Digital Unraveling

In November 2017, I decided to rethink my relationship with Facebook.  I was a very regular Facebook user back then. . . posting and like-ing and sharing pretty much every day.  But I got disgusted.  With myself . . . for spending so much mindless time scrolling.  And with Facebook . . . for being Facebook.

I didn't completely let go of Facebook, but I did remove the app from my phone.  I figured I didn't want to give it up completely -- but maybe I could get that scrolling habit under control if it wasn't available on my phone.

The first few days were hard.  I got antsy . . . just wanting to scroll.  But it only took a couple of days, and I found I wasn't missing Facebook at all!  In fact, even though it was still available to use on my laptop, I just . . . lost interest.

Like completely.

And it was a simple decision for me to deactivate my account once the Cambridge Analytics story broke.  (After a year, I reactivated because I thought I wanted to be part of a "group" -- but found I never even looked at it.  So I've deactivated again.)

Anyway.  I proved to myself that (1) I wasn't missing anything by not spending time on Facebook, and (2) it was easier to break that scrolling habit/addiction/tendency than I thought it would be.

Which may explain why this book appealed to me so much. . . 


(This is how I read library books --- with post-it flags.  The number of flags indicates how much this book resonated with me.) (I ended up with a 9-page Word document of notes I took with this book.)

This book is not . . . anti-technology.  It does not bash smartphones.  It does not recommend getting rid of all your apps.

It does, though, explain the obvious -- that "new technology" has changed our lives dramatically in the past decade.  It explains some of the reasons why.  It points out a few of the rather devious practices employed by social media companies to get us to use our smartphones even more.  But mostly, it encourages us to examine our own technology use (and especially our smartphones) . . . to see how, exactly, we're using them.  Where our time goes.  And how to make our technology WORK FOR US.

The author, Cal Newport, recommends doing a 30-day "digital declutter."  Nothing drastic or draconian -- just a 30-day break from "optional" technologies.  And the first step is . . . to determine your own rules.  You get to decide which of your technologies are "optional."  Then, after the 30-days, you get to re-evaluate.  Which of the "optional technologies" do you want to reintroduce for yourself -- and under what conditions or rules?  (It's sort of like a digital version of the Whole 30 concept.)

I started my own "digital declutter" on April 1.  My goal is to cut down on mindless scrolling (which still happens, of course, even without Facebook).  Here are my rules and conditions for my 30-days:

  • I removed the Instagram and Pinterest apps from my phone.  (Although they are still on my laptop, I don't plan to access either for my "declutter" time.)  (Yep.  That means no Instagram or Pinterest for 30 days.)
  • I have de-activated email on my phone.  (I tend to constantly check my email on my phone, but I never reply unless I'm at my laptop.)  (So why am I checking it on my phone????)
  • I removed all news headline apps from my phone.  (These are a great source of click-bait for me . . . and it never makes me happy.) 
  • I have blocked certain websites (from my phone and laptop) that just distract me mindlessly.  (I'm looking at you Tom & Lorenzo.)
  • I have set up my own rules for using Ravelry.  While I can still use it for adding projects (should I finish any during the 30-day period) or to look up a pattern I already own, I will not allow myself to scroll through the "hot right now" patterns for 30 days.

I also set up my own rules for which apps I can still use.  (Most of these are useful, not optional, or for whatever reason don't tempt me to keep scrolling.)  (Banking, for example.  My meditation app.  The weather.  Evernote.  Goodreads.)  Other not-optional activities for me:  texting, calling, blogging, and listening to audiobooks.

(It's all very . . . intentional.  Y'know???)

It's Day 3 of my "digital declutter."  And I'm not missing a thing.


How about you?  Have you ever thought about doing a "digital declutter?"

The Seedy Underbelly

Over the last few years, I've been chipping away at what I've taken to calling . . . Streamlining.  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.  And whatever you choose to call it . . . KonMari-ing.  Swedish Death Cleaning.  Simplifying . . . it all comes down to the same thing:  throwing stuff out

I've done the easy stuff.  My closet.  The linen closet.  Kitchen cabinets.  The junk drawer.

Now, though?  It's time to take some Serious Action.  I'm headed to the Dark Side.  To the seedy underbelly of my streamlining projects . . . [cue Jaws soundtrack music] . . . and it's not pretty.


I have this giant filing cabinet.  It's a lovely piece of furniture, actually.  And it harkens back to the days of . . . paper.  Back when I had an analog filing system.  With hanging files and color-coordinated file folders and labels.  And I used it!  I was organized and I kept up (pretty much) with my filing, and when Tom asked, "Do you know where [this or that] document is?"  I could say YES with confidence.

And then. . . it all went digital.  

And now I have a digital filing system.  With organized Documents files and a back-up system and Evernote.  And I use it!  And when Tom asks, "Do you know where [this or that] document is?  I can say YES with confidence.

But I still have . . . all that paper.

And, what's worse is that for far too many years, I double-dipped.  I had the new digital system AND I still had the old analog system.  Except I didn't keep up with the paper filing.  At all.  I just opened a drawer and jammed it in.  Like this . . .


Every drawer looks like this.  Packed to the gills.  And now (as you can see from the first photo), spilling out onto the floor.  And the desk (that you cannot see in any photo).  (So you'll have to use your imagination.)

In fact, I cannot use the office at all.  Because it makes my stomach turn to just walk in to the office and see the . . . paper.  All the paper.  All the paper that I no longer need.  


I have this perfectly nice office.  
With a lot of storage space.  
That is totally unusable.  
Because it is filled with paper that has long ago reached its potential usefulness.
In any way.

For YEARS, I have wanted to tackle this project.  To clear the space.  To make things functional again.  But there has always been a huge barrier:  SHREDDING.  (Plus time.  Always the time.)  (But mostly . . . shredding.)  Because a lot of the stuff in those file cabinets really needs to be shredded before it can be recycled.  And . . . well.  UGH.  It will take hours and will burn out the motor on my shredder and will make me terribly grumpy.

So I try not to think about it . . . while continuing to experience that stomach-turning sensation whenever I walk by the office.


Yes, friends.  I am going in there today.  
I am going to begin.  
I'm going to empty those drawers and create some physical space in the office -- and some mental space for myself.

My secret weapon?  
I found a local, drop-off shredding company that charges 18 cents a pound!

Here I go. . . 

(And how about YOU?  Do you have any spaces in your house that you are loathe to tackle?  Maybe we can cheer each other on?)


Organizing . . . with a Bullet

Ever since my college days, I have kept myself organized with a day planner/calendar/to-do list/note-taking system . . . of one sort -- or another.

Really, it's the only way I've kept myself on top of things -- and sane.

At first (back in college and pre-computer, for example), analog systems were the ONLY way to keep life in order.  I developed a system for myself . . . color coding, stickers, post-it note lists.  It worked for me.

Over the years, I tried various systems, always looking for the one that would suit all my needs.  Perfectly.




Planner Pad

I tried them all.  Ultimately, I settled on the Planner Pad -- and I used it for a decade or more -- with a couple of breaks to try online systems -- Palm Pilot, Outlook (back when I worked in an office), Google Calendar, and the iPhone/iMac Apple calendar system. 

Turns out, I just prefer analog systems.  I like keeping my calendar in pencil.  I like writing lists -- and crossing things off.  I like being able save lists and reminders and notes in an actual calendar -- with an actual paper clip.  I like post-it notes.  I like highlighting.  I like being able to jot things down on the fly.

The biggest problem?  Finding an analog planner system that could work for me right out of the box!  (Because, really.  It didn't exist.)

I had my preferred calendar system, sure.  But it was a bastardized mess of paper-clipped sub-calendars for meal planning, project planning, blog posting, habit-tracking, lists of books-to-read/movies-to-watch/orders-I'd-placed, holiday plans, billable hours, travel plans, garden journal, goals and intentions.  Interesting, sure.  But not completely functional.

A couple of years ago, I heard about the Bullet Journal system -- and I knew right away it was for me.  You start with a blank notebook -- and make up your own system.  Completely flexible.  Never boxed in by a pre-existing calendar or format.  Plenty of room for notes and multiple lists and don't-forget-this-or-that.

I was sold!

I tried it last year.

I couldn't make it work.  

Turns out, I was trying too hard to make it "look nice." (Because there are blogs and Pinterest boards and Facebook groups and #hastags with these incredible, artful bullet journals out there.)  I gave up -- and returned to my bastardized Planner Pad system.

This year, though, I decided to give the Bullet Journal a try once again.  (Because, really.  Perfect for me!)


I got a plain, old Moleskine notebook, some monthly sticker tabs, and . . . just started with January.

I gave up on trying to make it artful. (I have art journals for that.)

I gave up on trying to make it perfect. (I can change things on the fly if it doesn't quite work.)

I gave up on trying to make it color-coordinated.  (And I bought some Wite-Out.)

And, y'know?  It's working for me!

I developed a monthly calendar that looks like no monthly calendar I've ever seen!


I came up with a daily/weekly "spread" that allows me to plan each day just the way I need to work.


I've developed a montly habit-tracker that works perfectly for me.


I can track my billable hours and my volunteer hours . . . in the same space I plan my blog posts and menu plans.  I can create lists -- or paste in post-it notes -- or tape in lists I cut out.


I track what's happening in my garden with simple, old-school monthly calendars taped right in to the pages.


It's ugly.

But amazing.

And it works!

If you've been thinking of giving the Bullet Journal system a try -- I'm here to encourage you.  (Because it really is pretty cool.)  If you want to make it "perfect" -- you'll be able to find plenty of resources to help you do that.  But I'm here to encourage you to . . . just let it fly!  

Now that I'm in Month 4 of my Bullet Journal experience . . . I can tell you it's the best organizing system I've ever tried!

(And, pretty much, I've tried them all!)

Right Now - April 2015

April . . .  always a mixed bag.  You just never know what April will bring.  Crazy weather, for sure.  But the beginnings of True Spring . . . with added sunlight and generally warming temperatures.  By the end, April kind of looks like this . . . and I'm thrilled.


Here's what's happening for me . . . RIGHT NOW!

WATCHING . . .  PBS.  Wolf Hall - loved the book; love the series, and Call the Midwife - still charming, although getting a tad routine.  (Where is Chummy???? Did I miss something???  Is she coming back?  Sort of like Sister Mary Cynthia?)  (Just found this. . . she'll be back.)


KNITTING . . . Plugging away on Romi's Mystery Shawl.  (That's it, up there.  I'm sorry if you didn't want to see a spoiler.  But I blurred it, so it's still kind of . . . mysterious.  Besides, there's only one more clue and then it'll be out there anyway.)  I'm not really sold on that middle stripe thing yet.  At all.  But will have to wait to see how it looks blocked and finished.  When I'm not (constantly) knitting on that (to keep up with the clues), I've cast on for this sweater.  So far, so good.  (But I haven't gotten very far at all.)

LISTENING . . . Kinda been in a John Mayer mood lately . . . 


DRINKING . . . More water!  I'm trying to stay a bit more hydrated.

DREADING . . . An upcoming committee commitment that is just . . . well.  Kind of lame.  


REGRETTING . . . Too much too soon, apparently.  A bit of three-steps-forward-one-step-back, so . . . a return to the ice bag.

PLANNING . . . I am planning my "attack" on the last - and hardest - of my Kon-Mari purge zones: my knitting/sewing room, my boxes of "memorabilia," and photographs.  I think a re-read of certain sections of my Kon-Mari "bible" are in order, but I'm nearly ready to DIG IN!

HUMMING . . . A catchy little Weezer tune.


ITCHING TO . . . Sit out on the patio every evening, under my bistro lights, with a glass of wine and something to read.

ORGANIZING . . . All the garden things!


DELIGHTED BY . . . My drawing class.  Why a drawing class?  Because I really want to take a printmaking class.  And maybe a watercolor class.  And "Drawing I" is a prerequisite. So . . . here I am, dusting off the cobwebs (because the last time I took a drawing class was back in college) and - surprise - having a great time!

NEEDING TO . . . Clear off the kitchen island for Tom's return.  (I tend to set out my "projects" on the island when he's away, but never when he's at home.)


ENJOYING . . .  A new morning routine that includes meditation, yoga, and regular journaling.  Sure, I have to get out of bed a bit earlier, but totally worth it!

CELEBRATING . . . An end to physical therapy.  Tom's return this weekend.  My dad's birthday.  And Spring!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . RIGHT NOW?


Report from the Purge Trenches: The Books*

* (With a little bit of Throwback Thursday . . . well, thrown in!)

As the KonMari-ing continues full throttle here in my house, I thought I'd give you a little update.  

If you've read the book, you know that KonMari suggests beginning with your closet (check) -- and then moving on to books.  She suggests that books are easier to part with for most people.  And she intimates that most people have far more books than they'll read, re-read, use . . . or even know that they have.

In my heart, I knew that she was right.  I rarely re-read books.  And (not so much now, but in years before Goodreads), I used to purchase books that I wanted to read later . . . as "placeholders."  (So I wouldn't forget that I wanted to read them someday.)  (I used to do that with knitting patterns, too . . . pre-Ravelry.)

But, still . . . I knew that going through my books would not be "easy" for me.

I've been a Reader forever.  And, as a child, I dreamed of having a Library of my own.  

This photo is me . . . age 11.  Standing with my beloved library.  (This is the throwback part.)  Most of the books on my shelf were old books that had belonged to my mom.  A few were my own books.  (I used to get a book for Christmas each year.  And I used to live for the Scholastic Book Order at school.)  Mostly, though, I checked out piles and piles of books from the library and dreamed of owning more books someday.

Kym at 11

And, eventually, I DID grow up to have a library of my own!  In fact, one of the big selling points to me for the house I currently live in . . . was a library.  An actual ROOM with a floor-to-ceiling WALL of bookshelves.  I was in heaven.  And I just kept stuffing those shelves with books.  (And books.  And more books.)

So, I figured that sorting through those books, KonMari-style, would not be easy.

But I was wrong!  There is power in letting go.  Once begun, I filled over 20 banker's boxes with books that will soon be donated to my library's annual book sale inventory.  

Here's a photo of my library this morning . . . the aftermath.  (The books on the shelves are the books we are keeping.)  (I was so eager to begin that I forgot to take a "before" shot.)


Still plenty of books. 

I found it was easy to part with

  • books I read - and even liked - many years ago, but that I know I'll never read again.
  • books I thought I should read - but never did.
  • books I slogged through when working on my Master's degree fifteen years ago (but haven't looked at since).
  • books I used as references as my kids were growing up.
  • books I forgot we even had . . . and couldn't ever remember where they came from.

It was so freeing . . . to get rid of a thick novel . . . that I had read 30 years ago . . . (which means I've packed it and moved it to new shelves several times) . . . but haven't even opened since.  MariKon is right -- we hold on to things we think are precious.  But they aren't.  Really.

And the books we kept?

  • beloved novels
  • helpful and useful reference books
  • poetry
  • children's books that were particular favorites
  • books that inspire

I still have a dream library!  It just means a whole lot more to me now.

(Oh -- and I did find a few of those "placeholder" books that I purchased with intent to read someday . . . that I actually DO want to read.  These 4 are at the top of my to-read pile now.)  (I forgot I even owned them.)  (Sad, but true.)




How Much . . . is Enough?

As I've already mentioned this month, I am in interested in creating space and simplifying my life.  

Last year, when I was exploring possibility, I came to realize that I needed to create space for myself first.  I started with my closet.  I whittled my wardrobe down to just those items that I really love (plus a few just-in-cases).  It feels so good to look in my closet now.  And, in nearly a year, I haven't missed a thing that I discarded!  (Not one item.)

I am a fairly neat and organized person.  I am not a packrat or hoarder.  I don't have trouble tossing things out.  For most of my adult life, though, I've been constantly organizing closets, drawers, my desk, the countertops.  I purchase organizational bins and baskets and tools all the time.  Yet I still feel cluttered and unorganized . . . and always in need of more organizing!

What is up with that???

What I've realized is that . . . I just have too much stuff.

I don't need to organize.  I need to minimize.

So this year, I'm taking simplification to a a whole new level.  I'm going to really explore . . . how much do I need?  How much . . . is enough?

This weekend, I KonMari'd my office space and began my purging in earnest.  It was shocking to see that, in my top desk drawer alone, I had . . .

  • enough binder clips to last me longer than forever;
  • all of the index cards I will ever need; 
  • standard staples to last any future generations of my family through their lifetimes;
  • and a clear understanding that most of my favorite basic Bic pens will dry up before I ever need to use them.

(Really.  It's shocking how many post-it notes I had in my desk.)

I've been spending quite a bit of time on Josh Becker's Becoming Minimalist website -- a great place to begin if you're interested in minimizing.  One of his suggestions for finding out how little you actually need . . . is to remove items -- and see if you miss them.

So I took a challenge, and quickly removed over 30 items in my kitchen utensil drawer.


I'm pretty sure I won't even miss these items. . . because I either don't use them, or I have duplicates or triplicates . . . or even more-plicates.

(And you should see my utensil drawers now!  Neat.  Orderly.  And I didn't even need to organize it.  I just put the things I DO need back.  Less = neater.)

That gave me the strength to go through one little under-cupboard. . . where I got rid of these items. . .


 And so it begins.

What I learned this weekend is that I'm pretty certain I can live with a LOT less than I have!  And 2015 is going to be the year I explore . . . just how much . . . is enough!