Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Amazon link), is quite an inspiration. She takes what is, essentially, a slightly mundane activity – decluttering – and transforms it into a ritual; a rite of passage for one who wants to transcend from disorganised hoarder, to cleansed, enlightened minimalist.
Ok, perhaps that is slightly strong an example, but this is the idea. The KonMari method of tidying is quite simple: do this, then do that. Kondo hand-holds her reader through the treacherous caverns of uncertainty and out into a bright, new world. Her two basic tenets are, that one must organise (and purge) by category, not by room, and that one should also focus on what to keep, but only if it “sparks joy”.
It’s simple, but it works – and surprisingly well, too. When followed correctly, it’s an efficient way to declutter, reorganise, and reset.
Starting the Journey
Getting started is remarkably easy. KonMari dictates that purging one’s superfluous clothing is the best starting point. I’d agree. It’s interesting how you can start clinging on to item from your past, instead of looking forward to wearing something in the future!
I have since discovered what I like, what suits me, and what I feel comfortable in
It’s surprisingly easy to start in this way. It teaches very effectively to be selective and mindful about what you keep for your wardrobe, and why. The key lesson, letting go, is learned here.
Like many minimalists, I have since discovered what I like about my clothing, what I think suits me, and – perhaps most importantly – what I feel comfortable in. And, like many, my wardrobe now features a number of more plain black, grey and white items. But I don’t subscribe to monotone styling; blue is the colour I love, so I have a lot of blue in my wardrobe too, plus warmer hues.
Minimalism, to me, is far more about quantity. It doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice style.
Decluttering the House
After clothes comes the decluttering of books, paperwork, CDs/DVDs and miscellanea (random bits and pieces, called komono by Kondo). How much you have kept will determine how long this takes. But a little dedication can bring surprisingly quick results. Several hours are really all that’s needed for decluttering.
Five bin bags of clothes, and four boxes of books later, I feel well on my way to simplifying and minimising.
And what a great feeling, being unburdened.
As I proceeded with old paperwork, the voice in my mind became yet more balanced. I had to double-check on certain items, and felt freedom and empowerment to change my mind part way through – sometimes choosing to discard what I initially wanted to keep, and vice versa. This process is mentally decluttering, and (if I were spiritual), spiritually cleansing.
Decluttering the Mind
Computing, for me, is a big thing. As soon as I could record stuff on computer, I did. I have databases and documents dating from the early 1990s onwards. Sadly, the file formats used for those documents are not widely supported any more.
This creates a problem: Do I keep those old documents, which probably serve no purpose to me now? If not, why did I keep them for so long? Or, do I go to the trouble of getting an older computing platform to convert them from, into a more modern, or at least less-encumbered, file format? Do I still need them? Will I ever? Or do I just archive them all off and save myself the time and effort? (Do you see how all this digital clutter is causing angst and complexity? Why am I thinking about this stuff…? etc.)
These questions have haunted me for quite some time, but eventually I came to realise that while it would be nice to have access to all my data, in reality, I don’t need it. And having access to it would increase the amount of digital clutter that I don’t need to be concerned with.
Am I Swapping Physical Hoarding for Digital Hoarding?
Although previously I wanted to convert all my old files into modern formats, I am beginning to realise that there really is little benefit to doing this. Up to roughly 1999, I would have used my Amiga computer for word processing and other work (e.g. editing images). When I got a PC in 2000, and installed SuSE Linux 7.2, I started using StarOffice (the precursor to OpenOffice/LibreOffice) instead. StarOffice files are still supported in modern versions of LibreOffice, much to my delight.
But for pre-2000 data, I must accept that without significant time, energy and devotion, I cannot easily liberate my files. This means all my university essays, college assignments, personal notes, documents, databases, images and other data are now part of that fabric of digital cruft. The best I can do is securely archive them off, hoping that one day an easy conversion solution will be available.
Yet, in some ways, this is for the best. What good does reading my own essay on Chaucer do, for me, in 2017? I am too busy with other things that are contemporary and relevant, right now, to indulge in that. Digital decluttering is as important as physical decluttering.
I have observed that, during this decluttering process so far, I have had a tendency to hang on to things because of their value to me in the past. My mindset in the present has been influenced by past events, of course, but this has also lured me into some complacency with regard to my beliefs and philosophy on life.
When we start becoming defined by the things we have, instead of the things we do, there is little value in “having” those things whatsoever.
I am looking forward to doing more, and having less.
Have you had a similar experience with de-cluttering? Please comment – I’d love to hear about it!
I’ve ordered a machine to replace my Macbook Pro in the office: Dell Precision T3500 Xeon W3540 2.66GHz w/12GB 🙂
Great performance at 1/10th the cost?! What the Dell?!
I have been suffering as a would-be Mac user for the best part of 10 months now, on and off. It’s been a painful experience, physically and mentally. I was only going to post a short “microblog” post and be done with this topic, but I felt the need to expand upon my decision to do this.
Very basic things, in fact.
Very Basic Things I continue to rely upon, to get work done:
A keyboard with sufficient key travel, tactile feedback;
A keyboard that broadly adheres to the standard PC 105-key layout (with or without a numeric keypad). This means:
Not putting CTRL (Control) in a stupid place.
Not putting ALT (Option) in an equally stupid place.
Not having a ⌘ (“Command”) key full-stop. It’s a redundant modifier.
Having an operating system that gets out of my way.
Having a computer fast enough to run an operating system that gets out of my way.
Seeing the SMART status of connected drives.
Confidence in the device’s security.
Confidence in its ability to stay cool when working hard for long periods.
A system-native text editor that doesn’t refuse to edit the files I tell it to!
For me, the Macbook Pro fails in all of the above.
Appeasing Mac fans & celebrating the good stuff
In April 2016, I bought this “Early 2015” Macbook Pro. It has a Core i5 5257U processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB PCIe SSD. When I mentioned to fellow designers I bought this, it was met with a knowing smile and the instant acknowledgement, “ahh wow, the SSD in those machines makes them so fast!”. I also, regretfully, bought a 27″ Thunderbolt display. The total cost of these two: a few pence short of £2,100. Two-thousand, one-hundred pounds for an average-spec 2015 laptop and 27-inch QHD monitor.
Fast is something I have never, ever considered a Mac to be, and especially this MBP. It booted quick, sure, but in general use… nah. Really, no. But I’m not in the habit of upsetting people, so more often than not I’d reply with some kind of non-opinionated remark like, “yeah? Right… I look forward to seeing that”. I’d argue, though, that the apparent lack of speed is much more to do with the operating system than the hardware.
This isn’t an Apple-bashing post. It’s just an expression of my preference. Yet there are things I really do like about the MBP:
Ambient light-sensitive backlit keyboard – very classy
A 3:2 ratio screen. Apple has the right idea here, and the rest of the world is stupid for putting widescreen displays in productivity laptops. Stupid. Well done Apple.
Build quality is really excellent. If you like computers because they can be built well, I guess you may already have a Mac. 😉
Key spacing & travel. You’re probably thinking, “but you just said…”. More on this in a sec.
The port selection, while not excellent, still rocks more than on a MBP 2016 (like, duh!)
The 13″ retina display
The laptop’s general weight, shape, size and physical feel. It’s solid, if a little cold to the touch sometimes.
I am typiubg this post on Apple’s “Magic Keyboard 2”. This section, including heading, is intentionally left with all the typos in as I make them. Why? Because the MAgic Ketword 2 is uterly crap compared to the keyvoard on the MBP itself. It pales in comparison in terms of typing experience. I would strongly recommend against anyone buying it, unless it’s vital to you to have a mininalist desk you can take photos of and swoon over all day. I spend hours of wasted time correcting typos that occur as a direct resylt of using this keyvoard.
By comparison, I was really quite glad how usable the keyboard on the MBO really is. ITs typing experience, much to my genuine surprisem ws excellent. The key travel is good abd the spacing between keys works really well. Although chiclet in style, with slightly rteduced key sizes compared to, say, an old school LEnobo Thinkpad (like my old T420), it’s so much more intuitive to use than the Magix Keyboard 2 that I shall no longer labvout the point and just move on.
The Problem with using a Mac: Mac OS / OS X / macos
macos is stupid and has been out-developed by GNU+Linux and the GNOME free software project. Strong statement, huh? Here’s a few reasons why.
macos requires two keys for Mission Control and Launchpad. You cannot view open windows and search for an application in the same mode. In contrast, GNOME provides an overview by pressing the Super (Windows) key to see open windows, and accepts text search for launching a new app immediately.
macos doesn’t support writing to NTFS partitions. Or writing to any Extended File System (EXT2,3,4), or other UNIX-based file systems.
macos’ Finder doesn’t handle SFTP connections to remote servers.
macos Finder supports the file operation ‘Move’ across file systems only through the undocumented keystroke, Shift-Command-V. Why is this undocumented (or at least so hard to find in the documentation)?!
macos doesn’t do workspaces / virtual desktops as well as GNOME. No other OS does. GNOME uses the extra horizontal width to manage a vertical list of workspaces. It’s totally logical and fluid in use, if unconventional. But then, one has to “Think Different” to get on with unconventional.
macos doesn’t open an application in the workspace in which it was launched. It seems to “remember” the last-used workspace in which the application was opened, which is pretty stupid when a second display is connected.
macos doesn’t support focus under the pointer. When you move the pointer over another window, the previous window is still active. Clicking, say on a button on the inactive window, first activates the window. You then have to click on the button again in order to perform the expected action. Again, serious inefficiencies when done multiple times per day.
Some macos keyboard shortcuts, relying on Cmd, really suck. Here’s an example:
Like other proprietary operating systems, macos includes features that are not wanted (Siri?! Siri-ously..?) or installed as standard (i.e. bloatware) that have no place on a business machine, Garageband being one example.
The list could go on, and on, and on… [ EDIT 15 Feb 2017 ] and it will!
Open a Finder window and the icons are not automatically sorted. There is no general sorting setting, so each folder must have a “Arrange by” setting applied.
Copy a file from one Finder window and Paste into another. The new file doesn’t appear in the destination Finder window. That’s ok, just refresh the window’s contents…. except you can’t refresh a Finder window’s contents (amazing design decision there)! And why does the file not even appear in the folder you’ve just pasted it into?!
But the most important thing is that GNU+Linux and GNOME (or really any other free software desktop environment) is so much better. At least for someone like me, working with remote servers, or SSH sessions in a terminal, or doing lots of text editing.
What’s in a saying?
Here is a phrase you may have heard somewhen:
Choose an occupation you love, and you will never work a day in your life
I believe this is true. I love my occupation and I am so privileged that people pay me to do it. When I get into the office, I cherish that feeling of biting off more than I can possibly chew, and working the problem towards a solution.
In the business, we make every effort to deliver the highest quality at the lowest possible cost. However, in web design, development and hosting, there are quite a number of significant costs to meet while trying to keep the end price reasonable. One such cost is test equipment.
Another cost is time; a hidden cost if, as a developer, you are always fighting your equipment in order to achieve a comfortable, efficient workflow. Using a Mac, while semi-enjoyable, also taught me just how efficient I had become using GNU+Linux to deliver results to clients. I can’t imagine a more fluid workflow than Emacs, Chrome and GNOME.
Looks are nothing
So, to the new (old) machine, which will be with me tomorrow. For the enormous sum of £179.99 + VAT and delivery (£9.99), I am getting:
Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (this will be kept on the HDD for testing purposes)
Intel Xeon W3520 2.66GHz (4 Cores / 8 Threads)
500GB SATA drive
512MB NVIDIA Quadro FX 580
There are a few discussions online about the merits of this workstation, and I’m glad I opted for one instead of a new laptop to supplant the MBP. The Xeon 3520 processor is not new by any stretch of the imagination. It’s 8 years old. But it’s still capable enough by far and comparable to a core i7 920; a processor we still have in use in a server at Warp.
But let’s focus instead on someone else’s video, which is a nice way to tail off…
Many people reach a point in their lives where they see clutter and excessive personal possessions for what they are: distractions and time-sinks that deeply – and negatively – impact one’s life. Minimalism seeks to change this.
I am no different; I, too, have been conscious that for many years I have amassed a vast number of gadgets, had far more clothing than I could ever really wear (before it went seriously out of fashion), and bought books far quicker than I could read them. Freely, I admit, I still do the latter – but I can “hide” them now on my ebook reader!
The Internet’s “Minimalism”
It is amusing to see, particularly on certain social networks, how minimalism is portrayed. Let’s describe a typically “minimalist” image:
White. It must be white. White walls, white furniture, mostly-white accessories, all well lit (often artificially).
An Apple Mac computer, centre-stage on a desk. Typically a 21-inch iMac, but sometimes a 27-incher too. In front of the Mac must be the following:
A wireless keyboard & wireless trackpad – both precisely aligned;
Sometimes… a mug of coffee (although I am allowing myself a crossover into that other bastion of internet imagery here, the “Getting Organised!” image);
A desk lamp;
A single picture on the wall, bordered with a white frame, casting a soft shadow thanks to…
A window on the adjacent wall;
A crappy plastic chair (still white) that no-one in their right mind could ever sustain a day’s work in;
A wooden floor. Or, if the floor is white, then the desk is wooden. Or the chair back might be green. You get the idea.
Flipboard is a great resource for these types of images. Search for ‘minimalist’ and you’ll soon happen upon this template of what a minimalist lifestyle apparently involves.
What Is Minimalism?
If you Google this, no doubt you will see a definition along the lines of styles in art, music or design. But these days, “minimalism” has come to mean something else: the removal of superfluous possessions leading to a perceived reduction of stress and distraction in a person’s life. It’s this definition what I am most interested in, which is the one driving most internet imagery these days.
Minimalism is not, necessarily, about choosing to do without
Minimalism is an interesting side-effect of western capitalism. The effect of acquiring wealth is curious; it more often than not seeks to be displayed through the adornment of expensive garments, and through “showcasing” the necessity of owning various accessories, plus the outward demonstration of their worth to a “successful” person. But to many people, myself included, the effect of acquiring objects is that they increasingly demand more time from the owner in order to manage.
This is detrimental to their original purpose, because time will now be split between the owner using the objects, and the owner managing the objects. Thus, the fewer objects there are – whether these are clothes, cars, bottles of liquor in the cabinet, or watches – the more utility such devices actually provide and therefore the more effective they become both at their original purpose, but also as a showpiece.
What Minimalism is not.
Minimalism doesn’t, in my mind, have any connection with frugality, virtue through sufferance, or eco-mentality. To me, “being green” and “being minimalist” can be mutually exclusive, although they can also co-exist very well too.
Minimalism is not, necessarily, about choosing to do without. It is choosing to do with what you need, in the numbers your need it/them, and do without what you don’t.
Minimalism is also not doing without, for the sake of doing without. It’s a great exercise in making one reconsider what is important and what’s really important to you. This is the key. It’s justifiable to say that you need something because it makes you happy. Most people listen to music because, for their happiness and wellbeing, it’s needed. That’s fine.
Being minimalist does not mean sitting in a silent, white room, looking at perfectly pressed shirts hanging in a wardrobe. And it’s also not about choosing £20 shirts instead of £100 shirts. One can enjoy life’s luxuries, and one probably will enjoy them more, if their number is measured.
My Minimalism Experience
For example, just before Christmas I came to a difficult decision: I decided I had to sell my ThinkPad laptop. There were no two ways about it; I had too many computers adoring my house, due to accumulating older work laptops as time went on.
My thinking was, “well, it still works and it’s still powerful enough to do lots of stuff, so I can get more done by keeping it and splitting my activities between the MacBook Pro that I now use for work, and this.” Except that doesn’t really translate into the bigger picture. Sure, I could keep both machines and pretend I’m being more productive, but in reality I started spending more time wondering which machine to do what on, or moving data from one to another, or agonising that I was simply distracted by this entire thought process, or generally finding that the MacBook Pro was more portable and thus my preferred choice to take somewhere.
I historically associated my perceived productivity benefits to my ThinkPad, its wonderful keyboard, and loved how I had complete control over the GNU/Linux operating system I used on it. But in reality, two machines became a burden. Yet, this wasn’t the only laptop I had “laying around” (although occasionally used). Actually, I had four other laptops. This was akin to hoarding, and served no benefit whatsoever. There was basically no chance I would ever use them all until they broke, one by one.
So before Christmas, each laptop – an HP Pavillion, a ThinkPad T420, another ThinkPad – a T420s, and a Samsung Chromebook, all found new homes. They also found me richer – not only for the money I made on them, but also for the less clutter I had around the house.
Finally, the agonising dissipated and with that, the stress went. I had more space to think, fewer options to consider (as far as my computing went) and happier productivity.
Once you get the bug for selling or giving away old stuff, it is hard to ignore. As soon as I can find the time I will work on selling more computing kit I have laying around. And there are other things too – all sorts, in fact. Like old pieces of furniture (bin/tip), old garden tools (tip/sell), old clothes (donate to charity), one or two old TVs (!) … it goes on and on. In fact, the speed at which one can acquire goods is absurd.
Moving forwards, reducing this clutter alongside a renewed focus on personal development has already made a huge change in my self-perception. I feel stronger, lighter and more focused.
If this post has helped you, or if you have had similar experiences, please comment or link below!
Boy, I am always amazed at the breadth of stuff that goes on weekly, surrounding people’s preferred operating systems, new hardware press releases and so on. For me, it’s one of the best things about the internet: constant information from all corners of the globe, seeking an audience and advocate elsewhere.
So, this week there has been loads of stuff which caught my attention, only a short list of which I have time to share. First things first, Ars Technica : a constantly vibrant source of interesting news out there in the technosphere. Featured in its hallowed pages was the title “ARM’s Eagle has landed: meet the A15“. Indeedy, ARM is developing more processor chips which are beginning to compete with the likes of Intel’s Atom and AMD’s lesser-known Geode.
The exciting thing here is that a third player is entering the midst of a traditionally two-horse race: GPU/CPU design and manufacture (AKA AMD vs Intel). Similarly to the console race of 2007-ish, a third player getting involved (in the console war, this being Microsoft‘s XBox 360) does great things for the market and the larger picture. Who would have thought, against the mighty 360 or PS3, that the Wii would have competed so well?
We’ll see how this plays out in a different way with chip manufacturers though but, as with most of these things, the early adopters of SmartBooks (Netbooks with phone capabilities, typically powered by ARM processors) will likely be Business types and Linux users who aren’t just taken in by the big names.
The Apple is finally ripening Finally. Sense at Apple. Well, some at least. Developers are creative, resourceful individuals. So throwing down the gauntlet by restricting their development languages was kind of a draconian, hard-line gesture by a company pimping itself as cool and trendy. Sorry Fanbois, but it was a bit Microsofty, actually. Which is actually unfair to Microsoft, as they are generally far less restrictive about this (as this list of programming languages illustrates..). Then again, 99.4% of malware is aimed at Windows users.
But back to Apple, this Ars story describes the change in stance at Cappuccino.
How nice of them to open up their policy as well as opening up their iOS 4.1 BootROM in the same week! In case anyone thinks I have a grudge against Apple, far from it. This vulnerabilityintended feature clearly demonstrates that Apple are committed to opening up their systems and allowing users to fully use what they have purchased. Brilliant!
Oh, but then there are still situations which make you wonder. Like the stealthy Apple OS-X update that kept “fanbois strangely silent“… I’m not sure I would have described Apple’d products as a “mutant virus“, but their loyal customers’ thinking probably is. But then, Apple build fashion statements, not computers.
Open systems continue to gather pace
There’s an interesting article at O’Reilly on debunking the 1% myth. The 1% myth is the idea, forever purported by some in the industry, that Linux only has 1% of desktop market share. Succinctly put, as there is no way of actually measuring this accurately, it’s a false claim (as the article details).