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.

Recommendation: Minimalism websites

So I was thinking today about sharing knowledge, and how important it is that we don’t just learn something and then keep it to ourselves. One of the most rewarding aspects of learning something new or finding something we enjoy is sharing it with others, so here is a list of my favourite Minimalism websites, blogs and YouTubers.

365 Less Thingshttp://www.365lessthings.com/

This has been without a doubt my favourite minimalist blog for a long time; Colleen’s approach to decluttering really works for me, and after four years on the journey I’m not far away from where I would like to be. To top if off she seems like a wonderful person – I’ve never seen her judge anyone for their level of minimalism or for where they are on their journey; she is definitely someone I admire and aspire to emulate.

A Slob Comes Cleanhttp://www.aslobcomesclean.com/

Not technically a minimalism website, but Nony discusses decluttering and the challenges that can come with it and I’ve learnt a lot from her as a result. If you have a lot of stuff and are struggling to get rid of it despite a desire or need to downsize, then check Nony out.

Light by Cocohttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp12IFoANz_tEY6YgZFqohA/about

Coco makes videos about her minimalist lifestyle which are both relaxing to watch and informative, like Colleen from 365 Less Things she is not judgemental but shares her experiences and advice for people embarking on a minimalist lifestyle.

The Simple Year http://thesimpleyear.com/

It’s been a while since I’ve read this blog as I don’t read nearly as much about minimalism as I used to four years ago when I was starting out, but this was another blog I found really great during that period that I would recommend. I think I especially read this blog around the year one-two handover mark for those who are curious.

My Green Closethttps://www.youtube.com/user/MyGreenCloset/videos

Again it has been a little while since I watched this channel but like all of the others, I found Erin to be relaxing to watch and non-judgemental in sharing her minimalist lifestyle.

What are your favourite minimalist websites and blogs? Share with me in the comments below.

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.

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 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?