit dance floor.

(via Apartment Therapy)


  • by Brandon William Fletcher
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  • Jun 25, 2012
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Mar 2011

Sound Matrix

Create something today. Above is a grid of squares, click on any square and make some music.


  • by Brandon William Fletcher
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  • Mar 10, 2011
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Mar 2011

Seagull 1963

Admittedly I’m not a watch guy. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be. But I generally spend upwards of $300 when I buy a watch and usually only wear them for a couple months before they disappear into my drawer (see. Watch Graveyard). I told myself if I was to get another watch, it would have to be somewhat timeless, masculine and pretty simple/elegant. This recent re-launch of the Seagull 1963 is that kind of watch I think.

In 1961 the Tianjin Watch Factory was assigned to manufacture the first Chinese aviation watch (chronograph) for the Air Force of the People’s Liberation Army. The code of the assignment was “304.”  The factory pre-manufactured three batches of the aviation watch by October 1962. In the end of the year 38 leaders and experts (industrial ministry, air command, and naval equipment supervisors) came together for the appraisal of the watch. After the meeting the Tianjin Watch Factory received permission to begin the mass production of the watch. In 1963 the factory completed and delivered 1400 aviation watches to the Chinese Air Force.

The chrono has an automatic movement with a 40 hour power reserve, is made in China and retails for a cool $339. Find out more here.


  • by Brandon William Fletcher
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  • Mar 09, 2011
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Mar 2011

The Dylan Jones Bag

The editor in chief of British GQ, Mr. Dylan Jones, collaborated with Anya Hindmarch to create Hindmarch’s first ever men’s bag. I have been looking into getting a new bag, I love to get everything in one trip from my car to my door and a properly organized bag is the first step in this process.

This started out over lunch with Dylan, actually. We were talking about men and the manbag, and how a lot of people struggle with them. We had just started thinking about doing a men’s line, so I thought that doing something with Dylan would be perfect. The butter leather we make the bag out of is made at the most beautiful tannery in France called Tanneries Roux. It’s pretty much the best most expensive leather you can buy, so naturally Dylan chose that. [laughs] It wears, and it’s a very untreated, pure skin, so it changes colour with age. It’s as good as it gets.

I’m now taking donations for my new bag. It starts at £1,095 (about $1,723 CAD), so feel free to get real generous.


  • by Brandon William Fletcher
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  • Mar 07, 2011
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