25 May 2011

Beginners musings

When I first stumbled across Zenhabits, I became instantly enamoured with the concept of minimalism.I started to read more, discovered new blogs, new people. A completely different mindset existed out there in the vastness of the internet, a whole network of truly inspirational people. A rejection of the consumer culture that many of us are born into. My fascination grew. The simple happiness that these writers seemed to have found struck a chord.

I continued to read. To absorb.

And now I've started to change my own life, I still read about other peoples. In fact I probably read more. And everyone has their own story, their own tips, their own take on how to simplify life. It can be incredibly motivating. But it can also be incredibly overwhelming, especially for someone who's just starting out. It almost makes your efforts feel insignificant. I found myself wondering how on earth people managed to live with under 100 possessions, especially when I know that at this stage, I own far more that I would be unable to part with.

This is my journey. And I get to decided where it goes. The only important thing?
I've started it.

Decluttering #2 - The Junk Drawer

I tackled my junk drawer today, its amazing how much stuff I've accumulated after living here such a short time!
I was especially surprised by how much was just rubbish, I've put a few things in my 'donate' bag, but most of it went in the bin/recycling bin.
It's now my stationary drawer. I have way too much stationary! But I'm loath to get rid of it, because I know that I'll need it over the next few years - and as I mentioned yesterday, it seems really wasteful to me to throw something out for the purpose of 'decluttering' only to realise in 2 months time that I did actually need it....
But I'm definitely not going to buy anymore.
Total stationary ban starts today.

24 May 2011

Decluttering #1 - Bookshelves

As I started this whole process with my desk, it made sense to continue from there. So todays mission was to sort through the two bookshelves above my desk. 
It was here that I hit the brick wall so familiar to me whenever it comes to chucking stuff out. I seem to develop weird attachments to the strangest things. 
So I made a deal with myself. 
Everywhere I 'sorted' I had to chuck away/recycle/donate at least one thing.
Which isn't much, I know - but its a start, and I hope that by doing this, it'll become a bit easier. 

The left hand shelf was easy - its where I keep my non-refrigerated/frozen food (a strange arrangement I know, but it works for me!) So I:
  • Checked the dates on everything
  • Threw out old teabags - I don't actually drink tea...
  • Put my lighter to one side to donate 
  • Stacked everything so I can see what I have 
The right hand shelf was more difficult... 
  • I recycled all the Uni documents that I no longer needed or could find online
  • Put a paperweight that I never use in the 'donate' bag - this was difficult as it was a gift
  • Sorted my folder of guitar sheet music - I could have scanned these in to save more space, but there's something wonderfully simple about playing music from a piece of paper
  • Notebooks! I have so many, about a quarter of this shelf was just notebooks. However, as my education is guaranteed to continue for at least the next 3 years, I decided to keep all of them - as it seems far more wasteful to throw paper away now only to purchase more later on. I have however stored all except one under my bed. 
  • Cookery books & various 'starting university' guides - my initial reaction was to put them aside for donation, however as my brother is going to uni next year, I've decided to hang on to them until I go home for the summer - and give them to him instead 
  • National Geographic magazine - I know that I should get rid of the ones I've read. But I really do enjoy reading them again. So I've decided to read them all again, once, and then give them away to friends who would be interested. 
  • Recycled the glass jar I was using to save pound coins in for the washing machines - I can keep them in my purse/use the change machine at the launderette
In terms of 'clutter' I still have a moneybox and a scent diffuser. But the scent diffuser is kind of necessary when you live with people who have never heard of the concept of washing up! And the moneybox is where I keep all my change when I clear out my purse every week. 

So maybe I haven't done the job as a hardcore minimalist would. But its less stuff than I had to start with. So I call that a victory!

21 May 2011

How A Clear Desk Improves Focus


I need everything neat and tidy before I can even start to think about work. I've always been the same. For years now, an integral part of my study routine has been to tidy my desk. To chuck the rubbish, file or recycle bits of paper that are hanging about, sort the random piles of stuff that seem to accumulate away...

Then, and only then, have I ever been able to concentrate.

And I'm not the only one! Conversations with other people (and not just students) has revealed that this is in fact an extremely common problem. Those who don't sort it, move it. To their bed, the floor, the bathroom, under their desk, the corner of the office. Wherever they have space, piles of stuff are relocated.

My recent foray into the world of minimalism and productivity has pointed out something that really should have been glaringly obvious, but for some reason never crossed my mind:

Have an empty desk.

Problem solved. Empty desk = no clutter. No clutter = nothing to sort before/during the time I'm meant to be studying. The result? No time wasted. I can literally just sit down and get on with it. It didn't even take me that long - under half an hour. To be honest - I'm actually really surprised by the results, both my productivity and my focus have definitely increased.

Benefits of a clear desk

1) I'm more organised - I've set up a simple system consisting of two plastic envelope folders. One marked 'Inbox' and one mark 'Uni Inbox'. Anything non-uni related goes in the Inbox folder and everything Uni related goes in the Uni Inbox. I go through these every couple of days and process everything.

2) Stuff (especially paperwork!) is easier to find. Because everything is either in one of my inbox's or filed I always know where to find it.

3) I have more space to actually do my work... Generally my studying involves at the very least my laptop and paper, usually a book or two as well. A clear desk gives me the space to spread out, so everything I need is easily accessible.

4) My mind is clearer. Visual distractions can provoke mental distractions. Seeing stuff around you that you know you need to deal with can interrupt your concentration on the task you're currently trying to complete. Knowing that everything I need to deal with is in my inbox clears my mind, I know that I'm not going to forget to do it because I empty my inbox's so regularly so I can just focus on the task at hand.

5) It prompts me to be tidy in the rest of my living space. Maybe its because I pretty much live in one room, but having a clear desk has made me generally tidier. Things that formally 'lived' on my desk now have their own place, or they've been thrown.

I had to start somewhere. And my desk - the place I spend a significant amount of my waking hours - seemed like a good place for this.

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