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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, dancing and good movies.  

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Why decluttering one's life, one day at the time, could be the most important thing you will ever do - Part 1. Digital minimalism

These days, clutter is everywhere.
In most Western countries, the vast majority of people live a cluttered life, due to over-consuming, overspending, overbuying, and last but not least too many hours spent daily in front of computers, smartphones, TV, and tablets.

So it is not surprising that since its first appearance in English in 2014, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo is in everyone's mouth. For a reason.
She created or, to put it better, she perfected a decluttering process, called the "KonMari Method", that through six rules of tidying up should help people to re-organize their flats and therefore indirectly - or sometimes absolutely directly - their lives:

#1. Commit yourself to tidying up
#2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
#3. Finish discarding first
#4. Tidy by category, not location
#5. Follow the right order
#6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

What's the right order?
According to Marie Kondo, the right order would be: clothes, accessories and other clothing items, then books, then papers, magazines, and documents, then komono aka miscellaneous items (DVD, CDs, toys, office supplies, cleaning supplies, kitchen items and food, collections and furniture, gardening supplies, bathroom supplies and makeup, etc) and only in the end, as the ultimate step of the tidying up process, sentimental items like photos, diaries and souvenirs.

[Very useful and elegant free printable 
Decluttering Checklist
for the KonMari Method
Image source: Making Lemonade]

Sometimes you have to burn your house down and start again. 
It's an incredibly scary thing to do.
Tamara Mellon

In the last ten years, I lived in five different flats and I moved four times.
During each move, I downsized my life and my possessions.

Each new flat meant less stuff, fewer items, less of almost everything.
Each new flat meant giving stuff away, deciding what to keep and what to throw away and, above all, what was not needed neither in the present nor in the future and therefore would become an item of my shopping blacklist: something that I would not buy ever again, once consumed, used or given to someone else as a gift.
Those items were (and still are) facetiously labeled as "Das kaufen wir nicht mehr" (lit. "We will not buy this again", in German. Pluralis majestatis is a must).

After the latest move and me getting used to living in a flat that was only half as big as the previous one and giving away pieces of furniture, souvenirs and about 40% of my books, I thought that I knew my s**t about downsizing and decluttering, and yet there is always the chance to upgrade one's skills and to go a little bit further.
So, about eighteen months ago, while being busy with big changes in my life I will sooner or later tell you about in another post, I decided to declutter not only my private and emotional life but also my flat and my digital life and to change also a lot of my habits.

Step by step, I embraced existential and digital minimalism.

[Digital minimalism] is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.
Calvin Newport

Since then I have been busy with:

#1. Digital minimalism
#2. Minimalist living
#3. Emotional minimalism

Let's start with digital minimalism.
For some people, digital minimalism is related to a big digital detox once in a while after a stressful period or extra hours spent working hard on an important project, or it comes with checking the e-mails twice a day or on specific time slots planned in advance on a regular basis.
Famous bloggers and some established entrepreneurs are all about pulling the plug and spending as much time as possible offline.
I consider it like a daily practice that influences and shapes every decision I take.

[Are you about quality or about quantity?
Embracing variety or making a selection?
Image source: ISO Republic]

However, everyone should decide what works for them and adjust, adapt and rethink the whole process over time according to their needs and to their situation because what could make sense for you today could not be doable or interesting any longer six months from now.

What are you doing something for? How should your days look like, in order for you to achieve your goals and to live in a way that makes you happy and fulfill you?

Minimalism is not about sacrifices, deprivation, and punishment.
And digital minimalism is not about FOMO, LOMO or other fancy acronyms.
It is also not about money or buying stuff, or at least not literally. Time is your currency here: time invested while surfing online, interacting on social media, posting pictures, reading news and blogs, writing e-mails, watching videos and so on.

Internet is a great invention and it offers so many possibilities that the list of the ways Internet can improve our life is virtually endless. Unfortunately, the list of ways we can get stuck or distracted or mislead because of the net is endless as well, which is very dangerous.
Why? Because our time, on the contrary, is finite.

Since there are only 24 hours in each of our days, saying yes to something implies saying no to something else.
Digital minimalism is then about learning how to say yes, and how to say no. When. To whom. Why. And above all, what for.

[Focusing is about saying no.
And about paying attention to things, people and situations 
you are committed to,
instead of thinking about what you are missing out on right now]

If we apply this very simple concept to our digital life, we can all agree that watching a funny cat video after the other or checking Facebook ten times a day costs us time that we are not going to have available for other things. And if you are OK with it, it is totally fine.
You should just do it on purpose, while making a decision about your time and how you are using it, instead of being puzzled and surprised at the end of the day because you didn't manage to do what you wanted and yet somehow the time has gone so fast, again.

Knowing what matters to you and what you want to have in your life, in the long run, is pivotal and will help you to understand when you should go all in about something and when you should save your time for another activity, that can take place online or offline.
(In my case, it can be for example playing with my cat instead of watching cat videos online. For you it can be something completely different)

Here is a short list about how digital minimalism serves me and what it meant to me in the last eighteen months.
Your mileage may vary and your choices could be totally different. And this is OK.

#1. Digital minimalism 
- Decluttering my inbox, while either deleting or archiving over 2.000 e-mails.
- Committing to reading the new e-mails on a daily basis and replying within 24 hours only if it is - something urgent while replying to other e-mails within 48 hours.
- Unsubscribing from newsletters and other mailing lists I don't need, care about or consistently read.
- Deleting my accounts on Twitter, Flick, Xing and other social media.
- Keeping only my LinkedIn and Pinterest/Google+ accounts, because they are important for me on a professional level and related to this blog as well.
- Not subscribing to further newsletters if I am not sure to read them on a weekly basis and if they don't add evident value to my life in a consistent way.
- Monitoring every week if I still read and enjoy the newsletters. If not, I unsubscribe immediately with no second thoughts.
- Not signing up for online classes and similar stuff if I am not sure to have time to fully commit to them.
- Unsubscribing from YouTube channels that don't meet the quality standards that I consider important for my time.
- Deleting the vast majority of the apps from my smartphone and keeping only the ones that I use on a daily or weekly basis.
- Keeping only one messaging app, Telegram, and letting go of all other options available online.

These choices help me to have a good overview about personal e-mails, important notifications, bureaucracy, bills that need to be paid, online content I want to read, newsletters and YouTube channels I can learn from, topics that can be relevant to my activity as a consultant, special offers for very few selected stores and shopping portals.
They help me to stay focused and to work on what truly matters to me, and to enjoy my spare time in a pleasant and productive way.

Every time that something is not working for me any longer, for whatever reason, I adapt my strategy accordingly to the new situation and it is incredible for me to notice how easily these habits have become part of my life without me missing at all what I got rid of.

Next time the topic will be minimalist living.
In the meantime, what does digital minimalism mean to you?

Tags: Minimalism, FOMO, LOMO, Digital minimalism, Saying no, Focus, Quotes

What to read next:
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