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.
June has been hard. There I typed it. I feel that I’ve been in a daze since it started. There’s a reason I did A Photo A Day twice. I honestly couldn’t think of anything else to do. That’s a bit unlike me. I feel like sometimes I have so many ideas in my head that the only issue is not having enough time to see them through. For some reason the last month or so those ideas have stopped.
I wasn’t really sure what was wrong with me until I spent some time with myself out in nature this weekend. There was no cell service. Minimal husband distraction. I got to really spend some time with myself. The main chunk of this was climbing a vertical incline for two solid hours. During this hike to hell I started to think more about this ‘June Gloom’ and I started piecing through what was at the heart of it. So bare with me and I’ll take you through that journey of self realization.
I posted a lot of great photos of this hike on my Instagram of the views and the trees, but I never posted this one of me half way through a hike wanting to just end it all and jump off the nearest cliff (there were many to choose from and was sorely tempted).
I love hiking and being in nature so much, but I’ve been so out of shape since last fall that every single hike is a struggle now. That’s something I’d never admit, until now. So anyway, I’m telling husband to go up ahead because he’s barely breaking a sweat with a ‘isn’t this fun!’ grin and I am red in the face, sweating profusely and pretty sure I’m gonna vom.
I’m like the big bad wolf just huffing and puffing my way up this incline with no one else in sight and I start thinking about how a few hours ago in the air conditioning of my car I was really excited to get into nature and start to reflect on what has been wrong in my head lately. Why have all my ideas stopped? I’ve been so busy at work lately I come home, make dinner and by the time I’m done eating at 7:30 I am ready for a shower and the hope that I’m awake enough to read in bed until 9. Lately I’ve been falling asleep with a book in my hand around 8:30.
As I’m dragging my fat ass up what feels like a goddamn mountain I’m wondering how I’d feel if I had a heart attack. A heart attack that suddenly feels very imminent as I can feel my heart trying to escape my body. I mean obviously I’d feel pain and panic, but how would I feel about my life? I started out this site hoping to have a place to be creative, but I remember my first challenge, the Minimalist Wardrobe. I had been thinking about minimalism for years. It felt so good to finally give my wardrobe a shot at downsizing and it felt so good to knock that out. Then I went into Honest Pictures. I had the most fun with this challenge. It was so refreshing to be open about my online presence and help people see that all the content we digest is curated to fit a certain idea. It’s so rare we get the full story from one photo or video clip.
When I started to think of my other challenges. I thought they were fun and taught me things, but nothing felt as good and right as my challenges helping to simplify my life and be honest.
Back to me dying on a butte. Honesty and Simplicity. I’m repeating this over and over to myself as I wipe sweat from my burning hot face, trying to ignore the stench I’m starting to take on. Left step is honesty, right step is simplicity. Honesty, Simplicity. Goddamn how am I not at the top yet? How come I can’t think of a new monthly challenge? Why have I stopped writing? How come June has left me feeling like I’m drowning? How do I escape my Monday-Friday rut that I can’t seem to see a way out of? How come the only time I’ve felt content lately is when I’m sleeping? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
Pause for a moment more to let a family pass on their way back down. Their little kid is wearing a Spiderman shirt and I’m trying to not hyperventilate in his face, but I think he sees the struggle in my dead eyes. I might die on this hill.
“You’re almost there!” He beams at me as he passes.
“Cool.” I manage to gasp out.
A woman passes with her two dogs.
“It’s beautiful up there. You’re gonna love the view. There’s only about five more switch backs.”
She must see the panic in my eyes.
“They’re easy. You’ll be fine.”
This woman looks like she climbs mountains for a living. She might be fine, but I am definitely going to die. The group passes and I snag some water out of my bag. I’m thinking of the view at the top and how if it really is a great view as the woman says it’ll make for a great picture to post on Instagram. I’m half way through my drink and I stop.
Am I doing this hike and killing myself to take a picture so I can share it with people? No, that’s not completely true. I really do love hiking and nature. How would I feel if I had left my phone at the campsite though? Nothing to document. That would suck. I realize that I want that picture of the view at the time. I want to post it and have people think what I already know about myself: Holly is someone that likes to hike. Well, that’s true I do. People wont know how hard hiking has been for me lately though if I just post a picture of the view with a #pnw caption. Maybe my picture will say to people: Holly is an adventurer. I wish I could be in nature like Holly.
Now my mind is running through my honest pictures challenge. Didn’t I do a whole fucking month of breaking down this toxic thinking and trying to burn it to the ground? Didn’t I set out to try to be more honest myself? With other people? To help people digest their social content in a healthier way? To show my love for minimalism and how it can help others? How much of that passion, that message have I actually lived lately?
I think guiltily of the bag of thrift shop clothes I have in my closet. The clothes I bought but can’t fit on hangers because I threw all my hangers out with my new ‘light’ lifestyle. I think of the social posts I’ve made lately. Have they been to share an honest experience or to show I’m having a good time? What is the value in my life to just show people I’m having a good time?
I put my water back in my pack and pull out my phone. I snap a pic of my red sweaty face and let my exasperation and exhaustion show through. It’s not the prettiest picture of me I’ve ever taken (not by a long shot), but it’s real.
Honestly, Simplicity. That’s where I’ve strayed off the path. That’s what I really set out to do with this site. That’s what I’ve been lacking online and in my personal life.
I’d like to say that with this realization I suddenly made my body lighter and more free. I was able to bound up the next thousand feet and the Butte that I cursed earlier, I suddenly had a fondness for. These would be lies. After all there were five more switch backs to get to. Fuck this butte.
I ended up taking so long to get to the top that the clear amazing view of Mt. Hood that people on the way down were telling me about was now covered in clouds.
Normally this would have left me frustrated, but I was just glad to be alive. There were a zillion mosquitoes up there too so as much as I’d like to say I spread my arms wide and breathed in the fresh mountain air and took in the millions of trees and breathtaking views, I just ended up snapping this photo and then grumpily asking my husband if we could go now because I was being eaten alive.
I bounded down the way I came up in much less time, with a spring in my step. Despite the view turning out shit, despite globs of sweat under my boobs and the bites on my arms, my creative block seemed clear. Even though I’m a bit more out of shape than I’m used to at the moment I was marveling at how my body manged to take me up that hill. Despite the heavy breathing and straining muscles it was able to do its job and take me where my mind willed it to go. My body is kind of amazing. I’m going to spend less time hating it and more time celebrating it. I’m going to be more honest about it. I’m going to keep simplifying my life. I’m going to Kondo out my closet (again), because it’s okay if it takes a few tries to get it right. I’m not going to solve all my problems in one monthly challenge. I’m going to buy less, save more. I’m going to tell you all about it. I’m going to tell you when I mess up and buy too much. I’m going to share the truth about my trips, the good and the bad. I’m going to share my struggles with simplifying and my triumphs. I want you to share all yours with me too.
So that’s what this new tab on the site will be. A Honest, Simple Life. I think you readers will like it better when I’m honest with you and I realize now that my subconscious likes it too. It punishes me (as experienced by June Gloom) when I fall behind on my passion. Because that’s what it is: a passion. I am passionate about sharing my life with you all. I’m passionate about hearing about your lives and your struggles. Your Photo A Day posts with the #PictureTheLittleThings hashtag inspired me. Your desire to minimize your own closets and kitchens put a smile on my face. You truths about your own travels and vacations made me feel less alone when I struggle away from home.
I do have a new monthly challenge for July that I’m really excited about, but I will be making posts here too to share with you all and have you share with me your simple and honest lives.
I can’t believe I surpassed by goal of 30 items so early in this challenge. I think once you start really looking at possessions and things you own that you hardly ever use, it becomes easier to let go.
I want to share some good tidbits from a book called Stuffocation I read this month. I think they might help with perspective if you’re looking to downsize as well. I’m going to summarize some of my favorite tidbits below.
In 1922 Henry Ford said that he wanted a family to buy one of his cars and never have to buy another ever again. Things were built to LAST back then. You didn’t get new clothes every week, month or even ever year. A new item of clothing would come to you, if you were lucky, once a year. It was almost always bought or made to replace something as well, not to add to a collection of items. Now things are ubiquitous and cheap. In 1991 the average american bought 24 items of clothing a year, by 2007 we were buying 67 items every year. A new piece of clothing every 4-5 days. It was also in the 1920s that for the first time manufacturing and agricultural industries were producing more than they could sell. So we had a decision to make: Do we produce less? Or do we buy more? We could have gone an entirely different route. Let people work less, have more time off. A decade after making his famous statement, Ford started pushing out a new style of car every year – insisting to the public that THIS version was the one they wanted. Never mind that you just bought a car a few years ago and it still runs fine. I think we went with ‘buy more’.
In the end it’s all about experiences and we should try to come back to that in our everyday lives. Go back to 2011. I don’t know why, I just picked a year. Tell me one thing you remember about 2011. Was it what you bought that year? Maybe it was if it was a house. But if you didn’t make a large life changing purchase I bet the one thing you remember is a trip you had that year, or time spent during a long weekend with friends. I doubt you remember a pair of shoes you just had to have at the time, a pair you bought, a pair you wore until halfway through 2012 when they fell apart or you got bored and you donated them. But maybe they were $200 shoes. Would you have rather spent that $200 taking your wife away for the weekend? Or surprising your husband with tickets to a show? I bet you’d remember that a lot better than a pair of shoes. If I look back at 2011 I remember seeing a band I really liked with a friend, graduating from my graduate program, going to Denver on a business trip with friends, working at a job I hated (but looking back I really loved it), going camping with friends, winning a contest to meet Katy Perry and going to VidCon. All experiences. I bought a lot of clothes that year too. I remember constantly online shopping. I don’t remember a single thing I bought. I don’t own any of it anymore anyway.
The big takeaway from all this minimalism stuff I’ve bee working toward the last few months is this: Experiences > Things. So when I see a pair of shoes advertised to me online that I feel like i just HAVE to have, but they’re $90 look around and see what that money could be used for that’s more important. A show? A night out? A night away on the coast? A flight to Seattle for the weekend? Your savings account? I have eight pairs of shoes at the moment and they’re all in good enough condition and they all serve a purpose ad get worn. I don’t really need another pair right now and in ten years I won’t remember what clothes I bought this year anyway, I’ll remember what I did and that’s more important.
Here are a few more things I gave away this week:
I’ll be back early next week to intro you into April’s challenge. It’s a little different and I’m pretty excited about it!
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.