Overconsumption. I veered off the path of excess consumption of material goods a few years ago. Minimalism was my tool for that. I like the definition given by The Minimalists:
Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
Noticing objects and material stuff around us is easy. It’s visible. We can plan decluttering sessions and visibly see space getting created. Now, what about intangible stuff? Information? Thoughts? Memories? Worry?
I don’t have excess material possessions anymore. Everything I have is enough and fills my needs. That doesn’t mean I live with less than 100 items, it just means I have what I consider is enough for myself and my lifestyle. It’s not about restrictions, it’s about eliminating the superfluous.
But I’ve been consuming and accumulating a lot of digital stuff over the years: hundreds of clipped articles on Evernote, guides and manuals I never read, RSS feeds from dozens of sites, articles to read saved on Instapaper or Pocket, dozens of newsletters cluttering my inbox, social media feeds.
It took a while, but I opted out of many of those digital things and now I think I have only what is meaningful to me:
- I subscribe to 5 newsletters now, having unsubscribed from dozens in the past months. This amount is not overwhelming to me right now. It feels manageable.
- I cancelled my Instapaper subscription. I had this idea that I would build a digital library with my notes and all the articles I read over time. I realized it was not important to me. I had more articles than I had time to read them. And the list of unread articles made me feel anxious. So I decided not to collect articles anymore. I much rather read a book.
- I unsubscribed from dozens (if not hundreds) of RSS feeds. I kept 5 blogs and 1 comic strip (Dilbert) that I still enjoy reading once in a while.
- I don’t use Evernote anymore. It was too easy to just collect stuff. If I want to take notes I use Standard Notes. Creating > collecting.
- I stopped listening to a few podcasts. From a list of 15+ podcasts I was subscribed to, I decided to stick with 5 of them. And I don’t feel obliged to listen to all of them. I look at the feed and decide if it is an episode that interests me, otherwise, I just delete it.
- I stopped using social media.
- I cut down the time I spent watching YouTube. I still enjoy some science-related channels, but since I stopped using social media, I don’t feel the pull to go to YouTube anymore.
- I still read books. That’s one type of information that energizes me. And opting out of all the other forms of digital consumption gave me more time to enjoy reading.
I've simplified many aspects of my life already. Little things like creating a uniform for myself (black pants and a shirt) to go to work make it super easy to get dressed up. I don't waste energy in the morning choosing this or that fashion trend. It’s liberating. Same thing with my breakfast: I eat the same meal every day. It's automatic: I prepare my omelet in the morning and that's it.
I feel like I have more headspace now. It’s a subtle change, but it’s there. Things are slowing down in my mind. I don't crave newsfeeds anymore. On the contrary, I cringe when I see any type of random automated endless newsfeed now. I feel calmer. I feel like I can make decisions. Even the smallest ones were hard for me at times: What should I choose from the sandwich menu? Which phone call should I make first? Which book should I read? What do I want for dinner? It’s all clearer now.
I've regained my love of reading. And my ability to read for long hours. There is space now!
By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.