Always Simplifying


Over the past few years I have been thinking a lot about simplifying my lifestyle. After talking about simplifying our life with my wife by downsizing our possessions over the past year, she was finally on board with the plan of downsizing our typical American hoard. By hoard, I am not referring to the type you see on those reality TV shows, but we had boxes of dishes, shelves of books and other odds and ends we have not touched stored in our basement, garage and closets. We had kids toys that they no longer play with that we had put off going through and pieces of furniture we do not have a use for. Whether it was our oldest turning 18 in October that finally awakened us, I am unsure, but we have been actively working to declutter. Freeing yourself of clutter you no longer need is exhilarating and encourages you to look for other clutter in your life.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I do not hold onto a lot of old technology, I used to keep everything, but at some point I saw the piles of laptops, computer cases, boxes of cables and asked myself, why are you keeping all this? I recall moving into our home in 2006, my wife and I were both in our 30s when we met, so both of us already had accumulated a lot of stuff and that move was a lot of work. We did not use movers, we moved everything ourselves with a little help from some friends. We will be moving again when the kids have all moved on to college and neither one of us love the area we currently live, nor do we love the house. The reason we chose our current home was because we needed the bedrooms, the price was right and the school district was good. The bedrooms and the school district will be no use to us in another 6 years. Neither one of us want to move boxes of books and rooms of furniture next time. So we are giving away what we are able to and disposing of that which we are unable to find a taker.

The simplifying was not just relegated to physical stuff, I wanted to simplify my entire life and worry about less stuff. I have simplified this website by going static, less to worry about and maintain. Text just works, no database, no underlying programming language to deprecate and break some feature. I have downsized the footprint of the applications that used to exist on my phone. I got rid of all those games I never played and random applications that some article or person told me I needed to try that was probably spying on my personal information anyway. I reduced my phone to the essentials that I actually needed.

I have always been a neat freak about the emails coming into my mailbox, if I can eliminate the email by getting myself off an email list by unsubscribing, I do that. If I cannot rid myself of an unwanted regular email, I flag the email as spam and off to the junk folder it goes. I delete any old accounts on websites or services I no longer use, going through the emails you receive is a great way to identify these accounts that you should clean up. Forums and many other websites send you birthday emails, sometimes that is the only time you may hear from these websites and it is a great way to identify these old accounts that might be exposing your email and other personal details, like your birthday to scammers.

I consume most of my news via RSS feeds. You too should be using feeds to keep up with websites you like to read, because RSS simplifies keeping up with what you care about. I do not sweat it if I fall behind reading all the articles coming through via RSS feeds, that is the key, reading news or sites you enjoy should not be a chore. I often go a few days without browsing through my RSS reader headlines. If I do not have time to go through the headlines looking for something interesting, you know what I do? I mark them read and I move on with my day.

Social media has been a thorn in my side since it's inception. I was an early adopter of Facebook, then I deleted my account, then I was shamed by distant family about not knowing what my kids were doing. Right or wrong, I signed back up, but I limit my use to sharing the kids activities and accomplishments with family. I have thought a lot about Facebook over the years and I have gotten the least value from it than any other social platform. I am actively planning a disappearance from Facebook someday, perhaps just as I am about to sell my current home.

I also cut back drastically on Twitter, which I enjoyed at one time. Not so much anymore, it can easily be a worthless time waster. I find more value from Twitter than Facebook provides, I get some news, customer service interaction and a laugh or two. I still feel as if daily life is greatly simplified by signing off social media. Go find a real conversation, it is much more rewarding.

Reading books is an area where I think quality over quantity is a far better plan. I would rather be having a good conversation, exercising or spending time with my family than hidden away reading a book to pump up some metric. I set a goal a few years ago to read 52 books in a year. I was two months into this challenge and was regularly turning down lunch invites with co-workers and friends so I could read. I finally asked myself what the hell I was doing, real socialization is so important to a healthy life and was I getting any real value from this goal that exceeded a possible life long friendship? People tend to use the amount of books they read to value-signal their intelligence, reading isn't a competition. For me at least, it is firstly a hobby, and secondly an opportunity to build upon the ideas of those who came before you.

I once vacationed with a person who joined us with a stack of books. At some point in the week they never left their bedroom because they had fallen behind on their book quota for the week. We were at a beautiful beach house with a pool and lots of wonderful activities to take part in, including perhaps reading on the beach. Be careful with reading goals, they can complicate your life and be the cause of you missing out on the important stuff.