Do the Opposite #64

Cautious Minimalism, DTO Going Bi-Weekly, How to Green a Desert, Scale Down Your Commitments, 40 Years Alone in the Woods

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Cautious Minimalism

A lot of us love the idea of minimalism but struggle to implement it in our own lives due to a multitude of reasons. Sometimes our family is not on board with us getting rid of a bunch of things. Sometimes it’s the emotional attachment we have to certain items. Sometimes it’s the fear we will need these items as soon as we get rid of them.

What I’ve found helpful is what I call Cautious Minimalism. It’s a way to practice minimalism safely until you’re ready to let go. What are the examples of cautious minimalism?

We’ve put away all the extra cups and extra plates beyond what my wife and I need on a daily basis. We didn’t throw them away but they are out of reach. What used to happen before is: I would want to make myself a tea and I’d get a clean cup and make it. The next time in the same situation I didn’t go back to the cup I’ve used, I just grabbed a new clean cup instead because that was easier. That practice created way more dirty dishes than 2 people should have.

This approach allows to have a clean kitchen as we only use the plates and cups that we need. The other tableware is happily stored in a cupboard. This helps us live simpler cleaner lives, while keeping an option of having friends over and still having plates and cutlery to serve them food.

If we find that we have too much tableware we can easier let go of it because we already know from experience that we don’t need this much.

You can practice cautious minimalism with any other items. Here is what I recommend:

Put the things (clothes, books, random items) you don’t really use but are not ready to let go of into a box or a bag and put a sticker/piece of paper with the date on it. Enter a reminder in your phone calendar to revisit that box in 3 or 6 months.

If during that time you find that you need an item from the box you can take it out any time (there are no restrictions like that). What you will find is that you will struggle even to remember what was in that box.

After the time you’ve set for yourself is up, you can revisit the items and make a decision of whether you’re ready to let go. You’ve been practicing cautious minimalism.

DTO is Going Bi-Weekly

After a lot of deliberation I’ve decided to transition the Do the Opposite newsletter from a weekly schedule to a bi-weekly one. I know there is always confusion about whether bi-weekly is twice a week or once every two weeks. In case of DTO it’s the latter: DTO will now be released every two weeks, or, in other words, twice a month.

There are multiple reasons to this which should only improve your experience and the quality of the newsletter:

  1. I will have more time to collect content, and then filter through it to find the most practical and valuable bits.

  1. There will be more time for me to create other content which I want to produce but struggle to find time for. In particular I am thinking of YouTube videos and blog posts, which will also add value to the newsletter itself.

  2. I will devote more time and energy to growing the Do the Opposite community and provide more value to you.

Personal Update

I’ve been active with the 100DaysOfX challenges I’ve adopted: #100DaysWithout Coffee, #100DaysOfMeditation (I am on the second round - have been meditating every day this year, and it helps a lot) and #100DaysOfPushups.

You can follow my progress on Twitter where I post daily updates like this one and/or join me for a #100DaysOfX challenge of your choice.

The most difficult of these has been #100DaysOfPushups. I’ve started with 15 push-ups a day, and have been adding 2 every day. I am now at 63 push-ups and I am only a quarter into this challenge. I’ve been feeling muscle pain in the muscles I didn’t even know I had :) I can already see some results in the arm and chest muscles as well as general core muscles, which gives me energy to continue. It’s been a bit tougher than I expected but I like the challenge.

I’ve also been working on Zerno app. I am working hard to finish the back-end by the end of May or first week of June, and then hopefully finish the front end in the month of June/Mid July. If you haven’t signed up for early access yet, do it! :)

I am planning to improve the app based on early user feedback, and keep extending the functionality further, so I definitely appreciate you taking the time to try it out and tell me what you think! Get early access!


“A Lifetime of Riches – Is It As Simple As a Few Habits?” by Mr. Money Mustache

Mr. Money Mustache is a prominent figure in the world of personal finance and FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early) subculture. Here MMM offers an overview of how exactly our small financial habits determine our wealth and happiness in the long term. Two of my favourite topics: personal finance and habits. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

“When You’re Drowning in Tasks, Overwhelm & Stress” by Leo Babauta

I must confess I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed in the past couple of weeks. This is week 10 of quarantine here in Toronto, Canada and, though at first I felt pretty normal, the last 2 weeks I’ve been a little off. I think I’ve been expecting too much of myself, thinking that because it’s quarantine and there is more “free” time, I should catch up on all the projects I’ve been planning to do. All that while keeping the projects I already work on (like Zerno app and this newsletter) + add a couple of challenges (like #100DaysOfPushups and #100DaysOfMeditation on top of it).

It’s easy to get caught in a trap of setting too many expectations and if you, like me, have over-committed yourself and spread yourself too thin, this is your official permission to let go of some of those. How do you scale down? Leo has some great practical advice for you and me.

“The Unlikely Triumph of a Cuban Sandwich Shop in Seoul” by Katherine Alex Beaven

An amazing story of a Cuban sandwich shop that opened in South Korea, where almost no one knew what a Cuban sandwich was, unless they travelled and tried it abroad. So how the founders have figured out how to make a Cuban sandwich? YouTube.


“How to Green the World's Deserts and Reverse Climate Change” | Allan Savory

Allan has been studying desertification (a process in which fertile lands become lifeless deserts) and has found a solution that’s very far from straight-forward. To give more context to why desertification is bad: the less of the planet surface is covered in forests and plants, the faster the CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) that’s produced by various activities cause climate change. Plants convert CO2 into oxygen, thereby decreasing the amount of it in the atmosphere.

Allan has been experimenting with different ways to try and bring back lifeless terrain back to life, as well as collecting information on the results of other scientists’ attempts at the same task. Turned out what worked was the opposite of what was originally believed: instead of removing grazing farm animals from the affected areas, Allan brought them back in large herds, imitating how large herds would feed and live in the wild in the past. This helps deal with dead grass and plants from the previous year (instead of burning them as per custom) and provides natural fertilizer for the soil.

“He Spent 40 Years Alone in the Woods, and Now Scientists Love Him” | Short Film Showcase

billy barr (he prefers his name to be spelled in lowercase) has lived alone(!) in Gothic, Colorado – one of the coldest places in the USA – for more than 40 years. billy is a happy, good-natured man who enjoys reading books and observing the wildlife and nature around him. What caught attention of scientists is his meticulous notes on weather and snow patterns that billy has kept throughout the years. That’s priceless data that can help us form a better understanding of the climate change processes in the past decades.

This video is a start of a new theme in DTO, where we will explore alternative lifestyles some people have adopted and look at their pros and cons.

“This Country Isn't Just Carbon Neutral — It's Carbon Negative” | Tshering Tobgay

I was shocked to learn there exists a carbon negative country! Bhutan has implemented a slew of progressive decisions regarding their use of natural resources and energy. I am sure other countries have a lot to learn from the experiments Bhutan is conducting and their results. They are not however living in the past; like Tshering says: our country is not just one giant monastery. They are adopting electric vehicles, alternative energy sources like producing electricity by harnessing the fast river currents and more.

Tweet of the Week



“Although extraordinary valor was displayed by the entire corps of Spartans and Thespians, yet bravest of all was declared the Spartan Dienekes. It is said that on the eve of battle, he was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that, when they fired their volleys, the mass of arrows blocked out the sun. Dienekes, however, quite undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh, ‘Good. Then we'll have our battle in the shade.’ ”
― Herodotus, “The Histories”

“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
― Thomas A. Edison

“Resilience ― the capacity of a system to tolerate disturbance without collapsing, to withstand shocks, to rebuild itself when necessary, and to improve itself when possible.”


I am building an app called Zerno ― if you join the waitlist, you’ll get early access to the app!

Join the Waitlist


There's also a YouTube channel with weekly videos on the same themes that are covered in this newsletter. Take a look at the channel here and let the ideas influence you into an improved and happier life!

Watch DTO on YouTube


Do the Opposite has a public Telegram channel. The content there is a little different than in the newsletter: faster to consume, a bit more random ― basically anything weird or interesting that catches my eye: articles, tweets, videos, images, etc. Hope to see you there as well! :)

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Keep doing the opposite,
Alex Kallaway