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Minimalists feel that removing life’s clutter creates space for what matters. This is true in the digital world too. Our data may not fill up the area around us, but it can consume our minds.

I’ve been pairing down at home, on my phone, and on my computer. When it comes to that last one, I’ve found that being a Linux users comes with a few advantages. These are some of the ways the freedom of open source software has helped me simplify my digital life. They can help you, too.

1. You Can Remove Any Part of Your System

The first part of buying a new Windows machine is removing all the pre-installed crud that you don’t want. While you can remove third-party printer software and bulky photo editing apps, you can’t touch much of Microsoft’s own offerings. You can disable some Windows services, but many core parts are off limits.

Linux removes those limitations. After installing a distribution, you’re free to remove any of the default programs. Though, depending on your distro, you may have to dip into the command line. Don’t let that scare you — it’s really not that hard Which Linux Package Manager (and Distro) Is Right for You? Which Linux Package Manager (and Distro) Is Right for You? A key difference between the main Linux distros is the package manager; the differences are strong enough that it can influence your choice of distro. Let's look at how the various package managers work. Read More .

Many distros don’t come with much software at all. They instead provide a clean slate for you to fill with whatever apps you desire.

If you don’t have a printer or a webcam, you don’t need the background services that power this hardware. Linux lets you dive deep into your system to remove whatever bits you don’t want.

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2. Build a System That Only Has What You Need

Instead of starting with a working system and removing the parts you don’t like, try building your ideal machine from scratch.

This option requires getting your hands dirty, but a motivated first-timer can install a barebones distro like Arch Linux and follow online guides to create a system bit by bit How To Install Arch Linux On Your Computer [Part 1] How To Install Arch Linux On Your Computer [Part 1] During my couple of months here at MakeUseOf, I've mentioned Arch Linux (hereafter simply called "Arch") a couple of times. However, Arch has never really been covered here, so people may still be a little... Read More . A side benefit is that, by the end, you will have a much better understanding of how Linux works.

Other distros to consider include Gentoo and the aptly-named Linux From Scratch. Whichever one you choose, you will end up with a computer that only has what you consider to be essential.

3. No Ads or Pop-Ups

Open source software is largely free of commercial influence. You won’t see banners advertising other software or pop-ups trying to sell you stuff. Nor will you have to uncheck boxes when installing apps.

The lack of ads removes extra extra clutter from your workspace, and it liberates you from unwanted distractions. You also get to use software that’s designed explicitly to help you complete a task, rather than to make money off you.

Not only does this remove distractions, but it also helps keep your computer safe from attack. You can also be less concerned about tracking How Advertisers Use Web Beacons to Track You on the Web and in Emails How Advertisers Use Web Beacons to Track You on the Web and in Emails Have you ever wondered how advertisers track you around the web? There are many methods, but the use of web beacons is one of the more common and effective. Read More .

4. Choose a Minimalist Interface

Windows 8 was a big departure from prior versions. Windows 10 dialed that back, but things still aren’t quite the same. In contrast, most Linux distros let you choose your own desktop interface no matter which version you’re running.

Want a small panel? Prefer a dock with icons along the side of the screen? Would you work better if the desktop were entirely blank? Linux lets you set up your workspace however you need to get stuff done.

I use Elementary OS, a polished and minimalist distro that helps me stay on task. You may find you prefer the simplicity of GNOME GNOME Explained: A Look at One of Linux's Most Popular Desktops GNOME Explained: A Look at One of Linux's Most Popular Desktops You're interested in Linux, and you've come across "GNOME", an acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment. GNOME is one of the most popular open source interfaces, but what does that mean? Read More . KDE can use up as much or as little of the screen as desired KDE Explained: A Look at Linux's Most Configurable Desktop Interface KDE Explained: A Look at Linux's Most Configurable Desktop Interface What does Linux look like? Sometimes, Unity; other times, GNOME. Oftentimes, though, Linux runs KDE. If you're not using the erstwhile K Desktop Environment on your Linux PC, now is the time to change! Read More . Xmonad takes up basically no space at all Need A Fresh Desktop Environment for Linux? Try Openbox Or xmonad Need A Fresh Desktop Environment for Linux? Try Openbox Or xmonad Read More .

5. Everything Is Free

Most Linux software is free. This is great for the financial minimalist How Financial Minimalism Helps You Save Money & Eliminate Stress How Financial Minimalism Helps You Save Money & Eliminate Stress It's easy to let your finances get out of hand, but using the principles of minimalism can help you keep them under control and reduce stress. Read More . You don’t need to work more hours or take on more debt to get your hands on an office suite Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? Is LibreOffice Worthy of the Office Crown? LibreOffice is the king of free office suites. It's unlikely to replace Microsoft Office in a business environment, but it's an excellent alternative for casual users. Here's what's new in LibreOffice 5.1. Read More .

You won’t find Linux software on store shelves, which means less physical clutter for you to bring home (granted, you’re probably not getting most of your software on Windows or macOS this way anymore). You don’t have to remember or retain any product codes either.

6. Low System Requirements

Compared to Windows, a Linux OS takes up relatively little space. You can install Linux on a machine that used to run Windows and find that you can store much more of your own data — though since you’re going for minimalism, you probably don’t want to. No matter, storage space isn’t the only system requirement that’s lower with Linux. You don’t need as much RAM, as powerful a graphics card, or as fast a CPU.

These lower system requirements mean you can install Linux on older hardware, and you won’t have to replace your current computer nearly as sooner. Not having to upgrade to a new PC saves money and helps fight planned obsolescence Defeat Planned Obsolescence with Linux and Open Source Software Defeat Planned Obsolescence with Linux and Open Source Software Unlike a 5-year-old PC, a 5-year-old smartphone can barely run any modern apps. But there is a way to enjoy the benefits of technology without buying new hardware: embrace Linux and free software! Read More and reduce environmental waste The Truth About e-Waste Recycling and Its Effectiveness The Truth About e-Waste Recycling and Its Effectiveness The world is producing more e-waste than ever before. We should be recycling it, but there are some problems there that you may not be aware of. Read More .

7. Little System Maintenance

With Linux, you don’t have to spend much time keeping your computer up and running. There’s no need for virus scanners, and your machine will likely continue to run quickly over time.

Updates are free and simple to install. A few button presses is all it takes to bring the latest versions down from the web and onto your PC. Some distros make moving to the next version a simple process, and others don’t require you to ever make the leap to a new release What Is a Linux Rolling Release, and Do You Want It? What Is a Linux Rolling Release, and Do You Want It? Read More .

Do You Need to Declutter Your Machine?

How much mental bandwidth does your PC consume? Do you spend more time fixing your computer than using it? Are all of the distractions keeping you from focusing? Maybe it’s time to try Linux!

Digital minimalists, share your tips! Even if you’re not a Linux user, your advice is still helpful. I’ll be waiting for your ideas and suggestions below!

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  1. dragonmouth
    February 10, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    "1. You Can Remove Any Part of Your System"
    Sorry to disagree. Many Linux distros will not let you uninstall unneeded language packs, unneeded video drivers, unneeded printer drivers, or unneeded WiFi card drivers.

    Try to uninstall 'cowsay' and 'fortune' from an Ubuntu-based distro. The last time I tried using a Ubuntu-based distro, I could not remove ANY package installed by default. It seems that on Ubuntu-based distros all packages have 'ubuntu-minimal' file as dependency. If that file is removed, the system becomes unoperative.

    "2. Build a System That Only Has What You Need"
    Only if you use a certain few distros such as Linux From Scratch, SUSE Studio, Arch, Gentoo or Core versions of distros. The vast majority of distros, by default, include everything except the kitchen sink.

    "3. No Ads or Pop-Ups"
    Only if you use add-ons such as AdBlockPlus. But then sites like MUO complain about readers using ad-blockers. A case of damned if you do and damned if you don't for the user.

    • Heimen Stoffels
      February 11, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Regarding #3: I think the author was talking about apps. On Windows, there are quite some apps (esp. free ones) that have ads or pop-ups. On Linux, the amount of apps that have ads and/or pop-ups is small to none.
      (and regarding browsers: I use uBlock and hardly ever do I have to disable it, works fine on most sites)

  2. Ag
    February 10, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Why is EVERY linux desktop picture Ubuntu on this site ?