Mindful Minimalism: Letting Go of Digital Clutter to Regain Focus
Since Maddox has been born, I've accumulated an excessive amount of photographs. Both on my phone, on my camera, and then on my laptop. We're not talking a couple hundred but thousands. On one hand, it's great. I have every single moment captured. On the other hand, I have unnecessary moments captured that I should have just went through and deleted before uploading them. Do I really need 10 pictures of my son eating broccoli? I know I'm not the only one because I have had mothers telling me they have no picture space on their phone because they've used it all and if you scroll through their album, it's endless pictures of their kids. And maybe a dog. And maybe some memes that help mothers keep their sanity.
My other problem? Mindlessly scrolling through Facebook as if anything on there is truly relevant. It's such a poor habit to utilize the quiet space in between the busy times with aimless scrolling. There are gems and wonderful pictures here and there but most of it is nonsense. It takes away from what I could be doing: creating rather than consuming. I lose my focus and become engrossed with information (like what someone ate or how a stranger feels about her sister) I'll never need again while I could be spending time writing for my blog, editing pictures, creating jewelry, writing one of the five books I have started, or anything. Anything at all.
For many of us, the last and hardest thing to de-clutter is our digital world and the amount of time we spend within it. It's easy for many of us to ignore it because it's not tangible. We can't always see the disorganization or the abundance of files or the amount we actually pick up our phone because it's not sitting out in front of us with glaring eyes. We have almost infinite amounts of space on our hard drives where we can endlessly snap and upload photos without worrying about it. We have infinite apps we can download with promise of a free meal or free points or free browsing for as long as we want or free games we can obsess about.
But what happens when we want to upload a throwback photo to Instagram? Or make a photo book for a birthday? Or find a specific recipe we remember seeing? Or we look back and see how we've spent our time? Or we look at all this objectively? That's when the problem is blatantly staring at us straight in the face.
What To Do
Review and Manage Photos Daily
Any day you take pictures, go through and delete the blurry ones or the ones you don't need to have duplicates of (like your iced coffee) or the ones that didn't come out all that wonderful. For me, it's hard to choose between which photos I love and which ones I don't need. So I always go back a few days later and delete again. If you're a parent (or an animal parent), it is seriously okay to delete photographs of your children. It's not the end of the world and they didn't change noticeably from last week to this week so if you find a picture you don't really need - delete it.
Unsubscribe to E-mails
I have so many unopened e-mails it's actually absurd. It's a task I've been putting off because there are thousands. However, unroll.me makes things so much easier. It shows you everything you are subscribed to and allows you to choose what you want to unsubscribe to. It lays it all out for you and makes things quick so you stop receiving junk e-mails you don't need to see.
Did you hear about an app, download it, only to use it once or twice? Delete it. There are so many I've downloaded and have felt were mediocre apps. I would leave it on my phone and my computer just in case yet never used it again. You don't need 10 photo apps, 10 game apps, 10 retail apps, 10 social media apps. Choose your favorites and the ones you use at least weekly. You'll be able to download them again if you actually need them.
Whether it be on Facebook, your phone, your computer - delete the games. Allow yourself to keep 1-2 and rid yourself of the rest. There's nothing wrong with occasionally playing a video game but it will take away your focus from something more productive if you are constantly spending empty spaces playing them.
Unfollow People & Groups On Facebook
Give yourself a little more control about what you see on your feed. Unfollow groups and only use the app so you have to choose when to see them. Unfollow people that you want to keep up with but don't want to read their constant political banters or what they ate today. Delete the ones you truly don't care about. Unfollow pages you still like but don't care about what they post.
Use Apps That Allow You More Control
Instead of pictures and status's from acquaintances and family members, you can tailor Pinterest to your interests almost completely. You choose the boards and people you are interested in seeing ideas from. Same with Instagram. You see pictures and potential ideas. They may be easy to get lost in, but they are more minimal in content. Don't mindlessly pin. Only pin things you want inspiration from or plan to do in the near and far future.
The browser on my Mac is filled to the brim with bookmarks I haven't looked at in over a year. It's time to go in and delete the things I really never needed to save in the first place. It's another symptom of the "just-in-case" mindset. Most things in my bookmarks can actually be pinned on Pinterest for better organization.
Give everything a place. Separate your photos anyway you like (by year, by faces, by things, etc). Separate your bookmarks (knowledge, writing inspiration, gifts, etc) or pin them all to Pinterest. Make your Pinterest boards easy (for kids, edibles, style, etc). Put your documents in folders (for school, writing, resume, etc). Give everything a clear and concise name that details what something is about. Make sub-folders if needed but try to keep them minimal so you don't have to click and click and click before finding what you need.
Create New Habits
Start setting your phone down. Throw it under a pillow, or put it in another room, or turn it off when you have the urge to use it. Start filling your spaces with ideas and creation. Pick up crocheting (and only use your phone for tutorials), start a journal, go on Pinterest and go into things you've already saved and create something, go for a walk outside, start making jewelry, organize your home, start conversation. Fill your spaces with less consumption and give yourself more focus.
We need to stop feeling we need to escape from the world, from the silence, from each other. We need to reconnect with ourselves, the people around us, and things offscreen. The things that are tangible. There is nothing wrong with sharing our lives but we have to remember to turn off and go live them. Find a balance between posting an Instagram story and getting suckered into scrolling down your feed for half hour. We need to continue to create and live and love what surrounds us.