Mindful Minimalism: Letting Go of Digital Clutter to Regain Focus

Letting Go Of Digital Clutter

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. 

Delete Apps

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. 

Delete Games

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. 

Delete Bookmarks

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. 

Organize

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. 

Mindful Minimalism: A Quick Beginner's Guide to Simplifying Your Life

Mindful Minimalism

Over the past few years, I've begun to naturally embrace minimalism without putting much thought into it. Even in my teen years, I would try to declutter items, donating what I never used. It reminded me of growth, of moving forward, of learning to let go. It was a lesson to myself in attachment and desire: two things that can be someone's downfall if one does not keep it in check. 

I'm not perfect or extreme by any means. I'm still on this journey and still implementing new things into my minimalism almost daily. I still have items in my home, I still purchase items, I still have things I refuse to downsize on (which is pretty much my books, mugs, bones, and so forth). But, I make purchases with a purpose and I make them less. Minimalism isn't merely about materialism or lack-there-of, it is a mindset as well. It's not just about having less, it's about wanting less. It's about simplifying your life as much as possible - in the outside world and within you - and embracing the wonders of life itself: happiness, joy, friendship, kinship, beauty, learning, creativity. 

Where to Simplify

HOME

A happy home is important. Disorganization and chaos can be detrimental to how a home is run and how the people within it respond. Purging what you don't need allows space for what you do and allows focus on the necessities. A cluttered home, or a home with unnecessary items, makes cleaning more difficult, which takes time away from your family and things you enjoy doing, which allows for unhappiness and frustration, and things can easily spiral out of control. Being aware of what we have in a home and only surrounding ourselves with things that make us joyful or allows a functioning life - is important. 

MIND

More crucial than your physical home, is your mental home. This is where we reside without tangible items, places, and things. This is our Self. This is what we lay down with when everything is all said in done. Decluttering our minds is a necessary task - more so than chucking away unused items - but it may also be the most difficult. It takes time, patience, and practice. One way to simplify is by practicing meditation and learning to let go of brain clutter at the end of the day or anytime you feel overloaded. By learning how to let go of unnecessary thoughts and distractions, you begin to focus on the present moment and the tasks in front of you. It is incredibly freeing.

WORK

Allow yourself to say no at times and set limits. It's okay to want to help others with their workload but make sure you have tackled your own first and foremost. In the same respect, be okay with asking others for help at times. Becoming overwhelmed takes away from our productivity. Set long-term goals and short-term goals and work toward them. Check in with yourself occasionally and see if you're meeting them. Also - don't bring work home with you. Sometimes it's impossible to not be stressed while working because we're often in another's control. Learn to unpack it on your way home or when you're no longer working. Disconnect yourself from it. There is nothing more that can be done once work is over. 

How to Simplify

  1. Write it down - As someone who journals and writes constantly, I find it important to write down my thoughts and feelings when I want to tackle something new. Write down your reasons for adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Sick of constantly feeling weighed down with thoughts? Things? Sick of never feeling content? Or always being broke? Or want more time with your children and less time cleaning? Writing it down will help you stick to it. Whenever you feel defeated, you can go back and remind yourself of why you started this in the first place.

  2. Start Small - This change and journey is gradual and is not something that happens overnight. Don't start chipping away at your possessions and start handing them out like candy on Halloween. Be mindful and recognize the things you need from the things you don't. Drawers, closets, or your bathroom are the easiest to start with. Go through and see what is old or goes unused. If it doesn't give you pleasure, any sense of fulfillment, or has any purpose in your life, it goes.

  3. Cut your desires - Stop feeling like you need more in order to become a better minimalist or live a happier life. So many minimalists will go out and buy a multitude of items and feel their decor needs to be a certain way. I find it ironic and even I am even guilty of it a few times. Fight the urge and be aware of need versus want. Part of minimalism is learning to appreciate what you already have instead of always seeking more.

  4. Ditch duplicates - Go around and pick out unnecessary duplicate items. Have two coaster sets that no one uses? Get rid of one. Have multiple dish-ware sets but only use one? Get rid of them. Have multiple ladles? Get rid of one. Have an abundance of unused baskets? Get rid of them. Have 30 pairs of pants but only wear 3? Get rid of 27 of them. Evaluate the necessity of items. If you have the space, put all these items in a box. Label them duplicates. Go back in 30 days and if you didn't need or think about any of the things in the box, they're out. I usually donate things almost automatically when I know they are unnecessary. I will be less apt to overthink and keep something that way. 

  5. Create a capsule wardrobe - A capsule wardrobe is a more compact wardrobe that involves versatile essentials and staple pieces. Begin to downsize your wardrobe by getting rid of things you haven't worn in 1-2 years. Chances are you won't wear it again. Be aware of what you wear within a month. For me, I wear a lot of black. I used to keep pieces I owned for a long time in case that changed yet it never did and it was only holding up space in my closet. I became very aware of my style and began discarding what didn't match it. I'm still working on creating my perfect wardrobe but I have downsized tremendously. Finding staple pieces that can be worn different ways is helpful and allows you to have a large closet with few items.

  6. Minimize toys for maximum creativity - Since becoming a mother, I've read into a lot of styles of parenting. One that resonates with me is Montessori which adopts a "less is more" approach. In our home, we rotate toys but keep a small amount out at a time. This allows him to not be overstimulated and allows him to focus on a few projects. It creates less distractions and gives him the opportunity to be creative with the toys that are in front of him. We also have them placed in single rows on shelves compared to our previous bucket. It's been such a change - he hardly fusses and he's able to focus on his toys. 

  7. Organize and clean - Minimalism and organization go hand in hand. Organization helps simplify your life by allowing you to know where everything is constantly. The less you have, the easier it is to organize as your not fussing and everything has a special place. Adopt a cleaning schedule that allows you to maintain clutter-free spaces. Some of us are busy but if we become aware of little out of place items and move them instantly, we start to see less build-up and less things to clean. Make sure there is an allotted time each day dedicated to cleaning, even if only half an hour can be done. 

  8. Unplug electronics - Being caught up in the digital world can be great. I use my phone to write or read or keep up with people or learn something new but there needs to be a limit. Excess screen absorption isn't healthy. Learn to live in the moment. Read a book instead, learn a new craft, write in a journal, go for a walk. Enjoy the quiet simplicity of life outside a screen. This also can help minimize mental clutter by not absorbing unnecessary information. 

  9. Be grateful for what you have - It's one thing to have goals on what you want your life to look like (perhaps a tiny home or farmland or a specific interior design) and another to let unhappiness consume you entirely when your life is not currently what you feel it should be. Let go of expectations and allow yourself to enjoy what you have. Live in the moment. One thing at a time, all things over time. Nothing is wrong with where you are now. You are growing. You are becoming. Your life goals will follow with patience and effort. Don't be discouraged when things go bad as it is all part of the process. In the meantime, love your life as it is and don't expect more. Simply enjoy it.

What to Do With Unwanted Items

OFFER

See if a friend or family member is in need of any of your items. You can also check in with your local Facebook groups and offer them. There are a lot of buy/sell/trades or freecycle groups and more than likely one in your area. 

DONATE

Some of your items can be donated to local shelters or thrift stores. One of the perks of simplifying is you're often able to help others. Unnecessary items for you become necessary items for others.

REUSE/REPURPOSE

Some of your items can be reused. Containers are good for making homemade products. Fabrics can be used for making reusable cloth items, beeswax paper, gifts, etc. Old jewelry can be used to make new jewelry. You can always find a way to repurpose items. Pinterest is filled with incredible ideas. 

RECYCLE

Check with your local recycling to see what you're able to put in there. While you're simplifying, make a specific pile so you can bring it to them. 

TOSS

Almost anything can be donated or repurposed. Tossing should be the last thing you want to do. Downsizing your environmental impact and waste is just as important as anything else. Look for alternative ways to get rid of your unwanted items before trashing it.