How I’m simplifying in 2014

Simple heart

I check my phone too much.

This fact has become abundantly clear to me in the quieter moments with my husband, family and friends — like over the holidays. Though I’ve gotten much better about leaving my iPhone tucked away in a little pocket on the other side of the room, I still get undeniably antsy when I go too long without checking my email. If I hear the noise? I. must. check it.

It’s bad. Kind of embarrassing, really. And seriously: it’s email. If it was anything important, the message would be texted by someone I personally know . . . or, if we want to get really crazy, my phone would ring. With someone actually calling me.

Email is there. Email can wait. And most of my messages? Sales alerts. WordPress notifications (“Little Mary is now following your blog!”). Newsletters I signed up for ages ago but rarely read. Pinterest telling me someone repinned 27 of my pins.

Nothing life-altering. Nothing catastrophic.

There are great messages, too, of course. Notes from friends who wander through this space, messages from old buddies, updates from family. I cherish those messages almost as I would a handwritten letter, clinging to those bits of personal connection in a cold, desolate space.

Okay, I’m totally exaggerating. The Internet isn’t desolate, and it’s rarely cold. You know what I mean, right? Because you’re here with me, seeing these words. We’re hanging in cyberspace, and it’s awesome.

But there’s so much noise on the Internet, too. And I have a confession to make: for a while, the constant chirping of my iPhone? It felt like validation. I got hooked on it. It felt like . . . people were interested, invested, contacting me because I was important and needed somewhere. Doing something! Helping someone!

Whether or not that was true (um, probably not), I feel the winds of change pushing me to move forward. All that vibrating and beeping and chirping? It’s distracting. Distracting from the time I spend with loved ones, distracting when I’m trying to work, distracting when I want to focus on something I’m doing now. I don’t need it.

That noise clutters up my mind and heart and body. Because I’m online all day, five days a week, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the digital menagerie. It’s hard to disconnect at home, because I’m so used to being wired in.

But I want to simplify. I do.

And not just through my inbox battles, either. Like so many of us, we’re trying to conserve our financial resources now and make plans for the future . . . and that means less impulse buying, more budgeting, more making-do instead of running out for replacements.

I’m totally okay with that — excited, even — but it’s a change. And like all change, it takes some getting used to.

The challenge is invigorating, though. I’m ready to tackle new things and de-clutter, both literally and metaphorically.

I’ve already started. By . . .

Unsubscribing from all that email noise. Sales alerts, newsletters, etc. I’ve changed my contact settings for things like Groupon, going to a weekly digest instead of a daily one, and have eliminated WordPress notifications for things like subscribers (though I’m super happy you’re here, trust me!). Where I once would simply delete messages I didn’t want, I’m leaving them in my inbox until I make time to get myself off their mailing lists. If all else fails, I’ll simply create a filter in Gmail to send them straight to trash.

Chocolate chai

Using — and enjoying — what I already have. There are no less than 10 varieties of tea in my desk drawer right now, crowding out all the available space for my healthy snacks and utensils and what-have-you. I don’t need ten boxes of tea. I probably need, like, two. I enjoy the options, sure, and maybe ten boxes would be fine if I didn’t keep buying more. But I do. And I don’t need more. I need to enjoy what I have, and that means a No More Tea law until I get through my stock. So, you know, until 2018-ish.

Side note: this also applies to new brands of mascara, nail polish, lotion, lip gloss. Which brings me to . . .

Cancelling subscriptions. Though I’ve loved subscribing monthly mail products Birchbox and Julep over the years, that’s $30 a month — $360 a year! — I can now put toward other things. And honestly? The samples and nail polish are fun, but that’s just more stuff I’m bringing into our space. I don’t need more stuff. I have plenty, more than I need, and I want to remember that.

Cleaning out my closets. Oh, this is a big one. Dropping four dress sizes means little in my wardrobe still works, and I need to let it go. I want to feel good in my clothes, not dig around like a madwoman trying to find something to belt and “make work.” I didn’t want to purchase new clothes only to change sizes again throughout last year (wasting money), so I justified wearing my ill-fitting stuff by saying I’d invest in new tops and pants when I hit my goal weight. I did that, so it’s time to honor my promise to myself.

Ironically, I started my get-healthy journey in part because my favorite black slacks for work no longer fit — a sign I’d hit a weight high (and low). I was tired of fighting with my closet every morning. And I’m right back there again, lamenting that I have little to wear. I’ve already started listing dresses on eBay to help finance new clothing, and I want to focus on investing in neutral, attractive pieces I can wear in a variety of ways. I’m hoping Stitch Fix can also help me with this!

Whatever isn’t sold on eBay will be donated to Goodwill, and that’s that. Gone. No arguments.

No more piles. Spencer often jokes about the piles that accumulate around our condo: piles of mail, piles of clothes, piles of shoes. I want to stop making excuses and start putting things away. It takes a little finesse, given our place is relatively small and not everything has a designated space, but I need to stop being lazy. I need to deal with junk mail as it comes in, not stash it on the bar to be dealt with later. Just deal with it.

And back to email . . . I want to get better about my response time. Too many messages stacking up in my inbox stresses me out — because if it’s there, it means an action must be taken. I want to write back quickly and efficiently, both at work and at home.

And . . . well, I guess that’s it. That should do me. No tall order or anything, right? 🙂


36 thoughts on “How I’m simplifying in 2014

  1. Most of the people in the internet have the same problems) fortunately or unfortunately, we are 21th century people! that’s the newest human sindrom, i guess) but everything can be given up, like smoking, for example!! 😉

  2. Great tips and advice Meg, I’m the same, I find it so hard to resist checking my phone. I find that if I just turn my phone to silent and turn vibrate off it’s much easier because I just forget about my phone.

  3. I’m with you girl! Over Christmas I became increasingly stressed about the sheer volume of stuff coming in to our already overcrowded home. It’s also why I started by blog. I have to read what I already have before buying more. The number of books I have is nonsensical! Good luck with it all!

  4. i think everyone suffers from this, though one thing i do with my phone, is i switch off my background data, which stops the phone from automatically updating fb, emails, twitter and such. so you are not constantly getting notifications anyway. when i feel like checking those sites, i do them when i need to. and like you, i feel anything that is urgent, would require a phonecall

  5. This is a great idea and great advice to others – I’ve done a similar thing by clearing out all my clutter at home and binning all the rubbish that has accumulated. But the phone one is something I really need to try – I’m hooked on my phone and I know it annoys my partners – but it’s mainly because I love updating my blog and sharing it with others.. which I see as a positive use. I could definitely do with cutting myself off for a bit though! Good luck with keeping all of these up, I’m sure it will be hard at first but after time it will seem more natural than before!

  6. These are great goals! I probably need to make some formal ones myself, especially when it comes to organization. Generally I AM organized, but it is still a good idea to clean closets and file drawers, etc. (My dirty secret however is my attic – gah!) I don’t get too excited over e-mails. Texts are another thing. I’m always sensitive that a friend is having a crisis or someone is looking for a quick answer to something.

  7. I actually don’t have email notifications set up on my phone at all – it’s liberating not to be tied to my inbox!

  8. I cleaned out all my drawers and closets during the snowstorm and I’m beginning to feel less encumbered by all the stuff. I find that the more stuff I have, the more overwhelmed I feel. I’m with you on easing off the phone too– it’s harder to unlearn a behavior than to learn a behavior, so I’m going easy on myself. Good luck to you as you pursue these worthy changes!

  9. I’ve unsubscribed to tons of newsletters too but some of them keep coming! I really make an effort to leave my phone alone when I’m out with friends and family but sometimes it’s hard. Good luck to you!!

  10. This is the main reason why I still have my very old phone that doesn’t connect to the internet! I’m not a technophobe but I know my weaknesses and, like you, I know I’d be checking my emails all the time! (I still check them at least once a day on my laptop.) When this phone dies I’m not sure what I’ll do – I’ll probably be sucked into getting a smart phone like everyone else. (Yes, there’s probably a bit of inverted snobbery going on here as well… like those annoying people who boast about not having TVs.)

  11. I am with you on email distraction. I’m working on unsubscribing, but the best thing I did for my sanity this year was turn off email notification on my phone. Now I just see new emails when I want to see them, not when I get a buzz. It’s awesome. I am working on turning off as many other notifications for apps and services as I can all I can be more concious of my phone use.

  12. I had this exact same thought this morning! My phone beeped with a Twitter notification & I almost let breakfast burn. I’ve actually got a list in front of me of things I need to clean/organize (like my huge inbox). Great post! 🙂

  13. I am a bit OCD and, well, it might not look like it to the male inhabitant to this house, but everything has a place. When things are not put back in said place I get a bit, um, cranky. I go through spurts with my phone… Sometimes I check every noise and other times I have no idea where I even put it. My thing is instagram… I sometimes am on there too much. I try cutting back, but then I stop taking pictures (happened in December) and I don’t want to do that either. I have to figure out a balance.

  14. This is a a wonderful post. I can really relate. I feel like I have too much screen time, why do I feel the need to distract myself? I have to be in the moment, take it in and relish it. Love the list you made too. I used to subscribe to birchbox but stopped that craziness. Following your blog now. 🙂

  15. I utilized an incredible book last year – Organize Now by Jennifer Berry – to help me get my stuff under control. Berry addresses how organizing is as much a mental and emotional activity as a physical one. It has weekly bite-size checklists that make every task manageable. Good luck with your goals!

  16. I check my phone constantly too – email and facebook, even though I’m never expecting anything important to come through. I am making a conscious effort to check it less as well, especially when I’m with family and friends! Best of luck!

  17. This is such a great post and it captured me from the beginning few words. I know exactly what you mean. I am one to check my phone every morning, it’s the first thing I do, and I really want to change that. This post made me relate to you and it was definitely an encouragement. Thank you so much for sharing.

  18. I’ve been cleaning out my closet too. It’s kind of tough because I keep thinking, “But I might wear this,” but I’m trying to stick to the if you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re probably never going to.

  19. I just went to a book talk by Gretchen Rubin (of the Happiness Project) and she mentioned that one of the most frequently steps that people have made to increase happiness was to de-clutter something. Something about cleaning a closet, makes us feel that we’re in control of our environment and thus in control of our lives. Might not be true, but maybe you’ll get a burst of happiness from it!

  20. I love this post! Something I do way too much is hop on Facebook and Twitter when there’s a down second in the day. The result is that I don’t take time to just quietly observe the world around me and I get back to my task or conversation more scattered than before. The world will turn without me checking up constantly to make sure its doing just that. I must say–9 days into this simplification goal of mine and I already feel much more at peace.

  21. I just started this investing in the digital community thing (new blog, Twitter account, subscribing to online newsletter) to be more in touch with the publishing world, and I am overwhelmed with the constant amount of digital information coming my way. Good on you to take a step back and ensure you are enjoying the right-there-life-in-your-face moments. I’m still trying to ensure my digital time is quality time spent not just surfing comments. My goal is to post one blog a week (ideally with a book review but if not, then my comments about life and reading).

  22. These are really nice ideas for 2014 and I wish you the best in them! I have the opposite problem of over-simplifying, but I swear – it’s a calm, serene feeling when you’re not surrounded by all the noise and fuss. Best of luck!

  23. You know, I really feel like 2014 is a year for simplicity for a lot of people I know. I’m truly trying to cut down on a lot of things in my life. This includes finances, shopping (particularly for books) and stepping away from digital devices. I’ll be rooting for you to accomplish this in 2014!

  24. I am a phone junkie! Not only is my phone glued to my hand but I have these random notification sounds for everything. My husband is beyond annoyed with my phone habits but its the convenience I am attached to. I too will be simplifying my life little by little.

  25. I love ALL of these! I have similar problems with tea and nail polish and Birchbox and clothes. I’ve decided that I can subscribe to StitchFix if I can get myself to a weight I am happy with, because I am not currently happy, and I am trying to find a way to motivate myself to change. For my health, mostly, of course. I canceled Julep quite a while ago, but I’ve held onto BIrchbox. I do love receiving mail, but I think once I get the January box it’s time to be realistic and quit it. I barely use most of the things I get. I get maybe one thing I love each month and the rest is just stuff…. Good luck with all of your goals, Meg!

  26. Thanks for this! Its so true! I am getting so tired of feeling tied to checking all of the technology and feeling like I must check! Technology has a really addictive tendency, it seems. This is really inspiring. I am going to try and be more conscious about how often I check e-mail and phone, and when its unnecessary.

  27. Oh my goodness, you are reading my mind with this post.

    Like you, simplify is one of my major goals- it was actually one of my “words” from last year, but I hope to carry it into this year.

    A surprisingly silly, but simple fix for the phone/email/notification obsession for me has been turning off my phone’s sound. Simple as that. That beeping sound was driving me NUTS. It was totally pavlovian- hear the beep? Check the phone. It was such a vicious cycle.

    And I’m also guilty of using social media mentions, emails, comments, etc. as validation. Not good. I hope to work on that this year.

    Totally resonated with this post- thank you!

  28. Reblogged this on lanesway's Blog and commented:
    I’ve caught myself getting out my phone constantly in silent situations. I’m trying to not be on it as often. But as much as I try, there will always be technology around everywhere as a distraction and if you can escape it. You win.

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