How to become a minimalist: Decluttering techniques

So you’ve decided you want to become a minimalist, but now what? How should you go about it? There are many different strategies for decluttering and I’m going to share them here, and tell you what my favourites are as well.

Fast methods

• The Weekend – This involves setting aside a couple of days to work on your life and completely reinvent it. Make sure you stock up on bags and boxes beforehand and scope out places where you can donate or recycle what you no longer need or want.
• One touch – This method was popularised by Marie Kondo in her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the basic premise is that you go through all of your possessions and ask yourself if they spark joy for you, and only allow yourself to answer once.
• Packing party – Okay so this method actually takes a few weeks, depending on how long you want to wait, but you can have instant results – essentially you pack up everything you don’t think you need or want, then put it out of the way for a month or so. At the end of the month whatever you didn’t retrieve gets donated.

Slow methods

If fast methods aren’t for you – then there are a number of different strategies you can utilise to keep the ball rolling at a much more leisurely pace that doesn’t need to totally disrupt your life.

• 1 item per day – Created by Colleen of 365LessThings.com, the idea is to donate, recycle or use up one item per day. At the end of the year you’ll have 365 less things in your home to take care of. This works particularly well for those who feel anxious about decluttering and can be couple with other techniques such as ‘Use it up’.
• 1 area at a time – This method involves dividing up your home into areas, how small or big you want those areas to be is up to you, you could go as small as individual draws or a room, and then tackle one per week.
• Layers – This involves repeated sessions of decluttering coupled with reduced spending over a period of time to peel back the clutter like layers.
• Games – Choose a number or a colour and then declutter accordingly, this can be fun and is good for those who like a challenge but don’t want to spend an entire weekend Decluttering.
• Use it up – If you’re of a more frugal mentality then you might want to consider trying to reduce your spending and instead ‘shop’ from inside your home: this can include books you have never read, films you never watched, foods you need to eat up, bathroom products that need using up – essentially anything you have in excess make a goal of not buying and instead try to use what you own.

General advice

• Aim for good enough, not perfection. In the age of Instagram this is even more important to remember – your version of minimalism does not have to be perfect.
• This is good advice for sorting areas which have been cluttered with mixed items rather than items of a particular type – as you declutter an area take each item immediately to where it belongs – if you are donating some items after, leave yourself plenty of time to take them there. This was a great concept I learnt from Nony at ASlobComesClean.com, her theory being if you create piles of items which need to be somewhere else, let’s say the laundry basket, papers for filing and some items to return to your child’s bedroom – if you get interrupted there is a high chance that your new, smaller piles will end up merging back together into one big mess again. However if you immediately take that sock to the laundry basket, file those papers but don’t get around to fixing the rest, you have still made good progress.
• If you take don’t feel able to declutter everything in one go, don’t beat yourself up about it but instead acknowledge your progress. Sometimes change takes time, especially letting go.
• Ask yourself why you are keeping something – and be honest with yourself about it. How does the item make you feel? Does it bring back good memories but you resent having to clean it,

What method did you use on your journey towards becoming a Minimalist? Share with me in the comments below.

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!