in Personal, Simplicity

25 things I did to simplify my life

The other day I found myself thinking about my journey in minimalism and simplicity. Like most people I often focus way too much on what I have left to do, and not too much on what I have already accomplished. With that in mind I thought it might be fun to look back on some of the changes I have made over the years.

Home

  • I have sold, donated or recycled endless bags of shoes, clothes, accessories, old gadgets, kitchen utensils, movies, books, paper and hobby supplies.
  • I have stopped caring about decorating and knicknacks. We have furniture and useful things, and besides those we own a few paintings and plants. No thingamabobs or whatsits or decorative doodads anywhere.
  • I do quick sweeps of the apartment regularly. Has anything snuck in that we don’t need? Is there something we no longer use? Out it goes.
  • I only keep documents that I know I will need in the future. I used to keep way too many documents for way too long.
  • I only purchase food that I actually plan to eat in the near future. No “just in case” stuff.
  • I hate kitchen gadgets. I detest them. I like the rice cooker, the kettle, and the microwave. Anything else is excessive (to me).
  • I haven’t kept any old school assignments, text books or papers, and I haven’t missed any of them for a second.

Digital

  • I switched to reading books on a Kindle, and I only buy paper books if there’s no Kindle edition.
  • I try to limit the time I spend on social media. This one is not so easy, but I’m improving steadily.
  • I have set up TweetDelete to automatically delete any tweet older than a month, and I recently deleted 1500 images from Instagram. Why should there be a complete public archive of everything I have ever tweeted and photographed? Nothing has to stay online forever. If there was a similar tool for Facebook I would use it in a heartbeat.
  • I only keep apps on my phone that I actually use. Apps that I rarely use but still need are hidden in folders, and only the essentials are kept on the main home screen.
  • I try to keep a simple and clean folder system on my Mac, and keep most things synced to Dropbox. I also use Dropbox to back up the photos on my phone.
  • I write and keep all my documents in Google Drive. No more worrying about losing files.
  • We haven’t had linear TV in over 6 years. Haven’t missed it for a second.
  • I delete all unimportant e-mails right away and I don’t subscribe to newsletters.
  • I keep all my photographs on Flickr, and am in the process of scanning all my old paper photos. I’m not going to throw away the originals, but at least this way it won’t be a disaster if they get destroyed.
  • I have deleted most social media accounts that aren’t in weekly use.
  • I use StayFocusd for Chrome to limit the time I spend on my favorite time-wasting websites.

Shopping

  • I have worked very hard on changing my shopping habits. I try to figure out whether the thing I want to buy is an actual need or just a want, and I also try to reflect on why I want it. Here’s an old post on how I shop for clothes, and it is still relevant for me today.
  • I don’t buy replacements for things unless they are broken or painfully outdated. For instance, my DSLR camera is 8 years old now but it works perfectly and takes beautiful photos. On the other hand I recently bought a new iMac because my old Mac was too slow for design work and photo editing.
  • I have found a skin care routine that works and have stuck to it. Why fix what isn’t broken, right? I haven’t changed a single thing since I wrote that blog post 2 years ago.
  • I try to buy things that are made to last, and do maintenance on them when needed.

Life

  • I have cut down on time-sinks like YouTube, gaming etc. I used to play so much World of Warcraft back in the day, you have no idea. For about 5 years all I did was eat, sleep, study, play World of Warcraft and occasionally go to the gym.
  • I stopped reading blogs except a select few. I have no idea what people write about these days, and I certainly don’t know what’s on the cutting edge of the blogosphere anymore. I’m okay with that.
  • I made a list (yes, an actual list) of what’s important to me, and gradually peeled away the things that didn’t make the cut. Then I spent more time on the things that were actually on that list instead.

This doesn’t mean I’m perfect by any means. I still buy way too much makeup, I have an obsession with stationery, I’m own an excessive amount of oversized wool sweaters and I sometimes spend way too much time on Instagram. The point is that I try, and this list is what I have accomplished over several years of doing just that: trying.

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28 Comments

  1. That’s a very good exercise indeed, to look back and see what you have accomplished until now. You’re right, we focus a lot on what remains to be done and sometimes, it feels good to appreciate accomplishments :) I have to say I relate to most of your 25 points!

  2. Brilliant work Maja! This is SUCH an inspiring post to read; how refreshing to read something about taking control that doesn’t read like a shopping list (“you’ll never need anything after purchasing such-and-such! The newest and best whatnot to replace your thingamabobs!”).

    Now I’m off to reread “Spark Joy”

  3. I wish I could just read everything on an e-reader – I’ve tried but I think by far, my biggest clutter are books and magazines and old notes/papers. I have far too many cookbooks that never get used and I’m loathe to get rid of them. I like the feel of paper (bad for the environment, I know!) and only feel like I’m actually reading when it’s a tangible “book”. I can’t even do audiobooks for the same reason.

    That said, I need to be better about buying thingamabobs — I waste FAR too much time scouring the internet for thingmabobs.

    • I get the feeling like e-readers are really either-or. Like you either love them, or you can’t even imagine not carrying an actual physical book. For me it’s just so handy to carry around. Nearly every book I own, at my fingertips, wherever I want. Instant delivery is also a plus :)

    • Oh wow, thank you Olivia! That blog post is so interesting. The slot machine analogy especially made me sad. I’ve turned off most notifications of my phone, but I still have apps that I check way too often. The things outlined in that post, paired with my rather gloomy outlook on internet privacy, just makes my brain hurt.

      • I’m glad you liked it! If you go to his website, he has a guide for setting up your phone to make it less like everything he outlined in the article. I think the guide is iPhone only, don’t know what phone you have, but it’s probably easy to apply the ideas to other phones.

        Yeah, I share your gloomy outlook. After reading that article, my husband and I both made a bunch of changes – secure email, switched to duck duck go as a browser, switched away from Dropbox, etc. I figure I can’t change a lot in terms of how the big picture operates, but I do vote with my clicks and I’d rather say ‘yes’ to services that care about privacy.

        • I completely missed the iPhone setup part, thanks for the heads up! I’ll dive properly into that website later today :)

          Out of curiosity, why did you stop using Dropbox?

          • I use sync (sync.com) now because it has better privacy than Dropbox. It’s a ‘zero knowledge’ platform with end-to-end encryption.

            I also switched to protonmail for email.

            The trouble with the more secure, ‘zero knowledge’ platforms though is that you can’t forget your passwords! Their apps and interfaces are also less sophisticated, and the duck duck go search is not always as good, but it’s a trade I’m willing to make in order to vote for privacy, and overall the private services are very usable. I still use google search when I’m really hunting for something, but the majority of the time duck duck go meets my needs.

            I don’t use Facebook at all but I’m hooked on whatsapp and I use Instagram a lot, so I’m still giving FB more than I want to be! I’m not quite ready to give Instagram up. Whatsapp has good encryption but I don’t know how much FB has access to.

          • Thank you Olivia! My spam plugin ate your comment, sorry about that :)
            I don’t think I could give up on Facebook without losing contact with a lot of people, and I also use it every day for work. I wish there was a content wipe option though.

          • I replied but I think it went into the abyss – maybe you received it? In short, I use sync.com because it has better encryption than Dropbox. :)

  4. Hi Maja, I love to declutter but you’ve inspired me to start again as I’ve realised after reading your post how much more I can do. Love tweet delete and I’ve signed up – I never thought of it as clutter before but now I like the thought of an up to date Twitter feed. Thanks for posting.

    • For me it’s just as much a privacy issue, actually. I like to try to be be as much in control of the information I’ve chosen to share as I can be.

  5. I highly recommend using google photos to back up your pictures from your phone. The search system is genius, and it helps you delete the photos of your phone that you’ve already backed up. It intelligently searches as well, so I can just search “dog” and find all the pictures of my dog.

    • That’s kind of why I don’t trust Google with my photos, though. I like the fact that Dropbox treats my images just like any other file (well, almost anyway). No extra snooping or tagging on my behalf, at least that I know of. I also feel like Google haven’t explained privacy settings well enough for their services in the past, which makes me wary to trust them with something as important as my images. I do privacy setting run-throughs for my online accounts regularly, and even Facebook is easier to wrap my head around than Google’s services. Just my 2 cents, though,

  6. Very inspiring post, thank you!

    I have realized that social media is the biggest challenge for me. It’s so sneaky! Even if it feels like I’m not on social media or only quickly check FB or Instagram, the minutes add up. Grrrrr. Time-wasting websites are easier to avoid now that I don’t have a computer and my tablet is old and slow. I’m determined to not buy a new one (yet), because it still does its job for the things I actually NEED it for.

    • It’s really sneaky, and it is all designed to have that effect on you! Baby steps, I guess. Moving all my social media apps into a folder on page 2 of my iPhone seems to have helped a bit for me :)

  7. Spark i ræva til å avabonnere på alle nyhetsbrevene jeg har klart å ende opp på! Cleanbox (fiffig ordspill på clean inbox der, altså) is on!

  8. I’ve made a lot of these changes myself over the last few years but I always seem to find more clutter… I need to get better at spending less time online and budgeting and buying less clothes. I have a baby girl due next month and maternity leave doesn’t pay the best so budgeting is a necessity! Have been trying the cash envelope system which is working pretty well but may look at YNAB after reading your post. Also, not to sound weird and stalkerish or anything but have you deleted your polyvore? Hannah

    • Congratulations on the baby girl Hannah! Sending good baby-vibes your way :)
      And yes, I did delete my Polyvore account. It was one of those things that I stopped using and that was too much work to maintain, at least if I wanted it to be a 1:1 version of my real life wardrobe.

  9. So many things to think about on this list. I love this: “Why should there be a complete public archive of everything I have ever tweeted and photographed?” — why SHOULD there be? This just seems to be an assumption of the modern digital world, but when put the way you’ve just put it, it seems absurd, doesn’t it?

    I recently did a clear-out, and it reminded me just how much random *stuff* one accumulates. A gift here, a sale there, a thing you only used twice … I’m going to be more mindful about buying, for sure, but I also like like your idea of doing regular sweeps and getting rid of things to keep it under control.

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