Email Subscriptions

Keeping a peaceful life is easier when living in a decluttered environment, and that includes our email inboxes. When we think of decluttering, our minds picture the overstuffed closets and drawers, not always digital clutter. But it’s there, clogging up our view and wasting our time.

Just like the rooms in your house, you can declutter your inbox by throwing everything out, doing a little at a time, or putting it all in storage and only taking out the things that you use. But emails arrive in our inboxes freakishly faster than we can buy stuff to fill our houses.

One thing that continuously fills the inbox is email subscriptions. They never stop, and seem to reproduce of their own accord. Subscriptions are great because we get regular information on things that interest us. There’s a lot of great, free knowledge out there. A good deal of it is sandwiched between ads and salescopy. But if you can only read the nugget of pure information and not get sidetracked into unwanted spending, the subscription is useful. But without proper management and read-and-delete action, these emails swamp even the most minimalist inbox.

Once you’re on a list, the list owner will not remove your email unless you specifically request it. They can share your email address with other lists too. So the question becomes how to maintain the inflow of information. Here are my top process ideas for a happy subscription/inbox relationship.

  1. Go ahead and sign up for any list that interests you. Easy joy.
  2. Ruthlessly unsubscribe from any that you know you don’t read every time you get a new one. Some will be easy (lists you don’t remember joining). Don’t worry, you can re-subscribe at any time (step 1). Either keep a list of the website/store or let it go. There’s a whole internet out there.
  3. Ruthlessly delete emails that have been sitting there, unread. You can always re-subscribe and get new (and probably back-dated) information.
  4. Delete emails you’ve read. If there’s something you want to share or save, do it immediately after reading. You don’t need to keep every email you were sent, especially if it’s stuffed with sales fluff.
  5. Create filters. It’s not as technical as it sounds and most email providers have simplified this. The result of filters is when an email hits your inbox it goes directly into its folder, waiting to be read. I have filters for health, finance and childcare newsletters, among others. When I have time to read, I go into one and read all relevant information at one time.

Happy reading!

How to live with less

Living with less sounds appealing. Minimalist homes are easy to clean and move. A spacious calendar gives room to breathe. In general, living with less gives freedom to do anything we want, anywhere we like.

What holds us back from living with less is the worry about not being able to deal with a future situation. It’s often called the just-in-case syndrome. You might hear people say:

  • I should keep these bits of string and nearly-empty bottles of glue just in case something breaks.
  • I should keep all gifts and souvenirs I ever received just in case someone asks about something they gave me.
  • I need to keep all mementos of my loved ones just in case I feel guilty or forget them.
  • I need to keep spares just in case I run out.
  • I’ll keep something to wear for any occasion just in case I am invited some day.

Not everything will happen to you, so you don’t need to prepare for all eventualities. Learn to trust yourself to deal with situations. There’s more than one way to get your hands on something you need. And if you imagine an uncomfortable situation arising, work on developing yourself to deal with it.

To help decide whether to keep something consider the likelihood of needing it versus the importance of having it around if you need it.

  1. If it’s super important to have it but not likely that you’ll need it, keep it (Example: Disaster emergency planning)
  2. If it’s super important to have it and very likely you’ll need it, keep it (Example:food, laundry detergent, first aid kit)
  3. If it’s unimportant to have it even though you’ll probably need it, it’s okay to let it go. (Example: specific baking tools, extra shoelaces, spare computer monitor, clothes that don’t fit now)
  4. If it’s unimportant to have it and you probably will never need it, it’s also okay to let it go. (Example: highschool prom dress, books, car parts)

The likelihood of something happening and the important of being ready depend on your lifestyle. I don’t need to keep a sailing outfit in my closet because I rarely go boating. If I do go out, I use what I have or borrow.

So many things can be borrowed. If you’re in a big city you can probably get any book or DVD from your public library. There are also libraries of tools and sporting goods. And if not, maybe you could set one up in your community. There’s always knocking on your neighbour’s door to borrow a cup of sugar :)

What things are you reluctant to give up and how can you develop confidence to believe you can provide for yourself if the need arises?

For more reasons to keep things and reasons to not, please see this post on minimalistmum.

If you liked this, please share or comment below.

Using procrastination to get things done

Procrastination – we see it as a negative thing, our flawed willpower in (in)action. But it is possible to use procrastination to change our lives into what we want. When changing habits for the good, it’s best to go slowly. This is one more tool to use, so give it a try.

How do you do it? By procrastinating the exact opposite.

So instead of telling yourself you’ll stop watching TV tomorrow, say, “I’ll watch TV tomorrow,” then go do something else.

Instead of “I’ll work on it eight hours tomorrow,” today say, “Tomorrow I’m going to take a little break from it, because today I’m doing it for an hour.”

You can procrastinate again the next day. But even if you go back to what you were doing, you’ve had one more day of the life you want. Check the result of procrastinating again the following day.

For me, I procrastinate spending money. I tell myself to put it off for just one more day. Sometimes I buy it the next day, sometimes I never do. Even for things I need to get, I will procrastinate buying it to make a game out of pushing it from this month’s cash flow to the next.

What’s something you would like to change and how would you procrastinate it?

If you enjoyed or found this useful, please share via email, twitter, facebook, etc. using the Share/Save link below.

Four nights away

Yesterday I arrived home after a four-night break abroad. Here are my insights from the trip and how you can vacation more minimally too. I went to a European capital but if you’re going to the middle-of-nowhere outback, please pack sensibly.

  1. Furoshiki: thumbs up. I used my scarf as a light blanket on the cold flight. As a cape to cover my shoulders in the sun. I soaked it in water and wore it as a scarf for coolness. I tied it as a shoulder/shopping bag for water bottles in the museums where backpacks aren’t allowed. One piece of fabric (that goes with all my outfits) – major stylish usefulness quota. It’s easier for men in Europe, where it is totally acceptable, than in North America. Learn a few basic knots and find a square of fabric that suits you. Use it as a belt if you don’t like to wear a scarf, or tie it around your hat while not in use.
  2. A small, convertible day bag: thumbs up*. I use my Jupiter Freedom bag as an arm-band wallet around town. On this trip my arms were bare and the pickpockets were many so I converted it to a gorgeous belt pack instantly. On a night out I removed the ties and had a stylish clutch bag. No switching bags. No heavy backpacks. I carried a map, ID, money, hotel card, space pen refill and lipbalm. One bag – major stylish usefulness. Decide on the absolute minimum you need to carry. There are no what-ifs here (no bandages, hand lotion, hair brush, books, notepads, mp3 players, etc). Find a small hands-free bag with maximum conversion options. Do bring hand sanitiser if the hygiene options are limited.
  3. Thumbs up for packing light. One small** tote and a monk satchel. I had no worries about luggage carts, waiting for (or losing) suitcases, maneuvering stairs or escalators, or lugging armloads around busy and seedy streets. Read for how to.
  4. Being present is great. I think I took in my first opera as much as I possibly could have: orchestra, sets, lighting, singing, atmosphere. It was amazing. I missed my children back home but concentrated on the sites I was seeing and my sweetheart. As a result, four nights away seemed like ten. It was short but completely refreshing and relaxing, and the time seemed to go on and on. I would need books to cover everything, but the gist is: focus your mind on what’s going on right now. Use your senses to take in everything. It takes practice to be present for longer periods of time, but it’s worth it because you’ll feel much more alive.
  5. We usually need less than we think. I still brought too much! A little research would’ve revealed my day outfit was perfectly suitable for the night out (one less outfit + shoes). I brought two little bottles of sunscreen but that stuff is available on every corner pharmacy (one less bottle). The most suitable top I had would’ve lasted with a wash each night, and I wore it more than I planned (three less tops). I poured a little hair gel into a tiny ziploc but it was still too much (less cosmetics). I brought a small bag of almonds but didn’t eat any. A handful would have sufficed (less snacks). If you’re vacationing in an urban setting, odds are you can find anything you’ll need. Avoid the just-in-case syndrome and go lighter!

What are your travel adventures and how do you plan to make it better next time?

If you liked this post please share using the buttons below.

*My husband carried a backpack for his camera so we put a water bottle and two plastic spoons in the side pocket. That’s all we took on our daily outings. If he hadn’t taken the camera I would carry my own water bottle and spoon.

**Size: 44 x 31 x 23.5 cm / 17.3 x 12.2 x 7.5/9.3 inches, Capacity : 23 L / 1,403 inch³

One more thing

I’ll bet you’re wondering if I got the title wrong… usually minimalists write about one less thing. But this week I added something to my possessions: A coffee maker.

For the last seven years I have resisted buying one. I have tried all the instant coffee brands, going without, buying at work, filtering with a piece of cotton and a funnel, and using a travel cup with a plunger. None gave satisfaction.

Therefore I bought myself a double-walled, stainless steel, 8-cup french press. It makes gorgeous coffee. I’m unlikely to break it with my clumsiness or world travels. I can take it camping. I’m very happy with my purchase.

Does this signal the end of stylish minimalism? Not at all. Is the joy of freshly brewed coffee at home worth owning another possession for me? Yep.

Minimalism is a means, not an end. Clearing out the excess leaves a huge amount of space for the good stuff, the living we really want to do. Sometimes that means buying a coffee maker. Hardcore minimalists might drink their coffee with the grounds still in the cup but what’s the point of that if you choke on every sip?

What this means for seekers of peace and joy

The point is to not stress out about getting rid of everything you own or do, and to not be afraid to add new things. If learning how to paint was always your unrealised passion, go ahead and buy the paints and brushes… and still call yourself a minimalist! Mind you, this isn’t an excuse to go shopping or buy on a whim. If you’re not sure you really want it, don’t get it. And if you decide to go for it, do your research! Don’t be afraid to take your time… took me seven years for a coffee maker.

Declutter what makes sense for you. And if something makes you smile every time you use or look at it or participate in it, declutter around it to give it the room it deserves. Clear your schedule to make the time. I made room in my cupboard for my new coffee maker, so it’s not clutter on my kitchen counters.

What do you want to showcase in your life? What’s getting in the way? Is there something you’ve been wishing to add in?

How you spend your money is how you vote on what exists in the world

When we think about spending money, budgets often come to mind. Budgets to keep our peaceful sanity. We think of buying things of high quality to get the most joy for our buck. Also, minimalism helps to keep the clutter down, and to stop spending on things we don’t need. But what about the things we do spend on… how can we get better at voting for what we want to exist in the world? Here are three great steps to get you thinking and voting with your money.

  1. What bugs you about the world? What things do you wish were made better, done more efficiently or produced ethically?

    For example: I don’t like super cheap department stores. You know the ones that smell like rubber, even the clothing section? The clothes are cheaply constructed and made of plastic fibres. They are super cheap and somewhat fashionable but aren’t durable or stylish. They are less comfortable than natural fabrics and often made in sweat shops abroad. It disturbs my peace of mind that such cheap products are made and supplied to me at a low cost.

  2. What are the effects of your money? When you spend on the poorly made items, the inefficient service or fair trade (but not audited) products, what is the impact? Who is affected and how? What else is involved?

    My example: The more clothing I bought from the cheap department store, the more profit it made. The real cost came at the expense of the environment which was mined for petroleum to produce synthetic fabrics, the people (possibly children) who sewed the garments at ultra low wages, the environmental impact and waste of overseas transportation, my higher closet turnover rate and wardrobe dissatisfaction, and the landfill where the clothes ended up.

  3. Consider where you can spend differently and do that. Educate (don’t lecture) others about it and encourage (not judging or chastising) them to do the same.

    To continue: If I’m in a shop smelling of rubber I get out into fresh air ASAP. I read the labels on the clothes I buy and aim for 100% natural material. I read the labels to see where the clothes were made, if only to become more aware. I make my own and do with less. I shop at and donate to second hand shops. When I get comments on my clothes I share my philosophy, going only as deep as it feels natural for that conversation.

Where are you spending money that you want to change? What are the far-reaching effects of your voting?

Digital clutter

What is digital clutter

Digital clutter is electronic information that clutters your life. It includes emails, photos, videos, documents, bookmarks, and everything else on your computer. Just like physical clutter, it bogs up your life and ties you down. Clutter has been defined as a confused or disordered state or collection, and more than once by our online minimalist friends*. Basically, clutter is anything that takes away from your peace and joy life. Big or small, physical or electric, relationships or commitments… if it doesn’t bring you peace and joy, it’s clutter.

*Any distraction that gets in the way of a remarkable life [from Unclutterer] /Anything that is disorganized, anything you don’t need or love, too much stuff in too small a space [from Becoming Minimalist]

The benefits of clearing out digital clutter

  1. Get more space. Using gigabytes and terabytes that you may never access is wasteful. You’ll need to upgrade your hardware sooner to keep up with the storage demands.
  2. Save money. Hardware upgrades, bandwidth transfers, cloud accounts… there is a cost associated with digital storage.
  3. Save time and be more productive. Unless you have a spectacular search engine and use something like evernote to make all your stuff searchable. Less images and films means you spend your time doing something productive.
  4. Know what you have. A full closet leaves you with nothing to wear so you buy a new outfit. So it is when looking at your digital listings, you might just go back to Google to find anew what you need.
  5. Reduce stress. When there’s less to lose, there’s less to worry about. And if your computer falls over before you’ve backed up, it won’t be so bad.
  6. Enjoy the lighter feeling. It’s the same feeling of freedom we get with decluttering our physical stuff.
  7. Become less attached. If you really need something you deleted, odds are it’s out there on the internet and you’ll be able to find it just as quickly as searching through what you already have.
  8. Evaluate future purchases more carefully. Laying down $15 for an ebook is easy and online marketing is persuasive. Keeping your digital stores clear will help you resist.

How to de-clutter your digital information

Just like decluttering your house, this can take some time, especially if you’ve been hoarding digital information. Unfortunately there’s no visual gratification for the work, so I recommend the clean-slate method.

  1. Archive everything into a folder and date it. This is the equivalent of emptying your kitchen into a box and putting it in the garage. Keep the few things you know you’ll need and move everything else out of your main workspace. This means moving data onto another device such as an external hard drive. You can export emails and bookmarks, then save in the same folder, then delete what’s in your account.
  2. When you need something, move it back.
  3. Let that archived folder wait. In a year, you probably won’t be able to remember what’s in it. Maybe in another year you’ll be ready to delete it.
  4. Don’t collect new clutter. Every time you click on save, or don’t click on delete, ask yourself if you should keep it, toss it or not sure. Keep is for things you really love and actually use, just like physical decluttering. Remember you can probably find it again if you need to, whether it be a quote, e-book, video or photo

Need some inspiration? Read about Ev, who deleted everything… all his professional photos, his hugely successful blog and all personal digital stuff!

Update: My personal example is about music files. I have collected many, many mp3 files. I haven’t even heard many of them. And in the last five years I’ve devoted some hours to sorting and organising them. I even bought a specific external hard drive to store them. But since I acknowledged the reality that I’ll probably never listen to most, I started deleting and only organising the ones I absolutely love, working my way through the unsorted files as my mood for music strikes.

Minimalist jewellery

Minimalist jewellery means different things to everyone so let me tell you what I’m talking about: the fewest accessories we can own and use that show our styles and feel good. For me, this is a pair of dangling earrings and, once in a while, knuckles full of silver rings.

What’s the point?

There are more than one…

  • Owning jewellery of better quality. Means longer lasting jewellery, luxurious brands, timeless style and looking great.
  • Reducing the amount of jewellery we own. Means less maintenance, less storage, less jewellery and associated cases to take when travelling or moving, and less to choose from when dressing.
  • Having less jewellery to choose from. Means faster choices and therefore less stress, and always being in tune with personal style.
  • Being free of the urge to buy accessories on the spur of the moment, especially cheap ones. Means saving money, finding long-lasting satisfaction with the purchase, becoming a conscious consumer and being free of the lures of modern marketing.

How do I do it?

  • If you have nothing, go with it.
  • If you buy, choose a good quality piece of jewellery. It will look great and last a long time. This is going to be an investment piece or two or three to last you the rest of your life.
  • If you have loads, reduce your jewellery wardrobe. Cull the pieces that don’t fit your style statement. Sentimental? Keep a couple, photograph the rest and pass them to people who will love and use them daily.
  • When something breaks or wears, replace it with good quality that fits your style. (See point 2, If you buy)

The biggest “how do I do it”

Resisting the lure of today’s seductive marketing comes with practice. There are really two steps. The first is to know your style to the point where nothing flashy tempts you unless it’s really “you.” The second is to not buy, even when you feel the desire. Not buying is a destination for which minimalists reach. We buy less and less, learning and internalising that a purchase won’t satisfy any deep need.

Let me repeat this because it’s important: A diamond will not complete you. Another piece of jewellery will not satisfy any need you feel inside you.

… but I change my look all the time

Please go back to the very first, most important step of being a stylish minimalist. Find your style and you won’t need to change it. Happy days! Rest this part of your life and be at peace with who you are.

… but this sounds boring

There’s no denying the delicious feeling of a heavy ring or a jingly bracelet. How lovely to see the light wink and rainbow through a perfectly cut crystal. Try this: stop wearing it. Go without any jewellery for awhile instead of buying something new. It’s refreshing to go natural, and the jewels feel all the more special after a couple weeks or more of not wearing them.

Please tell me… what are your minimalist jewellery adventures, successes and failures?

Minimalist unpacking

Well we are unpacked, except for out-of-season clothes and the computer (we bring our desktop and monitor back and forth across the globe… works for us). I’m on a borrowed laptop for the moment. Being minimalist made my unpacking so easy. My bathroom kit is one bag with all I need, always packed. Regular-use clothes go beside the bed. Boots and coat downstairs… not much more to it. I did bring a handful of books that are still packed until I start working next week: a child-rearing reference*, my second language dictionary and notes, a holy book, 4 hour work week*, creative real estate investing and my cookbook*.

I can’t now imagine having 2-3 suitcases each to unpack and put in wardrobes and closets. It is easy and stress free to take out the few items I use every day and know I have everything I need.

Household items can be trickier but we left behind all but the bare essentials (such as baby bottles for the flight) and bought replacement things yesterday. Since we are minimalists, there is no need for fully stocked kitchen so it wasn’t an expensive shopping trip. Most people only use a handful of tools anyway. Do consider putting the fancy utensils and machines in purgatory. Most rental places here are fully furnished so we only need to buy things above and beyond, such as a waffle maker for the weekly family tradition.

Also minimal is the number of things I have to do, but there are always essentials. Not to mention adjusting to the time difference (-8 hours) and finding where to base our recreation activities. So I’ll be offline for another week or two while I get our house in order.

*Affiliate link