Category Archives: Minimalism

Music libraries in the digital age

iTunes library

I’ve blogged several times on here about the never-ending quest for the perfect size iTunes library.  My bid to be minimalist and streamlined includes my computer, and as my iTunes library takes up most of my hard drive, it’s natural that it gets a lot of focus.

I no longer have a Spotify account (I still haven’t decided if this was a good idea), and am back to listening to music solely through iTunes.  Since I got my new laptop in December, I’ve been making a concerted effort to sort out my library.

Whenever I’m on my computer, I open iTunes and put it on shuffle.  Then, when I come across a track that I don’t like or don’t want to listen to any more, I stop what I’m doing and delete the track.  I’ve made substantial headway on sorting my library through this method.  Every few weeks, I sync my phone and get everything up to date.  Convincing myself to treat digital files as CDs worked for me, as I wouldn’t keep a CD if I didn’t listen to it any more.

As you can see from the screengrab above, my iTunes music collection is now down to almost 12GB.  I feel very positive about this!  Ideally, I think I’d like to get it down to 10GB.

I remember the days when I had a 1GB iPod and was happy with that…  How times change!

The clutter circle

I came across an interesting idea in an issue of Zest recently, and I wanted to share it with you here as it ties into my love of de-cluttering.

The clutter circle

This is a clutter circle – it’s not the one from the magazine, I re-drew it myself (I suspect you’ve already realised that).

In order to make life easier, you need to clear cutter from all of these circles, not just the physical one.  Physical clutter is the easiest to see, as it’s the rubbish in your handbag, on your shelves, etc.  However, the other circles are just as important and need regular tidying too.

Body clutter is unhealthy habits.  If you want to free up your life energy, you’re going to have to stop smoking and going to bed at 2am!  Time clutter you’re probably all too familiar with already – tasks you don’t want to do, but end up saying you will anyway.  Relationships is an awkward one to tackle, but don’t invest time in negative relationships.  Life’s too short.

Thought and Energy clutter are an interesting concept.  The magazine article mentions self-criticism and lack of exercise as examples of each, respectively.  I suspect a lot of us have this clutter in our lives!

It’s that time of year where you start thinking about your goals for the last year and your goals for the new year.  You all know my love of de-cluttering, so I always recommend it as a goal.  Hopefully this post will inspire you to tackle a part of your life that you’ve not thought about de-cluttering before!

Streamlined rock collection

When I was redecorating, I decided to streamline my rock collection.  It’s now much smaller and tidier.  All the “rejected” rocks went into the garden.

Rock collection 2013

It’s a much smaller collection!  (That’s pyrite, or fool’s gold, in the middle.  Not real gold.  Don’t get excited! I found it in Cyprus.)

Money spent on clothing

I read recently that the average Briton spends £800 a year on clothes (although this number does appear to be fluctuating because of the recession). I have been pondering this number since I read it. The context of my reading was that westerners are very wasteful. However, after thinking about this number for a while, I’m not convinced it means that at all. You can’t really draw that conclusion.

What we need to know is how many items of clothing the average £800 translates to, or the average price of each item. If you spend £800 a year on bargain clothes that cost an average of £20 each (which equals 40 items of clothing), then yeah, you’re probably wasteful. However, if you’re spending £800 a year on a few well chosen, maybe ethically made, items, is that wasteful? For all the statistics show, you buy a new coat for £400 each winter, and donate your old coat to charity. You can’t tell from the statistics.

After reading that statistic, I went to look at how much I’ve spent this year. So far, I’ve spent £600. I’ve probably bought more than I need, but I’ve not bought that much. Most the clothing I buy is ethically made, so it is expensive. Just looking at my expenses, it appears that I’m your regular shopper, but I don’t think I am.

Anyway, all this got me wondering about our relationship with shopping and clothes, so I thought I’d write this out and stick it in the blogosphere to think about.

Do you know how much you spend a year on clothes?

July spending fast

This month, I am sort of doing a spending fast. I say sort of, because I have some unavoidable “fun” bills that need paying (like the bill for my new blog header).

My plan is to avoid any unnecessary spending for one month. Some things will crop up – they always do – but I’ll try to avoid spending just for fun on me. Does that make sense?

I’ve tried to plan through what I know I will spend money on this month, so I don’t feel guilty about it.

My sister was home last weekend, so I factored in money for a Chinese (yum!). My best friend is moving to the town next to me (she’s currently 200 miles away) so I need to think about a pressie and card (also, best news ever!).

I’m going to wait until August to get my new shoes, so I will be a little scruff a while longer!

I’m a bit rubbish at doing minimalist spending all the time, as my brain goes “Ooo, shiny new notebook” etc., but it’s satisfying to do it for a month. You get to see how much willpower you really have, and you save money in the process!

I will report back at the end of the month and let you know how successful it was. Also, I know I’m already a few days in, but feel free to join me. My month is running from the 25th to the 25th (payday!), but you could run yours from the 4th to the 4th (for example).

Spring 2013 wardrobe review

After my financial review earlier this week, I wanted to talk about my ongoing wardrobe de-cluttering separately. It’s a big task so deserves a post of its own!

After months (years, my blog suggests!) of taking out the occasional item to sell/donate, I decided things weren’t really progressing fast enough. I emptied my entire wardrobe, putting back only the items I wear regularly. I’ve done this a couple of times before during life, and it’s very cathartic. You really get to know what’s in your wardrobe, and I recommend it. It also gives you a chance to give your wardrobe a good clean, hang new lavender sachets, etc.  I didn’t take a before photo of my wardrobe, as I got too excited with cleaning, but here’s an after shot!

sorting through my wardrobe

This project isn’t all about streamlining. It’s made me realise I’m missing a few items from my wardrobe. For example, I only have two pairs of trousers I wear regularly to work, so alongside getting rid of the work trousers I don’t like, I need to get some new trousers that I will wear. When I’ve finished, I should have a wardrobe that works for me.

One thing I have realised is that, à la Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses, I still own all my ball gowns (I went to a university that held regular balls). So, I’ve been sorting through them, photographing them and listing them on eBay. A new student can enjoy them instead (for one third the price!).  I’ve actually only listed two so far, as ball dresses are hard to photograph.

Sorting through ball dresses

One problem with de-cluttering is that it can temporarily cause mess whilst you sort through things. All these dresses are currently hanging in the spare room whilst I sort through them and photograph them.  Of course, in the long-term you end up tidier than before!

First quarter review (2013)

I haven’t spoken about finances on here for a few months, but I know some of you find it motivational so I thought I’d do a “first quarter” review. After reading mine, you should go do your own!

I’ve had a lot of changes to my finances recently, that I’ve not really talked about on here. Last year, I was off sick from work for eight months, so my income was all over the place. Although I still tracked my expenses, I stopped sharing it on here as there was too much other stuff going on.

I’m now back at work, but I wasn’t able to resume full-time hours due to my health, so I have now officially changed my contract to be a part-time worker. This obviously results in a permanent decrease in my monthly income.

Luckily for me, I’m a fairly cheap person to run (aside from my iTunes addiction!). I can adjust fairly smoothly to the drop in income (and I had eight months of practice last year!).

I cancelled my Spotify account (£9.99/month) and switched back to buying music on iTunes. It’s too soon to say whether this is a positive or negative move. After I cancelled my account, I bought the albums I’d been listening to repeatedly, so at the moment my music spending is quite high, but I’m hoping it will settle down.

I have mixed feelings about Spotify. It allowed me to sample new music constantly, which is great and much cheaper than buying new tracks I might not even like after a while. However, when I cancelled my subscription, I noticed that I mostly listened to the same albums over and over. So it would’ve been cheaper to have just bought them in the first place. I will watch to see how my music habits change now I’m back to using iTunes as my main source of inspiration.

Another category I spend a lot of money on is books (I’m sure lots of you still relate to this!). I’m still not sure where I stand on this repeated purchasing of Kindle books (you can’t sell/donate them afterwards!), but at the moment I have a lot of books at home that need reading, so I’m trying to make a concerted effort not to buy many new ones.

It’s funny to see the categories in your life where you spend a lot of money. I’ve been tracking my expenses for almost eight years now, so I have a fairly good idea of what I spend money on, but sometimes I still surprise me! My biggest category so far this year (excluding clothes, which I’ll talk about in a separate post this week) is toiletries. I do love a good shampoo! I think because I’ve been trying to streamline my toiletries for so long, quite a few items have run out at the same time in the last few months. I definitely need to keep an eye on this category though as it might get a bit silly if I’m not careful! I did buy this Tangle Teezer brush in bubblegum pink and it is great!  My hair gets matted after I’ve washed it (even though it’s still fairly short!), and this brush is brilliant at quickly and painlessly working through knots. Anyone with difficult hair should buy one! I got mine from Feel Unique but I’ve had problems with their customer service so I’m not recommending them (or using them again). The link above is to the Tangle Teezer company website.

How is your spending so far in 2013? Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • What items do I spend the most money on?
  • Did I know I spent that much money on these items?
  • Do I get fulfilment from these items?
  • How much money have I saved so far this year?
  • What are my financial goals for 2013 (and does my spending reflect this)?

 Good luck with your review!

Simple internet habits

I’ve been meaning to share this link from Zen Habits about simplifying the internet for a while now, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it as a separate post or in LTT.  The article discusses simplifying your internet habits (as the name suggests!) and essentially having a digital de-clutter.

For me, I think the internet is quite simple. Here’s what I do on a regular basis:

  • Emails (two accounts – I can be rubbish at replying to emails, so you’re usually better off sending me a tweet!)
  • Twitter (main social network)
  • Facebook (for talking to real life people, I only go on maybe once a week)
  • Reeder (collects all my RSS feeds)
  • Instapaper (for saving things to read later)
  • Flickr (ad-hoc as I have photos to share)
  • GoodReads (ad-hoc as I update reading lists)
  • Planet Millie (probably not as often as you think! I have post writing sessions 3 times a week and schedule posts to cover my 5 posts a week schedule)

I think the internet is rather simple already. I still browse, and I love Stumble Upon, but I don’t do that more than once a fortnight (probably!). I have a routine and it’s comfortable. I do think having an iPad has made it easier to establish a simple internet routine, but I think it’s very easy to get sucked into the internet with devices like that, so you have to have some sort of self-control.  (I love Temple Run 2 and Candy Crush so don’t really have that much self-control!)

Have you got a web routine? Go read the Zen Habits article and have a think about your browsing habits!

Clearing out my fabric stash: Part Two

Following on from Part One of my fabric de-stashing series, this post discusses my fabric stash and how I’ve been clearing it out.

Fabric stash

The first thing to do was obviously to sort through all the fabrics and check what I had.  The photos above show my complete fabric stash.  The black box in the lower right photo is just filled with wadding pieces!  I checked the sizes, prints and condition of all the fabric pieces.  Anything that was in poor condition or too tiny to do anything useful with immediately went on the “bin” pile.

Next, I cut anything that was small but at least 6″x6″ in size into squares for a future quilt.  I have a rotary cutter, mat and ruler so this was a quick job.

Quilting squares

Next, I sorted through the larger pieces of fabric and put them in three piles: charity, eBay and keep.  The pieces for eBay were then trimmed into sensible sizes for sale (mostly fat quarters).  I didn’t do anything with the charity fabrics – just folded them and put them in a bag.  For fabrics I wanted to keep, I re-folded them and put them in the black box above.  After I’d sorted through everything, my remaining fabrics and wadding fitted into the black box in the first photo.  Much better!

When I’d finished, I had quite a large bin pile of fabrics!

Fabrics for the bin

These fabric scraps are recyclable, so they went into my recycling bin, where they’ll probably be made into carpet or chimney liner.

I haven’t done anything with the eBay pile yet (ignoring my own advice for not hoarding eBay items!).  I’ve taken the photos, but I need to follow up on this soon!

Tips for using eBay to de-clutter

This year, I made £790.47 on eBay and Amazon, through the sale of victims of my de-cluttering project. This was mostly made up of CDs, DVDs, books, miscellaneous tat (including ornaments and jewellery), a few items of clothing and old textbooks. 2012 was my first year of using eBay properly – before that I used to give my sister the occasional item for her to sell through her account. As such, I was going to write a post sharing my tips for using eBay, but Angela over a Paper Lovestory beat me to it!

You should go read Angela’s list, as I’m following her points below and expanding on them with my own thoughts.

1) Describe the item

Even when I list something like a DVD (eBay autofills these listings), I never leave this box unedited. I let people know the condition of the item (e.g. DVD with no scratches, used and in an unsealed case), give them an idea on how presentable it is (e.g. book suitable for gift, no creases in spine) and let them know they can message me with any queries. I think about what I’d like to know if I was buying this item, and then add text accordingly.

2) List the item

My sister told me to always list on a Saturday or Sunday, and Angela says the same thing. People will be around to watch the end of the listing, in theory. I rarely go against this advice, so I can’t vouch for it’s effectiveness!

I also agree with Angela about waiting for free listing weekends (which I try to do), and setting a price above 99p. I don’t always do this, especially if I’m having problems shifting an item, but for a first listing I usually set the minimum bid at the price I’d actually like for the item. I will re-list something up to 3 times to try and sell it, and if it doesn’t sell by the third auction I give it to charity.

3) Postage

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of packaging materials and your time to go to the Post Office!

4) Communication

This is easy if you have the eBay phone app, so if you have a smart phone then download it. You can mark items as despatched with one click and the job’s done! Don’t forget to let buyers know when an item is despatched. I’ve forgotten a couple of times and it must be worrying for the buyers!

5) Returns policy

I don’t have one, and I see nothing wrong with that. I know what I’m selling, so I know it’s functional (I wouldn’t sell it otherwise).

6) After the sale

Like Angela, I have done partial refunds on postage before when I’ve completely misjudged how much it would take to post an item. Errors happen, and your buyer is more likely to like you if you’re honest and correct the postage. After all, they’re going to get the parcel and they’ll know if you only paid 92p for a stamp after charging them £5!

7) Lost item

This has never happened to me, but both my sister and Angela have had experience. Get proof of postage and be prepared to argue (with Royal Mail and the buyer if need be!).

8) Unhappy buyer

I have no experience here either, but again Angela and my sis both have. Sometimes it’s easier just to call it quits and refund the buyer to keep them happy (on the grounds that they return the item). My sister had a buyer who claimed an item was damaged (even though it wasn’t) and wanted a partial refund, but when my sis refused and said she’d do a full refund in exchange for the return of the item, the buyer decided everything was ok after all. Use your judgement to decide if the buyer has a genuine grievance or is just trying it on!

9) Disputes

Follow Angela’s advice!

10) Preferences

Like Angela, I only accept bids from UK buyers. I don’t trust Royal Mail to get an item safely abroad, and it’s easier to track and hold someone accountable for a missing parcel in the UK. Having said that, I’m not rigid on this policy and I have in the past changed a listing so that a Canadian could bid on an item. Use your common sense. I was selling a very niche item, and the likelihood of someone else offering the same price as the Canadian was quite slim, so it made financial sense to open up the bidding to him (and in the end he was the only one who bid!).

I have two extra tips, not included on Angela’s list:

11) Packaging

Keep packaging when you receive parcels, to re-use for eBay sales. Good for the environment and keeps postage costs low.

12) Organisation

Clearing out a cupboard and then keeping a pile of things for eBay for a few months does not count has de-cluttering. If you’re collecting things to sell on eBay, make a concerted effort to actually list the items soon after gathering them up. If after a month you’ve not got rid of the items, give them to charity and call it quits. Life is too short to faff around with endless to-do lists. Having said that, don’t do the opposite and list an item as soon as you’ve found it. It’s much easier to wait until you have a few items and then list them all in one go.

Good luck with your eBaying!