Several years ago I started this blog. I’m a good starter, however I sometimes find I’m not great at finishing. However, I’ve been working on that a bit at a time. I’ve finished my doctorate, I’ve finished ironman 70.3 a couple of times and I’m going to finish building a new house this year. This is a long read, be warned.
For several years I’ve been working on decluttering. Yes, YEARS. I’m not finished yet, but I’m a good deal closer than when I started. This is something I haven’t lost motivation for, it’s something I am finishing. My life today as I start 2016 is far simpler and easier than it’s ever been.
I’ve had people admire the ease I currently have in managing my stuff. Let me explain what I’ve done along the way.
1) I started with bills
I started by reducing the amount I got in bills by pre-paying a little bit off them every fortnight. This reduced my need for credit cards as I wasn’t getting big bills every couple of months anymore. For bills I couldn’t prepay, I started a savings account and put money aside. For the first 6-8 months it made things very tight financially as I was paying twice. I was paying the bills coming in plus pre-paying the next one. After that it smoothed out and now I live without a credit card, that’s relieved stress.
As for the physical bills, I’ve switched everything I possibly could to email. I have folders for utilities, phone bills, insurance, etc. I’ve also signed up for direct debit. So, the whole bill process automates itself.
2) Then I moved to paper
As a student, researcher, reader and trainer I’ve had hundreds of articles I’ve found useful. I had 2 large 4-drawer filing cabinets. So, I started scanning articles. I also searched the web. I found many articles I wanted to keep were already out there, searchable in a matter of minutes. So, why fill a filing cabinet?
The articles I really wanted to keep I downloaded into Evernote. It is a great searchable database for me. There are others, so try a few and see what suits you. I scanned loads of other materials, e.g. Handouts from workshops and conferences. I also scanned old journals, diaries, anything I wanted to keep became a PDF. It took about 5 years and I now have a handful of paper files for the things I have to have in paper (e.g. Rates notices for property) – but I only keep the most recent one in paper.
Then I started emailing organisers of workshops and conferences ahead of time. I’d ask them to provide me with a PDF instead of a paper copy. At first this was difficult for them, but these days it’s far easier and many have paperless conferences.
3) I began to use an iPad
I bought an iPad as a late adopter but quickly converted to it 😉 I found I could now write notes (it took time trying every app out there until I found what I was happy with) and file them without paper anywhere! This means that these days there is little to scan.
4) I scanned ALL my photos
I believe I have about 2 albums left in the house as I simply scanned and threw out 20+ albums. For the handful of old photos I really thought precious, I paid a professional to convert them to high resolution photos and clean them up (many had gone strange colours). I created electronic albums. I have the PDF of each album exactly as was, and then I have the jpeg of individual photos as well. This allows me to create new albums if I want.
While this took a few years as well, it was worthwhile. My photos are now on my screensavers and I see them far more frequently than when they stood around on bookshelves.
5) I bought a Kindle
In addition to the above, I started buying books electronically. I slowly bought reference books I had in ebook format and gave away the physical book. Yes, I bought it twice. As it’s very expensive, this is an ongoing project.
I will say that for old books I had that weren’t available in ebook, I shipped them to California and paid to have them scanned. I used 1-dollar-scan, which were an excellent company to deal with. I was able to have about 20,000 pages of books converted this way. The vast majority are completely out of print, some were fragile and falling apart. I now have them on the kindle for all time.
I still have some physical books and probably always will have. However, the once-in-a-while reference books and novels are now not requiring storage space, cleaning, checking for silverfish etc. I’m happier 😀
6) I bought iTunes Match
I then decided to rip all my CDs into the cloud. For me iTunes Match was the solution as I’m already in the Apple ecosystem. There are other options out there. So, my collection of CDs and tapes (yes, I still had them!) are now in iTunes. I can access any music anywhere. I’ve bought new music in e-format. I had over 250 CDs, so this has reduced clutter hugely as well. I also no longer have piles of CDs next to my player with empty cases gathering dust – bonus!
This is the essential stuff of how I reduced my life to a simpler one. There are others who have done clothing, kitchen and household stuff, etc. I have done these but the impact on making my life simpler was not as significant as completing the above.
It may take you a while, I’ve been at it for 8 years or so… But it’s worthwhile.
Have a fabulous 2016, focus on what’s important!