Declutter your inbox!

266 words. 4 minutes to read.

How many times have you signed up for a newsletter or email list thinking, That’s going to be so interesting!, only to never read it?

If you’re like me, you have a world of good intentions. I sign up for diet newsletters, health blogs, minimalism lists – and never read any of them.

Then I find them cluttering up my inbox, preventing me from reading the truly important emails that I really need to read.

Solutions to the clutter

Spend an hour tonight. While watching your favourite show on television, usubscribe from anything you haven’t read in the last month. Don’t worry – it’ll still be there should you wish to resubscribe at a later date.

Get a good spam filter. If your email provider doesn’t already provide a good spam filter, consider changing to a provider who does. I use gmail, and the spam filter is great.

Quit the guilt. You’re not a failure if you don’t read everything you want to read. Likewise, you’re not a nasty person if you unsubscribe from that lovely person’s blog feed – including this one! If it’s interfering with real life, it needs to go.

Real life comes first. Allocate a regular time each day for dealing with your inbox. Start at the top, work down, and only deal with each piece of information once. If you aren’t intending to reply, don’t leave it for tomorrow. In my experience, tomorrow never happens.

Start with mail from people you know in real life, plus bills and financial content. Everything else is a distant second place. This simple two-tier rule makes everything simple.

Declutter your inbox!

Ninety five years

203 words. 2 minutes to read.

Before grandma died, she moved into a partial care home.

I’ll never forget the room she lived in for her last few days. She had a few favourite books, a painting, a sculpture she’d made in clay. There were some handmade textiles, and some photos, mostly of family members.

Nothing much else.

The room had a small wardrobe, enough for maybe ten or fifteen dresses and a couple of coats. She also had a small bedside chest, presumably for her underwear. Her shoes – five pair – were lined up neatly beneath her bed.

This was the sum of the belongings of a woman over ninety. She was an educated woman with an amazing mind and a wonderful humour about her who added value to the lives of everyone she knew.

Even now, fifteen years after her death, so many people remember her.

I don’t know what happened to her belongings. Presumably they were shared out among family members, or given away.

I do know that she gave me memories that made me a richer, better person.

Why I’m talking about this? Because her life – and her end – is a lesson to me. She taught me – and keeps on teaching me – that it’s not the stuff we leave behind that matters.

what we leave behind

Pruning the roses

484 words. 5 minutes to read.

When I was tiny, all I wanted to be was a ballerina. My parents humoured me, and somehow rustled up enough money to send me to dance classes.

Dad found a record in his collection of The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. I played it endlessly, listening to the beautiful Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy over and over again until the LP was scratched and unplayable.

I pranced around the rumpus room at home, spinning in what I imagined were stately ballerina-like moves.

My dancing dreams came to an end when I was six. I clearly remember my dance teacher taking my parents aside, and saying, “She’s never going to be a ballerina. She has no co-ordination, and she’s going to be six feet tall. Look at her shoulders! I need petite girls. Graceful girls. Perhaps…perhaps basketball instead.”

I was devastated.

Even now, a tiny part of me deep inside wishes she could have been a ballerina. I still adore the ballet. But my dance teacher was right to break my fantasy early before it took hold too strongly.

She pruned her roses well, and I was a stem that need to be cut away.

Letting go of dreams is something all of us must do to grow up and become adults. We need to let go of old dreams that don’t work to make space for new ones that do.

I had to let go of the dream of being a bad ballerina so I could make room to become a good writer, a good teacher, a good mother to my kids and partner to the man I love.

Life rarely works out the way we imagine. Sometimes it works out way better, sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes we work out way better, and sometimes we don’t. Growing pains hurt, and having our dreams crash down always hurts.

Today I am a different person to that little girl who wanted to dance.

You are a different person to the child you once were too. You probably had dreams you had to let go of, just like me. That’s absolutely okay. You’re meant to be an adult now. That’s what growing up is for.

Find contentment in who you are, here are now. Be happy with your choices – the good, and the bad. We’ve all stuffed up, and we’ve all done things we wish we could change. But now it’s time to move on. Throw away the clutter, and be free of the past. Let old dreams go.

So who are you today? I’m Lee. I try to write, and I try to parent, and I try to be a decent person. Sometimes I fail at all three. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying.

Don’t stop trying. Trying is what life is all about. Figure out who you are, and run with it.

Prune your dead wood, and let your roses bloom.

pruning roses

Why I deleted Facebook

559 words. 5 minutes to read.

I’m deleting my Facebook account this week.

Already I can feel a weight lifting.

For a long time I’ve barely used the site, yet for so long I’ve felt like I couldn’t quite let go. I wondered how I’d keep in touch with all those friends from school, from University, and from my life back in Australia that I left a decade ago. How would we keep in touch without Facebook?

I was afraid that if I let go, if I deleted my account, I’d regret it. It almost felt forbidden to consider deleting Facebook.

To delete Facebook would also be time-consuming. It would mean trawling through over two thousand images, plus probably a thousand more funnies, all in countless disorganized folders, plus my “timeline” and “mobile downloads” folders. It would take at least a day, probably longer.

Why I deleted Facebook

To be honest, the biggest difficulty was this: I knew that deleting Facebook would mean making hard decisions. Decisions I’d delayed. Deleting stuff would mean tying loose ends, finalizing parts of my life that needed to be finalized.

Facebook: Social media for electronic hoarders

Truth is, Facebook was holding my life for me, but it was a life that I didn’t particularly want to hold on to. It was controlling me, encouraging me to keep up connections and data that had no real meaning.

I called myself a minimalist, but online I was an electronic hoarder.

Taking a month off social media gave me time to consider what social media was actually about.

I learned that I used Facebook as an emotional crutch. It gave me excuses, over and over again, to not say goodbye to everything that should have left my life a long time ago.

Time to say goodbye

I desperately needed to say goodbye.

A normal human life involves letting go of the past. A healthy person becomes a hoarder when they are unable to do this, when every tiny little thing becomes important.

Instead of letting go they hold on and cling to the detritus of their lives because they’re afraid of throwing away something that might be important, maybe, possibly.

For me, Facebook enabled me to become a hoarder of friends and memories, of photographs and holiday memorabilia and people I haven’t seen for thirty years who have long since moved on to other things.

They should have left my life, but Facebook brought them back, and gave them a home in my already busy life.

I found myself having to find time not only for the friends I have here and now but for the friends I had when I was ten years old!

When I first joined Facebook, I rediscovered all these things that should have stayed in the past. Then I built pseudo-connections around them and spent time with them, to the detriment of living in the present.

I built an online hoarder’s world. And I only just realized it. I took a decade and more to realize it.

Awakening

So I’m letting Facebook go now.
I’m letting everything on Facebook go.

That doesn’t mean I’ll lose my friends, because the meaningful, current friends I connect with on Facebook will stay connected to me.

Real bonds don’t break. We’ll find each other, connect with one another, in other ways. The friends of here and now belong here and now. The important friends from the past will stay too, because they belong with me as I journey forwards. But I can say goodbye, and let others go, just as they can let me go too.

I’ve posted my details. My real friends will find me, as I will find them.

But Facebook? Yes, it’s time to say goodbye.

I hit delete.
I’m moving on. My Facebook account is toast.
I’m embracing today. And the fresh air tastes great! 🙂

How 30 days without social media made me happier

545 words. 5 minutes to read.

For the whole of March this year, I quit social media.

No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. I shut the world down.

For the first few days, I missed everything.

Instagram was the worst. My partner and I are in the midst of renovating our family home, and I’d reach for my phone to post up our latest handiwork, as we smashed down fireplaces and blocked up old doorways… then I’d realize that I couldn’t post any pics I’d taken until the end of the month.

I didn’t believe I was addicted until then. But the first week, when I woke at 2 a.m. and couldn’t reach for my phone to “just see what’s happening on Instagram”… yeah, then I knew I was addicted.

It almost hurt to not post and share the stuff we were doing, and to read what was happening on my favourite feeds. I didn’t really know what to do with myself, and felt a bit lost. Worse still, it affected my sleep, and I found myself lying awake at night, unable to rest my mind as it turned over all the things I might be missing.

I missed the endless entertainment that Twitter provided, and the banal food posts of Facebook. I missed the endless political updates, and the stupid memes.

Life without social

Suddenly I had time of my hands.
I had time to do the gardening I’d been delaying.
I had time to clean out my inbox which had become cluttered with spam and email from the kids’ schools.
I had time to wash windows and sort shelves and clear the pantry – all jobs I’d been delaying because I’d been “too busy”.

I had time to cook better meals in the evening, and enjoy my true passions – writing and reading more.

I cleared my filing and paperwork drawers, emptied my receipts folder, updated my superannuation company, unsubscribed from junk mail lists.

I found I had time to help the kids after school with their homework, and time to go for walks myself in the morning before I started work for the day.

I even found time to start meditating again.

All this because I wasn’t on social media.

Until now, I’d never even questioned how much time I spent on social. If someone had asked, I’d have said I was a “light user”, maybe a couple of hours or so a day.

Certainly I was nowhere near the average nine hours a day teens spend using digital media for their enjoyment!

Going without social for a month made me begin to seriously question just how many hours of my life I was wasting on status updates, on giving “Likes” and on making comments that nobody really wanted to read anyway.

social media fast

The Return

When I returned to social media at the end of the month nobody even noticed I’d been gone.

One of my friends joked that everyone had been too busy checking their own “Likes” to notice!

It occurred to me how silly we are to spend so much time on something that nobody even cares about.

I’m not saying social is evil, or bad. But I am saying that, like alcohol, it is best used wisely and in moderation.

I’d even argue that social media is so addictive that it should probably never be used by children.

social media and kids

My experiences without social have made us reconsider how much screen time we allow our kids. They are no longer allowed screen time before school, and their after school time is quite limited.

They also have a curfew for devices, and all devices are left downstairs and are not allowed in bedrooms.

Reconsideration and new habits

How I use it now? I post my own content and I read social once a week for one hour – on Tuesday evenings. This is when I don’t have kids in the house.

I never skim read or scroll, and when I’m done I’m done.

I’m pretty weak-willed, so I set an alarm to beep at the end of an hour.

Oh, and I don’t keep the apps on my main phone screen, where the little blue circles of death can visibly tempt and stress me.

Blue circles of death

Blue circles of death. I’ve now removed social media apps from my home screen so these circles can’t be seen and prompt me to check social when I don’t plan to. This helps keep me in control.

Life is too short to be wasted on social media. Since my 30 day break, I’ve realized that real life experiences make me far happier than anything social can provide.

How to stop the clutter coming back

660 words. 5 minutes to read

It took me three firm attempts at minimalism before I was successful.

The first time, I sold so many of my belongings, preparing for the sale of my home and a move to a new country.

Yet within months my garage in my new home was full to overflowing. My wardrobes and kitchen cupboards were stuffed. My new four bedroom, three bathroom, two storey home “didn’t have enough storage space”.

I had no idea what I’d done wrong. How could it happen so fast? After all, I was a minimalist now!

The second time, a few years later, was much the same. The zen-like aura I created in my home lasted only weeks. From clutter-free to hoarders paradise, I could’t understand how my temporarily House-and-Garden-worthy home had become a pigsty again in record time.

Minimalism the third time around

It took the third attempt for me to grok minimalism. My third attempt was slow, with a declutter that lasted well over a year.

I started reading blogs and books. Courtney Carver’s The Project 333 and The Minimalists were incredibly helpful to me, as was Jennifer L Scott (her book Lessons from Madame Chic was an “aha!” moment for me regarding fashion).

These people were mentors for me, teaching me through their own failures and successes, helping me to learn what minimalism is truly about.

All live very different lives, but they all have two things in common – 1) they maintain their belongings carefully, and 2) they are all able to let go of what they no longer need.

Active minimalism

Third time around, I realized that minimalism, like a healthy diet, requires maintenance and new habits.

Minimalism isn’t just a choice.
Minimalism is an active way of being. It is a learning process requiring skills, dedication, and work.
Minimalism is the art of letting go.
Not once, but over and over again, throughout our lives.

Minimalism

The difference between wanting and doing

The first times I tried to be a minimalist, sure, I tidied up. I threw stuff out and gave stuff away.

Then I thought I was done. I thought that was all I needed to do. That’s all the TV spots and pretty Instagram “before and after” posts ever said.

Imagine – just one long session of cleaning up and getting rid of stuff, and my whole life’s habits and mess would be fixed!

Hooray!

And that’s where I went wrong.

You can’t just want to be a minimalist, any more than you can want to be a virtuoso violinist.

Like any skill, minimalism takes practice, work, and dedication. It can be hard. It takes time to learn. You need support – mentors and teachers who have walked the path before you.

There’s nothing wrong with new stuff. Just remember to let go of the old

Even the strictest minimalists bring new items into their lives every week. We all need new food, new clothing, new toiletries, new electronics, new reading materials. This is something we all do – even minimalists! – and we all have to learn how to manage.

The key to successful minimalism is knowing when to let go. Knowing that, just as we all need new items, we also need to let go of old items. We need to release belongings that we no longer use, or that are worn and done with.

Minimalism is the art of letting go. Minimalism isn’t about how many items you possess. It’s about managing the flow-through of the belongings you choose to let into your life – from the moment they enter your life to the point at which you let them pass on. And the passing on is critical.

The difference between successful minimalism and failure is the ability to recognise what is not needed…and to let it go. To be observant about what is in our lives, and to be detached about what we don’t need.

March is social media free month!

456 words. 5 minutes to read.

Have you ever looked up from your phone or laptop, and realized that you’ve spent hours stuck down the rabbit hole of social media?

I have.

I quit Facebook a few years ago, and before I knew it, I was addicted to Twitter.

Then I stopped posting on Twitter so much because I was wasting so much time there, and I got addicted to Instagram.

These days, I’m on a variety of social media, and it often feels more of a burden than a pleasure.

I often feel like I have to check my feeds, even when I don’t want to.

Social media in your life

If you take stock and be honest…

– Do you ever feel worried about what you’re missing out on, if you don’t keep up with your feeds? I do.

– Do you ever ignore your kids, partner or other family members because you’re “busy” reading social media? I have. 

– Have you ever reached for your phone and read social media when you’re with friends or family, instead of communicating face-to-face with them? I have.

– Do you ever worry about how many “Likes” you’ll get, and find yourself checking a post over and over again to see who has “Liked” it? I have.

– Do you ever worry about what people will comment? I have.

– Do you ever worry about saying politically incorrect things or upsetting delicate or sensitive readers? I do.

– Do you ever feel like social media is the biggest waste of time in your life, and that you could spend that time on far more productive, positive things instead of social media if you weren’t on it? I do.

I notice that the popular people on social media say politically correct, unchallenging things, and they don’t ruffle feathers.

I’m a feather-ruffler by nature, and find the social media stifling to my free thought and free speech. Do you ever feel that way too?

Social media often feels like a race to the bottom, rather than a sharing of great ideas and actions. Does it ever feel that way to you?

Social media isn’t all bad

There’s nothing wrong with social media in itself, but it is very addictive for most of us.

What that means is, we spend so much time on social media, we often don’t prioritise what is truly important in our lives, and we spend hours trawling through social media instead.

So this month – this March – I’m quitting social media. Just for one month. Just for 31 days.

No Facebook.
No Twitter.
No Instagram.
No Snapchat.
No anything else.

Take a break

If you’d like to join me and experience what real life is like without social media, feel free to copy the image on this page, and post it on your own feed. Then say goodbye to your social media for 31 days.

Remove social media apps from your phone if it helps. That’s what I’ve just done.

Take a breath of fresh air.
Step outside.
Enjoy the view.
Enjoy the free time.
You don’t have to take a snap or share anything or add any filters or look for the best angle this time.
This time, just for 31 days, your life will belong to yourself again.

Links:
The Minimalists Social media podcast: Social media
Break The Twitch blog: BreakTheTwitch.com

social media free month

March is social media free month