Friday, November 4, 2016

Decluttering: eating the elephant

In the interests of tracking my journey to minimalism, this is what I've tackled lately. And because a post without photos is pretty boring, I've put in a few of my instagram photos. To keep it simple I've gone with a black and white theme!

Digital clutter

  • Feedly - I deleted lots of blogs I no longer read, or are no longer active. In the process I discovered some old favourites where my subscription wasn't updating, and listed all the blogs in one list, rather than lots of different folders. 

  • Gmail & Email subscriptions - huge changes here! At one stage in the past I had over 1000 unread emails in my inbox. Many of them were things I'd signed up for but never read, or forwarded emails from my dad that I never had time to read. I would periodically spend a couple of hours filing all of these emails into folders, to get my inbox down to 100 or so unread emails, but recently I decided even that was too much. I filed a lot of things, but also took the time to read the forwarded emails, deleted things that were no longer important, unsubscribed from all the mailing lists I never read, and also went through my previously filed emails and deleted hundreds and hundreds of emails I finally realised I would never get around to reading. My aim is to keep my inbox within one screen (I think that's 50 emails), and be more mindful with my email - open things I've subscribed to, delete the emails that aren't of value to me, and respond to emails in a timely manner (specifically those emails that are 'hey, I thought you'd like this/find this interesting/this is the thing I was telling you about - I used to ignore them upon first seeing them, thinking I'd get around to reading them at some point). 

  • Facebook page likes - I use Facebook daily. My feed was cluttered with articles and content that I wasn't really engaging with so I decided to go through all my page likes and cull them - anything I didn't recognise or no longer supported/identified with got deleted. In the end I got rid of over 100 page likes. I can't tell yet whether it has made much difference. I also do this with my friends list periodically. My rule is that if I wouldn't recognise you in person, or I would but I'd cross the street to avoid saying hello (just because I didn't feel like a superficial conversation with someone I didn't really know well anymore) - you're gone! Also, if it's your birthday and I can't be bothered wishing you happy birthday then DELETE! It sounds harsh but it's so liberating. Now my friends list is carefully curated with only the people I want on it. Since a huge cull a few years ago, the list has grown with friend requests from people I meet. Mostly I do accept them, because I know I can always delete them later, but if it's truly someone I don't know very well, or know in a more professional context, I don't accept the request. Of course there is also the unfollow option for when you don't want to offend someone you still see in person, but don't really want to see on Facebook either.

Decluttering digitally is a great way to start a decluttering journey - it seems easier than removing physical items from your life. It's also quite quick and the results are instant. There's no in-between mess or trips to the op shop/uploading items for sale to eBay etc in the middle.

Physical Clutter

This is the overwhelming part. When your entire house is stuffed full to the brim with possessions, it's hard to see the goalposts. A marathon session getting rid of bags and bags of things doesn't seem to make much difference overall. But as a dear friend used to say - how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

I think the gradual approach also helps to build positive habits - it becomes a regular action and part of the routine.

Last night I had a bit of break, but I've tackled small spaces each evening, while watching TV or listening to podcasts. So far I've tidied and decluttered my wardrobe (plenty more to go!), nighstand, book collection, handbags, shoes, lipsticks and lipgloss and miscellanous items everywhere- coffee table, random boxes under the bed etc.

My strategy involved a couple of approaches:

  • keep only the items that belong in that place
  • return other items to their rightful place - maybe that's just shifting clutter but when I get to decluttering that box/cupboard/shelf at least I'll be looking at all the lipsticks/pens etc.
  • don't be afraid to throw things away - whether they're sitting in your house or in a landfill makes no difference (with the obvious exception of items that can be reused/donated/gifted because they are still useful, functional or in good condition). The act of throwing it in the bin is hard because I hate the thought of it all going to landfill. But that difficulty is momentary - like getting an injection, and saves you from having the same angst again and again with the same item because you never got rid of it the first time.

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