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.

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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!