A Case Of Digital vs Analog

A Case Of Digital vs Analog

About a month ago when school, college and work were all approaching, we got into an interesting discussion with my friends about the daily tools we use after reading an article on Minimalismlab.com. All of us consider ourselves minimalists to an extent, so the discussion was mostly about how to ditch the digital options – your phones and laptops mainly.

I was outnumbered one to three and kind of lost this discussion, where my friends and the manual approach was declared winner. As I’m a terrible loser, I thought I’ll try to reiterate some of my points here.

Minimalist desk

The definition of minimalism

In essence most of the discussions and arguments about minimalism are rooted in how different people define what minimalism means for them. To me it seems that after The Minimalists went viral and minimalism as a movement got a new boost, there are more people than ever who miss the essence of what minimalism means. Or at least they have quite a different view on it than I do. The biggest misconception seems to be just getting rid of almost anything and considering buying things always a bad option.
My view is similar to what has also been written in Sidebar blog several times – it’s not so much about the amount of physical stuff, but more about the mental clarity. Also the stuff that you do own or intend to buy, should make your daily tasks easier and more pleasant for you. The level of happiness and joy that you can get from using something that is of high quality and pleasant to use is hard to overstate.


Good ol’ pen and paper

This might be the time to hear the reasoning from both sides. My friends started by pointing out that the ethos of minimalism is about going for the simpler, cheaper and a more worry-free option. There’s also research pointing out that it’s easier to memorize new material after you have written it down and this doesn’t apply to typing (why – I have no idea, brains are a mystery). And then there’s just the price of the laptop or tablet. That’s a money that you won’t ever see again as they depreciate fast and you could be way better off buying yourself a vacation for the same amount. Also there’s quite a difference in probabilities of your notepad getting stolen compared to your laptop getting stolen.

For me personally the last reason is a big one, though – it just feels good to make notes with pen and paper. There’s something calming, almost meditative about it. And the feeling of crossing out to-do list items… oh, boy!

These were all really good points, I guess I deserved to lose. Or did I?


Right tool for the job

While I don’t disagree with the reasoning above that my friends provided, I also found that real life is not so black and white and while I actually really wanted to like their way of doing things, I just couldn’t.

Maybe I’m a bad example but for me the problems already started over 20 years ago in elementary school. Being left-handed I quickly discovered that I smeared the ink because my hand brushed over the words I had just written. This was annoying but not a big deal. Not long after this I discovered that my handwriting is terrible. It looked so cryptic that even myself struggled reading it and things haven’t improved much over time.

Going to college, where you have to take loads of lecture notes I discovered that if I tried to write fast enough to follow the professor, then it looked more like seismograph chart than notes and was completely useless. And the biggest problem for me was that after filling dozens of notebooks there was no quick way of finding what I was looking for.


For all of these reasons I have now fully switched from paper notes to my trusty MacBook Pro, where nothing is lost, I don’t have to worry about finding stuff or my unreadable handwriting. Also my last one I used 6 years and could still sell it later on.


It’s not ideal and all the points that my friends made are still valid. There’s always a trade-off, but you shouldn’t be forced to make decisions that make your life uncomfortable just for seeming to be minimalist. This is not what minimalism is about.

I’ll go and cross off my “write about writing” to-do list item from my Hobonichi planner now. I guess I haven’t fully converted yet.