There was a moment right in the middle of that massive declutter I did last month where I got extremely stressed out. Just like when I felt frustrated about not being able to find the can opener in that drawer, I felt overwhelmed by how much stuff was stacked in my dining room. Why didn’t I finish going through that box when I first opened it? What am I going to keep from the pile of things still in question? What if the library won’t take my books? And how the heck am I going to carry all of this down to my car? Having it all out there in front of me, it felt like more of a headache than a healthy process.
Once I’d finally donated everything, I realized that my home was free of clutter but my mind was still full of it. At any given moment, it seemed like I had a dozen or more thoughts running through my head. I worried about: whether or not I’d be able to squeeze in a workout, what I’d eat for lunch and/or dinner, how much work I’d be able to get done that day/week, when I’d find the time to catch up on blogs, how I should reply to that email so-and-so sent 3 days ago, when I’d get around to reading the dozens of sites I’d bookmarked, who could design a logo, when I should launch a new project, when I’d see this friend or that friend, how much I could save next month, which rowing club I should join, and the list goes on and on.
None of those were bad thoughts – there were just so many of them that I constantly felt overwhelmed. For every 1 item I crossed off my mental to-do list, it felt like I added 6 more. And it’s exciting to be constantly brainstorming new projects, thinking about the future, etc. but it got to the point where I didn’t know what it meant to live in the present; to really pay attention to my workouts and how my recovery was going, breathe in the fresh air on my morning walks, enjoy the food I put into my body, celebrate a win at work or on the blog, and soak up every minute I spent with family and friends. Rather than being exactly where I was – in the moment – I was always 12 steps ahead, thinking about what’s next.
In an attempt to declutter my mind, this is something I’m now trying to change. And, similar to how purging physical items from my home was just the beginning of my path towards living a more minimalist lifestyle, I started by identifying/removing the simple annoyances in my daily life:
- iPhone apps: How many apps do you have on your phone? Now, how many of them do you actually use on a daily or at least weekly basis? I was holding onto so many because I thought “I might use it one day” or “I used to use it”… but I don’t use them now, so they were just clutter on my phone! I deleted close to half of my apps (including Facebook Messenger), so everything I need fits onto one screen. The most surprising benefit: I look at my phone a lot less now, because there are so few apps (and zero games) that I get bored after a few minutes.
- Social media: At first, this had more to do with the shopping ban, as I unfollowed/unliked any store or business that sold products. It’s not enough to just avoid malls – we’re constantly bombarded with ads online, so I had to remove as many temptations as possible. However, once I removed all the sales ads from my feeds, I noticed there were a handful of users I’d followed months and years ago who only tweeted their new posts, all other bloggers’ new posts, lists of complaints, etc. I decided to unsubscribe from the noise, so to speak, and only follow those who added to the conversation.
- Bookmarks: If I thought I was a book hoarder, let me tell you: that collection had nothing on the hundreds of sites I’d bookmarked in Chrome. I’ll read it later. I should reference that in a post. I want to buy that/do that/make that/go there. And I’ll need this for that project I’m going to start who knows when. All of a sudden, I had probably 200-300 bookmarks scattered in a dozen or so random folders… and I hadn’t referenced a single one of them. I went through and deleted a bunch, then organized the rest, and resolved to only add ones that I’ve read and truly believe I will reference again.
- Desktop: Similar to my bookmarks in Chrome, I have a bad habit of saving all kinds of random things on my desktop. I take screenshots of things I see on the internet and want to look up later but “don’t have time to right now”, open/save text documents with literally a few bullet points about something that’s on my mind, and have the most disorganized folder for everything related to this blog. (Ugh, I’m still not done cleaning that one up, and I hate even thinking about looking at it.) I organized the items on my desktop into folders, and am trying not to add to them unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Email: I’m not someone who aspires to reach “inbox zero” like so many others, because it’s rare for my inboxes to be filled with to-do items. No, my issue is how many personal email addresses I have. Up until a month or so ago, I think I had… 5 email accounts connected to my iPhone!? Maybe 6. After finally getting fed up, I took the time to log into the accounts online, delete a few, forward one and now I’m left with two: personal and work. Beyond that, I logged into Unroll.me to clean up both accounts again, and am immediately unsubscribing from anything that comes in/I don’t want to see.
These probably all sound like superficial ways to declutter your life, but it truly feels like a small piece of a bigger puzzle. As for some of the ways I’m trying to learn how to live in the present… we’ll talk about that next week. (I can tell you that I meditated for the first time this week, and can see what all the fuss is about.)
When was the last time you cleaned up your technology/online life?