The Tools and Techniques of Minimalism

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In my last post, I talked about the what‘ of minimalism.

This time, I’m going to focus on the tools and techniques of minimalism. The ‘how’ of minimalism is important if you’re going to gain the full benefit of living an intentional life but with less stuff.

This post is long and contains lots of useful links that you may wish to refer to again. Join my community to get access to a free PDF containing a durable version of this post.

So, where to begin?

Outer work

My ‘Unclutter 2017‘ series of posts back in the New Year are a good place to start.

Throughout this series, we looked at various approaches, as set out below. The links will take you through to previous posts I’ve written on these tactics if you want to find out more:

These are all practical ideas and I’d encourage you to get stuck in, if you haven’t yet discovered the benefits of decluttering, which is a key tenet of minimalism.

Help! I feel overwhelmed by the idea of decluttering!

Start with your wardrobe

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If you feel totally overwhelmed and really don’t know where to start, I always say to start with your closet. Follow my 4-Step Wardrobe Edit process and you’ll immediately appreciate the benefits of an uncluttered space.

Ask for help

It may be that you really need some support, so don’t rule out the idea of enlisting someone to help or even employing a professional declutterer/organiser.

The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) is a useful place to start if you decide to enlist the help of a professional. Some professional organisers will even do the hard of work of taking unwanted items to the charity shop, thus saving you time and effort.

What about asking a friend to help?

This summer, my daughter and I are offering a decluttering service for friends, as part of her fundraising efforts towards her 2018 expedition to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. We enjoy working together and seeing the benefits of our labours and love helping others.

Get an accountability group or partner

Perhaps you need an accountability group or partner. Members of the Midlands Minimalist Community have access to my group in Better, an app developed as a way of harnessing Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework to create a better life.

Within Better, I’ve set up a Minimalism and Simple Living Group, as a way for us to interact, find mutual support, ask questions, get answers and (if we need it) get some accountability for our goals.

There’s more than the removal of practical clutter, however. There’s also ‘inner work’ to do.

Inner work

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Embracing a simpler, more meaningful way of life means not only an initial purge of stuff, but also a change of mindset.

This may seem like another hill to climb, but if you’ve already had a taste of the benefits, you may feel ready for some habit changing work!

Staying uncluttered

Courtney Carver’s post But I Love Shopping epitomizes the kind of psychological struggle we go through when throwing off old habits. There’s little point in purging a high proportion of the items you own if you’re only going to re-fill the space within a matter of weeks or months.

Remember your ‘why’

Remind yourself of why you’re interested in minimalism and simple living in the first place. It might be that you’re committed to paying down your debt to get your finances in shape. Perhaps you just want to spend less time clearing up and more time having fun?

Living an intentional life requires a good understanding of oneself. For example, if you know that you spend more money on weekends, plan your time so that you’re not placed in a situation where this can happen.

Don’t be afraid to quit

I heard a quote from Oprah Winfrey recently. She said, “There comes a time in your life when you’re no longer where you’re meant to be.” I found this quite powerful.

Sometimes, saying no or intentionally moving on can reap benefits. I wrote about that here.

Where you are will mean different things to different people, but I do believe that it’s OK to change, to quit, to relinquish that which is no longer serving you. It can be hard to move on because that can mean saying goodbye or ‘au revoir’ to people you care about. But sometimes you have to do it.

Know that your life is the sum total of what you focus on

In her book, Rapt, Winifred Gallagher says, “…. the difference between ‘passing the time’ and ‘time well spent’ depends on making smart decisions about what to attend to in matters large and small.

Courtney Carver echoes this: “Usually time is not the problem, it’s priority.”

Consider these alternative realities

If you are prioritising shopping trips over a countryside walk, both your wallet and your Vitamin D levels will be depleted.

If you are continually moving piles of stuff from one place to the next, your life becomes one of clutter management. Get on top of it once and for all and you create space to do other things; things you’ll enjoy.

If you’re on your digital device 24/7, you’re with other people, but you’re not present.

See what I mean?

An intentional approach to life

Minimalism (in whatever form you choose) is a deliberate and intentional approach. The result creates a sense of lightness and freedom. What we do with that freedom is up to us.

That’s rather exciting, don’t you think?


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Join hundreds of others in the Midlands Minimalist Community, receiving unique news and content that’s only available for subscribers. On joining,  your free PDF from this post can be downloaded from my Community Resources page.

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P.S. Let me know if you’ve found this useful and if you’ve tried any of the tools and techniques at home by replying here. Or email me via midlandsminimalist@gmail.com, send me a Tweet (@MidsMinimalist) or connect via Instagram (@MidlandsMinimalist)

#Unclutter 2017 – The 3 S’s of paperwork

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In my last post of this #Unclutter2017 series, I tackle an area of our lives that we all have to deal with: paperwork.

Tackle your family filing

When I finally addressed the issue of our family’s paperwork, I was well into my minimalism journey. However, I can’t begin to tell you how shocked I was to find old utility bills from several years earlier – and from a house in which we no longer lived. I also had items relating to my daughter’s childcare when she was a pre-schooler. She is now almost 15…
I had ‘archives’ in the loft (or so I thought), plus ‘current’ items in my admin cupboard.

Evaluate and sort

I brought everything together and had a long, hard look. First of all, some of the items I had archived were actually current (house documentation) so should have been stored more carefully. Other items, like a water utility bill from 2008, should have been shredded a looonnnggg time ago.
So, I was ruthless. I immediately placed in the recycling anything that didn’t need to be shredded.

Follow the 3 S’s of paperwork

For the rest,  I followed the 3 S’s of paperwork:
Scan
Shred
Store

Scan

Scan information you need to keep whose paperwork you don’t need to retain. Evernote or Dropbox are great places to keep your scanned paperwork.

Shred

Shred papers containing confidential information. The shredding may feel like a nuisance; I don’t own an industrial sized shredder so this job took me a long time. If you are planning to buy one, get the best shredder you can afford.

Store

Store what you need in a logical way. The storage system is your choice, but having tried filing cabinets (graveyards for paperwork you’ll seldom look at again) and hanging files, I opted for simple office-type box files. Easy to order in alphabetical order by organisation, they are the minimalist’s best friend. Once they start getting full, you can’t keep adding to them otherwise they refuse to close. So, then you go back to the 3 S’s….

#Unclutter 2017

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series on decluttering throughout January. If living a clutter-less life is one of your goals for 2017, then I hope that these posts will have helped you on your journey.

Coming up in February

February heralds the start of a new series entitled #FrugalFebruary. We’ll start with money-saving tips on food and groceries, but also explore aspects of eco-minimalism. If there’s anything you’d particularly like to focus on, just drop me a line.

#Unclutter2017 – Go electronic

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During the Christmas holidays, I discovered the joy of sending e-cards. I wanted to send personalised messages to local friends, as well as to folks further afield. My furthest away recipient was my pal, Cindy, in Beijing! Another friend recommended Jacquie Lawson whose electronic cards cover a range of celebrations and all for less than £10 per year.

In doing this, I was also able to send a small number of physical home-made cards with personalised notes in them, thus enjoying the best of both worlds.

Taking the eco-friendly option

The electronic way of sending good wishes appeals to the eco-Minimalist in me. Instead of buying commercially-produced cards to send via the Royal Mail (where the cost of a 2nd class stamp exceeds that of the card itself), I was able to be a little more generous to local charities’ festive collections. The environmental cost of producing and sending a single card must be huge.

Consider what else could go electronic

My mum encouraged me to borrow e-books from the library. Easy to sign up, I have been devouring books I have wanted to read ever since. In the past year, I’ve enjoyed more non-fiction and the library has been a reliable source of ‘good reads’ in this category. Currently, I’m reading Miranda Sawyer’s Out of Time: Midlife if you think you’re still young…. Hmmm. Let’s gloss over that!

I can’t find all of my favourite authors (Maggie O’Farrell and Liane Moriarty are nowhere to be found in the Overdrive online library), but that means I am exposed to new material.

Opt in to e-Billing

Some retailers already send e-receipts, although beware the high street store that automatically asks for your email address because they’re going to bombard you with electronic marketing.

However, it makes sense to receive regular updates from utility companies (for example) who will incentivise customers to move to online billing and for good reason. It’s less costly for them and better for the environment. For you, there’s no need to sort paperwork or file things away, albeit there’ll be the email notification of your bill’s availability to deal with.

So, save a tree and avoid having to manage too much in the way of paper storage. Your supplier may even offer you an attractive discount on your bill.

What works for you?

What have you found works well if you go electronic? From calendars and news consumption to greetings cards and photo albums, I’d be interested to know what you enjoy.

Coming up
In my last post of this month’s #Unclutter2017 series, we will look at paper storage, since we all have to keep some paper records. I’ll be examining different storage options and recommending ways to keep clutter-less.
If you’re new to the blog, or coming back regularly, consider Joining the Community for occasional news updates and unique content, delivered straight to your (electronic) mailbox.
Next month: #FrugalFebruary

#Unclutter2017 – Moving On

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Having recently finished Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I was on the lookout for something new to read. I was thrilled to discover a Nora Ephron book in Warwickshire libraries’ e-Book collection: I Feel Be About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman.

A wide-ranging collection of essays

Essentially a collection of essays, the book offers an amusing and witty perspective on various aspects of life from the point of view of a woman of a certain age.

Ephron’s topics are wide-ranging: from ‘maintenance’ to the nostalgic quest for the perfect cabbage strudel, I recommend the book to you wholeheartedly (whether or not you are, like me, a woman and most definitely on the ‘wrong’ side of 40).

A surprise in the narrative

A chapter entitled Moving On included the following fulsome surprise. As a minimalist, my virtual antennae is perpetually attuned to concepts like decluttering and its resultant benefits. So, I relished the following paragraph, which I reproduce in full, below. In this piece, Ephron and family are preparing to leave their Manhattan apartment after many years living there:

“So we prepared to move. We threw away whole pieces of our lives: the Care Bears, the wire shelving in the basement storage room, the boxes full of bank statements, the posters we hung on the walls when we were young, the stereo speakers that no longer worked, the first computer we ever bought, the snowboard, the surfboard, the Portafiles full of documents relating to movies never made. Boxes of clothing went to charity. Boxes of books went to libraries in homeless shelters. We felt cleansed. We’d gotten back to basics. We’d been forced to confront what we had outgrown, what we’d no longer need, who we were. We’d Taken Stock. It was as if we’d died but got to sort through our things; it was as if we’d been reborn and were now able to start accumulating all over again.”

Extract from Nora Ephron: I Feel Be About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman

Just look at that:

“We felt cleansed. We’d gotten back to basics. We’d been forced to confront what we had outgrown, what we’d no longer need, who we were.”

Letting go

This piece captures so eloquently but wistfully the process of letting go whilst revealing so clearly the resultant benefits.

Aspiring minimalists already know the joy of living with less. What Ephron captures is the sense of moving on, not only physically but emotionally, from the life she once had.

Where our perspectives diverge is in the very last part where Ephron suggests the idea of starting to ‘accumulate all over again’. We know that re-filling our lives with stuff will not add value or provide the sustained benefits of a clutter-less existence.

Over to you

So, if you are cracking on with #Unclutter2017 this weekend, remember that the process may cause you to confront who you once were. You’ll feel lighter as a result, however, and I promise you it’ll help you get back to basics and focus on what really matters.

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog, do Join the community for additional content, recommendations and news updates. You are all very welcome.

Further reading

5 top tips for moving house

Don’t confuse your possessions for treasured memories 

10 ways to avoid re-cluttering our lives

 

#Unclutter 2017 – Play the Minimalism Game

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Play the Minimalism Game

Play the Minimalism Game throughout January, made popular by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists).

Here’s how

Did you know that if you declutter one item on day 1, two on day 2, three on day 3 and so on, after a month, you will have reduced the number of items you own by 496?
Try it for longer if you feel inspired to continue. Imagine after 50 days, you’d have decluttered 1300 items! That’s a lot of stuff!
Share your story via #Unclutter2017

#Unclutter2017 – Start here

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Unclutter your life in 2017

In January, we anticipate a whole new year ahead and the chance to achieve some exciting new goals.

Strive towards permanent changes

This isn’t about New Year’s resolutions. Instead, seize the opportunity to make some longer-lasting changes whose impact you’ll appreciate through the year and beyond.
During January, I’m going to post a number of ways to help you towards uncluttering your life in 2017. Through a series of short blog posts, I’ll highlight a number of different approaches to help you shed the excess that no longer adds value to your life.

Start here

Whether you have a huge decluttering project ahead of you or just want to scale back your possessions, throughout the month, I’ll be getting back to basics with a series of tried and tested ideas designed to help you on your journey towards minimalism.
Join in the conversation on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #Unclutter2017 – And look out for my upcoming posts to help you #Unclutter2017
Happy New Year!!!

#Unclutter2017: The Power of 5

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A conversation on Instagram last week prompted me to share my growing realisation that 5 is a powerful and useful number for those looking to ‘right size’ their possessions.

Here are a few examples:

Shoes

I have 5 pairs of shoes in my winter wardrobe:

  • Black work court shoes with a heel
  • Grey casual lace-ups
  • Reebok trainers
  • Knee-high boots
  • Walking shoes

In summer, I trade court shoes for ballet pumps and flip-flops and sandals for lace-ups.

Living in a climate where it’s perfectly possible to enjoy temperatures in the teens one day and below zero the next, it’s useful to have a variety of shoes for all weathers and situations. These shoes cater for all types of events and I simply don’t need any more.

Cookery books

Having cut down the number of cookery books I own, I also realise that I’m nearing my perfect five, as there are six books remaining in the kitchen. There’s just one book on the shelf about which I’m still unsure. I use a small number of its recipes very occasionally but these might be better scanned and saved, so that I can pass the book onto someone who’ll appreciate it more. The remaining few have now been resigned to the “box that will go to the second-hand bookstore”. If I don’t open the box for 30 days, out it will go!

Bags – from small to large

I have one tiny cross-body bag for when I only need to carry my keys, my small purse and my phone. Next size up is a neat, black messenger bag that I use daily. The largest handbag I own is a Dune tote that has seen better days (but I won’t buy a replacement until I have the perfect one!). Next comes a Cath Kidston floral shopper in a wipeable vinyl fabric, followed by a soft brown bowling bag that’s neat enough to carry as hand luggage and perfect for a few days away. And that’s it. And there you have another 5…

The list goes on, but it may be that this handful of examples provides a guide for when you’re asking the question, “What’s the right number?” Answer? Gimme 5!!

Do you have a perfect number of a particular item? Can you count the number of possessions in a particular category on one hand?