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Carrying less: simplifying and decluttering my pockets

I’ve always been one of those people. You know, the kind of person that always brought a bunch of stuff wherever I went. I’d have a large keychain of keys, a thick wallet bursting at the seams, a cell phone, an ipod, my wristwatch, and some model of PDA. My pockets were absolutely stuffed. Sure, I had everything I might need, but it was definitely burdensome. When I’d arrive home, I’d ritualistically unload all of my crap – it was just too much to keep in my pockets.

A year or two ago, I started to rethink my relationship with stuff. In particular, I reconsidered what I needed to have with me, and how I could start to reduce it. Mind you, I wasn’t going to really do without all of those things; I just needed to think carefully about how I could combine, or replace, several of the items.

It’s been an iterative process, but I feel like I’m comfortable with far less. I currently carry a small keychain that holds only a single house key, my car key and remote, and an ultralight mini Swiss Army knife.

There were several important milestones along the way – here are a few.


The iPhone was a game changer. Not only did it finally combine my PDA with my cell phone, but with the later addition of the App Store, I now had continuous access to any piece of information I wanted. Not only that, but I could now bring at least some of my music with me at all times, too. I kept the ipod in the car for another year or two until I finally retired it.


The iPhone helped me ditch most all of the cards in my wallet. Sure, I still carried around a few—a couple debit cards, another couple of credit cards, a few business cards, a Costco card, and so forth. But now it could all fit into a small bifold wallet, as opposed to the trifold that often exceeded an inch in width.

Ditching the watch

It took me a long time to warm to the idea of going watch-less. But, again, it was the iPhone that helped spur this on. I tried one week without a watch to see how difficult it would be. I’d awkward glance at my wrist several times during the first few days, but I really didn’t encounter any other serious downsides.

Reducing the keychain

The breakthrough here was simply realizing that I only needed to carry around keys that I might need to use today. That meant that I could keep all the others—the keys to my parents’ houses, my PO Box, the safe deposit box at the bank, the outdoor shed, and so forth—in another, nearly-always-accessible place, like my car or my home.

I also reduced the number of keychains I carried around, which I had in part used to separate all of those keys into “sections.” I didn’t need dividers anymore, and I decided that I could keep just one non-key. After quite a bit of thought, I ended up getting a lightweight swiss army knife, which included a small ballpoint pen (no more waiting for a pen when the dinner check arrives), an LED light, a small pair of scissors, a very small knife and a nail file. So while I no longer had an ASU medallion or backpacking boot on my keychain, I had replaced them with some useful tools.

What can you eliminate?

Are there any items you could get rid of?