Consolidation is the New Minimalism


Have you ever watched a trash compactor at work? If not, you should, it’s amazing. It takes all this crap and smooshes it down to one tiny cube. Recently I watched a car cruncher crunch a car into a shadow of it’s former self (while my train was stopped… I don’t go hang out in junkyards – but maybe I should).

Anyhow, it was all I could do but to stare lustfully while I watched something giant and complicated become something small and reduced to it’s most primary matter. Which, in turn, led me to a life changing epiphany…

For the last six months or so I’ve been moved by the concept of minimalism, mostly for functional and aesthetic reasons. See I’m pretty obsessive compulsive so the more crap I “own” the more time I have to spend organizing, grooming and otherwise compartmentalizing my life to ensure everything has it’s order. When, at my worst, I had a condo full of crap – from multiple designer handbags to drawers stuffed with digital gizmos – I would spend hours of perfectly good daylight just organizing and re-organizing it all to soothe my OCD nerves.

Thankfully for blogs like my friend Everett’s and books like Focus I started to learn a new, better way… But I still found myself in a pickle – what should go and what should stay?

After getting rid of TONS of junk I still found myself with more than I could carry on my person (which is a problem considering my current situation of nomad-hood and my penchant for working from wherever I please).

This always seemed to come to a head when I would pack up my “mobile office” i.e. my messenger bag. Should I keep the iPad but ditch the Macbook? Do I lose the camera because it’s weighing me down? Or should I keep it just in case I stumble upon some seriously picture worthy events. What about all the little accessories that I find myself stuffing in the pockets of my bag like a chipmunk storing up for a digital winter?

Finally, while watching that poor little Toyota get crunched into a cube in the junkyard – it hit me. I needed to consolidate, not get rid of, just smoosh down to things to their most basic elements!

Consolidating vs. Minimalism

Minimalism teaches us to live with less, the art of consolidation teaches us to live with less but to also never sacrifice functionality for pure “less-ness” (not a word FYI). It may be more “minimalistic” to not carry around my iPhone, Macbook, iPad, Flipcam and Camera but at any given point I need all of those features.

So what did I do? I consolidated.

The Macbook + iPad became the Macbook Air 13″. The same functionality of the Macbook Pro (for the most part) without the back breaking weight (I’m a tiny person – I can only handle so much). The iPad, I won’t lie, I only used as a “light” version of my computer. So consolidating those two into one worked perfectly for me.

The iPhone, Flipcam + Canon became the iPhone 4. Which takes great pictures (not excellent, but they’ll do), good videos (comparable to the Flipcam) and well… makes calls! Ta-da! I turned 3 items into 1.

I also consolidated three pens and a few pencils into a pen/pencil/high-lighter combo mega-pen. My Moleskin notebook stayed the same and I still carry around a “real” book with me wherever I go because I love the feel of paper pages on my fingertips.

Consolidation in Life

I am also consolidating my beautiful Lexus, insurance costs and gas bill into a ZipCar membership. Three things turning into one hourly rate. Beautiful.

Even my make up has been consolidated… from 50 plus loose pieces into a few “combo packs” that are lean, mean and fit into my little vanity bag perfectly.

Consolidation in Business

Instead of getting an office somewhere now that I’m in S.F., I’m going to rent a desk from a co-working space. This consolidates ten separate bills (think electricity, heat, cool, wi-fi, phone, garbage…) into one monthly fee. I can rent a desk and enjoy all the amenities of a modern office for under $500 a month – with no commitment and no buying office furniture *shudder*.

I consolidated my stupid wi-fi card into my ATT bill, so I now have ‘tethering’ which practically turns me into (via iPhone) a walking, talking wi-fi hotspot. 

I’ve also consolidated 100 little tasks that used to bog down my personal and business life (stuff like research, customer service request sorting and deleting people on Twitter) into one lovely virtual assistant who takes all of that crap off my plate and allows me to focus on the good stuff!

So… What can you consolidate?

  • Ryan

    I’m getting ready for my big move to Mexico, and I’m trying to fit it all into one backpack. Obviously, if I was camping it wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m still going to be running my business.

    I’ve gotten rid of the real “junk,” found as many multi-function items as possible, moved to the cloud, and still have all the functionality I need to run my business effectively.

    I kinda wish you posted this a week ago when I was figuring out what to bring. Awesome article as always, thanks.

  • Welner

    I agree with you about the macbook air!…. I must say that you are someone to look up to. I wish many of the women in my life had the same mentality you do, the go-getter mentality. I just wanted to thank you for all the podcast… I’ve d/l and listen to all of them. I know you don’t know who I am but keep doing what you’re doing and good bye(I live in las vegas).

  • Melodee Forbes

    Wow! This is really great Maren. I need to consolidate my bedroom and office items!

  • Patrick

    hmmm, tried this with the sony erricson x10 xperia mini – ie phone, email, camera in one, but camera still is not as good as a real digital camera, and i didnt want to get iphone bc i thought i’d be slow typing (former blackberry user).

    So now, living in Buenos Aires running my virtual business here I have a Dell laptop (that runs great – thanks 4G of ram), but since i knew i would be down here for a while, i made a semi-permanent office in my apt…hooked it up to a 32″ LCD (electronics not cheap in BA but figured eyesite is worth it)…but again I’m torn.

    Even though before I got rid of a TON before my move, I still have a lot of stuff (clothes mostly now) that makes me feel much less mobile. Although I guess there is still a tradeoff for comfort / style and minimalism…plus time in each location. I’m now staying here through June, so maybe I don’t have too much stuff. I wish I could get it down more.

    Either way, good article. Maybe I just need to clean my room and stop rambling…

  • Anonymous

    I like that idea Maren – consolidation – getting down to the basic elements. Loved the examples that you gave of the phone and the laptop – certainly got me thinking about a few things. Thanks for the post.

  • Nicholastozier

    I quit anything that I’m not amazing at, so I can push harder into the areas where I’ve already gained some ground—where I know I can reinvent the game and be a major ally (or threat) to the niche leaders.

  • Maren Kate

    Sorry :( I’m always late!

  • Maren Kate

    Thanks :) but I think more chicks should try and be more go-getter-ish for sure. What part of Vegas (my hometown)

  • Maren Kate

    Bed-Office-Room I see it – sounds wonderful – working in bed… my idea of a dream day!

  • Maren Kate

    It’s hard to get rid of clothes for me :) and shoes – so everyone has their stuff vices!

  • Maren Kate

    You are welcome – p.s. I love your handle :) lol

  • Maren Kate

    That is SUCH great advice – don’t try to do something you don’t think you can be the best at… if you do that you will no matter what succeed.

  • Nicholas Tozier

    Aha, just found this video you made a month ago.

    Good advice. And nice ears. :)

  • samuel

    Awesome post Maren! I guess I need to consolidate my reading room and my gadgets! :) what do you think?

  • samuel

    Awesome post Maren! I guess I need to consolidate my reading room and my gadgets! :) what do you think?

  • Corinne Floyd

    Hi Maren, It is funny how words and concepts start gaining popularity. Just a few days ago, a woman on the local news station was interviewed about her new minamalist life style. She talked about how she has cleaned out and de-cluttered her house. Through this process she now saves time and money. She does not have to clean up as much and she doesn’t go shopping as often. So for the past few days I have been thinking about how I can be a “minimalist”! Now today I read your article. I like the idea of consolidation much better!! It will be easier to implement and to keep going with it.

  • Maren Kate

    Depends how cluttered it is :)

  • Maren Kate

    I like consolidation too – it’s more useful and long term than just getting all the junk out of your house and/or life. You keep the value and get rid of the extra space!

  • Welner Zuleta

    Simmons and craig :)

  • Nicollo

    Genius! But what exactly is a zipcar that you were referring to? And how in the world do you consolidate clothes? Once again Maren Kate, with an incredible insight I’d be too stupid to ever think up of :(.

  • Grace

    Wonderful post… I have been inspired by minimalism of late, but your idea is very practical. I am a new follower in your blog but the articles here are very interesting.