Monday 16 January 2017

Good Choices

I spent New Years Eve and the two days after in the attic with Jo. We were clearing out all of the stuff that had gravitated up into the roof space over the last seven years. We’d both always known it was a mess up there and we’d wanted to clean it for a while, but we’d just never got round to it been dreading it and kept putting it off.

Watching Minimalism was the straw that broke the camels back. Christmas time is a wonderful time of year to reflect on stuff1 because you’re surrounded by it, you’ve likely just bought and given a load of it and you’re certainly are thinking what to do with all the stuff you’ve just been given. We live in a small house, not a tiny house, but certainly small house2 and we both sat there thinking that this house would feel a whole lot larger if it wasn’t so full of stuff.

We started in the attic. We removed six car loads of “stuff” to the local recycling centre. We did a super fast curation of the stuff that was left. We purchased some quality storage boxes and placed into the boxes the things that were left. The result - we’d tamed the attic. It felt great and we were on a roll.

Next we moved downstairs into the living space and were pretty ruthless. I ended getting rid of nearly all my clothes. Why? Because I had not worn most of them in over a year. I kept what I’d been wearing which was basically three pairs of trousers, two pairs of jeans, four pairs of shoes3 and about 8 t-shirts. I cleaned up the detritus around the top and underneath of my desk - finally I could move my feet when I worked.

The thing that connected the dots for me was my books. It is safe to say I like books. I do not always read them, but as objects I am drawn to them, and rather strangely it is text books that really do it for me. Over the last year I’d bought quite a few books and read a few of them (Clojure, SICP, Haskell, Erlang, Elixir, Agile) but I’d never really absorbed them to their fullest potential. When I first started buying textbooks I would read them all and they earned their place on my shelf. Somewhere along the way I’d lost that and now books were things I wanted to want to learn from, but clearly never made the time.

Clearing the attic, the living space, the wardrobe and my desk up made me make my first good choice. I decided to declare book bankruptcy and started off with a fresh shelf and a simple rule. There would be no buying any new books until I had absorbed the information contained within the ones that were sitting on my todo shelf. You can see the todo shelf below. One book is missing - “Playing to Win” because it is in my bag, I am reading it4. This was not to be one in one out either, no new books until that entire backlog was clear. This was my first good choice.


From that good choice stemmed other good choices. For instance when I leave the house in the morning I leave without a single item of my stuff being left lying around. At first this freaked Jo out (she always wakes up later than me) for the first few days as it was as if I had zero impact on our living space between getting up and leaving the house. No socks lying in the bathroom, no towels on the back of chair, no disaster zone of a t-shirt drawer nothing. Zero impact.

The same goes when I get home. I do not dump my bag, leave my shoes, and get half undressed and leave stuff lying around, everything goes in it’s place. It’s really easy to do; simply do not leave a room until everything is in it’s place. This is very easy to do when “everything” is not a lot of stuff. Choosing not to “leave impact on the things in a room as you leave and enter” is a very good choice. It’s amazing how the time invested in doing this pays itself back. Investing small amounts of time in small good choices leads to big rewards. We have not had to “do a proper house clean” in nearly three weeks. Cleaning the place now takes about an hour max. It used to be a day long event, which felt more like a battle with entropy in which we never actually won. Now we’re kind of winning “the war on entropy” and it feels good.

I’ll leave this little wordy ramble on the subject of labels. Does all of this now mean I am a minimalist? No it does not. I do not like labelling myself into a tribe as it never works out. I was a vegan for while, then I was paleo, now I just eat. I was a cyclist and a weightlifter. But when you stop engaging in the things that make the label applicable you can no longer apply the label and you kind of lose a bit of yourself. So whilst I can get fully behind the idea of minimalism. I am not a minimalist, I am simply making good choices.

I may write about the curbing the ingress of stuff another time.

p.s I started clearing out my digital world

  1. I wrote about this seven years ago - “I don’t want anything for christmas” 

  2. Probably about 160 SqM. 

  3. I did not include cycling shoes, running shoes or weightlifting shoes in this equation. Instead, I have a dedicated box under the bed for sports gear. 

  4. See, I am reading it Jonny.