the almighty one. dowe is all that is magestic in the world. he is our master, we must all bow down to his holiness. take every aweomse thing you know, multiply it by badass, add in some wonder and awe and is is the equivilent to DOWE. No one can compete. He is a god.
At heart, I’m a Linux guy. For many tasks, I use Emacs (a popular editor among some developers due to its extensibility), with Orgmode as my primary means of managing tasks, recording time, jotting down notes and, at times, trying to manage my calendar.
But there were several problems with this. Firstly, the only mobile client to sync Orgmode files with reasonable reliability, was MobileOrg. Sadly, this project has been discontinued for a while, and to my knowledge it hasn’t yet seen a superior successor. In addition, Orgmode is a great calendar within Emacs, but it’s not so strong outside. And while MobileOrg was “ok”, it didn’t present information in a convenient, easily-interpreted way.
In short, having a text-only, Linux/Android-only solution, was awkward.
The compromising advantage
Part of the appeal of Orgmode and MobileOrg was being able to keep all data within one’s own infrastructure. As one of MobileOrg’s features is to “sync files from an SSH server”, and Emacs has TRAMP for accessing network locations, this made it possible to get each end talking with the other, and the synchronisation was generally reliable.
But in some ways, using Emacs, Orgmode and MobileOrg – to achieve data security and ultimate privacy – is arguably a case of the tail wagging the dog. Was this the only private-data solution? Probably not. Was it the most convenient? Was Orgmode the right tool for many of life’s repeatable, short-lived events? Definitely not.
Despite trying to use only free, libre & open source software to address this requirement, around 2016 it started becoming clear that simpler solutions existed – albeit involving proprietary software of some kind. Certain diehards might scoff that, if some software only exists in proprietary form, it’s inherently evil and you must build a free/libre version. But such ideals are rarely achievable when your needs as a new parent and business owner outweigh most others.
As I pondered my motives, it became clear to me that controlling my data was more important to me than controlling the tools.
The next move
For years on Android, I used CalDav and CardDav syncing tools, which were proprietary plugins that presented calendar and contact “providers” to the OS. These worked great, but finding equivalent staples on Linux was somewhat harder. The time had arrived when I needed desktop access to calendar, task and contact management, that wasn’t based in an Office365 tenancy.
The right move here was to set up Nextcloud. On my small personal hosting box at DigitalOcean [discount referral link], I set up a virtual server to run Nextcloud. Nextcloud provides calendar, tasks and contact databases that are conveniently accessible through CardDav & CalDav.
As I had to work on a Mac in order to test websites in Safari (which accounted for at least 9% of traffic, and often more), it was useful to have syncing of this data there too. And this, unlike some of my earlier grumpiness with all things Mac, was actually a pleasant surprise: macOS actually had great support for CalDav and CardDav.
Do I get the solution I need? Yes. Does it sync well? Yes. Am I happier? Yes.
Not only that, but the downside of Orgmode syncing was that it worked best if restricted to two-way communications. If you added a third or fourth client and tried syncing between all of them, it would quickly become a clusterfunk.
Is Apple the enemy? Well, probably. But better the devil you know, sometimes. Due to the ease of synchronisation with tasks, contacts and calendar in macOS, I slowly warmed up to the idea of replacing my ageing Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with an iPhone. So I did. And arguably, for this requirement, it was a good choice.
Does this mean I’m no longer a Linux guy? Oh no, not at all. I still have my ThinkPad T420S, which was a side-grade replacement for my chunky T420. I use it every day in my work as a Senior Systems Administrator, for one of the UK’s top universities. I still use Emacs and Orgmode as a daily driver for tasks and coding.
But at home, my wife and I share a calendar and contact list across Android and iOS, thanks to the support of industry standard protocols.
Controlling where the data is has served us pretty well.
The title of this article could have been, “How to shrink a mdadm Linux RAID containing LVM Logical Volumes and replace physical disks with lower-capacity alternatives – AND keep your data safe!”.
That’s just clunky, of course, but I hope you get the point.
I recently ran into the situation where I needed to reduce the size of my physical volumes on a server to allow an easier backup strategy. The data is stored across four drives, making up two separate RAID1 arrays, which are then utilised by Logical Volume Manager in Linux.
If all of this sounds overly complex, well … it perhaps is a litle. I could just store my data on two RAID1 arrays with Ext4 file systems, and not worry about LVM. However, I have long been a convert of the superior disk space management of LVM, so sitting that atop of a mdadm RAID just adds a few more steps to the process, but a lot more flexibility.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
First things, first: Do a backup.
Using RAID for storage is one thing, but it is no substitute for a proper backup. The golden rule is:
RAID provides availability; backups provide recovery.
If everyting goes south in this process, having a current backup will save the day. (I won’t divulge how many times LTO backups have saved my posterior…). In short, I fully trust LTO backups, and a tape backup strategy generally (here’s why).
The disk sizes of my two RAID arrays are 2x400GB and 2x2TB. However, the storage used on each is only 100GiB and 500GiB, respectively. Sitting on a shelf, I have:
2 x 250GB Seagate 7200.12 ST3250312AS drives (PDF)
2 x 1000GB Seagate Constellation ES ST1000NM0011 drives (PDF)
On this server, I don’t envisage my data growth exceeding about 20GB & 40GB per year, respective to the arrays, so I can safely downgrade my storage capacity and make best use of this hardware for some years to come.
Connected to my server are two LTO tape drives: an old Ultrium 232 (100GB/200GB) drive, and a slightly younger Ultrium 1760 (800GB/1600GB) drive. The beauty of my set-up is that nearly everything is parallelised:
4 x SATA drive interfaces running 2 x RAID 1 arrays
2 x PCIe-to-SCSI host bus adapters
2 x SCSI tape drives, one connected to each HBA
All of this is configured within a tiny HP Microserver (PDF), excluding one of the tape drives which is an external unit. And the beauty of this parallelisation is that I can run backups from each RAID array to each tape drive at full speed, without the CPU even breaking a sweat!
For each mounted volume, I simply used the GNU dump command to back everything up on each drive:
root@stargate:/mnt/company# dump -b 64 -0u -f /dev/st0 /mnt/company/DUMP: Date of this level 0 dump: Thu Aug 16 15:57:06 2018DUMP: Dumping /dev/mapper/md0--vg-lv--company (/mnt/company) to /dev/st0DUMP: Label: companyDUMP: Writing 64 Kilobyte recordsDUMP: mapping (Pass I) [regular files]DUMP: mapping (Pass II) [directories]DUMP: estimated 94061522 blocks.DUMP: Volume 1 started with block 1 at: Thu Aug 16 15:57:19 2018DUMP: dumping (Pass III) [directories]DUMP: dumping (Pass IV) [regular files]DUMP: 6.27% done at 19662 kB/s, finished in 1:14DUMP: 13.30% done at 20855 kB/s, finished in 1:05
[ ... ]
DUMP: 91.52% done at 19117 kB/s, finished in 0:06DUMP: 96.59% done at 18915 kB/s, finished in 0:02DUMP: Closing /dev/st0DUMP: Volume 1 completed at: Thu Aug 16 17:21:06 2018DUMP: Volume 1 94060544 blocks (91856.00MB)DUMP: Volume 1 took 1:23:47DUMP: Volume 1 transfer rate: 18711 kB/sDUMP: 94060544 blocks (91856.00MB) on 1 volume(s)DUMP: finished in 4974 seconds, throughput 18910 kBytes/secDUMP: Date of this level 0 dump: Thu Aug 16 15:57:06 2018DUMP: Date this dump completed:Thu Aug 16 17:21:06 2018DUMP: Average transfer rate: 18711 kB/sDUMP: DUMP IS DONE
root@stargate:~# dump -b 512 -0u -f /dev/st1 /mnt/archive/DUMP: Date of this level 0 dump: Thu Aug 16 15:59:53 2018DUMP: Dumping /dev/mapper/md1--vg-lv--archive (/mnt/archive) to /dev/st1
[ ... ]
DUMP: 3.48% done at 59490 kB/s, finished in 2:18DUMP: 7.98% done at 68256 kB/s, finished in 1:55
[ ... ]
DUMP: 512711168 blocks (500694.50MB) on 1 volume(s)DUMP: finished in 6143 seconds, throughput 83462 kBytes/secDUMP: Date of this level 0 dump: Thu Aug 16 15:59:53 2018DUMP: Date this dump completed:Thu Aug 16 17:44:01 2018DUMP: Average transfer rate: 82455 kB/sDUMP: DUMP IS DONE
The keen reader may notice that I change the block size of dump for each drive. I have found doing so reduced the disk I/O operations for each backup, which improved throughput. I had trouble using a block size of 1024KiB though, so 512KiB sufficed on the faster drive.
While 20MiB/s and 80MiB/s may be laughed at these days (and yes, it doesn’t compare with modern USB3.1 RAIDs, for example), this speed does at least allow backups to be completed within a reasonable time. And the reason I am an LTO stalwart is that media is cheaper (per GiB), and more resilient when kept in cold storage.
I should mention at this point, for anyone interested in using GNU dump/restore to manage their backups, that the software isn’t limited to addressing locally-connected tape drives. You can also backup to a local file, a file shared on a NAS server, or a remote tape drive too. The GNU dump/restore documentation is well worth investigating.
Resizing storage in Logical Volume Manager
With backups available, you could ask why I didn’t just whip out the old drives and install the new ones, create new arrays and then restore data from backup. My reason for not doing so is twofold:
Replacing the drives one-by-one allows them to be fully exercised when the RAID arrays are rebuilt. This will test that each drive is performing reliably; any problem can be easily rectified at this stage.
The next step is to resize the logical volumes that sit on those RAID arrays. In LVM you have to work outwards, starting from the innermost point: the logical volume. Then we’ll look at the volume group, and finally the physcal volume.
Resize the logical volumes:
root@stargate:~# lvresize -L 200G -r /dev/md0-vg/lv-company fsck from util-linux 2.25.2company: 619459/24412160 files (0.2% non-contiguous), 24895191/97644544 blocksresize2fs 1.42.12 (29-Aug-2014)Resizing the filesystem on /dev/mapper/md0--vg-lv--company to 52428800 (4k) blocks.The filesystem on /dev/mapper/md0--vg-lv--company is now 52428800 (4k) blocks long.Size of logical volume md0-vg/lv-company changed from 372.48 GiB (95356 extents) to 200.00 GiB (51200 extents).Logical volume lv-company successfully resized
root@stargate:~# lvresize -L 800G -r /dev/md1-vg/lv-archivefsck from util-linux 2.25.2archive: 2097049/108986368 files (0.1% non-contiguous), 134664369/435915776 blocksresize2fs 1.42.12 (29-Aug-2014)Resizing the filesystem on /dev/mapper/md1--vg-lv--archive to 209715200 (4k) blocks.The filesystem on /dev/mapper/md1--vg-lv--archive is now 209715200 (4k) blocks long.Size of logical volume md1-vg/lv-archive changed from 1.62 TiB (425699 extents) to 800.00 GiB (204800 extents).Logical volume lv-archive successfully resized
Now that we’ve resized the logical volumes, let’s check the size of the volume groups:
This looks good, and broadly corresponds to what we’ve done so far:
I resized the LV on md0-vg to 200GiB, which leaves around 172.5GiB free
I resized the LV on md1-vg to 800GB, which leaves around 1TiB free
So far, so good.
Next, we want to reduce the size of those Volume Groups to fit within the new mdadm RAID sizes. In LVM, sometimes multi-level operations are combined. One example of this is resizing a Volume Group. As there isn’t a vgresize command in lvm, we have to look at the next level out – the physical volume. For this, we use pvresize.
root@stargate:~# pvresize -v --setphysicalvolumesize 210G /dev/md0DEGRADED MODE. Incomplete RAID LVs will be processed.Using physical volume(s) on command lineArchiving volume group "md0-vg" metadata (seqno 5)./dev/md0: Pretending size is 440401920 not 781156528 sectors.Resizing volume "/dev/md0" to 781156528 sectors.Resizing physical volume /dev/md0 from 0 to 53759 extents.Updating physical volume "/dev/md0"Creating volume group backup "/etc/lvm/backup/md0-vg" (seqno 6).Physical volume "/dev/md0" changed1 physical volume(s) resized / 0 physical volume(s) not resized
root@stargate:~# pvresize -v --setphysicalvolumesize 810G /dev/md1DEGRADED MODE. Incomplete RAID LVs will be processed.Using physical volume(s) on command lineArchiving volume group "md1-vg" metadata (seqno 14)./dev/md1: Pretending size is 1698693120 not 3906762895 sectors.Resizing volume "/dev/md1" to 3906762895 sectors.Resizing physical volume /dev/md1 from 0 to 207359 extents.Updating physical volume "/dev/md1"Creating volume group backup "/etc/lvm/backup/md1-vg" (seqno 15).Physical volume "/dev/md1" changed1 physical volume(s) resized / 0 physical volume(s) not resized
Again, the astute reader will see that my resized capacities are slightly higher (by 10GiB) than the LVs contained within. I do this (mainly out of habit) to allow a little “wiggle room” for data, i.e. to allow safe boundaries between filesystem, LV, VG and PV. Subsequently resizing every compoment to its fullest capacity is easily done.
Checking the physical storage of data
Before we go ahead with a drive removal and replacement, we should test that the PVs (Physical Volumes) in LVM are storing data at the beginning of the allocatable region – i.e. at the beginning of the “disk”. This is accomplished quite easily:
root@stargate:~# pvdisplay --maps--- Physical volume ---PV Name /dev/md1VG Name md1-vgPV Size 810.00 GiB / not usable 3.00 MiBAllocatable yes PE Size 4.00 MiBTotal PE207359Free PE 2559Allocated PE204800PV UUID luUdnY-3416-wh3O-8fpC-JK6B-0oM7-fbYvo4--- Physical Segments ---Physical extent 0 to 204799:Logical volume /dev/md1-vg/lv-archiveLogical extents 0 to 204799Physical extent 204800 to 207358:FREE--- Physical volume ---PV Name /dev/md0VG Name md0-vgPV Size 210.00 GiB / not usable 3.00 MiBAllocatable yes PE Size 4.00 MiBTotal PE53759Free PE 2559Allocated PE51200PV UUID Xzj831-tu43-G6cA-05LB-cccU-Tcae-dy2LqP--- Physical Segments ---Physical extent 0 to 51199:Logical volume /dev/md0-vg/lv-companyLogical extents 0 to 51199Physical extent 51200 to 53758:FREE
This looks good: In LVM, each PV is allocating all of its Volume Group data at the beginning of the space.
But what about mdadm? How do we know that mdadm is storing its data at the beginning of the disks?
As it turns out, this doesn’t matter. The main thing is that need to shrink mdadm’s RAID to be the right size for the physical disks that the RAID inhabits. This is where things could get a little funky, as mdadm has no idea where LVM data is stored. Hence, the reason for a backup.
Safely shrinking the mdadm RAID
To quickly re-cap, we have:
shrunk the LV and its ext4 filesystem to 200GiB
shrunk the PV/VG to 210GiB
shrunk the LV and its ext4 filesystem to 800GiB
shrunk the PV/VG to 810GiB
According to the mdadm manual (my underlines):
Amount(inKibibytes)of space to use from each drive in RAID levels 1/4/5/6.This must be amultiple of the chunk size, and must leave about 128Kb of space at the end of the drive fortheRAID superblock.If this is not specified (as it normally is not) the smallest drive (or partition) sets the size, though if there is a variance among the drives of greater than 1%, awarning is issued.
A suffix of ‘M’ or ‘G’ can be given to indicate Megabytes or Gigabytes respectively.
Sometimesareplacementdrivecanbea little smaller than the original drives though this should be minimised by IDEMA standards.Such a replacement drive will be rejectedbymd. To guardagainstthisit can be useful to set the initial size slightly smaller than the smaller device with the aim that it will still be larger than any replacement.
This value can be set with —grow for RAID level 1/4/5/6 though CONTAINER based arrayssuchas thosewith IMSM metadata may not be able to support this.If the array was created with a size smaller than the currently active drives, the extra space can beaccessedusing—grow. The size can be given as max which means to choose the largest size that fits on all current drives.
Beforereducingthesizeofthe array (with —grow–size=) you should make sure that space isn’t needed.If the device holds a filesystem, you would need to resize the filesystem touse less space.
Afterreducingthearraysizeyoushould check that the data stored in the device is still available.If the device holds a filesystem, then an ‘fsck’ ofthefilesystemisaminimum requirement.If there are problems the array can be made bigger again with no loss with another
Before we start the mdadm resize operation, we’ll do a little filesystem check to ensure our data is ok:
All good. To ensure no data gets written to our VGs while the mdadm “grow” (shrink) process proceeds, we should now disable the VGs:
root@stargate:~# vgchange -an md0-vg0 logical volume(s) in volume group "md0-vg" now activeroot@stargate:~# vgchange -an md1-vg0 logical volume(s) in volume group "md1-vg" now active
As an interesting exercise in maximising data protection, I also decided to “fail” one drive on each array before attempting the resize. This means that should the resize not work, and fsck reports file system errors, I can recover the RAID and re-think my options.
For md0 the drives are /dev/sdb1 and /dev/sdc1. Let’s go ahead and “fail” one:
root@stargate:~# mdadm /dev/md0 -f /dev/sdb1mdadm: set /dev/sdb1 faulty in /dev/md0
Nothing more to do now but “byte the bullet” (sorry about that). Let’s try the resize:
root@stargate:~# mdadm --grow /dev/md0 --size=220Gmdadm: component size of /dev/md0 has been set to 230686720Kunfreeze
Now let’s now check that filesystem:
root@stargate:~# vgchange -ay md0-vg1 logical volume(s) in volume group "md0-vg" now activeroot@stargate:~# fsck.ext4 -f /dev/md0-vg/lv-companye2fsck 1.42.12 (29-Aug-2014)Pass 1: Checking inodes, blocks, and sizesPass 2: Checking directory structurePass 3: Checking directory connectivityPass 4: Checking reference countsPass 5: Checking group summary informationcompany: 619459/13107200 files (0.3% non-contiguous), 24184088/52428800 blocks
This looks encouraging. Let’s try this process on the second array:
root@stargate:~# mdadm /dev/md1 -f /dev/sdd1mdadm: set /dev/sdd1 faulty in /dev/md1root@stargate:~# mdadm --grow /dev/md1 --size=820Gmdadm: component size of /dev/md1 has been set to 859832320Kunfreezeroot@stargate:~# vgchange -ay md1-vg1 logical volume(s) in volume group "md1-vg" now activeroot@stargate:~# fsck.ext4 -f /dev/md1-vg/lv-archive e2fsck 1.42.12 (29-Aug-2014)Pass 1: Checking inodes, blocks, and sizesPass 2: Checking directory structurePass 3: Checking directory connectivityPass 4: Checking reference countsPass 5: Checking group summary informationarchive: 2097049/52428800 files (0.1% non-contiguous), 131114698/209715200 blocks
Fantastic! fsck reports identical figures after our mdadm resizing.
The next step is to remove the physical drives and replace them with smaller versions.
Physical drive removal & replacement
Before physically removing two drives from the server, we need to tell mdadm that the drives are to be removed:
root@stargate:~# mdadm /dev/md0 -r /dev/sdb1mdadm: hot removed /dev/sdb1 from /dev/md0root@stargate:~# mdadm /dev/md1 -r /dev/sdd1mdadm: hot removed /dev/sdd1 from /dev/md1
Now we shutdown the server and physically remove the drives (my server doesn’t support actual, physical hot-swapping of drives). Be careful how you handle hot-swapping on your machine if it purpotedly does support this – do read the system documentation.
And this is where my first problem occurred. On reboot, the mdadm arrays didn’t assemble and start. I think this may have been due to a rogue entry in /etc/fstab which dumped me into the maintenance terminal at start-up. Luckily, all this was easily resolved, and issuing this:
root@stargate:~# mdadm -A /dev/md0 /dev/sdc1mdadm: /dev/md0 has been started with 1 drive (out of 2).
brought the mdadm RAID back to life.
Now that the drives are replaced, and the RAID is running, we quickly need to partition the new drives, which will then be ready for syncing into the RAID arrays. I used fdisk to create a GPT partitioning scheme, created a partition, then set the partition type to Linux RAID.
Now that’s done, I could add the new partition to the array and let the syncing commence, and check its progress with cat:
Now let’s get to work. First, increase the size of the mdadm RAIDs:
root@stargate:~# mdadm --grow /dev/md0 --size=maxmdadm: component size of /dev/md0 has been set to 244066471Kunfreezeroot@stargate:~# mdadm --grow /dev/md1 --size=maxmdadm: component size of /dev/md1 has been set to 976630471Kunfreeze
The main worry is loss of data, so this short section is dedicated to restoring backups from tape. If you have run into trouble and need to restore from backup, restore is the command you need! Bear in mind that when using it, if you (like me, above) used a non-standard block size when dumping, you need to specify that again when restoring.
The -i option in this example would invoke an interactive session in restore, allowing you to select which directories and files to restore. Instead, by omitting that option, you would just restore the entire backup.
root@stargate:~# restore -i -b 64 -f /dev/st0
The GNU/Linux operating system provides some amazing storage management tools. LVM is a real joy to use; it makes hard stuff very simple to achieve. Sure, there’s a learning curve, but it’s one I’m forever glad I embraced.
I would genuinely be interested what equivalents to this power and flexibility exist in the Windows world. Not saying for a moment that none do; I’m sure they do. But the use-case for shrinking storage might be questionned, and rightly so. It’s uncommon, to say the least.
But this is where free, open source software shines – in “scratching that itch” that isn’t commonplace, or easy to achieve. And for my efforts, at least, I have gained 2 x 400GB drives, and 2 x 2TB drives, for my next project…
If you have had similar fun on your set up, or run into pitfalls with this type of approach, do leave a comment.
What kind of storage challenges have you experienced, that were (or weren’t) solved in Linux? Leave a link to your story, or a comment, below!
Despite previousposts advocating the indieweb, sadly I need to trim down my WordPress plugin experience. This is mainly to seeing a lot more traffic on my site recently, and not having the time or resources to optimise the plugin code running on my virtual server. I found that the number of plugins in my site (around 48) was really starting to hamper performance.
So it’s with regret that I step out of the indieweb sharing platform, by removing all associated plugins from my WordPress. Despite being in full agreement with the indieweb mantra, of owning one’s own data, I do find some satisfaction and convenience of using WordPress.com‘s own tools to do the same job now. To some extent, they have embraced providing a richer, more social experience through WordPress sites – whether hosted by them, or by “us”.
My only regret is that I couldn’t contribute to the project, the principles of which I wholly believe in and support – if only on an intellectual level.
Many people reach a point in their lives where they see clutter and excessive personal possessions for what they are: distractions and time-sinks that deeply – and negatively – impact one’s life. Minimalism seeks to change this.
I am no different; I, too, have been conscious that for many years I have amassed a vast number of gadgets, had far more clothing than I could ever really wear (before it went seriously out of fashion), and bought books far quicker than I could read them. Freely, I admit, I still do the latter – but I can “hide” them now on my ebook reader!
The Internet’s “Minimalism”
It is amusing to see, particularly on certain social networks, how minimalism is portrayed. Let’s describe a typically “minimalist” image:
White. It must be white. White walls, white furniture, mostly-white accessories, all well lit (often artificially).
An Apple Mac computer, centre-stage on a desk. Typically a 21-inch iMac, but sometimes a 27-incher too. In front of the Mac must be the following:
A wireless keyboard & wireless trackpad – both precisely aligned;
Sometimes… a mug of coffee (although I am allowing myself a crossover into that other bastion of internet imagery here, the “Getting Organised!” image);
A desk lamp;
A single picture on the wall, bordered with a white frame, casting a soft shadow thanks to…
A window on the adjacent wall;
A crappy plastic chair (still white) that no-one in their right mind could ever sustain a day’s work in;
A wooden floor. Or, if the floor is white, then the desk is wooden. Or the chair back might be green. You get the idea.
Flipboard is a great resource for these types of images. Search for ‘minimalist’ and you’ll soon happen upon this template of what a minimalist lifestyle apparently involves.
What Is Minimalism?
If you Google this, no doubt you will see a definition along the lines of styles in art, music or design. But these days, “minimalism” has come to mean something else: the removal of superfluous possessions leading to a perceived reduction of stress and distraction in a person’s life. It’s this definition what I am most interested in, which is the one driving most internet imagery these days.
Minimalism is not, necessarily, about choosing to do without
Minimalism is an interesting side-effect of western capitalism. The effect of acquiring wealth is curious; it more often than not seeks to be displayed through the adornment of expensive garments, and through “showcasing” the necessity of owning various accessories, plus the outward demonstration of their worth to a “successful” person. But to many people, myself included, the effect of acquiring objects is that they increasingly demand more time from the owner in order to manage.
This is detrimental to their original purpose, because time will now be split between the owner using the objects, and the owner managing the objects. Thus, the fewer objects there are – whether these are clothes, cars, bottles of liquor in the cabinet, or watches – the more utility such devices actually provide and therefore the more effective they become both at their original purpose, but also as a showpiece.
What Minimalism is not.
Minimalism doesn’t, in my mind, have any connection with frugality, virtue through sufferance, or eco-mentality. To me, “being green” and “being minimalist” can be mutually exclusive, although they can also co-exist very well too.
Minimalism is not, necessarily, about choosing to do without. It is choosing to do with what you need, in the numbers your need it/them, and do without what you don’t.
Minimalism is also not doing without, for the sake of doing without. It’s a great exercise in making one reconsider what is important and what’s really important to you. This is the key. It’s justifiable to say that you need something because it makes you happy. Most people listen to music because, for their happiness and wellbeing, it’s needed. That’s fine.
Being minimalist does not mean sitting in a silent, white room, looking at perfectly pressed shirts hanging in a wardrobe. And it’s also not about choosing £20 shirts instead of £100 shirts. One can enjoy life’s luxuries, and one probably will enjoy them more, if their number is measured.
My Minimalism Experience
For example, just before Christmas I came to a difficult decision: I decided I had to sell my ThinkPad laptop. There were no two ways about it; I had too many computers adoring my house, due to accumulating older work laptops as time went on.
My thinking was, “well, it still works and it’s still powerful enough to do lots of stuff, so I can get more done by keeping it and splitting my activities between the MacBook Pro that I now use for work, and this.” Except that doesn’t really translate into the bigger picture. Sure, I could keep both machines and pretend I’m being more productive, but in reality I started spending more time wondering which machine to do what on, or moving data from one to another, or agonising that I was simply distracted by this entire thought process, or generally finding that the MacBook Pro was more portable and thus my preferred choice to take somewhere.
I historically associated my perceived productivity benefits to my ThinkPad, its wonderful keyboard, and loved how I had complete control over the GNU/Linux operating system I used on it. But in reality, two machines became a burden. Yet, this wasn’t the only laptop I had “laying around” (although occasionally used). Actually, I had four other laptops. This was akin to hoarding, and served no benefit whatsoever. There was basically no chance I would ever use them all until they broke, one by one.
So before Christmas, each laptop – an HP Pavillion, a ThinkPad T420, another ThinkPad – a T420s, and a Samsung Chromebook, all found new homes. They also found me richer – not only for the money I made on them, but also for the less clutter I had around the house.
Finally, the agonising dissipated and with that, the stress went. I had more space to think, fewer options to consider (as far as my computing went) and happier productivity.
Once you get the bug for selling or giving away old stuff, it is hard to ignore. As soon as I can find the time I will work on selling more computing kit I have laying around. And there are other things too – all sorts, in fact. Like old pieces of furniture (bin/tip), old garden tools (tip/sell), old clothes (donate to charity), one or two old TVs (!) … it goes on and on. In fact, the speed at which one can acquire goods is absurd.
Moving forwards, reducing this clutter alongside a renewed focus on personal development has already made a huge change in my self-perception. I feel stronger, lighter and more focused.
If this post has helped you, or if you have had similar experiences, please comment or link below!