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.

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How I organize my emails

Following on from my post on how to declutter your digital life, I’m going to be sharing how I organize my emails to stay on top of my inbox. For both personal and work related emails I separate everything I need to keep into different folders. I unsubscribe from all newsletters because I never read them and they just make a mess of my inbox unnecessarily; there is so much content out there to read that I don’t need to be emailed any. I hope this will give you some ideas for how you can organize your own inbox:

Personal emails:

• Accounts – I use this box to store all of those welcome emails when I sign up to something, this way I know exactly who I have given my details too. Occasionally I go through this box and ask myself if there are accounts I am no longer using and then go to the website and delete my account.
• Receipts – As we move more and more towards a digital, paperless life it’s important to put those receipts somewhere safe but not to have them cluttering up our inbox. Again, every so often I go through them and get rid of any from small purchases which have arrived and I had no issues with.
• RescueTime – I’m a big fan of the website and app, RescueTime, each week I get a report telling me how productive I was or how much time I wasted on social media and I put them in here so I can see in a year’s time whether I have improved in how I spend my time on my computer.
• Family/friends – I don’t have this box anymore since I mostly Facebook, text or call my family and friends but if I receive a special email from someone, I’ll put it in here.

Work/academic:

I follow the same pattern as my personal email with an Accounts folders and also a receipts folder but there are also a few others I have to stay organized:
• Dissertation – I’m currently working on my postgraduate thesis so any important information that I need to hold on to, for example about ethics or general guidance is saved here.
• Jobs – Many jobs these days require you to make an account with the companies own online application system, so I separate these from my accounts and put them here. I also keep receipts to say that my application has been received and so on.
• Essay submissions – Still being a student I have to submit essays online so they can be checked for plagiarism, every time I submit I get a receipt which goes in here.
• Volunteering – I volunteer for a couple of organizations so anything related to that goes in here.
• Work – Once I have a job any important information goes in here.
Again, like my personal email I go through each of these boxes periodically to make sure I am not keeping anything unnecessarily. Additionally there will come a time when some boxes are no longer needed, for example when I finish my degree, the ‘dissertation’ and ‘essay submission’ boxes will be deleted.

How do you organize your emails? Do you manage to stay on top of them or do you dread opening your inbox?

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!

Why become a Minimalist

There are many different reasons cited for becoming a minimalist; I have gathered from various websites, blogs and conversations with people a list here which I hope is somewhat comprehensive. I hope you find it useful.

Less stress – Trying to organise, tidy, and clean around lots of items is stressful, it leads to dust and mess and lost items which you cannot find when you need them. Not only that but it’s unnecessary considering how often we actually use the majority of our items.
Cleaning less – Let’s face it, almost no one likes cleaning and this is one reason which seems to resonate with most people who come to the minimalist lifestyle. Less stuff means not only do you have less to clean, but it also makes cleaning easier in general since there are fewer items to clean around.
Desire less – Consumerism is a black hole, the constant production of new items with slightly different modifications creates an endless list of wants and desires that will never be satisfied for the majority of us; in choosing minimalism you choose not to stop wanting objects but to desire less in terms of material objects and wealth and focus on living a good and happy life.
Debt – Some, but not all minimalists join the movement as a way to reign in their spending and become more content with a more simplistic lifestyle which will allow them to free themselves of any existing debt and potential debt in future.
Save money – Cutting back on unnecessary purchases can allow you to save money for other, more important things in life, whatever that is for you.
Travel – A lot of minimalists express the desire to travel and see more of the world, downsizing their possessions and lives allows them to make this a reality, partly because they have fewer possessions to worry about or carry around the world, and secondly because decluttering can also create some much needed money to facilitate travel.
Religion – Whilst some minimalists are religious, minimalism itself is not religious and therefore anyone of any religion, or none at all, can embark upon this journey. For those who are religious they often see it as a way to become closer to God by shedding objects of material wealth.
Family – Whether the desire to spend more time with family or the desire to leave less stress for family when you pass, family is another key reason why people choose minimalism.
Friends – Much like family, many people wish to spend more time with their friends.
Direction – Many people feel they lack direction in their lives and instead give in to mindless consumerism, embracing minimalism gives you the chance for a blank slate and the opportunity to decide what you want to do with your life.

Why did you become a minimalist?

My experience with iron-deficiency anaemia (And why you should take anaemia seriously)

I was first told I had low-iron levels in my mid-teens. I wasn’t worried, in fact I thought this was pretty normal and nothing to worry about, after all, I had heard that 1 in 5 women had low iron levels and they all seemed pretty fine.

Over the years I quit vegetarianism but continued to struggle with fatigue and other symptoms that I did not immediately recognise were signs of iron-deficiency anaemia – I was constantly cold and unable to retain warmth, I was weak, getting short of breath from the smallest amount of exercise, I fainted or came close to fainting more times than I can count, – once in front of my entire class. Luckily my teacher caught me.

In late 2013 I felt so weak that walking became difficult. My legs and arms felt so heavy that just trying to put one foot in front of the other was exhausting and the effort made me want to cry because it had become so difficult. A one mile all round trip to the shop and back left me completely wiped out and needing to lay down for at least one hour if not two, I was so exhausted. I was used to feeling unwell due to various health issues but this was getting out of hand. Too ill to work, I quit and saw my doctor who ran blood tests which revealed my low iron levels. I was put on high dose tablets containing fourteen times the recommended daily allowance. After a couple of weeks on the tablets I began to feel better and better.

But it was still a few more years before I finally took my anaemia seriously. For those years I would haphazardly take my iron medication, only maybe finishing half of a course, skipping days here and there, only taking one pill a day instead of three. Although I felt better after a few weeks I eventually fell into a cycle of taking the pills for a few weeks and feeling a bit better before coming off them and starting to feel very unwell again within the space of a couple of months and getting a new prescription.

In early 2016 I finally realised I was tired of this cycle and spoke with my doctor. We agreed that I should probably take a regular iron supplement everyday on a more permanent basis once I had finished my latest course of iron tablets. This would get me off the cycle of coming off the high-dose iron tablets and then progressively becoming weaker over the period of a few weeks or months until I was ill enough to warrant a new round of treatment.

Since then I haven’t taken an iron pill every single day, I’m still human and I’m not perfect, but I have taken an iron pill most days and I recognise that with heavy periods and a history of anaemia behind me that it is something I do need to be doing. I finally take my anaemia seriously and I’m reaping the benefits of it. I feel warmer than I have done in years, my arms and legs ache far less than they used to and less and less frequently do the words ‘I’m tired’ fall out of my mouth.

Yet at the same time I’m saddened that anaemia is trivialised quite a lot and almost made out to be just part of being a woman rather than a deficiency which needs to be treated. If I had thought anaemia was a condition which needed to be taken seriously I might not have become so unwell before seeking treatment, and also taken my treatment more seriously, instead I learnt the hard way. I’m glad that I now take it seriously and no longer struggle to walk to the corner shop and back!

Do you have anaemia? How was your experience?

If you would like more information on iron deficiency and anaemia, I highly recommend this website: http://www.getyourironup.org/