New Year Minimalism – A few ideas.

A lot of people set themselves New Years resolutions. The New Year marks a fresh start for a lot of people & resolutions help to set goals for the coming year. Some are very simple, such as dieting after the festive period or signing up to a gym. I’m not really one for resolutions but a lot of people I know like to do this, so I thought I would lay out a few tips & ideas for anyone interested in simple living & minimalism.

One of the first things I do after the Christmas period is to address my belongings. My family & friends have really got into a rhythm with what to buy me each year, so I don’t tend to get anything which throws me off my minimalist lifestyle, but I do get some really handy gifts. I tend to get new underwear, toiletries, a new aftershave and a couple of books to read.

I’ve asked my family to buy me the same kind of things each year, generally consumables. By getting a few sets of underwear each year I can go through my drawers and get rid of the tired looking items. I have a strict one in one out system now, which I find helps me to keep on top of my belongings. I also find that I personally feel better because I’m only replacing something that is worn out & due for a refresh.

With the toiletries, I tend to get enough deodorant, razor blades & aftershave to last me the entire year, until next christmas. So I start off the year with a few extra items than absolutely necessary, but they do get used up before I receive a fresh batch & I can live with storing a couple of essentials in the bathroom cabinet.

Christmas time used to be really hard for me as an aspiring minimalist. I’m super appreciative of all the gifts I receive & they are by no means bad gifts, but when you are trying to reduce the amount of stuff you hang on to, it can prove challenging. I used to get a lot of novelty items, fun presents which made you laugh & smile on the day, but then went into a drawer never to be seen again. After speaking with friends & family I have managed to save them money  by asking not to buy those items & requested only items I really need. I have a small Amazon wish list to which I add specific things I need & each family member also has set things they now tend to buy me. I find this works best & it makes their life easier if they do decide to give me a gift.

January is also a great time to address your wardrobe. For a few years now my wife and I have shared a single clothes rail. It wasnt always like that, we used to have a walk in wardrobe back in 2012 (walk in closet) and we had hundreds of different items of clothes collected over two lifetimes.

When we first started getting onto minimalism, sorting out the clothes was really hard. Many items had sentimental value, even though we knew we would never wear them again. Since minimising our wardrobe to a single rail, we have found it really easy to stay on top of clothing. Again we have a one in one out rule & with limited space we find we stick to it. If an item wears out we can replace it without feeling guilty & all the remaining items of clothing we have are the ones we wear daily.

I would recommend starting with your wardrobe if you are new to minimalism. It’s a good way to get used to letting things go & it is one of the best examples of how minimalism can make life easier. Just by selecting a daily outfit, you will feel lighter & less burdened by choice.

This year I also decided to address my smartphone & social media accounts. I had far too many time-consuming apps & so many twitter accounts which I followed that it was becoming less useful to me. I wrote about that earlier this week, but the general gist is that by reducing apps & information consumption on your smart phone, you can save a crazy amount of time & regain a lot of focus. With the time I’ve regained I intend to learn Dutch & play more guitar.

Another thing I like to do each new year is to address my finances. I am still paying down student debt on credit cards & I always shift my remaining debt to a 0% card in January. That way I’m always only paying off the debt & not the interest payments. I’m not sure how the banks feel about that, essentially giving me a free loan, but I find minimalism can be applied easily to finances if you treat the digital pounds just the same way you would treat physical clutter. To me, debt is clutter, it’s a burden & it has the ability to cripple you with worry & also to trap you in a situation. I intend to move to Amsterdam & debt is one thing I will not be taking with me.

You can also take this time to check all of your current bills, direct debits & subscriptions. See if you can reduce bills such as your phone or internet, cancel any subscriptions you no longer need & give all of your finances a health check. It’s surprising what a £5 a month subscription costs each year if you no longer read that magazine or watch Netflix.

Moving on to books. I no longer have many physical books. I used to have a massive collection of books in paperback and hardback format however I bought an eReader last year (kindle) and started to get most of my books in a digital format. I still buy the odd second-hand book or text-book, I don’t tend to buy new books as there are an abundance of used books out there for a fraction of the cost. I found moving to ebooks freed up a lot of my belongings. I’ve moved house before with perhaps 30 boxes of books. They are heavy & cumbersome. I now have most of my books on the kindle which can fit in my coat pocket. My kindle library is around 140 books strong. This is all part of a lifestyle I’m crafting to make it easier for me to pick up & go when I like. To a new house, to a new country. I’m no stranger to putting things in storage and moving around for a while. I like the freedom & it’s one of the things that attracted me to Minimalism in the first place.

If you have books, sort through them & give to charity any you have read & won’t reference, or those you have no intention of reading. If you do this every few months you can regain a lot of space, shed a lot of weight & if you give them to a charity shop you can help a good cause in the process (not to mention people can get great books for a fraction of retail & it saves them from landfill).

January is always a quiet month for me work wise. My business customers are coming to terms with a new year & the serious overspend of the previous months. I used to get quite low in January, but I’ve now come to terms with the fact that it is quiet & treat it more as a holiday. It’s the perfect time for me to sort and organise. I normally take a drawer at a time & sort it out. I do this often, but it’s surprising what you find in them. Old bank statements which should have been filed, batteries long since flat, packaging & junk. Minimalism for most is an ongoing process, and I’m still finding things I missed the first, second or tenth time I sorted out a drawer.

If you are new, start small. Choose a drawer a day and sort into three piles, keep, donate/sell & rubbish. Then organise your keep things back into a home, somewhere you know where they will be when you need them. The donate/sell pile should be dealt with ASAP to make sure you don’t start taking things back out, as should the rubbish pile. It’s a great way to start out organising by taking small steps. Decluttering takes time & patience.

I no longer buy CD’s or DVD’s as I tend to rent, stream or buy digital versions. I used to have a large collection of media but I donated and sold the whole lot when I started minimising. I do buy the odd Xbox game on a disc, but I buy these second-hand from shops in the UK like CEX and Game. This way I make a huge saving & I’m reusing media. Once I’ve finished I pass them on to friends or put them up on ebay for a nominal amount. I’d rather someone else benefit from them when I finished, just as I have. It’s a nice process to be involved with.

There are loads of things you can do to get started on your decluttering & simplifying journey. These are just a few to get you started. Please do let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions or personal preferences for starting a minimalists new year.

John Signature

Smart Phone Detox – Smartphone Addiction is a thing

It’s 2017 and people all over the world are starting a new year & implementing resolutions for the coming 12 months. I don’t tend to set resolutions, I prefer a constant evolution as & when I discover something causing me an issue or concern. So this year (not because it is a new year, but because I discovered an escalation in my own dependency) I’ve decided to radically change my smartphone habits.

I’ve had a smartphone since 2008 when I bought the iPhone 3G at launch. Back then, smart phones where pretty basic & the app store had only just launched. In 2008 there wasn’t even an official twitter client, so I used Twitterific. It was a much simpler time, apps & digital companies where concentrating on providing services & not so much on holding our concentration for ad pounds (dollars).

Twitter in 2008 was also a great place to be. Not many brands had discovered it & large swathes of the population hadn’t. It was a friendly & positive place to hang out. It wasn’t political or racial. Abuse wasn’t really a thing & it was a progressive platform. Also this was before the introduction of the retweet button. Back then you would just type “RT @someusername – copy & paste their tweet”. This was wonderful as people would only share genuinely interesting tweets. Now, people & brands click the retweet button so often it makes my feed almost pointless.

Anyway, back to smartphones. The progression of the smartphone & the ubiquity of its use led to a boom in app development. Notifications came along, in app purchases came along, ad supported apps & games…. you get the picture. In 2017 it would seem that Smartphones are no longer devices we enjoy, they are actually in charge of us. They bing & bong for our attention, they sleep by our beds, they feed pictures & videos of people we have never met into our subconscious. Constantly bombarded with images of the wealthy & the beautiful it’s easy to feel inferior. This ubiquity & constant access to our consciousness has been a boon for advertisers & marketers.

Instagram is synonymous with smartphone use. You can only upload to the platform officially via a smartphone or tablet. It also doesn’t surprise me that Facebook acquired the platform. Instagrammers can be paid obscene amounts by brands & tourist boards to show us the finer things in life & promote even more anxious & depressive thoughts. It a marketers dream platform.

I really believe that Social Media is causing serious issues with everything from mental health to political fallout, and the biggest driver for this change has been the smartphone. I believe it so strongly that I’m looking to do a PhD into the effects on society in the not too distant future.

It’s not only social media vying for our attention on our smartphones. We have games, we have music apps, messaging apps, car buying apps, airbnb, spotify, ibooks, Netflix, Amazon, podcasts. Before I sat down to write this post I had 100 apps installed on my phone. All of them take a little bit of my attention. If I’m out to lunch, I will check my phone, meeting friends or at a gig I’ll check my phone. In fact there are very few times I won’t feel compelled to pick it up and check a few apps.

I think we can all relate to this, but it is ruining my relationships & productivity, so it’s time to make a change. Last year I started by leaving my iPhone at home more often. If I went for a walk with my wife, it was left at home, if we went out for coffee, I left it at home or turned it off. Everytime, I felt more present & less stressed. I also started leaving my phone in one place in the house when I’m home. It sits on charge in my kitchen at all times. I can now watch a movie without distraction & really concentrate on what I’m doing. I’m able to sit a read a lot more, I’ve more time to write.

I have considered ditching the smartphone altogether, but there are certain features which genuinely do help. Google Maps is a must as we travel a lot, Facetime is also my main way to chat to family who live 600 miles away & it’s more intimate than a phone call. I also use Skype & Whatsapp to stay in touch with good friends who live all over the world, for free. I wouldn’t be without those now as I feel they genuinely add value to my life. Also, It’s nice to have a decent camera in my pocket & not carry around a separate Canon camera.

So far these are the things I’ve done to improve my personal usage:-

  • Pick a spot in the house & designate it as a smartphone spot. Leave your phone plugged in there unless you really need it – Stops compulsive checking
  • Uninstall time wasting apps – I can use AirBNB on a laptop when I’m actually needing accommodation
  • If you use twitter, turn off retweets. Each time you see a retweet in your timeline, click through to that user and disable their retweets. Reclaim your timeline & time.
  • Ditch Pinterest – Only use it as & when you need inspiration.
  • Uninstall news apps – They are the biggest time waster for me.
  • Uninstall iBooks/Kindle app & movie/tv catchup apps – Read proper books or use a kindle and enjoy the experience. Also helps avoid notifications & distractions. Movies should be enjoyed on a bigger screen. Don’t ruin it.
  • Start leaving your smartphone at home or turning it off when you are doing things, it will transform your relationships.
  • Turn off notifications for everything but messaging apps/text apps.
  • Remove games. You will turn to them at times when you should just enjoy watching the world go by, such as when a friend goes to the bathroom during coffee.
  • Reduce your data plan – I’ve gone down to 500MB a month. Makes me conscious of using data on the go & reduced my usage. Also saves money.

Looking at the points above there are probably some I’ve missed. The general idea is to reclaim your time & focus. With so much information day & night it’s hard to maintain focus on the things that matter. From our own projects to our friends & family. They are all neglected when you are a smartphone slave.

I was one of the worst offenders when it came to reading news on my iPhone. Apple introduced the News app & it’s algorithmically trained to show you more of the news you read, so you are constantly bombarded with relevant stories. It’s a rabbit hole you just keep falling down. Between Brexit in the UK and the US elections I became addicted to reading news stories. It seemed like a terrible time in our history but it wasn’t made any better by the constant commentary of the News apps. At the beginning of December I decided to uninstall all news apps on my phone and limit my news reading to 10 minutes a day with my morning coffee. I would go as far as saying it has been life changing. I’m much less stressed & my head isn’t spinning with information & opinion.

People often ask me about my Facebook usage. I still have an account, but I don’t actively use the platform. I don’t trust it & I’m not so keen on a company making so much money & paying so little tax simply by using our data, which we provide for free. I haven’t had the facebook app installed on my iPhone for a few years and don’t tend to login often. If Facebook is an issue for you, uninstall the app and install the messenger. That way you can have real time conversations with all of your contacts, without all the algorithm & marketing nonsense.

In the list of points I laid out I mentioned reducing my mobile data package. I’ve never had a mobile phone contract, I prefer to buy my handset outright & go with a really cheap sim only provider. For years I’ve been with GiffGaff which allows me to change my package whenever I like. I currently use their goodybags which allow me to choose a payment amount in return for data, texts & minutes. All very boring but I’m now only paying £7.50 a month for 250 minutes (I mostly use facetime & skype anyway), unlimited SMS texts and 500MB of data.

I’ve found by reducing the data available to me, I’ve change my habits. I no longer stream music over 4G, I use my iPod which plays flawlessly, without dropouts & without notifications & distractions. Even more headspace. It also means I don’t instagram on the go, I take a photo and upload on Wifi. I don’t watch news bulletins or cat videos, I literally text & do the odd google search or map lookup. I don’t want to run out of data early in the month so my whole usage has adjusted in a positive way.

There are numerous other reasons to reduce smartphone use, from the effects of blue light on our sleep patterns to the privacy implications. I decided to focus on the issues affecting me but yours may be different.

As of now I’m down to 40 apps on my iPhone including the generic ones such as email, browser, maps, weather and messages. I’m going to keep culling apps over the coming weeks.

I hope you have found this post useful & you start to implement some of the points discussed. A smartphone can be a brilliant device, but it can also steal all of your time, attention & focus while eroding your most important relationships. I found it caused a lot of anxiety & stress & made me feel inferior on a daily basis. Also, as a minimalist, it was hard to be marketed at day & night across so many platforms which I saw as crucial to my daily life. They really aren’t.

This is a first edit so will be subject to change as I progress with this. Also, if you have any tips please do let me know below. I’m no expert & I’m figuring this out as I go, so anything I’ve missed please do comment.

John Signature

Financial Minimalism

Financial Minimalism

This morning, when paying my water bill I realised that minimalism can be applied to all aspects of our lives, not just our physical belongings. It occurred to me that I spend time on the 15th of every month logging into a website, entering my card details and paying a utility bill. This process takes me around 10 minutes each month, or two hours over an entire year. What a waste of time!

Beyond the physical act of sitting & paying the bill, I also have to be conscious of the date & remember on the 15th of each month to pay the bill. This is absurd & it is one of the last parts of my financial minimalism journey.

This morning I took an extra 10 minutes to sit on the website & set up a monthly direct debit. I have now freed myself from the tyranny of the monthly water bill. I still need to set up another direct debit for my council tax bill & I’ve decided to do that later this evening.

My Financial Minimalism Journey to date

Things used to be a lot worse than this before I started my Minimalism & simple living journey. When I started I had so many bills & so many due dates. I had a student loan to pay each month, a student overdraft to clear, 5 separate credit cards all carrying an outstanding balance & all of my utilities had to be paid manually on receipt of a bill.

Luckily I didn’t have a car payment to make as I’ve tended to buy cars for cash since 2008 when I handed back my lease car, but I did have car insurance and breakdown cover to pay. I also had excessive debt to try to clear & a massive rent bill which I would pay via a bank transfer each month. Paying by bank transfer meant I had to login each month & manually transfer cash to my land lord. Not cool.

The problem I had was a lack of fluid cash in the bank to commit to direct debits. With so many commitments and around 15 separate payment dates each month, I needed to pay them manually just in case I didn’t have enough money to cover the bill. That way I could manage the bill, wait for a reminder or red-letter & hopefully buy time to pay off the outstanding bills. This was largely due to overcommitment.

Managing so many payments when you owe a lot of money is hard work. It requires a lot of thinking time & financial planning. It also introduces a lot of stress.

In 2012 I finally committed to living a more minimal & simple life. I sold the flash cars, handed back the keys to my house, sold a ton of stuff & moved in with family to get the finances under control.

Using money from the sale of the car, I instantly cleared an overdraft and one of my credit cards. I then started redirecting those payments to other cards to snowball them and bring them down more quickly. Over 18 months I managed to clear off all but one credit card, pay off all student debts & even get into healthy credit in my current account. Minimalism helped as not buying stuff quickly leads to you saving money. Also, when a married couple share a single room in a family members house, you quickly learn what your most valuable possessions are. It was like a crash course in minimalism & we became badass mobile people in days.

We had a small storage unit for all of our remaining house possessions & just enough stuff in the bedroom to live our daily lives. The funny thing is, when we moved in 2015 to our current house, we had the task of unboxing everything that had been in storage for so long. If I’m honest, apart from the very odd item, we had forgotten owning most of the stuff.

It was an instant realisation that we had lived for 18 months without any of this crap & lived good lives. We had travelled extensively. We could pack up everything we had into our small car and travel anywhere in the UK. At the drop of a hat we could pack up and go and stay with friends, or stay with family in Scotland. We shared a single set of drawers for the entire period & had more than enough clothing.

Packing for foreign travel was a cinch. We could share one bag, or take two small backpacks. When you remove your stuff, you realise that most of it is just useless crap or distracting rubbish.

Anyway, back to finances. Following this period as we neared the end of our 18 month pay off period I was left with no debt besides two credit cards. The balance was low enough that i could transfer one balance onto another card & be left with a single card. I actually did a double balance transfer. I transferred the balance from card A to card B leaving card A empty. I waited less than a month to be offered a balance transfer offer on the empty card A. They offered me 6% interest for the life of the balance, which made it more manageable and more like a loan. I then transferred the total balance from Card B back to Card A so all of my debt was on one card & at 6% for the life of that balance.

I had managed something I thought was impossible 18 months earlier. I only had one single payment to make each month. From 15+ payments to remember to pay each month to a single payment. Granted I no longer had rent to pay & would soon add that back into the mix, but one item, The pressure lifted was insane. I felt like a new person. The ultimate goal is zero debt & zero finance, & I’m working towards that goal daily

I instantly setup a direct debit for this remaining credit card payment & I haven’t given it a second thought since.

I’ve carried this financial minimalism with me since. When we moved house I used cash for everything. No credit or finance, just savings. When I needed to insure the house, I paid the entire premium cash up front. Better to pay all at once & save on interest payments. This also means I know exactly what’s coming out of my bank each month. The same went for car insurance, which I now pay annually for a significant saving. The same also goes for car tax, which I pay for a year at a time.

I setup direct debits for my rent, Internet & mobile phone, my credit card is still paid automatically each month. In fact the only things I still have to pay manually are my Council Tax & Water bill. That will be sorted by the end of the day on the 15th August 2016, I promise.

Financial minimalism is something that not many people write about. But it does work. You can take it even further like I have and cut out any unnecessary payments. I cancelled all subscription payments, I no longer have pay TV channels, I cancelled my Xbox live as I never use it. Thinking about it, the only things I do pay are the essential utilities (my internet is essential, right?). I don’t pay for any luxuries, subscription services or anything with a monthly commitment.

I like knowing that not many bills come out of my account monthly, it’s less to think about & surprisingly it is exponentially easier to manage your finances. Having a load of separate things to pay each month is no different from having loads of stuff. It’s distracting, it consumes far too much of our energy and thoughts. It’s just bad.

if you treat your financial commitments with the same minimalistic principles you apply to your stuff you will see a huge pay off. I’d go as far to say that financial minimalism is even more important than minimalism with your possessions. Finances can haunt people, they keep people awake at night.

One handy side effect of adopting minimalism is that you will find you have loads of stuff you no longer need or want. sell that stuff & you can go some way to paying off your debts. I’d guess that the sale of my stuff cleared around 35% off my debts overnight. That’s a great starting point.

I find that I feel much more content since addressing my finances & applying minimalism to them. They are easier to manage and easier to forget about. Address your smallest debts first. I know that is contrary to everything people tell you, but owing 1 person is much better than owing 5 or 10 people. The sooner you can shed creditors the better.

My aim now is to clear that last card, plan a trip to New Zealand to visit one of my best friends & to move to Amsterdam within 12 months. I’m now in a place to do all of those thanks to some major changes to the way I view possessions & finances.

Have you tried financial minimalism? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I’m sure some people will be saying “easy for him to say, I owe loads of money & make very little”- trust me, I sacrificed a lot to pay off a huge amount of money & I earn a very modest wage from self-employed work, much less than I would in a ‘Real Job’. Anyone can do this & I implore you to give it a go. If you have tried it, please leave your tips & advice in the comments section.

If you are new here, be sure to checkout my Introduction to Minimalism posts

John Signature

Digital Decluttering in Minimalism

Digital De cluttering in minimalism

I’ve been online since around 1994. I have a Bachelors & Masters degree in Computer Science so I tend to spend a lot of my time on a computer & using the internet. In that time I’ve acquired terabytes of files and other clutter across various computers & devices.

When I started my minimalism journey I completely overlooked my digital life. I just thought that having files on a computer took up very little physical storage space. Surely that means digital files aren’t an issue?

I was wrong. When I started to look into digital clutter I found the problem went far beyond files. I’ve categorised forms of digital clutter into several key areas:-

  • Files such as Word documents and PDF’s (work)
  • Files such as photos and videos (personal)
  • Photos & videos used for work
  • Music in the form of my MP3 collection
  • TV Shows & films
  • General trash such as saved memes and random junk files
  • Out of date or no longer used programs & apps
  • Duplicate content duplicated across devices
  • Digital services & accounts such as social media and website accounts
  • Email newsletter subscriptions
  • Smartphone apps & notifications

The list will vary for everyone. You may find some are more of an issue than others, but it’s important to identify your digital clutter. Start with one group & clear one at a time.

De-cluttering email inboxes

Perhaps the easiest one to deal with is your inbox. I know a lot of people advocate inbox zero, but I’ve found it doesn’t work for me. My inbox has business emails, personal emails, academic emails and promotional mail. Some are ongoing discussions, others are kept as a record of a conversation. If you only use a personal email account you can try inbox zero. If you use Gmail, you can try the Inbox app for that.

My first task was to go through each & every email in my inbox and delete any useless mail. I had mail going back as far as 2008, so I decided to purge anything before 2012 without even checking. I then started going through emails and deleting all old promotional emails, out of date or irrelevant email and junk mail.

I didn’t unsubscribe from anything at this point. When I had finished I had gone from 14,000 emails in my mailboxes to less than 200. Any emails that I was keeping where archived in a local folder on my iMac mail account to get them off the server.

Over the coming weeks I watched for promotional email coming in and unsubscribed from almost all of those emails. I also dealt with enquiries in batches and deleted completed email conversations which didn’t need archiving. This became a habit because I didn’t want to have to sort through bulk emails in the future.

My inbox is now much more manageable & the amount of email I receive is probably about 80% less since unsubscribing from promotions.

Files & folders

Having spent years in university my digital file clutter was quite bad. Being a computer geek I’ve always had a good naming & folder structure, but the sheer volume was crazy. I had work from 10 years ago which is well out of date & I haven’t re-read since it was first assessed. These files where all placed into a folder & zipped into a single archive just in case I ever need reference. This essentially turned thousands of files into a single archive. if I don’t access that archive within the next 12 months I’ll probably delete it altogether.

I also had lots of web development files & website/server backups, along with a lot of reading material in the form of PDFs which I’d forgotten I’d stored. I kept a few of the more useful ones but I probably deleted over 10,000 articles and files I had saved up. I only kept the most recent backups and deleted a load of in progress and unused web development files.

In total I probably deleted or archived over 20,000 files. Most of which I never access. My documents folder is now pretty empty and mostly consists of a few backups and current work. Most of my written work is saved on my various blogs for the world to see, so I really don’t need to hold onto the drafts and planning materials.

Photos & videos

My photo & video collection was vast. For years I’ve used iPhoto on OSX to manage my photos. We got a digital camera as soon as they came out. That camera was less than 1 megapixel & only held 16 photos. Before that we took a lot of photos on film & had huge tins of photographs. As cameras & storage progressed we took more & more photos & never felt the need to curate them.

With the introduction of smartphones, we started taking pictures of everything & saving random pictures from the internet to text or tweet to friends. The big issue came when Apple introduced photostream. Photostream essentially syncs all of our photos across all devices. We have two ipads, two desktops & two iPhones all syncing to the same photostream. Our photo collections ballooned & within a few years it was out of control.

When I started curating our photo collection in iPhoto, we had over 35,000 images. We also had around 300 videos of varying quality, mostly stupid quick films shot to share online.

To address our photo addiction I first downloaded an application called iPhoto Duplicate Cleaner. This app searches your library for duplicates & similar photos. After running the duplicate cleaner & automatically removing over 4000 duplicates it was time to start manually deleting photos. This meant deleting countless selfies, pictures of food & drink and general low quality images. Our photo collection is an ongoing project but it is now down to around 10,000 images. We keep returning to this to whittle them down even more.

Unused apps and programs

This one is fairly easy. Open up your smart phone, tablet or computer & take a look at the installed apps or programs. Start by deleting anything you haven’t used in a while or don’t remember installing. Next delete anything which is rarely used.

Finally, the hard one is to delete anything which takes up too much of your time & attention. For me, that meant deleting Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook & a plethora of other social media apps. I was finding they took up too much of my time, so I now try to only use Instagram & Twitter on the go. By limiting myself to a single social media platform for photos and for discussion, I find I spend far less time looking down at my phone. I’m also less likely to flick between the apps refreshing feeds for no reason.

These distractions on your smart phone can kill productivity & can also make you miss out on large chunks of your day. I also found that smartphones give me major attention deficit. I flit between apps and don’t complete any meaningful tasks.

I will do a full post on Smartphones in a later post.

I reckon this one will be hard for most people today. Smartphones have become the norm, but with an infinite source of information in your pocket, sometimes you miss out on all the things your senses can pick up from your surroundings. I challenge you to slim down your installed apps & even turn off your phone next time you go out with a friend or loved one. It is life changing.

I have smart phone free time daily now. I leave it outside of the bedroom at night and always put it on charge in the kitchen when I’m at home. If I go out walking I leave it switched off at home or in the glove box of my car. If you want to take photos while you walk, take a camera. It saves you getting distracted by the rest of the online world when you should be in a world of your own. Don’t instagram a picture of your walk while you are doing it, save that for later & just enjoy that moment.

Finally, turn off notifications. The only notifications I have left active are those for texts & calls. I have disabled the vibrate function on my iPhone so now the silence switch truly does mean silent. By not having constant interruptions, you will regain so much more productivity & you will become more present & connected with those around you. I challenge you to try it.

Old social media accounts & website accounts

This one will need you to do some thinking. I decided to close down unused social media, forum & website accounts. The first accounts I closed where Deviant Art, Myspace, Google plus along with various old forum accounts, three old email accounts, my old dropbox account and various online shop accounts.

It may be hard to remember where you have accounts, so keep an eye out for emails from these companies. If you do get one, login & close the account. Some accounts are really easy to delete such as Dropbox & deviant art. Others, such as online shops, may need you to email them requesting account closure.

This is great from a clutter point of view. Less to worry about & one less username & password to remember. I’m in the process of streamlining my online presence. As mentioned earlier, I primarily use Twitter & Instagram now. My Google Plus account was deleted, my Facebook account has been wiped clean and other accounts have been closed.

A second benefit of closing accounts comes from a security standpoint. The less sites that save your details, the less chance of your details being leaked or released following a database hack. My Skype account was recently hacked & I suspect that happened because of the Talk Talk data breach. I had an old account with TalkTalk that hadn’t been deleted & I used the same email address & password for both, purely by accident. So cleaning up accounts can also save you headaches. Bonus!

I could write at great length about digital clutter. My journey into minimalism initially ignored digital clutter, but as soon as I started looking into my own clutter it was obvious that this area is important & often overlooked. Digital Clutter has the same effect on our brains as physical clutter. It can be overwhelming and can kill productivity & creativity. For most, digital de cluttering will be a massive undertaking, but I really do urge you to address it. Just do a little bit every day.

John Signature

Have you addressed your digital clutter? Share any tips or advice in the comments section below.