Here’s a list of everything that I own that sparks joy in my life, and that I would replace if stolen. Anything not on this list should be discarded.
It’s important to me to have a strict philosophy on what things I allow in my life because I’ve seen so many people drown in their stuff. We’re nearing a post-scarcity world - if you ever need a thing and don’t have it, you can tap a few buttons on your phone and one will be at your front door in two hours. If you’re keeping anything to have it around “just in case,” I’d argue you’re being irrational and should get rid of it. Keep things only if they enable you to do something you want to do, or actively bring you joy.
Google Pixel 2: the best camera and smartphone I’ve ever used, and my first Android phone. I should’ve switched earlier; Android as an operating system fits my use cases for a phone much more than iPhones do. It’s much more configurable and exposes more of the internal workings of the phone.
10.5-inch iPad Pro: I held out for a while on getting an iPad, but iOS 11 finally made it a useful machine (multitasking is on point). It’s become my primary method of consuming books: I import the book to GoodNotes, scribble notes and highlight important bits with the Apple Pencil, then go back through the marked up book with Nebo on the right side of the screen so I can write my outline. The iPad is also quickly replacing my physical paper notebooks.
fitbit charge 2: lets me run sleep experiments like seeing how wearing a sleep mask effects how much deep sleep I get.
I’m a coder (check out my projects), so most of my tools are programming specific or custom command line scripts I wrote to do very specific things (like adding something to my GTD inbox). I spend a lot of time on my computer, so I’ve invested a lot in finding the best tools to make me most effective.
Amethist: a tiling window manager for OS X. I can’t believe this isn’t more popular. I never have to waste time dragging windows around; they just rearrange themselves. Hacker News frequently discusses tiling window managers and their cooresponding productivity boost.
aText: custom keyboard text expanding. gmye/ expands to my email address, addr/ is my address, dt/ is the current date in ISO 8601, and I have several credit card numbers and alternate shipping addresses saved.
Better Touch Tool: custom trackpad shortcuts and gestures. I use ones for going to the next/previous tab, and closing tabs most often. I can’t use a computer that doesn’t have this installed. I used to use jitouch for the same purpose, but it doesn’t work as well on the new MacBooks. I recently added some static buttons for frequent shortcuts (starting a pomodoro timer, opening my journal) and showing my battery level and date and time, and it’s drastically improved the usefulness of the touchbar for me.
Atom: plain text code editor. This only recently got fast enough to be usable, but it’s a much better plugin system than Sublime, which I still use for editing larger files and markdown. I use the emmet, lines, prettier-atom, and vim-mode-plus plugins with the Atom Light UI Theme and Solarized Light syntax theme. VS Code might be better, but it’s unusable for me because their vim plugin is broken.
Google Chrome: a solid browser to use and develop in, and it syncs with my phone’s Chrome.
Given that you voluntarily spend several hours a day with this person, it’s pretty clear that you are in a relationship with them. Is it a healthy relationship? Or a toxic relationship? Or worse, an abusive one? How do they treat you? Do they really care about you? Or do they take and take and take and never give back? Do they compare you with other people? Do they make you feel bad?
In this vein, I make a conscious effort to cut out dopamine Skinner’s Box apps like Facebook, Twitter, imgur, reddit, and email and replace them with more productive apps like Headspace, DuoLingo, and Audiobook players. Headspace would make a great friend, and Facebook would be a shit friend.
DuoLingo: enables me to brush up on my high school Spanish and learn French from scratch. I don’t love that it doesn’t have a mechanism to teach you the more nitty gritty grammar rules of a language.
Headspace: you’ve heard it a million times, and I’m going to tell you again: meditation makes your life objectively better. I was frustrated and bored with my inability to totally clear my mind until I heard meditation described as a way to exercise your ability to pull your attention back, and then meditation started really clicking for me. I’ve had several seconds in a row where I have the experience of a truly blank mind and it’s euphoric. Super special tingly feelings running all through my brain. Meditating in the morning objectively improves the quality of my day.
FitBit: pairs with my fitbit to give me sleep and heart rate data.
Google Keep: my mobile inbox for capturing things I want to work on later.
Spark: I follow the inbox 0 philosophy to triage my inbox from my phone. It takes about 3 minutes with Spark to get through 100 emails, beacuse it’s really good at clustering them together and performing group actions (ie: I’ve scanned through all my notifications emails and starred any that require an action, so now they can all be deleted). Doesn’t natively let you star emails, so I wrote a google apps script to turn labels into stars.
Wunderlist: keep checklists for packing (a la The Checklist Manifesto). I can have one master packing list that I clone whenever I’m packing for a trip. Not a purpose built tool, but it does the job. I’d love something better.
Pocket Casts: the best podcast app on Android (I miss Overcast the most of any iOS app I lost when switching to Android).
Google Photos: the magic solution I’ve been waiting for to what to do with all the pictures I take on my phone. I’ve forcibly installed this on all my family’s phones, and it’s already saved hundreds of pictures.
Gmail: I only use this for looking up a specific email (like a boarding pass) or sending an email (like scheduling a reminder with Followup Then).
Google Calendar: solid calendar app, and it syncs across all my devices. I love that I can
Spotify: I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of listening to music. This service lets you listen to any song and create infinite playlists without taking up storage on your phone (unless you want it to). I have playlists for the currently most popular worldwide songs (I work out to it in the morning) and male vocal sing-alongs.
Facebook Messenger: the messaging platform of choice for most people I interact with, and it works on iOS and Android. I love being able to share my live location with people I’m meeting up with. I don’t like that it recently started showing me ads.
Snapchat: it’s what the cool kids are using these days. Necessary for importing Snap Spectacles videos.
Google Chrome: syncs with the desktop Google Chrome. Solid web browser, and the default on Android.
Amazon: anytime I think of something I need or want I can just search for it right from my phone, which is usually on me, and it shows up on my doorstep a day or two later, thereby allowing me to avoid shopping trips. One of the strongest benefits of modernity.
Dropbox: I get rid of paper as quickly as it comes into my life. If I ever feel myself hesitating before throwing paper away I open Dropbox and scan it with a descriptive title (so I can find it again), then throw it away. Also useful for sharing files or receiving them.
Ink Cards: helps the habit of expressing gratitude. You can send people cards with a custom photo and note. Great for saying thank you after staying at someone’s house with a picture you took of the both of you having fun on your trip.
PastCam: an app I needed, so I made it. Lets you align “before and after” or “then and now” pictures.
Authy: two factor authentication (and soon: second factor authentication) to make logging into some websites more secure and easier.
While updating this list I realized I don’t have anything positive to say about YouTube or Twitter, so I deleted them.
Express Slim Fit Flex Stretch Khaki Chino Pant: express clothing fits me well, and the flexable material makes these really versitile. I wear them in any situation wherein I need long pants. I’d love to get them in a darker color that still looks good with a gray tshirt.
I still keep around several pieces of clothing that I don’t need but make it much more convenient when I’m stationary to not have to do laundry every week:
A custom-made cashmere wool black suit: when studying abroad in Vietnam, one of the local attractions was a row of tailors that could make anything you wanted in any fabric to your exact size. I got a perfectly fitting suit with two silk shirts for about $100. I plan to fly back with empty suitcases and get a new wardrobe made. After discovering the flex stretch material Express is using I really want a suit made out of the same material.
A half dozen branded tshirts, socks, and boxer briefs: easily replacable, and not particularly notable. Worth putting more thought into.
Shoes should be minimalist and as close to barefoot walking as possible. That means they should be flexible (to let your feet move), zero-drop (so you don’t prop up your heel, which prevents forefoot strikes and misaligns your knees, hips, and back), and have a wide toe box (scrunching up your toes is a modern style, but deforms your foot akin to Foot Binding). For more, check out the book Born to Run and These Shoes are Killing Me! on Freakonomics Radio.
I’ve only found three places to get shoes that fit these heuristics:
Vibram: weird toe shoes people at Whole Foods wear
A Carabiner: brand doesn’t matter. The best way I’ve found to carry my keys so far is clipping them to my belt loop, then tucking them in my back pocket. It holds a dog tag from Walmart with my phone number and the phrase “do the right thing”, a car key, and a house key. I’d love a way to not have to carry keys.
LG Tone Ultra Bluetooth wireless stereo headset: bought without much research at a Target in Portland after I lost both my regular earphones and my backups. These are quickly becoming my favorite earphones: fantastic multi-day battery life, exceptionally good controls, and pairs with my headphone-jack-less Google Pixel 2 and Macbook without much friction.
Symphonized NRG 3.0 Earbuds: volume control and play/pause buttons that work with Apple and iOS devices. Very comfortable. These come with a clip for your shirt so they don’t pull out of your ears as easily.
Cotten Hankerchiefs: easier to carry than a bunch of tissues, can be used multiple times, and easier on the skin, especially if I haven’t been spending enough time outside exposing myself to allergens. Some days I’ll need to blow my noise every three minutes to stay functional.
I’ve thought a lot about food. My current diet is a mix of things learned from Food Rules, Primal Blueprint, and the Ketogenic Diet. I try not to eat any grains, very low carbs, and very low sugar, replacing calories lost from carbs with fat from oils.
Eating like this I’ve noticed more consistent energy levels and general health (ie: I’m slimmer with more muscle mass without working out as much). I’ve also, strangely, realized that I used to feel physical pain in my stomach when I felt hungry, which I don’t feel any more. Now it’s closer to the sensation I feel when I’m thirsty (ie: I recognize I could drink water, but don’t need to - it’s not painful). Because of this, it’s easier to fast, which I aim to do for 3 days every month, and 5 days every quarter, because it may help starve pre-cancerous cells.
My typical shopping list looks roughly like this:
Assorted Veggies: it’s probably not possible to eat too much avocado (when reasonably priced), organic spring mix, cauliflower, garlic, mushrooms, organic tomatoes, zucchini, or whatever local seasonal veggies are at a good prices. Eat starchy veggies (sweet potato, carrots, potatoes) in moderation. Local is probably best, but it’s way more convenient to buy from a store that’s not only open on Saturday afternoon (like your local farmer’s market). When buying from a grocery store, frozen pre-cut veggies are more convenient and probably just as nutritions as fresh.
Wild Berries: lower glycemic index and fructose per fiber than other fruits. Probably consisted of a lot of our pre-agriculture diet as humans.
90% Cocoa Chocolate: mmmm, chocolate. Cocoa might have health benefits, and sugar is definitely bad for you, so 90% or higher is the way to go.
Local, Organic, Pasture Raised, Soy-Free eggs: I eat at least two eggs a day, so I felt compelled to do a lot of research into what all the confusing terms mean. Local (laid by chickens you’ve seen owned by people you know), organic, pasture raised, and soy-free is my heuristic for picking a carton out of a wall of choices, in that order (ie: local and non-organic beats organic; organic and pasture raised beats organic and soy-free).
Meat: lamb, grass fed beef or buffalo, well-raised poultry. Organ meat and bones are probably things humans evolved eating, so I try to mix those in too. Pre-cooked sausage is the most convenient source of meat I’ve found, and I’ll soon be experimenting with Sous Vide cooking.
Small Oily Fish: limit tuna, salmon, and other fish higher up on the food chain, because they concentrate mercury. Be careful eating raw fish that hasn’t been flash frozen, since it might contain parasites. Flash freezing doesn’t really affect taste.
Coconut Milk: makes a great dessert mixed with berries, especially in a smoothie.
Fresh ground Whole Foods Organic Almond Butter: peanuts are legumes, which may be bad for you, but fatty nuts in general are great. Almonds still have the antinutrients phytic acid, which can be reduced by sprouting and soaking in salty water, but I super don’t do that and maybe I should. Hmm…
Sous Vide Machine: makes cooking perfect medium rare steaks and perfect soft boiled eggs trivially easy. I eat more meat now that it’s so much easier to make and meal prep.
Single-sized Chilipad: sleeping with another person in the bed, especially if they’re of opposite gender, makes it difficult for both people to be at a comfortable temperature. I found out about the Chilipad from Tim Ferriss, who says an unusually high number of people interviewed for Tools of Titans slept with one. I still need to figure out a scientific measurement of sleep quality so I can definitely show how much sleeping with a Chilipad improves my sleep. Anecdotally, I spend much less time moving a leg in and out from under the covers to regulate my temperature, and my fitbit shows I get considerably more deep sleep (the first night I slept with the chilipad, I got double my average deep sleep). There’s a similar cheaper and simpler product called a Bedjet that might have the same effect.
An ultrasonic humidifier: I have one designed like this and don’t love it. Lots of nooks for slimy mold to grow in that makes it hard to clean, and takes practice to put it on the base without pinching your fingers. As a thing though, a humidifier can save you days of being sick in the winter months when central heating dries out your air. I’d love to upgrade to a better one.
Blackout curtains: I sleep considerably better in a totally dark room than I do in a room that lets in some ambient light. I also taped over any LEDs in my bedroom to make it as close to completely dark as I could.
A Bidet: link is to the one I own, but the model doesn’t matter. What matters is not cleaning your butthole like a barbarian. You wouldn’t wash your dishes with a paper towel. I love bidets so much I travel with one.
Portland Bee Balm: the most effective lip balm I’ve used with the simplest ingredients. Depending on the weather, biking often dries out my lips, so I keep a stick in my pocket and in most of my bags.
Harperton Nail Clipper Set: the best nail clippers I’ve ever used. The first time I used them I was reminded of the first time I used a freshly sharpened knife after I’d been using a knife that had been getting subtly duller.
A Pullup Bar and a rock climbing hangboard: strategically placed in a doorway I go through a lot, so I make it a habit to do half my max reps every time I walk through the doorway (max is around 22, so I do 11-13 in a set). The single biggest non-edible contributer to my strength and physique. You can mount it to a pullup bar if you can’t drill a bunch of holes in your wall.
Slackline: training line makes it much easier to learn. Currently no place to perminantly hang it, so I can only use it at parks or while camping. I’d love to figure out a way to set it up in the backyard without trees.
Black Diamond Rocklock Magnetron Carabiner: the platonic ideal of a carabiner. If I had infinite money I’d use this for all my carabiner needs. Quicker and safer to attach and detach. When you’re dangling 100 feet up on a ledge, having two less things to check (“is my carabiner locked? is the gate pointed down?”) is a huge increase in happiness.
Fenix HP25R 1000 Lumen Headlamp: I cycled through half a dozen bike lights before finding a pretty good one that got stolen off my bike a few months later. I needed a headlamp for climbing so now I have a super nice one for biking and climbing.
I love the What’s in my Bag? style posts, so here’s what I travel with. Lots of the stuff photographed is mentioned in other sections, so not included here.
Swiss Gear Backpack: I’ve had an older version of this backpack for about five years and it shows no signs of wear. It’s the perfect size to make sure I don’t overpack for trips, and has just the right number of pockets in the right places.
Snap Spectacles 2: the best vlogging/life logging camera I’ve used to date (though I have a lot of gripes about the software - Snap Inc. doesn’t make it easy to use your videos for things that aren’t Snapchat)
DJI Mavic Air Drone: literally fly wherever you travel. Makes some incrediblecontext shots for vacation videos. Gives an entire new dimension to travel. The gigantic batteries can also be used to charge your phone in a pinch. I tried the Spark and the Mavic, and the Air’s more compact package outweighs the reduced range and battery life for me.
CamelBack Hydration Bladder: brand doesn’t matter. This takes up almost no space or weight when empty, and can carry several times the water of a bottle when full. It’s also easier to drink from while on the go.
Epic Meat Bar emergency snack: can save me from a ~$20 emergency meal (like on a plane). Shop around for the best flavor (lamb and buffalo are the best).
Zippered storage bags and Packing cubes: make it super easy to stay organized and modular on trips. CGP Grey has a packing rule that only other bags can go in his bag. I don’t perfectly conform to that, but I do group toiletries, electronics, and clothing together into single units that are easier to keep track of than their individual pieces.
A Car: I own a car but rent it to my sister. 90% of my trips are done on a bike, which gets me great default exercise.
A TV: I’ll sporadically use a TV if it happens to be in the place I’m living to watch a movie, but I haven’t watched TV as an activity since high school. Not having the habit of watching TV when you have nothing else to do frees up a lot of time to do more interesting things, and there are plenty of ways to binge watch good TV shows on your computer.
A wallet: All you really need is a credit card, a driver’s license, and some emergency cash, all of which can fit in my iPhone case. This practice makes it much harder to lose stuff.
Bread: wheat probably isn’t good for you, and we probably eat it because the agriculture revolution enabled societies that grew and ate grains to support a denser population. Individuals lived shorter and less healthy lives, but their society could then support an army that could quash remaining hunter-gatherer nomads (see Sapiens).
Bovine Dairy: dairy might not be good for anyone, and definitely isn’t good for me. My skin breaks out and I get weird rashes on my palms. Effective for weight gain, if that’s your thing.
Processed or Packaged Foods: no cereals, nothing made by Kraft, and no pre-packaged meals. These foods break a lot of rules.
Books: I’ll own a few dozen books at a time, but the goal is to extract their information and get rid of them. I haven’t had any notable exceptions to this yet.
Shower stuff: shampoo, conditioner, body wash et. al. aren’t necessary if you’re eating well and regularly clean off with a wet wash cloth.