Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

World’s Slimmest Wallet and How to Design Minimalism into Your Life

There are four items I rarely leave the house without: keys, cellphone, a pen and wallet. As these things are all kept in my front pockets (it’s a New York thing), I try to keep bulk to a minimum. I only carry the keys I need for the day (I have a few sets clipped to a carabiner and add or subtract sets as needed). My cellphone and pen (iPhone 5 and Uni-Ball Vision, respectively) have sorta absolute volumes–i.e. removing the phone’s screen or the pen’s cap won’t help save space without serious functional drawbacks. But there is a lot of room for space saving with the wallet. Depending on type (bifold, trifold, no-fold, portfolio, money clip, etc) material and contents, I can either have a dinghy or a frigate floating around in my pockets. Reducing wallet volume and contents is the idea behind the Panel Wallet, an ultra-thin, RFID-blocking, American-made “anti-wallet” that was recently launched on Kickstarter.

panel-wallet-slimThere’s not too much to the Panel Wallet. It’s a thin piece of machined aircraft quality billet aluminum (there will be a titanium version available as well) with a silicon band that wraps around to secure cash and cards. There are two indentations on the panel to keep the silicon band in place.

The aluminum and titanium serve as RFID-blockers. If you weren’t aware, many cards have RFID chips (radio frequency identification) in them. Nefarious folks can “skim” card information even when the card is in your pocket.

I swapped my wallet for a Panel Wallet a couple days ago and here are my impressions.

My current wallet is made of oiled canvas and isn’t particularly bulky, though the Panel Wallet definitely takes the cake in terms of minimal volume. It felt appreciably smaller in my pocket. I transferred the entire contents of my wallet: my driver’s license, two credit cards, one debit card, a health insurance card, a Park Slope Food Coop ID, a Brooklyn Children’s Museum membership card, a Metrocard, two gift cards, a credit-card-shaped USB thumb-drive and a recent-trip-to-the-ATM’s worth of cash (side note: read Tim O’Brian’s “The Things They Carried“). Though the Panel Wallet folks recommend only having 5-6 cards, the band handled those 11 cards pretty easily.

panel-wallet-4

The minimal bulk in my pocket was nice, and as anyone who uses a rubber band to hold their cards and cash together, the silicon provides friction against the interior of your pocket, making it feel secure.

Getting cards out of the wallet was relatively easy, though it seemed like putting your most-used cards one or two cards deep made the most sense; this way the outer card would absorb most of the band’s friction. I did halve the number of cards as per their recommendation and stuff came out a lot easier.

Getting cash out was a little trickier as it requires you to take the whole wad out to access bills. This was similar to a business card holder I used to use as a wallet; cash had to be neatly folded in order to fit into the holder. This would require a little adjustment for people used to jamming cash into their wallet.

One interesting aspect of the wallet is the effect of its exoskeletal design. By seeing the contents of my wallet, I felt far more inclined to reduce them. Likewise, similar to living in a tiny house, the minimal volume inspired a far greater level of organization and economy of stuff. There was no space for disorganization and clutter. A couple old receipts I had been carrying around in my old wallet were promptly discarded when I switched to the Panel Wallet.

The Panel Wallet and other products like it show the inextricable relation between design and lifestyle choice. For some, making an intellectual decision to live a life with less stuff is enough–they can live in McMansions with no stuff without the temptation to fill empty spaces. But many of us need design constraints support our choices; we don’t get rid of stuff until we downsize our homes; we won’t get rid of clothes until we have smaller closets; we won’t clear clutter from our wallets until we get a slimmer wallet (or much tighter pants).

To get your Panel Wallet, visit their Kickstarter page. A $25 pledge will get you a basic Panel Wallet, $45 for a copper or brass plated one, $75 for a titanium and up.

  • Paul

    “As these things are all kept in my front pockets (it’s a New York thing)”… Yeah, people that move to London quickly learn that lesson as well 😉

  • Marrena

    I think you wanted to type “dinghy”.

    • David Friedlander

      thanks, as always, for keeping me on my toes marrena.

  • James Anthony

    Looks fairly similar to the Aniste wallet from a few years back. That said, Aniste doesn’t offer either bronze or copper as an option (though they do have the RFID shielding in their newer models).

  • Chris

    I use the Kyono Slimmy as my wallet. It’s not RFID protected but I’m not sure how much of a threat RFID skimming really is. I may be missing it but I’m not hearing about how everyday people’s card are being skimmed.

    The Slimmy has a compartment for Id where I keep my transit card and driving license, another compartment with 4 credit / debit cards another one for folded cash and a final one for my medical cards.

    I did back another Kickstarter that had a similar approach, using metal plates as a back bone and a strong elastic band to hold the cards, etc and found it to be tough to use on a daily basis. If I wasn’t careful, I could tear money and getting to the card I wanted / needed wasn’t easy either.

    So, I went back to a more traditional front pocket wallet.

  • Jonathan

    I use a Crumpler zipped top (coin) wallet. Has a rising sun fabric on the inside- is black on the outside. Inside I have a Medicare card, drivers licence, travel card, coffee card and some money (notes only- no coins). This is in my front pocket- cards last longer if you do not sit on them.

    I have 2 keys only- car & house.

    A iPhone 5. No case.

    No pen for me- they always seem to explode in my pocket.

    Coins go in a zip lock bag in my pocket. Kept this way for the shortest time possible- I empty all coins in my (Crumpler bag) & then in to the piggy bank when I get home. I empty the piggy bank a couple of times a year at the bank coin counter and often put up to $130 in to mortgage repayments.

  • Jonathan

    Oops…. I also have a bank card!

    Power tip. Keep photos -in your phone- of cards that you only need reference numbers off once in a blue moon. Keep other cards safely at home and add/ subtract as necessary. The less you have the less you can loose.

  • Bill

    i just use a Hair (band) Elastics and then just keep people out of my personal space

  • drake

    How does the wallet block RFID Skimmers if the aluminum is only on one side? Wouldn’t you want a panel on both sides with the items you want to protect in between them?

  • Paula

    Best wallet ever. Slim but can hold cards and cash securely. Slides in and out of my front pants pocket easily, doesn’t get dingy looking as it ages and lasts for years.

    http://www.hansaware.com/slim-pocket-cases/