Over the last year or so, I realised I’ve unintentionally been taking steps to simplify life. Here I’m writing about what I’ve done so far, so I can collect it together and look back at it, but also I think it’s probably interesting for others to read too.
This is pretty straight forward on paper, but can be pretty hard to carry out. The idea was for me to go through everything I own and remove anything I don’t need or use anymore. I did this over the course of a few months, then just kept on top of it from then onwards.
The process was sort of konmari style, but less regimented, and it’s more of a continuous thing than a single task. If you’ve never done this, I’d definitely say give it a go. Even though it can be hard to part with your things sometimes, the feeling of satisfaction once you do is worth it.
After the initial big clear out, I got into the general way of thinking where I consider the need for stuff more carefully. So in addition to clearing current possessions, I’m trying to avoid buying or keeping more than I need, in turn this also helps save money. I guess it’s something along the lines of minimalism, but that might be taking it a little too far. It’s more like, just trying to be more sensible with the amount of stuff you have in your life.
Once I’d sorted through all my stuff, I made sure everything had a place to go. This helps when you need to find something, frees up space, and in general causes less stress. If I use something often, I make sure it’s somewhere easily accessible. Stuff I only use once or twice a year goes away into storage.
Reducing waste & recycling
Most people are recycling nowadays, and that’s good. I took a lot of stuff to Emmaus, who are a charity that will take unwanted items and sell them. Charity places like this are a good place to bring things that you don’t really want to bin, but also don’t need to keep.
Another way to reduce waste is to not buy as many things brand new. As an example, buying games and electronics from places like CEX. Again a bonus of this is that everything is cheaper. Once I’ve played a game or finished with something, I just take it back to CEX and they give you credit in return too.
H&M will take unwanted bags of clothes and give you vouchers in return. There’s also tons of charity shops that will take bags of unwanted clothes, toys, books etc. By taking things to charity shops, it’s a little better than recycling, since someone might end up reusing it.
Lastly, I found loads of old star wars toys, lego etc in storage, that I’d been holding on to. These things usually sell pretty well on eBay as collectors items, even if they’re in scruffy condition. So when I sorted through all my old belongings, I put everything like that up for sale.
So right now, I limited myself to one (fairly big) box in storage for “memories”. By doing this, I think it makes you really consider what is worth keeping. By letting go of some sentimental things, it actually makes you value and appreciate what you do decide to keep a little more too.
I imagine most people have a fair amount of digital “possessions” nowadays, things like photos, media, emails, website accounts etc. I wanted to get on top of it all, but the amount of stuff I had was overwhelming.
So over time, I’ve slowly made my way through all my stuff, and moved everything over to either google drive or dropbox, meaning everything is both backed up and accessible from all devices. I first focused on just broadly organising things into folders, like “Photos” or “Documents”, then sorted each folder over time. So right now I’ve got all my photos in one place, all my old documents or uni work have a place, any projects I’ve archived live in a big “Projects” folder too.
Because this stuff doesn’t exactly take up space, it’s easy to just dump it all in a folder, knowing it’s at least been sorted through. In the future I might even commit to just deleting all my old digital stuff and just print out any photos I want, we’ll see.
Online Accounts are easy to set up, and sometimes you set something up then forget about it. When it comes to removing them, it can be hard work. I’ve been working on closing as many online accounts and profiles as I can, mainly just as an exercise in my “Right to erasure” (Art. 17 GDPR), but also just to reduce the amount of personal info I have publicly available. I’ll sometimes leave an account open, but set it to private, which is a good half-way-house for sites like LinkedIn for example.
AccountKiller is a useful site that collects instructions to help delete old accounts and profiles which I found pretty handy. Another tool is Google’s Remove Outdated Content page, which let’s you request outdated links or pages be taken out of search results.
I think once the initial hurdle is cleared, once you’ve been through all your stuff and reduced it all down to what actually matters, you get to a point where you can give yourself an opportunity to change. The change is just keeping things simple, which does take a little more effort initially, but the payoff is a feeling of everything being clearer and simpler.