1. Too much stuff, too many things

Well, here we are at post number 1 (of one hundred, you’ll recall). I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, until serendipity sent this post on Becoming Minimalist my way.

To begin with, a quote:

“All of man’s difficulties are caused by his inability to sit, quietly, in a room by himself.” —Blaise Pascal

Yep. That’s a lot of what I want to talk about right there. About how important it is to be, as I say, “happy inside your own head.” I know lots of people – easily the majority – for whom time spent with no book or music or television or phone or whatever, some distraction or other, is just the most deadly time of all, to be avoided whatever detriment that might cause. “Oh, I couldn’t wait an hour, I didn’t have a book with me!” Well, hello, actually you could easily wait an hour, you’d just have an hour to spend all to yourself, with just yourself and your thoughts for company. It feels like a lot of people just don’t know how to sit and think, without being, in effect, told what to think about. The post I’ve mentioned here is specifically aimed at meditation, and that’s not something I feel like I do as such: except, maybe sitting and thinking, alone and quiet, is in fact meditating. Whatever, that’s just nomenclature – whatever it is, it’s something I’ve always done.

Instead, their lives are molded by the voices that bombard them each day from the Internet, television, radio, magazines, and celebrities.

(I’m not going to quote the whole piece by the way, breath a sigh of relief!)

This struck me though. I know this is something that youngsters seem to be afflicted with – although I wasn’t, even as a child – but it also seems to be more and more common among adults. And it’s related to the Pascal quote, and also just to habits in general. People need this stuff, these things, this noise, to fill the void that they think exists in their heads. Once people get into the habit of filling the quiet with noise, it becomes just that: a habit. Impossible to imagine life without it. Like all habits, life is then arranged around it. And you know what? Soon one noise isn’t enough to still that dreadful silence. No, now we need the TV and the phone. Now the TV, the phone and a quick check of email. And so on. And on.

Their desires are ever-changing and are quickly swept away by the newest fashion, most recent technology, or opportunity for financial gain.

Yes. I’ve been there. A lot of tech-desire can fall into this category. It’s like a double whammy in fact: the noise around the whole desire, research, buy, obtain, configure, tweak, upgrade cycle; and also that the end result of a lot of tech is to open up yet more channels to more noise. Whereupon, once the noise level from that channel has settled, it’s time to desire yet another object, and begin the whole cycle again.

A society built on the foundation of consumerism must attack gratitude—only if they can sow discontent in our lives can they sell us on their new product or latest version with new improvements.

Yes! This thing, this desire to consume, to own – where does it come from? Not from within us, that’s for sure. When I see the (less than two year old) Waawo-ette Junior running around the place, she has no innate desire to own the latest thing. Oh, for sure she might want something right now: it’s the bright red thing she can see atop the cupboard; or the noisy thing on the floor; or the furry thing purring its way around the lounge. But she doesn’t wake up feeling the need for the latest building block upgrade. This all comes later – right around the time peers, and school, and competition are introduced. If we let it of course. One of our biggest goals is to bring up Waawo-ette Junior to have a deliberate, mindful, or as Joshua says, an intentional life.

I love the image of society actually attacking gratitude. For our western society is so deeply built on consumerism, this idea of need and want becoming interchangeable, or the same thing, is powerful indeed. It takes a real effort of will to keep out the forces of marketing and advertising, so cleverly designed to separate us from our money and, in an awesome feat of collateral damage, separate us from what really matters in our lives.

Last quote:

It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. And that gratefulness quickly leads to a satisfied, simplified, focused life.

Just the thing we’re after. Satisfied, simplified, focused – these things are not just means, and not just ends – they are both at the same time, intertwined through our way of living life and what we get out of life.

Oh, definitely the last quote:

More meditation. More gratitude. Better living.

Which I would paraphrase as: More being quiet. More joy. More contentment.

Enough for today – I’ll try to be less rambling next time!

[Picture: the Waawo-ette Junior, decidedly unconcerned about what block version she’s on!]

External links:
Becoming Minimalist

Packing List – Postscript

Thinking about yesterday’s post – a packing list for a holiday – it occurred to me that it might be interesting to see what’s changed between then and now. How is this journey towards less stuff going?

* Laptop + PSU – yes, I still own a laptop (I’m typing on it now), but I never take it with me (except for work) – iPhone and sometimes iPad fill in nicely.

* O2 phone + PSU – long gone, just my iPhone now.

* Orange phone + PSU – long gone, just my iPhone now. In fact, this HTC phone was “loaned” to the older Waawo-ette senior, who promptly lost it. Remote control de-cluttering!

* HDD + PSU + USB Cable – gone. There are mirrored 2TB HDDs permanently on storing our video media, we just copy stuff to our phones when we want to travel anywhere. Other stuff is in the mythical cloud, courtesy of Apple and Amazon.

* MP3 player – still somewhere about, but never used. iPhone has taken over.

* MP3 radio thing – gone. It was rubbish anyway. Bluetooth is the way to go.

* West Wing DVDs – well, we still have the DVDs in the loft, but never play them. In fact, we don’t have a DVD player anymore.

* Maps – still got lots of OS maps…

* Cabin details – not exactly relevant anymore, but figuratively, I’m in the habit of sending details like this to myself on email so that I can just access them on my iPhone…

* Camera + PSU – still have the camera (a Canon DSLR) but I hardly ever use it, just use the iPhone camera now really.

* M. Mills book – still have this book, but it doesn’t have any great significance as an object, so like so many others it will eventually be replaced by a Kindle version.

* Tobacco + Papers + Lighter – neither of us smoke anymore.

* Chilli stuff + Pan – still got the pan, it gets used almost daily so was obviously a good purchase.

* Wallet – I’m on a different wallet now, but only have one these days, where I’m sure I used to have two.

* House keys – well, until remote locking for houses becomes commonplace, these aren’t going anywhere soon.

* Pants x 9 – obviously a change in approach, I very rarely wear pants these days, never at home, and so don’t now even own 9 pairs.

* Socks x 9 – no idea how many pairs of socks I own these days, I’d have to count!

* Jeans x 3 – well, I have three pairs of jeans still.

* Shirt x 3 – lots more than three shirts, although it would be interesting to keep track of how many actually get worn (except for work shirts).

* Dressing gown – yep, same one.

* Towel – it’s been replaced, we treated ourselves to new towels.

* Toiletries – yep.

* Coat – the black coat has been retired but is still in my wardrobe. I have precisely two coats that actually get used.

* All-Stars – currently have (I think) four pairs: black leather; blue canvas; red canvas; pink canvas (wedding shoes).

* Animal hat – lost somewhere or other. I have a new hat, a (faux) fur lined number with ear flaps that’s mega warm. And a new new hat, a black woolen one that was a Christmas gift this year, that the youngest Waawo-ette junior has taken a real shine to.

So altogether, not bad. I guess the main trend is a lot of convergence of technology into one device and greater use of online and cloud services for media. Certainly there’s a lot less wired stuff to carry around the place.

Paperwork II

With: A great sense of progress and satisfaction.
Without: Paper, paper, paper…

Massive paperwork tidying up splurge completed! All paperwork filed away, and the very small amount of stuff my lovely accountant needs to fix my tax return is ready to go off to him. And a tonne of stuff (may not be literally true) that’s no longer needed has gone to the great shredding heaven.

[Quick update: tax return stuff is even now winging its way to my accountant…]

De-cluttering is *good* :)


External links:
Just Pure book-keeping


With: A possible end in sight.
Without: A huge bundle of paperwork.

One of reasons I started this blog was to document – ironic choice of word – a decluttering journey, a general dis-accumulation of stuff. Do a simple search around the web and you’ll find no end of sites describing how stuff just clutters our lives and make everything much harder than it needs to be. I’m not a hoarder, never have been, but I do have a few blind spots, and one of them is paperwork.

Those of you paying attention will recall how a few days ago I had to turn the house upside down looking for my driver’s license. I resolved at the time to sort out the paperwork, and tonight began to do just that. There’s an additional incentive, which is that I need to sort out a few financials for my tax return (eek), so the time as they say, is now.

First step: get all the paperwork relating to me into one pile. Check.

Second step: get all of the envelopes and other obvious rubbish into a pile and into the recycling bin. Check.

Third step: get everything for scanning and shredding into one pile. Check. This is a big pile:

This is all paperwork that has identifying details and therefore, in the interests of avoiding identify scams, needs to be shredded. Some of this needs to scanned first before being shredded. The scanning and shredding is a job for tomorrow!

[Quick update: it’s done! Some things scanned & shredded, most just shredded. Gone forever (from my physical world at least).]

Fourth step: get all academic certificates into a pile and sorted into date order. Check. They then went into the certificate book:

This book holds certificates going back 26 years, including (charmingly) a GCSE certificate (B in Welsh!), which seems ever so irrelevant now.

Fifth step: everything else is in a pile, ready to be sorted and filed in a not-shiny not-new but empty filing box:


This is stage two, tomorrow night!

[Quick update: it’s done!]

Just to give an idea of the scope of some of the other decluttering that’s got to be done, here’s a shot of the inside of our “work” cupboard, where the laptop and a couple of other bits of pieces are supposed to live. Only now they’ve been joined by quite a lot of other stuff:


Eek! That’s yet another job for yet another day!

External links:
365 less things
Becoming Minimalist