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!

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.

Throw away your yoga mat!

232 words. 3 minutes to read.

The media shouts at us:

Begin a yoga practice.
Start running.
Learn to meditate.
Learn a new language.
Learn a musical instrument.

The list goes on and on, voices telling us to add feature after feature to ourselves, like we’re some new tech toy for a bored teenager to buy.

But have you ever noticed that all of these things take our time?

They’re all work.

A regular yoga practice requires dedication, time and effort.
Running is hard work, and it hurts.
Meditation is difficult, and drains our time.
Learning a language to proficiency takes years of lessons and is often expensive.
Learning a musical instrument requires daily practice.

No wonder we’re all so tired.
No wonder we’re all so stressed.
No wonder we’re such easy pickings for the voices that tell us we need yoga, running, meditation, a new language, and a new instrument to be happy!

We work, we manage a home, we have a family and relationships and friends to care for and be with… and then we feel expected by someone somewhere to become more enriched individuals than our parents or grandparents ever were by taking on all these fashionable personal growth activities.

The one thing forgotten in all this mess is time simply to be.

Aren’t we personally grown enough yet?

So I’m saying – the minimalists are saying, don’t start something new.

Instead, get rid of all the old things cluttering up your life.

Not just stuff, but those practices that are exhausting you, filling your hours, sapping your energy. Get rid of everything that makes you feel like you’re inadequate.

You’re not.

Ignore the trendy personal growth activities we’re supposed to do, according to some expert, somewhere.

Throw away your yoga mat.
Give away the running shoes.
Stop meditating. The language you know is enough already.
Don’t learn an instrument. Instead, laugh into the wind and be thankful for who and what you already are.

And know that you are enough.

Throw away your yoga may

Throw away your yoga mat. You are enough, just as you are.

Clutter-free at Christmas

283 words, 3 minutes to read.

I’ve had The Talk with most of my friends and relatives.

Consequently, I receive very few gifts at Christmas. That makes me happy, knowing my loved ones are not wasting their money on stuff I don’t need.

But there’s always that one relative who insists on giving you gifts. How can you deal with them? They insist that Christmas ‘just wouldn’t be right’ without presents under the tree.

Here are some strategies you can take.

1. Suggest a consumable gift.

Hint that you’d love some chocolates. A nice bottle of wine. Some expensive fresh fruit or lovely locally-produced cheeses. Let them know than any of these options would be appreciated far more than socks, jocks or yet more hand cream!

2. Tickets to events can be a great idea.

Ask for tickets to an upcoming concert you’d enjoy. Or maybe suggest a nice meal out at a favourite restaurant with them paying for the meal.

3. Give to someone – or something – else.

Charities such as Oxfam give to those who are truly in need. It’s a great option for those who want to be generous.

4. Accept the inevitable and re-gift what they give you.

Homeless shelters and food banks are pleased to receive unwanted toiletries, clothing and other items. Ring before you drop them off, to ensure that the right item is going to the right place.

5. Sell the item, and use the proceeds for something useful.

If re-gifting makes you feel guilty, spend the money on a worthwhile charity, and convert an unwanted gift into much-needed assistance. I find that giving to worthwhile charities always eases any guilt I have!

Is it too early to wish everyone Merry Christmas yet? 🙂

clutter-free at Christmas

Time to have “The Talk” about Christmas

304 words. 3 minutes to read.

Christmas gifts from relatives and friends are always awkward.

Will they spend too much? Too little? Am I a cheapskate?

Are they going to buy something horrible and tasteless I have to pretend I like?

Am I going to get yet another pair of Homer Simpson socks?

Homer Simpson socks

Homer Simpson socks…do you REALLY need another pair?

It’s time to have The Talk.

Years ago, my brother and I agreed to stop buying each other Christmas gifts. It was a great decision that has made my Christmas better every year since.

We’ve both saved a lot of money and a lot of stress of having to work out what the other wants and likes.

Now, as adults who have pretty much everything we need, The Talk has saved us buying useless stuff that neither of us needs.

Over time, I’ve had The Talk with friends and other family members. I receive few gifts at Christmas, and it makes me much happier. I don’t feel indebted to anyone, and I don’t receive stuff I don’t want or need.

Likewise, we’ve encouraged our children to not buy each other gifts at Christmas and birthdays.

It has been a breath of fresh air in our lives.

Christmas should be about family getting together and sharing good times. If you’re religious, it’s about Church and Christ.

It should never be about guilt, consumerism and stress.

Chances are that some of your loved ones would love to have a No Gifts policy with you, they’re just not ready to take the first step. They’re afraid of what you might think. They’re afraid you might think they’re a cheapskate.

So be brave. Make your lives better. Quit the craziness. Find some peace this holidays.

Isn’t is time for you to have The Talk with people you love this Christmas?

Isn't it time you had The Talk?

Isn’t it time you had The Talk?