Minimalism, Reducing Stress

The Life Changing Magic of e-Tidying

In a previous post I summed up the revolutionary getting-rid-of-stuff book by Marie Kondo, ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up.‘ I didn’t think I owned much before, but after I read the book I still ended up compiling a few sizeable bags of clothes, books and random things and dropped them off at the thrift store.

That felt great, but my burning desire to clean, organize and tidy hadn’t fizzled out yet. I moved on to the organizational issue of the 21st Century: a less obvious (but still highly problematic) mess that I will call ‘e-clutter.‘ Here’s a few examples of what I mean:

1. The Home Screen. I see way too often work colleagues’ computers with desktops that look like this:


These unwieldy collections are the essentially electronic equivalent of the real thing:


There’s absolutely no way this can be beneficial or practical in any way. All this does is dump a big stress-bomb on you every morning when you boot your PC up.

But as we all know, when you go to delete some of them you receive the little pang of fear. It’s the same one we get when we attempt to get rid of physical stuff in our house: ‘but what if I need it? What if it’s something important?’

If you haven’t taken the time to file it away in the proper folder, it’s very likely you won’t ever need it again. If you feel you deleted something you needed, you can always go dig it out of the recycle bin (or trash, c’mon Mac, get with the times!). But I’d put money on the table you’ll never go looking for it ever again.

The same goes for those of us smartphone app hoarders, in which each seemingly innocent program bombards you with a constant barrage of tweets, updates and notifications. Identify the essential, eliminate the rest.

I’m stressed just looking at this.

2. Your Digital Pictures

Back in the day (uh oh, dating myself), one camera click meant one physical photograph,  a tangible item that took up physical space. This meant there was more incentive to cull them down and keep only the pictures that you wanted.

But in came the digital age, with 16GB SD cards and flash drives that could hold thousands of pictures. I absolutely love having my life’s collection of photos in one, easily navigate-able program rather than in boxes in the basement. However, one trip to a friend’s lake cabin likely means 50+ photos, half of which are blurry or duplicates, and so going through old memories feels overwhelming and excessive.

So a 2016 personal goal was to start at the beginning of my digital photo collection and work my way through the pile of e-memories and distill them down to approximately 10 photos per event or trip. Obviously shorter trips means 3-4 pics and longer overseas adventures get to keep more.

The first step should really be to simply take less pictures. As tempting as it is to go trigger happy, take your time and get that one perfect shot.

Marie Kondo, the queen of tidying up, is right on board with me when she says:

it is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure. You should aim to keep a maximum of 5 photos per day of a trip, but those pictures will be so representative that it will bring back all the other memories vividly.

3. Electronic Devices

For the most part, our devices and smart-technology has simplified our lives in some ways. I love that the little black square in my pocket has access to the world’s entire collection of music, the collective written knowledge of mankind and… uh, a little flashlight so I can find my keys I dropped in the parking lot.

But most of us have amassed so much of this technology that it’s on our wrists, in our pockets and in our jewelry. We tend to all have some variation of an e-reader, tablet, laptop and desktop computer, all of which need updates, battery charging and which constantly beckon your attention with a dizzying combination of blinking, buzzing and dinging.

Ditch that e-reader: single function tools are barely tools at all. They’re quick to become obsolescent and no electronic device ever beats out that magical feeling of holding a real paper book from the library.

No need for the multiple computers: when I was a kid there was one computer in the house. Once your turn was done you had to (god forbid) go outside. Unless you work from home and need that 2nd or 3rd computer for income, find it a new home.

Your current phone is fine: whenever you think to yourself, ‘ooh new iPhone, I should replace mine,’ just remember three things.

  1. Eight years ago you were happy with texting with T9 on your flip phone.
  2. When you get those thoughts just think: ‘wait, am I getting brainwashed by advertising? I’m not a consumer, I’m a human being!’
  3. Every time I get a new phone, for at least one reason I miss my old phone for it’s durability/battery life/color or whatever it is.

Ditch all those extra cables: My biggest electronic pet peeve: the creation of the ridiculous assortment of cables that have been created to do essentially the same task. I sent about 12 cables just last week to the e-recycler, most of them multiples of the other and some that were for old devices.

As are worldly possessions today are on ‘the cloud’ rather than in storage bins, tidying of your e-closet will become increasingly important to simplifying your life.

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