I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. Mostly about ways in which I can take back my time from other things and people and make it my own again. Sometimes I come up with really big ideas for this and other times I just think small.
Here’s a small idea that took up more time while I was doing it, but has really shown to have a great payoff.
I was trying to track my phone usage last month and have really clear ‘No Phone Time’ sessions blocked out. Like most people, I start checking my phone within a half hour of waking up. I like to keep my mail app clear of those little red notifications that tell me I have email. That means every time I pick up my phone and see a mail notification I feel compelled to check the email, sort it and in turn remove the notification.
The problem with this is that I was getting a lot of junk mail. Subscriptions I didn’t remember signing up for, discounts for stores I shopped at one time, reminders about sales or points expiring, etc. So when I’d get a text on my phone or even use it to check the time I would end up spending 5-10 minutes more than I wanted to on it going through all the new email subscription junk I would get. Over the course of the day this could end up sucking up an average 30 minutes of my time. Our most precious resource.
So I started unsubscribing. Which at first took up even more time. Some places make it so easy to unsubscribe and others make it a bit of a puzzle. My favorite ones are the ones the iPhone flags and they have just a simple unsubscribe button at the top.
Then there’s the unsubscribe links you have to click, usually found hidden away at the bottom of the email.
That will take you to a website where sometimes you just have to click a button saying ‘opt out of emails’ or you have to reenter your email, or (the worst) individually select which emails you’d like to opt out of.
Here is the good news. I did this for a solid two weeks and it took up more time than I wanted, but now I’ve started to notice a huge decrease in my emails (and the time I spend checking them. Instead of 25 notifications in the morning and five more every half hour I’m getting three in the morning and about 10 total throughout the day. A major improvement in my time, wallet and well being.
A great way to practice digital minimalism as well. Less distractions on our phones means less phone time over all. I’ve still got a few more companies emailing, but I’ve been practicing the unsubscribe method and I wanted to encourage you all to do the same if you’re feeling like too much of your time is spent on email.
It was AMAZON PRIME DAY this week! Which extended into not one day, but two days (they should probably rename it), and a CONCERT (which I watched, because Taylor Swift). All aimed at getting you to CONSUME, CONSUME, CONSUME. They even have PRE-SALE events! Come on! Buy something you didn’t even think about as something you WANTED (never mind NEED) until you saw it on your super convenient app that you open several times a day. As if Black Friday wasn’t bad enough.
Well, I deleted my Amazon Prime app for prime day and haven’t downloaded it again since. I’m a big Amazon shopper for household items. Toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent. The stuff I don’t want to get at the store a haul up three slights of stairs. I figure I can get on a desktop compute from now on to buy those things though. I buy too much stuff on Amazon as it is just for the convenience of having the app at my fingertips and all my payment information saved on there.
When I talk about a simple life in regards to a minimalist mindset I think people tend to think about their physical space. Cleaning closets, downsizing kitchen utensils, donating items etc. I want to share about the last eight months or so where I started minimizing my phone apps and let me tell you – it feels great! I think digital minimalism is super underrated and not talked about as much as our physical spaces.
How many shopping apps do you have on your phone? If you had asked me a year ago I would have had over five, at least. Amazon, Target, Modcloth, Vinted, you name it! And how many apps do you have in general? Don’t count the ones you can’t delete. Go ahead, count. I have 43.
Social and entertainment apps take up the most of my space and those include Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Goodreads, Twitter, Unfold, Podcast Preview and Messenger. Then I’ve got an entertainment section and a music section.
And that’s kind of it. The second page over has some financial apps – my bank, credit card and venmo – but I look at those more as necessities than wants.
Cutting down apps isn’t just about the look and feel of your phone though. Yes, it’s true that my phone is now simpler and easier to navigate, but overall it does one really important thing for me that I hope can give you an alternative to your current situation. Not only does having an excess of shopping and game apps on your phone make you waste more money, but it also wastes our most valuable resource: time. At the end of the day time is our ONLY commodity. Can’t shop, play games, or browse cat pics if you’re dead. And (morbid moment) that could happen at any moment. Do we want to spend hours of our day scrolling our feeds, or engaging in conversation with friends? Do we want to half watch a movie while online shopping at our fingertips, or do we want to be fully engaged?
I used to wake up in the mornings and just sit on my phone for two hours before work. Now that my apps are hidden away I tend to just spend about 15-20 minutes looking at my social and entertainment apps when I get home. There’s a glorious time when I get home from work where I’m alone for about 30 minutes. I take that time to do my phone thing. I’ll do a bit of Duolingo, check my Insta, say hi to the family on Facebook and look up recipes on Pintrest. It’s my phone time. That’s not to say I’m not looking at my phone a few times a day at work, in the morning or after dinner. I’m just being more conscious about phone time. I’m not perfect and I’m still learning. But I think the first step of that is to be CONCISION of our phone time.
I even deleted *deep breath* Wizards Unite this week. I was so looking forward to this game. I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to have the same connotations that Pokemon Go had a first. Kids and adults in the parks, running after a freshly spawned Snorlax. The truth is it’s kind of boring, doesn’t make much sense and has started to feel like a chore rather than something I wanted to spend my time on. I deleted it and I have zero regrets about it. In fact it feels like a huge weight off my shoulders.
This is just a small post about the benefits I’ve seen from minimizing my phone apps. I would like to go more in depth into this in the future, but for now here is just a few ideas for your own mental health. I’ve got a whole post in mind for no phone zones: bedroom, bathroom, dinners out, etc. I think I just want to put the idea in your brain for now about considering the minimization of phone apps. Really analyzing what the apps are doing for you and if they’re bringing value to your life or if you just find yourself opening them at random and hoping for some distraction.
In June 2011 I finished grad school and my Mom bought me a Nook as a graduation present. I was slightly appalled. E-Readers? Those were for people who don’t love books! And I knew I loved books. I spent, and do still spend, almost all my free time reading books. It was also important to me at the time that other people knew I loved books. I worked in a book store and I spent a lot of my free time there browsing books to buy at the end of my shift. And I bought a lot. So many that I had at least over a hundred books at one point that I hadn’t even started reading yet. I had a vision of collecting these books and one day getting that Beauty and the Beast library I’d wanted since I was five. I’m slightly terrified of this reality now. I love libraries, but I don’t think it’d be very nice to own a gigantic one that only I got to use. I’d feel pretty neglectful of them since I doubt I’d ever read them all or even read them more than once. I suppose a part of me still likes the idea of this, but in reality books are meant to be read and if you aren’t reading them then give them away to someone who will or get a dang e-reader. Since the Nook I’ve upgrade to the Kindle Oasis and it’s amazing. Stay tuned at the end to hear about how much I love my e-reader and how I haven’t bought a single book in eight months but have still managed to read a ton of new books for free!
When I moved out of my Dad’s house finally I remember looking guiltily at my now husband because I had about 14 boxes of books that he had to move down my stairs and then up his own when we finally moved in together. “Hey, you wanted to date a book lover, this is what you get. AND LOOK HOW MUCH I LOVE BOOKS. LOOK AT ALL THESE BOOKS I’VE READ. And look at all these others I’ve accumulated since I started buying and hoarding books that I HAVEN’T READ. Don’t worry – I’ll read them someday I’m sure. After I buy and read some more first before I get to the ones I bought four years ago and still haven’t read. Some I’ll reread, but most I’ll never read again. But don’t they LOOK nice. And now people know we love books. This proves it!” Oh me from the past. Slow down crazy.
I think what’s really helped with being able to downsize my books so much is having had to move six times in the last ten years. Every time I’ve moved since that first time I’ve downsized books. Those fourteen boxes went down to twelve, then eight, and for this last move four. Even four felt like a lot though. I mean, I had MULTIPLES of Harry Potter books. I don’t need three copies of Half Blood Prince. I went down to two copies per Harry Potter book a few months back and STILL didn’t realize why I was holding onto multiples so desperately. So I let those go. Then I did the Marie Kondo thing and I held each book for a bit and waited until they sparked joy or not.
I ended up getting rid of 22 books all altogether – more than I thought I would. I finally parted with a few YA books I didn’t really read anymore, and a few books I kept just because I loved the covers. Old me would have been horrified. I also finally let go of my college poetry books. I never read them. I just thought they were cool to look at.
Here is the old bookshelf (three total, really) with built ins on the left below, compared to the new much smaller one on the right that fits all of our movies and books (thanks Ikea!).
THAT’S ALL OF THEM. That’s everything. It still feels like a lot to me. That wicker basket down below has all of our video games too. I’d love to downsize even more, but for now the goal was to downsize enough to get everything to fit into this smaller shelf. We’ve also paired down our DVDs and Blu-rays to only the ones we watch at least once a year. Starting this weekend actually I’m going to flip them backwards and then if I watch them in the next year I can flip them facing out again. This time next year if I have any still facing the wrong way they get donated. We don’t have a lot which is nice, but still, they take up so much room and I’m much more of a reader than a movie watcher. Also, the internet has everything now so if I really want to watch something I can just rent it for the day for around $3.
The next step was photos. I only have one photo album, which is great and it’s not even completely full. It’s also got a real stupid old picture of me in front. It was a gift. Anyway, I have some old photos in here and I’m working on scanning them in through a phone app into my Google Photos drive. There is no point in keeping physical photos when everything can be kept digitally now. I’ve also never had anyone over and literally had them sit down and flip through a photo album. I’ll probably end up keeping 15-20 total in the end. I’m thinking a few that my parents or grandparents wrote on the back of, or ones that I’d like to put on the fridge or cycle through framing. Photos weren’t a huge problem before and since I only have this one album I’m not stressed about it. I would still like to make sure all my physical copies are backed up online in a private album though.
Downsizing papers was a hard one. I used to have this giant file cabinet I got when I turned 18 so that I could do what I thought you were supposed to: start saving and hoarding every adult document ever. I finally went through this massive cabinet with several different folders and files last year. I went from seven folders to three. The seven folders were filled with documents for old cars I had, but didn’t even own anymore, and they also contained every single paycheck I ever received in my life. This was useful when I was going through the steps for Your Money or Your Life (highly recommend), but now they were just pieces of paper. Then for this week’s challenge I paired it all down to one file. It no longer stays in the file cabinet and it fits neatly in my desk drawer. The cabinet will be donated this week. I kept anything that I need as an original that I couldn’t just take a picture of. I kept a sealed transcript, my vaccinations, original birth certificate, etc. Things that were irreplaceable. The next step is to purchase a fire proof mini safe to keep them in along with the social security card and passport. The goal is to have that safe sit neatly in my desk drawer as well.
This week was a hard one for discarding. There’s something that just hits you about looking at old photos and old books you remember buying and thinking you’d keep forever. I’m getting much better at letting go though.
So back to the BOOKS. How have I managed to read so many new titles in the last eight months and not have had bought a single book? The LIBRARY OF COURSE. I could kick myself for not signing up sooner. I’ve saved so much money! The best part is almost every library now has an account with Libby or Overdrive to get FREE E-BOOKS SENT DIRECTLY TO YOUR E-READER. You can even get Audio books for free! Cancel that Audible subscription and save some $$! I encourage you to check out your library and do this. I didn’t even have to go in and talk to a human to get it done. I did it all online and ten minutes later I was reading a book that was on my wish list forever but I didn’t quite want to spend the money yet to buy. It’s been my favorite discovery of the year. Check. It. Out.
Next week I’ll close out the minimalist home with some really good insight on some of the minimalist books I’ve been reading.
If you close your eyes and imagine your dream vacation, you almost don’t even see yourself in it. What you see is what you’ve seen in the palm of your hand on your phone while mindless scrolling. Photos from celebrities posing in infinity pools, old friends who aren’t even friends anymore and their latest vacation with their perfect family to Disney World, and even that image of the happy couple, heads bowed and hands held right underneath the Eiffel Tower.
Go ahead, close your eyes and think of a trip abroad and tell me what you see. I’ll do it too. Here is what I always see:
I think everyone has seen a picture like this. You can literally just google, ‘Girl Greek island’ and there are millions of photos just like this. I’ve never been to Greece, but it took me five seconds to find this location online and type in ‘crowd’ and here is what this actually looks like:
I went to Europe in February for the first time since I was 16. When I went in 2006 we didn’t have Instagram, and no way would you bring your cell phone. The fees were astronomical and phones didn’t take good pictures. I had a disposable and a shitty digital camera. I remember not taking a lot of photos. Just enjoying being there. I don’t remember feeling like I had to take pictures and post them right away otherwise people wouldn’t know I was there. In Katherine Ormerod’s book, Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life, she talks about how people nowadays think there is no point in owning nice things or going to nice exotic places if other people don’t know about it. Can you imagine going to Amsterdam and not telling anyone? Not posting any photos online? Do you still want to go? I think most of us would, but some of why we wanted to go might be lost. The crowds in Greece don’t stop us from wanting to go AND THEY SHOULDN’T. We just should be more aware of what we are actually getting into and stop curating our vacations to make others envious. Reality is needed sometimes. Otherwise we end up with Paris Syndrome.
I went to Europe again for the second time in February 2018. I went with my now husband and we had a damn good time. I took a million photos, posted mostly all of them and I’m sure many people who follow my social media saw them. So here’s a recap of that trip in photos…but honestly this time.
When we got off the plane in Paris, neither of us had slept at all in about 20 hours. The train we were supposed to take to our Airbnb to drop off our bags was closed. We had a phone with internet, but it wasn’t being helpful. We went up to an information desk and saw a man with a union jack and a few other foreign flags on his name tag. We spoke to him in English. He got mad. I was mortified. The one thing as an American you’re not supposed to do, we did. We were tired and confused and lost already and the first foreign person we asked for help scolded us. Not a good way to start. You’re always supposed to start in French and then ask if they speak English. Even if the guy’s job is to help people who speak other languages I imagine this entitlement gets old for him. Can you imagine if someone just came up to you and started asking you where something was in German? Imagine if this happened every day.
Eventually we made it to Paris and dropped our bags off at our Airbnb that was being cleaned by a housekeeper. We could come back in two hours. The flat was SMALL. We knew it would be small, but the photos on the site were slightly misleading. It was TINY. I posted this picture on the left of our view, but I didn’t post the picture on to the right of it of our bathroom or the pics below it of our elevator.
Since we couldn’t sleep yet, as we so desperately wanted to, we wandered around in the cold trying to find that spot in one of my favorite movies “Midnight in Paris”. I wanted to sit on the steps like Gil and wait for my ride to the 1920s. I screamed a bit when we found it and posted a picture with those exact words as the caption.
The steps were freezing, the entire thing was in the shade and I think I got frostbite on my butt, there was something that (not surprisingly I was soon to learn) looked a lot like urine on the step below me, but I was DETERMINED TO GET THIS PICTURE. INSTAGRAM NEEDED ME TO POST THIS.
What do you think of when you think of Paris? The Eiffel Tower, the Metro, old castles, outdoor eateries, museums? Paris had all those things, but they weren’t as idealistic as you’d think. Here’s the things I hated about Paris: the smell, the trash and the crowds. Everywhere smelt like piss. I stepped in piss, dragged my luggage through piss (we tossed our luggage when we got home – it was not salvageable) and NO ONE PICKS UP AFTER THEIR DOGS. Also the cigarette smoking is not just a stereotype. It’s everywhere. The Metro has wafts of the most ungodly smells everywhere you go. Sadly, like any major city there are also homeless people everywhere. Paris is a huge tourist city, even in February when we went, and there SO MANY PEOPLE. Here are some people at Versailles:
I took this picture of a croissant and latte I had at a cafe next to Notre-Dame. I put a caption on it that played upon Hunger Games because why not. I had a hard time ordering food in Paris. I didn’t go into many a bakery I wanted to go in because I was afraid of sounding stupid trying to order or that they’d make fun of my efforts. I regret it now and I know when I go back to a place where English isn’t a first language I will not worry so much about this.
We ate at the same hamburger place three times while we were there. It had a good veggie burger and fries. We consistently ate there because the food was good and the woman who worked there spoke perfect English. I regret not branching out more though just because I was worried about what people I was never going to see again would think of me.
After a few days in Paris we took the train up to London. Our train was delayed and we had to stand in a big giant line in Paris for three hours and ask a million people what was going on. I thought we missed our train and were going to have to pay again, but turns out it was just a massive unlucky delay.
We had the best time in London. I met up with an online friend and his boyfriend that I hadn’t met before. They took me to a great ramen place and we hung out in a pub after. We did all the museums, walked around Harrods and had the most AMAZING experience at the Globe. We also had AMAZING Indian food. But here are some pictures of crowds you didn’t see and also some of me being freezing the entire time.
Harry Potter Levenston Studios was ON MY LIST. I was not going to be late to it because they had very strict time limits and you had to be there at a certain time, and buy tickets way in advance and all sorts of crazy stuff. I shared all my photos and really did have a genuinely wonderful time there. What I didn’t share of this experience is that because you had to be there ON TIME, I naturally made us leave VERY EARLY and in my stress to get there took MANY wrong turns, had a panic attack and almost made us MISS THE ENTIRE THING. Honestly this was such a wonderful part of the trip, but everything leading up to it was the worst.
I did not share this stressful experience with anyone online and instead only shared my great photos and made it seem like the entire experience was breeze. Oh look at me! BEST time today! Just kidding I cried five times, hyperventilated the entire way there and nearly lost my mind.
After London we took a cheap intercontinental flight to Rome. We nearly missed that flight too. We had to go all the way down to Gatwick and underestimated bag check times, train times and airport lines. STRESS.
Luckily we made it to Rome and everything went really well! I loved almost everything there. Our flat was nice, the people were great, and the sites were amazing. One thing we couldn’t escape though: CROWDS AND THE COLD. I swear I almost lost many a toe and finger on this trip. We waited in the shade in 20 degree weather outside the Vatican before it opened and we legit checked ourselves for frostbite once we made it inside. I posted some lovely photos without people so let me show you those first and then we’ll get down to reality.
Here are some photos of CROWDS in Rome
So that’s the truth about Rome. It’s great, but people are everywhere even in the off season. I can’t imagine what it’s like in the summer.
After Rome we had round trip tickets out of Paris so we flew back there. I wasn’t really looking forward to it as our first few days weren’t that great. We had dinner at the hamburger place….again. Oh man…it’s so sad looking back. When we do go back I’ll be much better. To be fair that hamburger place WAS good, but it would have been nice to branch out more. We went to the Louvre the next day which was SO crowded. I had the most fun just having Jesse take pictures of me making fun of pictures of old dead people.
Finally, we had to do the Eiffel Tower. I did it in 2006 and I hated it. It was dark and scary and I hate heights. The entire thing was MOVING at the top and I was pretty sure I was going to die. But Jesse had never been. Also, ICONIC EIFFEL TOWER PHOTOS AM I RIGHT? Instagram made me. So we trudged through Paris in the freezing ass cold at night. The wind was insane and my face felt like it was going to fall off. Jesse turned to me at one point and said, “It’s freezing” and I knew we were in trouble because when a guy says he’s cold….it’s cold. We took some photos in front of the tower and I gave my most honest caption of the trip and said simply, “It’s freezing”. You can see it in my face. We’d been gone for 12 days and I wanted to go home. I was cold, sick of eating hamburgers and super done taking a shower in a bathroom the size of a coffin.
Our flight home was the next day and I think we smiled the most we did that entire trip on the way to the airport. We had the BEST time. We really did, but it was NOT all sunshine and rainbows and the best part of a vacation sometimes is coming home. I cannot wait to go back to Europe. I’m itching to go back to London and see friends, and take the train up to Edinburgh, and maybe a ferry to Dublin. I think that’s next.
What are some honest truths about your travel and vacations? What did you share on social media that wasn’t the whole truth? Did you ever make something seem better than it was? Let me know!
So that was week one of honest photos, and it was A LOT. So if you’ve made it this far, thank you! And thanks to everyone who messaged me supporting the site since I promoted it. You’ve all said such kind things and have really given me some great advice (particularly about the push ups, which I will get to in a moment.
Next week I’m going to continue the honest photos cycle and talk about selfies and body image. I’ll show you some of my favorite pictures I took of myself and the story behind them (Hint: When I post a selfie it’s the best one I’ve taken out of about 100 I took total).
PUSH UP UPDATE TIME
I now realize that this challenge might go for a few months. I downloaded an app and did five minutes of stretching, and five sets of five knee push ups, then stretched again for five minutes. Not bad. Until the next day. My arms felt like shit. I did 15 knee push ups and I felt like I was dying. I was pretty hard on myself on twitter, but you guys gave me some great advice. Take my time and TAKE BREAKS. I did three days of push ups in a row on the app until I realized on day four it went into week two. Those three days were supposed to be over the course of a week to give your body time to rest. OOPS! So next week I’ll do week 2 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Overall it’s going well though. I’m not sore anymore and I’m looking forward to maybe being able to do five total without being on my knees by the end of the month. Slow goals are the best goals, particularly when it comes to fitness.
I’ll be back next weekend. What are some of your fitness goals that don’t have to do with weight loss? Do you want to hike better? Climb the stairs to work without getting tired? Let me know and thanks for reading!