Simplify Life: What Can You Remove?

How to be happier with less.

Dan Silvestre
13 min readJul 6, 2018


Instagram started as a mobile web app that was in many ways similar to Foursquare: check in to locations, make plans (future check-ins), earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, and much more. At the time, it was called Burbn.

A few weeks later, the idea pivoted. In the words of co-founder Kevin Systrom: “We decided that if we were going to build a company, we wanted to focus on being really good at one thing.”

They saw mobile photos as the opportunity. They cut everything in the Burbn app except for its photo, comment, and like capabilities. What remained was Instagram.

The rest, as they say, is history.

One of the reasons Instagram was so successful is because it removed what is known as Product Debt.

By focusing on only having the core feature that the majority of the users needed, they narrowed down to a very specific niche, acquiring early adopters that were eager to share the app (following the Diffusion of Innovations).

They removed complexity, thus reducing technical debt. Code didn’t have to be rewritten for scaling down the line because most of it had been removed.

They stayed lean, helping Instagram stay mean.

The True Cost of Things

In marketing, there’s a concept called carrying cost. It refers to the total cost of holding inventory, such as storage, staff, shipping, depreciation, and opportunity cost.

Carrying costs are decreased when no excess inventory is held at all, effectively working as a Just in Time production system.

Carrying costs also exist in our personal lives.

The maintenance of everyday things means losing time to understand how products work, putting it away after using, regularly check in if they are still properly functioning, and cleaning every now and then.



Dan Silvestre

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