Just Delete It: A Minimalist-Ish Guide to De-Cluttering

 

I guess this isn’t really about politics or social issues, but about general wellbeing, so if you usually come here for that stuff feel free to skip this one.  I get it.

But you might find this post relevant to your own life and how it relates to dealing with politics and social issues.

Because here’s the thing.  I’ve been an activist for several years now, mainly writing and doing other online promotion and discussion of major social issues as I was isolated and moving frequently.  More recently, though–more or less since Trump won the Republican primary election–I’ve been involved in a deeper way, both in my activism and my personal life.

Since his inauguration I have, in fact, reevaluated my political beliefs, joined a political activist organization, and rearranged my entire life around this enormous new project.  On top of the tripled burden of keeping up with and analyzing the news that came with the election and hasn’t slowed down for a second, I now have regular weekly meetings, nearly-weekly protests, marches or extra meetings, and hours and hours of reading to do with this organization.

All that on top of my full-time job, my second part-time job, this blog, my podcast, my friends and family, my boyfriend, and my cats…well, it was hitting me hard.

Like, I’ve been sick 12 of the past 21 days.

I realized I had to clean up my life.  So I started with a few areas I knew I had control over.

 

Emails

Just Delete It: A Minimalist-Ish Guide to De-Cluttering | Comic Wisdom

 

I have eight different email accounts, not counting the two I use only for my regular job.

I know, it’s nuts.

A while back I invested in Newton, a system I have on my computer and my phone that pulls all my emails cleanly into one place, making them far easier to manage.  That was step one, and definitely worth the expense–and that’s coming from someone who literally never ever pays for anything that isn’t vital, ever.

But still the clutter.  I open up my email inbox and there are literally tens of thousands of emails.  Sure, I make sure to mark them all as read (I’m not an anarchist), but still they loom.

So, I decided to delete.  Anything older than January 1, 2017, which at this point is about 2 months old.  Why keep it?  “Just in case?”  In case of what?  What could I possibly have in there that I really need or couldn’t just request again?

You can do this en masse in Gmail by creating a filter, typing “before:2017/01/01” in the “has the words” box, clicking next, then selecting “delete” and checking the “also apply filter to matching conversations” box, and enter.  Boom.  Gone.

Such a relief.

The next step is to unsubscribe.  This is a big project, if you’re anything like me.  I get 50 million newsletters every freaking day.  How many of them do I actually read?  Probably three?  So just start going through your emails, find the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom, jump through whatever hoops they present, and free yourself.

You can also do this as they come in, if you’re not like me and willing to take up an absurd block of time to purge.

 

Clothes/Shoes

Just Delete It: A Minimalist-Ish Guide to De-Cluttering | Comic Wisdom
If you have to stack them on the piano, you have too many

 

I am not even one of those women who owns what’s considered “a lot” of clothes.  I had probably 12 pairs of shoes, 20 dresses, and then three modest drawers full of the rest, plus a few mini shelves with my undies, bras, leggings, socks, etc.  But it was still too much.

I was not only burdened with a bunch of clothes I didn’t really wear, but clothes I felt bad looking at in my drawer (like t-shirts from mean exes and a size 0 pencil skirt I won’t and shouldn’t ever fit into again).  Why was I keeping all this crap?  I loaded up four grocery bags FULL of shit.  Clothes, shoes, jewelry, probably 15 pairs of socks and eight pairs of tights, I threw away 15 raggedy or mis-sized undies and I even got rid of my jewelry box and about 20 hangers.

Freedom.  Plus I have more room in my closet and drawers, and I feel like things can stay neatly folded.

I know my personal style by now and I know I wear basically the same 15 or 20 items all the time.  I still kept two formal dresses, a few costume pieces, some jewelry I wear only once or twice a year but I adore, etc.  That’s completely okay.  I wasn’t trying to live like a hermit or one of those super-extreme bachelor minimalists with five black shirts and two pair of jeans or whatever.  But narrowing my closet down to only items I use and/or love was exhilarating.

 

Bathroom/Kitchen

Just Delete It: A Minimalist-Ish Guide to De-Cluttering | Comic Wisdom
Don’t be fooled, most kitchen clutter is not nearly this charming

 

I am also not one of those women with a whole lot of toiletries/beauty supplies/appliances/bath products.  I sort of was, once upon a time, but all my cross-country moving over the years has trained me not to keep too much junk I don’t use.  Still, though, things pile up.  I had eight or ten bottles of half-empty blue hair dye in the back of my bathroom drawer.  Why?  I don’t even dye my hair blue anymore, and I haven’t for over a year now.

I kept the one bottle of red and the one bottle of black, both full and colors I actually use, and threw away the rest.  I cleaned out the handful of headbands and barrettes that I only used when I was growing out my pixie cut, threw away the junky sample bottles of lotion and massage oil and whatever else I didn’t use, and wiped out the drawers before putting everything back.  I have hooks on the back of my bathroom door where I hang my curling iron, flat iron and hair dryer (as well as my bathrobe) so that the cords don’t get all messy in my drawer, and I put all the products I use every day in a separate, smaller drawer where they’re easily viewed and accessed.

This whole project really streamlined my morning and evening bathroom routines and, like with the other purges, I feel so free!

The kitchen is next, and while it will be tougher because a lot of those items are shared between me and my partner, I can already tell you a few things I’m getting rid of.  The 11 extra sets of chopsticks (we only use two), the plastic forks and spoons I’ve kept from fast food deliveries for some reason, any dry goods I don’t use or are expired, the second, crappier set of measuring spoons I have and definitely don’t need, the “2” candle I have left from someone’s twenty-somethingth birthday, and probably my jar of flax seeds because let’s be real, that shit’s nasty.

 

Just Delete It: A Minimalist-Ish Guide to De-Cluttering | Comic Wisdom
If you have one of these drawers, holy hell delete that too

Desk

Just Delete It: A Minimalist-Ish Guide to De-Cluttering | Comic Wisdom
I swear this level of clean and pretty gives me a lady-boner

 

I still haven’t gone through the box of office supply-ish items sitting on the shelf by my desk, and I guarantee you it will be cathartic AF to clean out.  But I did clear the surface.  I have a jar of pens, my laptop and stand (the keyboard and trackpad are on a roll-out keyboard tray), my desk lamp and my iHome out.  I’ll probably get rid of the iHome, actually, because I never use it.  My desk drawer has a pad of sticky notes, my incense tray, sticks, and matches, and that’s it.

This is everything I use at my desk.  I had a big-ass stack of paperwork to file and/or recycle, and I sorted through it.  I put away the stack of books and magazines.  The space actually looks usable now.  I swear I was coming home on the regular thinking about doing some writing or research, but one look at my desk and I didn’t want to anymore.  With this clean-up, not so.

Getting your desk to an inviting, free, workable space is a must especially if you do any work from home like I do.

 

These steps are just the beginning.  Purging unnecessary and unwanted items can be really freeing and leave you with time, energy, and focus to get other things done.  De-clutter your life.  Don’t just find a better, more Pinterest-y way to organize it, get rid of it.  Just delete it.  You’ll be surprised at how relieved you feel.

 

How do you clean up your life?  What’s your “delete it” philosophy?  Share in the comments below!

 



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  • Mark

    Don’t forget the fridge and freezer! Check expiry dates, toss open containers, and bleach wipe everything down. Much cleaner, healthier, and you can actually find the food you wanna eat. Also mold is nasty.

    • Totally!! My fridge and freezer stays pretty tidy already, not because of me at all but because my partner is on TOP of it, so I didn’t think of it. Good addition, thank you!

  • Tim

    If you use Windows instead of Mac, I’d recommend people use Thunderbird for email consolidation like you did. Thunderbird is great for people who have multiple email accounts. I’m down to 3, but Thunderbird is still super useful to me.

    • Excellent suggestion, thank you! Newton works on Android but I don’t think they have a version for Windows, so that’s a great help!

  • I’ve been doing the same thing. There are certain things I definitely won’t be going towards minimalism about (our geek/gaming room is filled with figurines, but that’s part of the purpose of the room!), but I’ve been slowly doing the same. With barely being home anymore, the clutter builds up so fast and it’s just stressing me out. So we’ve started going through, room by room, and slowly getting rid of things.

    If it’s stuff we can put in a garage sale or list online, it goes online. If it’s stuff we’re not totally sure we’re ready to part with, it goes in a storage bin in the garage until we can decide.

    I’m selling my big office desk because I don’t like big desks anymore. I want something small and simple (the one in your pic gives me a lady boner too!), and something that I can face into the room as opposed to into the wall. Paperwork, we’re filing into organized binders instead of disorganized files.

    It’s a daunting task. But we’re taking it one step at a time, and already I’m starting to feel better.

    • That’s awesome! Isn’t it amazing how much it helps? I feel like minimalism is just the concept of keeping only things you need or truly want, not necessarily that you don’t have a lot of stuff. There’s good clutter (like a figurine-filled gaming room!) and bad clutter (like the freaking Tupperware drawer, am I right?).
      It sounds like you have a full-on house and not a one-bedroom apartment like me, so I imagine you’ve got a much bigger project!

      • Oh my gosh… I feel like the tupperware drawer is a giant black hole where things go to vanish from existence!

        But it is amazing how much it helps, and how much easier it makes housework day. Instead of doing hours and hours of housework and only getting a couple rooms done, it takes just over an hour to do everything. And it always feels clean and tidy instead of like a headache.

        We don’t have a full house quite yet, since our house is divided into two apartments, but it is a three-bedroom, and then all of Scott’s boxes of stuff he collected over the years are in the garage, so there’s that too. I figure it will probably take us close to a full year, but once it’s done, man I am going to be ecstatic. I’m definitely far more creative in clutter-free spaces.