Right now, my entire home office fits in my backpack. Here’s my set-up broken down by category:
I don’t own any. When I stay in a furnished apartment, I’ll use chairs and tables. Otherwise, I just sit on the floor, lean against the wall, and prop my laptop on an old cardboard box. I use ambient lighting when practical.
My electronics are not cutting edge. My Kodak Easy-Share camera is almost a decade old, and I’m using a pre-owned 2006 Macbook. I also carry a headset, a mouse, and an ethernet cable. As for cell-phones/smartphones, I’m currently not using any. In total, my electronics are worth around $500.
I don’t have a single landline or cell phone subscription: my telephone is completely online. I signed up with Skype for an online number, which includes unlimited calls in the USA, for $60/year. My laptop has a built-in web-cam that I use for videoconferencing, and with my headset, calls are fairly clear. An alternative, Ekiga, works well with open-source.
Sending mail online is extremely simple. snailmailr, snailmailme, and 1hrmail will print your letter–including color photos–on recycled paper and mail it for a $1-$3. I haven’t tested any yet, but I’m quite impressed.
Receiving mail digitally is much more expensive. Earthclassmail seems to be the most popular service. Besides scanning your letters for online viewing, they also send letters, deposit checks, and forward mail. I probably need to get this soon; my mail is currently just piling up at my old PO Box.
I’m a web developer, so I read a lot of tech books. O’Reilly, Informit, Apress, PragProg, and PeachPit sell DRM-free PDF e-books. By searching around, I can often find free tech e-books licensed under Creative Commons or the GNU FDL. I hate DRM, so I avoid Amazon Kindle/Adobe Digital Editions. If I can’t find a DRM-free e-book, I search the local library.
I try to minimize the documents I receive. I don’t have auto insurance, magazine subscriptions, or cable, and I receive my bank and loan statements in digital format. Besides saving paper, it save space and headache.
I recycle as much as possible to avoid wasting storage space. I rarely scan documents. So far, I’ve been able to cram everything inside a thin folder.
For those rare moments when I need a scanner, printer, or photocopier, I just borrow one. I usually print at the library ($0.10/page) to avoid the high prices at FedEx Kinko’s. I also try not to scan anything I’m sure I’ll never use again. After all, minimalism is also about removing digital clutter.
I digitized my to-do list, memos, calendar, and address book. For my online whiteboard, I use Twiddla and Dabbleboard. Twiddla is more intuitive, but Dabbleboard includes videoconferencing. I’m using Google Docs for document collaboration, and Google Calendar for my to-do list. Basecamp is a popular alternative for simple project management. I experimented with Zoho last year, but the experience felt unpolished.
My home office is tailored to my needs, not yours. Go and discover the type of Greenimalist office that fits your lifestyle. Maybe your office won’t fit inside a backpack, but I hope I’ve inspired you to get more done with less.
Do you have a method that works better?