From Minimalism To Tech


When it comes to minimizing, I tend to overlook digital data. From my background, majority of my work involves using a computer. The work involves sending and receiving emails, creating Excel spreadsheets, or designing presentations. Since large hard drives are ubiquitous, it becomes easy to just store all the files in folders and access them when needed. However, I have noticed that many times, I forget where my files are and I forget which version of the files has the pertinent changes or information. This also includes many of my photos that I’ve taken on my phone and digital camera. Thousands of digital items can accumulate quickly and many times, I do not want to sift through the files and organize them. I guess I am not on the OCD spectrum to be organized enough to keep my gigabytes of data manageable.

Suggestions to Minimize Data Hoarding

One obvious suggestion is to chuck it all. Get a new computer or a new hard drive to start fresh. Not having to worry about looking at old files, it should ease the mind because it is unlikely you will need those files. I have kept emails that were 10 years old, thinking that I would need to refer to it. I realize now that even if I try to do a search, I would not be able to find what I am looking for.

When it comes to email, it is easy to archive emails into a separate email database. Outlook has a handy feature that will allow automatic archiving. I like to create a separate Outlook file where I can move all my emails for each year. This includes all my sent email. That way, I can narrow down the search by year. Here are some information from the Office team on creating that file. Sometimes company IT will set my inbox limit, which would force me to delete or move emails to my hard drive when large emails are sent to me. If I am over this limit, the system will not allow me to send out any emails. This becomes common when large organizations have inefficient system of sharing data files, like large Excel files.

Like spring cleaning, another suggestion is to do a regular cleaning of folders. I tend to move folders that I have not accessed over three months to a “review” folder with a target date. When I need a file from the review folder, I would move it back to my active folders. Otherwise, by the target date, I would either have organized it or moved it to the virtual trash bin.

Last suggestion would not necessarily be minimalistic. It is more of a lazy method. Or maybe managing risk better. Data loss can be serious. It has become really easy to save everything you own digitally and cheaply. Also, it will not take up more physical space unlike other types of hoarding. Most people will only need one terabyte of digital space, which is very common on most hard drives today. Security and prevention of loss are very important in this information age. The government recommends using the 3-2-1 method for data management and backup. There are many options for securing:

  • Buying an external hard drive and copying all files on a regular basis. Or may decide to move any files I don’t need immediately and save space from my main computer or laptop.
  • Subscribing to a cloud service, like Backblaze or Dropbox. Storing files into the cloud that you can access anywhere without fear of losing the data (unless the company stops doing business). There are other services where the application will automatically copy the files into cloud from your computer at regular intervals.
  • One of my favorites is to backup the whole hard drive of my computer. This will take some technical know-how, as the process may be a bit complicated. This will copy an image of the hard drive, thus if my computer hard drive crashes and is no longer readable, I can either swap out the hard drive, or copy back the image to a new hard drive and run normally without having to reinstall everything.

I have been fortunate to not lose any serious data or valuable hard drives. I also realize that it will be extremely inconvenient if I do lose some of my files. When I had lost my phone, getting a new one and reloading all my apps and contacts would have been a frustrating whole day affair. Backing up the information from my phone has helped ease the process to a couple of hours, instead of the whole day. But, for today I will be cleaning out some gigabytes!

Stay cool this summer, everyone…at least those in the northern hemisphere!

Time may be the most overlooked commodity in that time never returns to anyone once it’s gone. This doesn’t mean a short period of time can’t have value, or that a long period of time has significant value – some people can make a mustard seed worth of time worth and entire mountain of time, as they apply some of the techniques in this tip. They also improve on these – anyone can expand their time once or twice, but can they continue to do so and improve to make their time even more valuable?

Geting Strict

1. Organize tasks by importance. Sarah prepares for a big project for the next few months and knows that with her daily commute, health routines, and tasks, she’ll experience a full plate. Sarah works out her priorities starting with the most important tasks to the least important. She can either eliminate the items lower on the list, or she can reduce their time significantly. Depending on the project, she may want to also narrow her focus to a few activities so that she saves the most energy possible. One thing to consider when organizing tasks: how much of this task relies on external factors? For instance, if one of Sarah’s tasks requires a 10 minute commute, this adds an external factor to the task, while the task of cooking food may require fewer external factors.

2. Use a timer. When minimizing other tasks, timers can significantly help. This depends on the situation though, as this only applies to tasks which can be done as a part of one’s logistical routine. If a task requires additional time, such as a commute, a timer may not assist because it’s possible a traffic jam exists, the person experiences a flat during the commute, etc. This is another reason to consider external factors when organizing tasks – time estimates for tasks can be wrong as more external factors affect the time.

3. In some cases, use lunch. This depends on a person’s lunch or concentration. If someone likes to eat and enjoys the mouth-watering taste of food, this isn’t an option, or this is an option to skip. A person’s enjoyment of food may be their best use of time. In the same manner, if a person lunches with colleagues, friends or family, they may want to avoid it completely – this limits opportunity. If eating isn’t a person’s “thing” then this opens a door to get some tasks complete when time is restricted. The advantages with using this method is that it (1) allows one’s mind a break from a bigger task and (2) can be useful for some delay tasks, like waiting on hold for a solution or waiting in the office for a doctor. Like the first item, be careful with external factors during lunch, if lunch must also be strict on time.

Keeping Perspective

4. Do what works and that’s it. While many enjoy reading about topics like this – from time management to productivity, reading too many books on time-management (or attending seminars) can become counterproductive. It may create a mentality of analysis paralysis when considering what to do, or whether one is using time the best, or it may prevent an individual from taking action. This defeats the entire purpose. To a certain degree, it “feels good” to learn about productivity if one “feels good” about growing, but it may actually hinder the same person from growth as it becomes a buffer against action. Buffers against action paralyze growth; if one knows what they need to know, action is the next step.

To minimize is to reduce but also to accumulate less – selling can be a big component of moving to a minimalist lifestyle. Besides getting rid of the many things you have, one must not replace those things to fill the void. The three R’s are pretty apt for minimalism – reduce, reuse, and recycle. One can add repurpose to the mix. But, I want to add resell as part of my Five R’s of Minimalism. I believe most of us in general tend to be hoarders and have attachments for many momentos. It becomes difficult even for me to give up many of the things that I own, even though I have not touched them for years. Especially my collection of books. I do not even have enough time to read and re-read my library of books, I have been lugging around 15 boxes of books every time I move. In my journey of minimalism, reselling has been a missing component.

To Have or Not to Have

There are many ways and methods to declutter your space. One can use the “KonMari” method of tidying up. Or you can follow the many books of organizing and decluttering sold in bookstores or Amazon. Most likely, there are many apps on the phone that can help as well. However, I feel that many tend to be indecisive on what to get rid of and what to keep. Whether it is “joy,” sentimentality, value, or usefulness, one has to figure out their own guidelines for keeping things or getting rid of things. But, when in doubt, I say sell it. Although you may not get back what you paid for, selling it puts money in your pocket.

Sell, Sell, Sell

I am listing these four avenues for selling your stuff. These are apps and websites that seem interesting to me, and it is not an endorsement. Please use your best judgement on what works for you. You can also use the traditional methods of selling your stuff: garage sale, newspaper ads, craigslist, eBay, and Amazon. We won’t be covering those here, because I feel they are cumbersome and many others provide information on those. There are many other apps available that I could have reviewed, but the choices I made are arbitrary and subjective.

  1. OfferUp app: I have actually sold a children’s bicycle recently on this app. It was an easy setup. Simple to use by taking a few photos, going through four steps, and it is ready to sell. The response times were actually pretty quick. I already had one offer within 15 minutes, and four offers within 4 hours. Although the offers tend to underbid, I did not feel the need to negotiate for a higher price. The direct messaging was very convenient as I don’t need to give out my phone number, and I had set up a meet time and place to make the sale the next day. Afterwards, I was able to send a mass message to other buyers that I had sold the item, listing the bike as sold. It only took me about a minute to close the listing after the exchange.
  2. website: I do not have any personal experience with this website, but my friend had some great success with selling her jewelry on this website. This website does not seem to have an app, but the website caters to high end luxury watches and jewelry. Instead of buying retail, one can purchase a special gift for yourself or significant other at a discount. But, the main purpose is to get rid of those expensive watches and jewelry that are collecting dust.
  3. Depop, Vinted, and Poshmark apps: These websites and apps seem to cater to people wanting to get rid of their clothes, shoes, and accessories. Vinted has more than 6,000 reviews with average above the 4 stars rating on the Apple App store. Poshmark has more than 17,000 reviews averaging above 4 stars. Depop has more than 2,000 reviews averaging above 4 stars. Any of these apps and many others seem to offer easy signup and listing. I have not seen the terms for shipping items to buyers. It would be interesting if they offered reduced shipping costs for items sold through the apps.
  4. 5miles and letgo apps: These apps look similar to the OfferUp app, where you can sell locally to others by posting your listing. Listing seems pretty easy, and there seems to be plenty of local sellers on both of these apps. I would assume it will depend upon the population density of where you live to have more buyers and sellers. I did notice that 5miles offer $3 for the first item to be listed on the app. 5miles have more than 9,000 reviews averaging above 4 stars. Letgo has more than 34,000 reviews averaging above 4 stars. I will eventually have to try these apps soon.

Whatever method you use to sell your stuff or declutter, the most important step is to start. Start with setting aside ten items you are going to sell. Start by doing one listing today. Start by taking a photo with your phone using one of the apps. Start by moving donations to your car to drop off. Just start. (Or think in your head the trademarked motto by Nike)

Television is a vampire in multiple ways from time to energy to money. Two years ago, I wrote an article in Austin Playboys about saving money by getting rid of cable. The trend is still continuing where less people are signing up for cable television than in the past. I firmly believe this is a good trend. We have so many choices of entertainment in this country, that it deeply hampers productivity and creativity of the populace. No longer are we living boring lives, we are at a point where we are watching other people have boring lives. We only think their lives are interesting![1]

Save Your Valuable Resource

Television sucks people dry of TIME, which is a valuable asset. Spent watching endless entertainment and sales pitches, no wonder we tend to accumulate things and become “hoarders.” If you ever watched the 1988 movie “They Live,” you will know that the aliens were secretly sending subliminal messages to the population. Similarly, the advertisements are doing the same thing. People are urged to buy or have a good feeling associated with the products featured.

People can attest to the addictive nature of television programming[2]. They were designed to have the most audiences possible. If a program doesn’t get enough ratings, they are usually cancelled and usually recycled. From the NY Times article, “One study found that self-described addicts watched an average of 56 hours a week”. You may find yourself in this category. Even Netflix is designed for the addictive nature of television. Many times, I thought I would just watch one episode on Netflix, but ended up watching three or four episodes. It just sucks you in. Here is one man’s journey in overcoming television addiction[3]. It takes a bit of effort to overcome years of influence.

People today probably consider computers and iPads as the new form of television. Kids today are glued to their Youtube videos and endless games. Generations will continue down this path of consuming entertainment.

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Why Do I Want to Cut the Cord?

There are many reasons why people watch television. And there are many reasons why one should quit or reduce time spent watching television.

  1. Financially, reducing the amount of watching television is beneficial. Cable television has become the norm for many households. Over 100 million households (out of roughly 350 million people in the US) have some sort of monthly subscription for pay channels. However, it has become very expensive. Besides fees attached to pay television, set-top box monthly rental are assessed which you cannot purchase outright. Also, it seems every couple of years, the channel providers are battling for more revenue from the distribution cable companies. That means higher subscription fees to the consumer. By cancelling your subscription television, you can save thousands of dollars per year. Also, why continue to give money to the companies viewed with horrible customer service[4]?
  2. There are many alternatives to watch besides television broadcastsSince many households have Netflix or Amazon Prime, many shows can be watched in abundance. And the plus side is that there will be no or very little commercials. The trend is that streaming companies are providing more original programming. No longer does the mainstream or cable networks own the exclusive rights to quality programs. Youtube also provides many professional and amateur content for viewing pleasure. You can retrieve a lot of information from youtube, like how to fix your car. You can watch a TED talk, how to make crafts, or even learn a language.
  3. Money saved can be invested, in assets or yourself.There are many free online education where you can learn many things. My favorites are EdX, Udacity, and Codecademy.
  4. If you need to watch local news, you can build yourself an over-the-air HDTV antenna[4]. You can build one for less than $10, instead of buying one. However, you will have to wade through the dreaded commercials.
  5. Sports are being streamed more every year.It will be difficult to replace the live sports entertainment with these alternatives. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that sports will be streamed. NHL and NFL are currently streaming many of their events. Two years ago, an NFL game was streamed by Yahoo!, a first[5]. Twitter started streaming Thursday night games in 2016. This year, Facebook made many deals to stream live sports. Just recently, rumors have surfaced that Amazon bought the rights to stream Thursday night NFL games. I can even now watch select NFL games for free on my phone, provided by Verizon for free. Or I can pay for full access, but why would I do that?
  6. Watching sports should be a group activity. Stadiums are built to have spectators enjoy and celebrate the game together with other fans. We advocate our readers to be part of a community. By making it a regular group activity, it forces you to build community ties and engage others.

If you are telling yourself that you need more time in a day, do yourself a favor and cut out television. This will save you money and time.

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