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.

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?