Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Month: September 2015

New Year, New Goal: Happy Anniversary to my Minimalist Project!

One year ago this week, I set out to achieve a goal:

By September 22, 2015, I will “earn” $25K by reducing spending, getting rid of things we don’t need, or earning a little extra doing something I love.

That date was last Tuesday, so how did I do against that goal?!

I earned $10,330.51!!

Do I feel bad about missing the larger $25K goal? Absolutely not. This has been one of the best, most enlightening projects I’ve ever done! I also realized halfway through that tying this journey to a dollar amount was a pretty terrible idea.

#1 Lesson Learned

Why? Because it’s not the money that matters, the real reason to embrace having less “stuff” is that it leads directly to having more time.

Time to spend with the people you love

Time to travel

Time to learn a new hobby

Time to try a new recipe

Time to relax

Time to read

Time to learn

Time to be you.

Time is the only thing that matters and this year I’ve given myself a lot more time.

How I Saved $10,000

I also ended up saving a substantial amount of money that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Who wouldn’t want an extra $10,000? That’s huge! Where did that come from?

  • $1288.67: We refinanced into a lower cost mortgage in March and since then have saved over $1000.
  • $4219.77: This is the amount we’ve saved simply by not buying extra stuff we don’t need for the house (furniture, knick knacks, etc). It’s amazing to see this amount consolidated into one number. That’s a lot of money that I’m happy I still have.
  • $1410: We paid off our car with our tax return and have been saving the extra funds.
  • $3412.07: This is miscellaneous savings. Extra funds from coming in under budget on groceries, bills, and other budget categories. We saved most of the money from raises we were lucky enough to get this year, I sold a few things, and saved all of the interest earned on various accounts.

If I’d had more motivation to make money, I also would have tried harder to sell some of the items we de-owned. I have a huge pile downstairs of the things I’ve earmarked through the KonMari Method. The only reason this stuff is still around is – quite frankly – because I’m being a bit lazy. However, I like to think of my laziness simply as prioritizing time spent with the kids in the evening over making progress on this goal. It will be donated or sold by the end of the year.

Stuff We're Getting Rid Of

Stuff We’re Getting Rid Of This Year

New Goal

I loved this project so much that, for the next year, I’ve decided to continue it, but with a slightly different goal:

Over the next year (by Sept 30, 2016), I will finish organizing using the KonMari Method and then concentrate on finding at least two hours a day to work toward long-term goals such as starting my own business and writing a book.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and joined me in the past year! Especially my husband, Nathan, our two daughters and my friend, Jossie, who have all gone above and beyond in their support this year.

Here’s to another great year!

Digital Declutter: Three Tips for Decluttering Photos As You Go

According to the April 2012 edition of National Geographic, Americans were projected to take 105 billion digital photos this year. That’s 322 per person and I’m pretty sure I take WAY more than that.

Inforgraphic Credit: National Geographic

Inforgraphic Credit: National Geographic

I have no idea how my mother ever got a single good photo of my sister and I without a digital camera. She’s got albums filled with decent shots of us smiling into the camera, but when I take pictures, I usually take 20 and settle for the one where my five-year-old isn’t frowning and my two-year-old is still in the frame.

Alison is Silly

I used to save every shot, download them, and keep most of them – even if they were bad photos. Now we have a million photos taking up a lot of space on various drives and if I have to find a particularly good shot? Forget about it.

Three Tips for Decluttering Photos As You Go

Tip #1: Delete Photos As You Go

Knowing that someday I will need to do a full digital declutter of our photo folders, I’ve started to pre-declutter. After taking a few photos, I immediately go back and delete the bad ones. I save only one photo – the best photo – of each pose.

If I’m really on top of things, I save only one photo from an entire event. Photos are great for bringing back memories, but those memories can just as easily be triggered by one photo as they can with 20.

Keep only the best shots. Only download keepers.

Tip #2: Mark Favorites

Another key part of keeping photo folders clean is picking out the very best photos as you download them. This is a tip from Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids. He suggests using a photo-organizing program like the Mac OS X Photos software in which you can tag or favorite photos. That way, when you need to go back and find a good photo you have a quick list of the very best ones.

Keep a short list of your very favorite photos.

Tip #3: Photo Blogging

In a slight twist to favoriting photos, I keep a private family blog. My best photos go on the blog along with some commentary. At the end of the year, I turn the blog into a book, which serves as a photo album for the year. When I need to go back and find a great photo, I start with the blog.

Our Private Family Blog

Our Private Family Blog

I love this technique because distant relatives can keep track of what we’re doing throughout the year and I don’t have to spend a bunch of time scrapbooking. The blog serves both purposes. You can do something similar by starting a free blog on Blogger or WordPress and turning your blog into a book at Blog2Print or Blurb.

Blog only your favorite photos.

Note: There are many, many other sites you can use to write a blog and print a book. I recommend doing your research before starting. I have used Blogger and Blog2Print in the past, but every year there are new options that warrant evaluation.

Do you have any tips for choosing your best photos? Comment and share!

Digital Declutter: Facebook

Declutter Facebook

Sometimes…Facebook is Great

 Over the past year, I’ve started using Facebook less and less. I’d like to say that it’s because I spend more timing actually connecting with people in real life, but I’m still pretty bad at that too. The real reason is that it makes me feel…weird.

I’m not alone. It’s called Facebook envy and studies like the one done by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan have concluded that reading Facebook often makes us more jealous and depressed about our own lives. People only post their best material, with the best spin possible on Facebook. So when you compare the reality of your own life with the highly curated snapshots of others’, of course you’re going to feel bad. Yes, it can be an amazing tool to stay in touch with old friends, but most of our newsfeeds are cluttered with information we really don’t care about, from people we haven’t seen in decades. Last weekend, I decided to do something about that. I decided to declutter Facebook.

Update Your Friend Lists

There are three pre-determined friend lists on Facebook: Close Friends, Acquaintances, and Restricted.

  1. Close Friends are friends whose updates you want to see all the time and you can even turn on notifications for when they post on Facebook.
  2. Acquaintances are people you’d like to see less of in your newsfeed. You’ll still get notified when something big happens like when they are married or have a baby, but you’ll miss the daily miscellaneous stuff.
  3. Restricted people are people you want to remain Facebook friends with, but with whom you don’t want to share.

Use these instructions to run through your first three steps to declutter Facebook.

Step 1: Whittle down your list of “Close Friends” to those you really care about. I now have about 10 close family and friends on that list.

Step 2: Go through your friends list and switch everyone for whom you don’t want to see every notification to “Acquaintances”.

Step 3: Add people you never want to share with to a restricted list.

Update Preferences

From this handy Newsfeed Preferences screen, you can do some really powerful things. Use it to adjust whose posts you see and prioritize them.

Facebook Newsfeed Preferences

Facebook Newsfeed Preferences

First, unfollow some people for whom you really don’t need updates.

Step 4: Unfollow people for whom you don’t want to get anymore updates. These are people that you may want to reach out to in the future, but you don’t want to see their daily updates.

You can always take a look at who you’ve unfollowed via Preferences later and reconnect with them.

Step 5: Prioritize who you see first. Of your friends, whose posts do you want at the top of your newsfeed?

Unfriending

In the past, when Facebook was new and your only option to get rid of someone’s updates was to unfriend them, I endured a few real-life awkward conversations when it was discovered that I’d unfriended someone. Now, you can avoid those conversations by simply Unfollowing.

I reserve unfriending for the people I truly don’t remember.

Continue to Purge

Is somebody or something in your newsfeed wasting your time? Remember that you can always add people to your Acquaintances list, Unfollow, or Unfriend them.

I started with 360 “friends”, but ended up unfriending 11 people (who are these people?), knocked two people off the close friends list (I don’t need to see every one of your pet photos), unfollowed 104 people (yes, there are 104 people I doubt I’ll need to contact again, but just in case….I didn’t unfriend them), and prioritized 10 people’s posts (these, I want to see at the top of my feed).

Change How You Facebook

Has it worked? Kind of, I was just on Facebook and the top five posts were things I really cared about, then it started to go downhill. I definitely need to continue to purge.

Honestly, the best way I’ve found to use Facebook is sparingly; reserved for the updates from my favorite people. Do you take time everyday to peruse your newsfeed, just to see what’s out there? How much of the content is really interesting and pertinent? I realized that (unscientifically) about 20% of it was really useful and the rest was just noise. So, a few months back, I picked a few key people, starred them as “Close Friends” so their updates would push notifications to my phone, and began to only pay attention to their posts when they made them. I became happier.

Step 6: Drop the daily newsfeed reads and, at most, peruse Facebook once a week. You’ll still see the important updates and you’ll get a lot less of the travel photos, dog photos, and ads. And, you’ll be happier for it.

Do you have a great “declutter Facebook” tip? Have you ever completely dropped off Facebook? Comment and tell us what you did!

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