February 21, 2014

Optimizing my Life - Part One: Decluttering

Optimizing every single aspect of my digital live is something I’ve been enjoying for years. It’s the little things, being able to define a new shortcut for a task that I do all day, streamlining a complex process that has had me looking up howtos everytime I had to do it, but the same has never really held true for my life away from the keyboard. I’m definitely not what you would call messy, but the organization of my desk, room or now my apartment has never been one of my strengths. I now aim to change all of that. And there’s several steps I’m taking to get there.

So, let’s start with something that I’ve already started doing recently, living paperless.

Pretty much everything I receive via snail mail (minus the spam) is scanned and digitally filed away in the software Evernote. Evernote is not perfect, but once you manage to adjust it to your needs, it almost feels right. Additionally your stuff becomes searchable, also from mobile, which actually is a huge plus! After scanning, if it’s something I actually need to keep (mostly for legal reasons - which is surprisingly little by the way), it’s put onto the top of a pile living inside of a box. This pile is something I will probably never look through again, but it’s obviously sorted chronologically, so I would theoretically be able to find something should I ever need to do so. Everything else? Trash it. Might seem harsh, but there’s no reason to keep it around and all it does is bog you down.

I’ve been following this routine for only about two weeks now, but it’s already made a difference. I’ve actually run into a few situations where I need some kind of information about previous employments or bank statements, which are found within seconds in the digital archive.

As a sidenote: If you’re not a fan of Evernote, make sure to take a very close look at the other software (if any) you’re choosing for the job. I actually went through a few, and pretty much every other way has shortcomings that will ruin your fun. I’m not going to directly mention anyone, but I’d gladly give advice to anyone willing to contact me directly.

However, living paperless is just one aspect, there’s a lot more junk lying around that you never really need.

Something that seems to pile up quite a bit over the years without ever becoming less are clothes. And if you’re someone like me, this applies especially to T-Shirts. You get them for everything and from anywhere. But are you really going to wear that one shirt you got from that one fair three years ago? No. Give it away. Keep the memory, it’s worth more.

What about digital media? In the times of Spotify and Netflix (or similar services all across the globe), is there really any need at all to keep physical collections of music, movies and TV series? Nope, not at all. Sell ‘em.

Same goes for books actually. Now I’m a huge fan of ebooks, but that doesn’t go for everybody. There’s something about books however (actually, not just books) that makes us want to own them. Especially the good stuff, which is kind of obvious. I don’t know if it’s about showing off what you like at home or something else, but it’s definitely not necessary. Borrowing books from friends or the library is just as good. Or sell yours off on Amazon, share the love of a good book. Never throw away a book though, there’s a special place in hell reserved for people who trash books.

Another big one is all of that stuff that belongs to your fantasy self, you know, that version of you touring the globe and living your dreams. Either actually go ahead and pursue those dreams or rid yourself of that stuff. And don’t worry, everybody’s got those unrealistic views of themselves.

Use this mentality and tour around your room, apartment, house or whatever and sort out the stuff you don’t need. None of that but maybe someday… bullshit. If you don’t need it, out it goes. Anything else can be bought, rented or borrowed when you actually do need it.

All of this is super simple stuff, you just actually have to do it. I’ve found some immense fun in playing through the idea of fitting my entire life into a single suitcase. And even though I still can’t manage something that extreme, I’m keeping that thought in my head and applying it to the things around me. It changes how I think about my belongings immensely.

If you’re intrigued in any way, go ahead and see if this works out for you as well.

I’ll see about heading towards part two of this series soon. This was just the beginning.