I’m still a student of the simplicity movement. I take two steps forward, then one step back. I struggle with balance and negotiating terms that work best for David and I. Pushing, pulling, staying on track and falling off the wagon, moving fast, taking it slow and learning all the while.
About two years ago when I seriously started this journey toward a more simple life, I read dozens, and I mean dozens of books on the topic. One of the tenants of the voluntary simplicity movement is decluttering. The idea is that doing so allows you the physical and emotional space and time to enjoy the things that are important to you (and in a karmic/energetic sense, allows for new people/relationship/opportunities to come into your life).
Shirley over at the blog Choosing Voluntary Simplicity sums it up just right:
To me, simplifying means eliminating anything that is a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace.
And so we’ve shed lots of items…minimizing our belongings and donating often when things feel out of balance. Resisting the urge to buy things that will only add to the clutter and learning to let go of the things we said we’d get to, but never did. Freeing up physical and emotional space.
Decluttering from a business perspective has been especially challenging for me this past year. I’m still learning what’s working, what doesn’t, what I want to pursue, what I don’t. It has been particularly tough for me to keep inventory levels in check and to not save every last item from the recycling bin in hopes that I’ll someday convert it into art or something useful (I consider myself an eco-artist after all!). This, I fully admit, has been a personal challenge of mine and one that I’m constantly negotiating.
But sometimes decluttering can be applied to non-tangible items like technology and, dare I say, relationships. Let first discuss that lighter topic of the two: technology (or more specifically, email).
I have two email accounts: personal and business. And like a home, these accounts need regular housekeeping. A little each day is no big deal, but put it off for even a little bit and it compounds and soon becomes overwhelming.
Last week, while David was off at work and I was having trouble sleeping, I decided to finally delve into something I’d been putting off for a long time – going through my inbox and deleting old emails. On this particular night I went through the 2000+ I had in my business email account. Now mind you, I’ve been through them all, but some things were auto-generated newsletters that I learned I didn’t really need and were just adding to the clutter. I also had lots of alerts to “convos” or Etsy-specific emails that I had received. It takes a simple delete once you get them, but if you let a week’s worth remain in your inbox, well, it’s all downhill from there. So that’s how you end up with 2,000 emails over the course of a year.
And so this past week, I’ve been diligently going through each day and filing what I need to keep and deleting the rest and it’s so nice to look at that inbox and see less than 10 emails sitting in there at any time. Now I feel confident that I’m not missing/forgetting anything and it makes me feel as though I have things under control and that in turn equals peace of mind.
Tonight, I decided to do the same with my personal email. I had over 2000 emails as well in that account – many of them absurd spams, others were things I signed up for (but didn’t realize I’d be getting daily digests and even more-than-once-a-day-newsletters). Because of the sheer volume, I felt overwhelmed and stopped checking it regularly, often missing out on the emails I truly want to receive – those from family and friends. It was all so overwhelming. And I could have easily cleaned it out in less than 15 minutes with a slash and burn method, but I decided to take the time to sort by name and then go through each group and figure out what was going on. Was it spam? If so, I’d click that to help my service provider understand the spammy email accounts. Was it something I signed up for and no longer care to received? Then I searched for the unsubscribe button so that I don’t have to keep doing this every 6 months.
The goal is to limit the amount of email coming in so that I can manage it on a daily basis. And sure, it took me close to 2 hours to get through it all, but the emotional space it cleared up was more than worth it. Sounds so stupid, but I feel so much better having all that junk, all that clutter gone. It truly is freeing.
Tomorrow I’ll discuss another way to declutter your life exploring a much heavier and sensitive topic: relationships. As painful as it is, sometimes you need to take a “sabbatical” or “break-up” altogether with certain family, friends or the energy vampires in your life. Oh, it’s a loaded topic, but one you’ve certainly considered at some point in your life. So come back and lets discuss.