The simplicity of one project

I know I’m not alone in having had many, many hobbies over the years, and for each of those hobbies I had multiple projects on the go all at the same time. At one point I remember counting over 40 sewing projects. Unsurprisingly it took me four years to complete one medium sized piece of work and the rest I ended up gifting to fellow stitches. Since finding minimalism I’ve reduced drastically the number of hobbies I have to only those I find really important or interesting at this particular point in my life, this has meant letting lots of past hobbies go that I had outgrown. Additionally I’ve also limited myself to having only one project, per hobby at a time. There were multiple reasons for this, so I thought I would share why you should consider having just one project too.

Time – We live in a busy world and we are busy people which means that our free time can often be limited and we must choose how we spend it wisely.
Completion – When I had 100 projects on the go at the same time, I rarely ever finished anything and when I did it was usually after several years and or tended to be a smaller project. This can lead not only to clutter but also to a feeling of failure as we never manage to complete any of the projects we are working on. Of course with hobbies it is by and large about the process, but give yourself a chance to see how it feels when your passion drives you to complete something wonderful.
Clutter – As mentioned above, multiple projects on the go at once mean several times the clutter.
Focus – Having one project allows us to remain focused and reduce time spent trying to catch up and remember where we were the last time we were working on a particular project.
Changing tastes – Over time our tastes change and if we are taking multiple years to complete a project by the time we find some free leisure time to work on a project it might have been so long that our tastes have completely changed, leaving us with a lot of time, money and resources spent on something our hearts are no longer in.
Learning – We can learn a lot from hobbies and interests, but we restrict our ability to learn when we only complete the beginning stages of a project, leaving us with no experience of the finishing stages or of the more complex challenges hobbies can bring.
Choice – Having only one project in the era of having thousands of ideas pinned on Pinterest forces us to choose what we really love and let our passion guide us to the projects we feel we cannot live without trying.
Immersion – When we have only one project to channel our passion into it allows us to become fully immersed in the process.
Memory – Having so many projects leaves us liable to forget them and then things we have spent our time and money on just get shoved to the back of a draw, taking up space.

How do you feel about the prospect of having only one project at time? Have your reduced your hobbies and projects? Share with me in the comments below.

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Signs you need to rethink your hobbies

I love having lots of hobbies and interests, I always have and probably always will for the rest of my life – I just love to try new things. Hobbies are on the whole pretty good for us: they help us to unwind, learn new skills, gain new knowledge, meet new people and make new friends. But what if your hobby starts to become a source of stress?

When I was working on becoming a minimalist I quit a lot of hobbies for various reasons because minimalism isn’t just about reducing how much stuff you have, it’s also about rethinking your whole life and being honest with yourself and what you want. Life is full of beginnings and endings and the same holds true for hobbies – we might go through any number of hobbies or interests in our lifetime or we might keep the same hobby throughout our entire life.

Here are some of the reasons I quit particular hobbies or changed the way I do them:

You aren’t having any fun – Sometimes after many years of enjoying a hobby we fall out of love with it but we haven’t quite moved on and accepted that we feel differently. Remember, hobbies don’t always have to be forever, just because you enjoyed something once doesn’t mean you will enjoy it for the rest of your life. You don’t need to feel obligated to keep doing something if you’ve moved on and no longer enjoy it. If you have many half-finished projects you no longer want to complete, consider selling, donating or recycling the materials.
o Ask yourself what you loved about this hobby when you started and if that is still true today.
It’s costing you too much – Hobbies can be expensive and it’s understandable that we would want to spend our money on them, but sometimes that spending can get out of hand. Some hobbies are actually deliberately designed to make you spend a lot of money – they are fast moving and companies constantly bring out so many new items that it becomes more a game of keeping up or collecting than about the hobby itself. Sometimes hobbies can become expensive because we buy more than we need, or get caught up trying to compete with others and all the tools or equipment they have.
o Ask yourself if you are more focused on spending money on your hobby than you are on actively engaging with it.
It’s competitive, but not in a healthy way – Competition can inspire us to work harder and improve ourselves, but if you find yourself striving for improvement just for the sake of one-upmanship against others its maybe time to reconsider whether what you are doing is actually making you happy. If a hobby makes you feel constantly anxious, disappointed, angry, frustrated or aggressive then it’s time to reconsider what you are getting from your hobby.
o Ask yourself whether your hobby makes you feel positive or negative.
You don’t enjoy the community – Meeting new people and making new friends is always one of the highlights of having a new hobby or interest, but let’s be honest, not all communities are positive ones that lift us up and help us along our journeys. If the groups you are in are full of petty arguments, aggressiveness, fighting and generally don’t make you feel happy or proud to be a part of them then it’s time to exit. Of course if you are feeling really brave you could reinvent the community with a new, more positive group.
o Ask yourself if the community your hobby has is a positive one that helps you, celebrates successes and lifts you up.
You aren’t learning anything new – Hobbies are meant to be fun, but if we aren’t learning anything new, going anywhere new or discovering something new then it’s possible you’ve reached a stale point in your hobby. Part of the fun of a hobby is learning a new skill, improving and discovering new things – give yourself that opportunity.
o Ask yourself if you are learning anything new.
You never finish anything – If you never finish anything it’s possible that you are more in love with the idea of the hobby than the hobby itself. Just because you think something is cool, interesting or a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean you want to go through the journey it takes reach the end of a project or goal, and there’s nothing wrong with that – we can admire and appreciate the effort  it takes to create something without having to do it ourselves.
o Ask yourself if you genuinely enjoy the hobby or whether you are in love with the idea of this hobby.
It was someone else’s idea – Sometimes when people really enjoy their hobbies they want to share them with other people and we agree to try them out because we love those people. Well-meaning friends and family might also think they’ve found something great for us that we’ll really enjoy but if it’s not for you don’t be afraid to try it and then say so.
o Ask yourself if this is something you really enjoy, or is it something others really enjoy.
You’re ignoring your family or other responsibilities – Everyone needs some time out, but if you find yourself obsessed and unwilling to compromise the time you spend on a hobby you need to ask yourself what you are running from. Hobbies can be one way we ‘exit’ relationships or situations that we don’t want to be in, and this can be a helpful coping strategy at times, but in long-rung we need to face our problems head-on and find ways to solve them or reduce their impact on our lives.
o Ask yourself if you are trying to escape from your problems instead of trying to confront them.

How do you feel about your hobbies? Do you still enjoy them or is it time to say goodbye? What hobbies have you had in the past that you let of to allow new ones in? Share with me in the comments below.

How to declutter your digital life – Photos

Having spent a lot of time in the minimalist movement the question of how to declutter our digital lives comes up a lot, so I wanted to share my strategies for remaining on top of it. I’m going to start today with photos.

1. Reduce how many photographs you take

This sounds like odd advice at first, after all, who doesn’t love photos? But the first port of call when decluttering is always to stop or reduce what’s coming in so you can get a handle on what you already have. Here’s some questions to ask yourself when out and about taking photos:
• Am I present? – It’s so easy to get caught up taking photographs of everything you are seeing and not really taking anything in. Instead of taking hundreds of photos whilst out on a trip, try to take everything in, engage with your friends and family about what you are doing or seeing, and only take photographs of the really special moments.
• Do I need multiple photographs of the same thing? It can seem appealing to take photographs from all angles when we see something beautiful, but if one photograph would suffice don’t take ten.
• Will this photograph mean anything to you in the future? In a month, in one year, in five years? Looking back through photos from only two years ago it was surprising the number of photographs I took that didn’t mean anything to me, I couldn’t understand why I had taken a photograph of the floor, or an empty cup – yes, really!

2. Declutter on the go

When you are stuck in a queue, on the bus, on the train or at any other time where you have five minutes to spare – go through the photographs on your phone and delete any that you don’t need. By doing this you will reduce the number of photographs that end up on your computer and thus, have less to sort through later.

3. Declutter when on the computer

Before your arrange your photographs into nice folders, take a minute to go through them all each time you upload a batch and weed out any that you didn’t already in steps 1 & 2.

4. Arrange your photographs

The best system I have found for arranging photographs is the Year-Month system – I sort photographs into folders by year, and then by month inside those years, with additional folders for special occasions. This system allows for you to quickly and easily find a photograph when you want it, and also keep new photographs organised.
Advice for sorting photographs already on your computer
Now you know how to handle photographs in the future, but what to do with that pesky folder full of random, unorganised photographs? Here’s a few tips I found helped me when dealing with a huge mess of photographs:

• Set a timer – Decluttering and organising hundreds or thousands of photographs can be tiring so set yourself a timer for how long you want to spend working on this project at one time and stick to it. Trying to do it all in one go will likely just result in you getting burnt out and abandoning the project.
• Declutter first – As in the above advice, declutter bad or uninteresting photographs first, then arrange.
• Make use of the sort feature – Providing your photographs aren’t scans or super old digital photos they should have a date attached to them. The best way to find out is to sort photographs by ‘details’ and then look for ‘date taken’ or ‘date created’, then click that label and your photographs will automatically sort themselves by date. Extra tip: Weed out duplicates by loosely sorting photos into the Year-Month system then go through each month and remove any duplicates that have cropped up.
• Separate what’s been sorted – During each session move sorted photographs into your new Year-Month system so that when you come back to it next time you know immediately what is left to sort and what has been completed.
• Keep it up – Try to upload photographs at least once a month so that they don’t get on top of you and out of hand.

And finally, after all that effort, don’t forget to back them up!

In Real Life: Week 2 Update

Well that’s the end of week 2.

This week I went to the park several times, I saw a bee fly for the first time ever in my life, have watched the pink foxglove in my garden begin to bloom, took a nap because I needed one (I would previously have pushed on through to keep clicking), went for a picnic and watched a live cycling race. It’s funny to think that most of this would never have happened if I hadn’t logged off – I definitely wouldn’t have seen the bee fly for certain, which would have been a great shame because when I spotted it in amongst loads of bees I got really excited and I wasn’t expecting that at all.

I also finished another three books this week and began reading Bleak House, a book which has been on my to-read list for a decade. When I first opened it I struggled with the first page, but I decided to perserve, in the belief that the more I read the easier the book would get, and I was right, I’m now 240 pages in and having very little trouble apart from the odd unfamiliar word. At this pace there is actually hope that I might finish all 1500 books on my to-read list. Unlike before IRL, I have been to the library several times in the past week to either loan or return books.

One downside is that I am feeling the creep of my googling, unfortunately my RescueTime app is having some issues and so it hasn’t been recording my google chrome usage on my mobile. I’m also quite attached to my phone and keep checking it still, despite that there’s no need to. I think this is something I can work on in the following week, especially if I can fix the RescueTime app on my phone. Overall though I think my life is still better than when I was online and I plan to continue as I am.

In Real Life: Week 1 update

As promised, I said I would update with how my first week offline went.

My most common activity logged on Rescue Time was messenger apps. I was wary of switching one procrastinating activity for another; however I’m not going to feel bad about the amount of time I spent texting as I spent more than 20 hours travelling this week and away from various loved ones. I spent two hours on YouTube which came from a flaw in my plan to go offline – I wanted some background music to relax to while I went about other chores – thunderstorms, rain and so on. Again I’m okay with this concession but I do want to try get some MP3’s or albums instead as this will remove the temptation when I log on to YouTube to ‘just check that YouTuber I used to watch…’. Overall I’m pretty happy with my statistics for the week given how they usually look!

My week went exceedingly well, this has been the longest period I have been offline for around a decade now I think. I ate more – this is good as someone recovering from illness, I need the extra calories as my immune system is low right now. I went to the park a couple of times and went on a trip to visit some family. I also went to visit some friends which had become quite usual for me in recent months. My concentration improved, my happiness went up, I felt a sense of achievement and oddly enough did not feel that I missed much. I felt much more connected to the real world and was strongly reminded of my pre-internet life at various points. I also did more cleaning and made more eye contact with people.

This week I finished three books, and nearly finished another. It’s amazing how much your concentration improves when you take away the option to go online. Over the past year or so my concentration had dived, my memory and language skills were clearly suffering to the point where sometimes I couldn’t form a coherent sentence or simple story without stuttering, stumbling and being unable to find my words. This week I found myself pushing through another few pages, a chapter, until I had finished two books in two days. I thought it was difficult to read, and it is – when you are constantly distracted by the internet, having six or seven windows open at once. Take all that away and it’s not so hard. When there’s nothing else to do you might as well read another page.

My partner said I seemed more coherent, more focused, and calmer than usual. He was also amazed that only a week ago I had been struggling to read almost anything longer than a short article and had virtually given up on my life-long hobby of reading as I was finding it too difficult.

But were there any downsides? I did feel twitchy in the sense that I kept checking my phone a lot. Part of this I can attribute to having travelled so much this week – when you’ve read 500 pages on a an exceptionally long train journey, and are still not at your destination I think even the most strong willed would find it hard not to start randomly pressing buttons on their phone. I think another part of this might have been that I had become accustomed to always having a new notification to check and suddenly there wasn’t any more because I had deleted all my social media accounts. It will be interesting to see if this declines in week 2. Other than this I did not feel that there were any downsides to the experiment so far. I’ll report back in another week, until then, happy IRLing.