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By decluttering, I’ve made my day longer

The 20th March is officially the first day of Spring! Even though it sometimes seems like only yesterday last year’s Spring brought us lockdown and glorious weather, I can’t wait for it this year: Spring is the perfect opportunity to declutter and start afresh, just like nature does.

This year, my focus is technology. I’m decluttering and removing anything which is not of value to my life.

I wish I’d come up with this great idea by myself, but I didn’t. I came across a book, “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport which introduced me to the philosophy of digital minimalism; it’s not a book telling us we should rid ourselves of everything we love, rather it forces us to question what we gain from the technology we use and to make considered decisions about how we can get the most out of it while still living our human lives.

I didn’t come across it by accident. During lockdown my screen time has gradually increased and last week’s screen report was a shock to my system. It would seem I’m averaging 5 hours per day – on my phone! If that was doing productive stuff – like using my timer when in the darkroom, or listening to music while out exercising, talking to friends on the phone – I wouldn’t mind so much but that’s not the case. While some of it was posting to my business pages, the majority was made from incessant checking of emails and social media and monotonous scrolling and responding to questions which I’m neither expert nor particularly interested in…

The first stage for me was to clear out my emails – I had over 14, 000 unread notifications and the more they gathered the less I wanted to do about them! I found a brilliant tool at which produces a list of all your subscriptions and from there it’s a simple click to remove them from your inbox. After that stage, I used the list to search for and delete all of the unread emails from subscriptions – I was left with around 150 emails not connected to subscriptions, making it much easier to sift through and organise these! The tool is great but there have been a few stray emails and these I’ve simply unsubscribed to individually over the past week or so.

Doing this step, gave me the confidence I needed to do the next one: remove all of the apps from my phone which were distracting and encouraging me to waste so much time.

It’s a task that has been liberating.

I pick up my phone and there are virtually no notifications… the odd text message generally, that’s it… I was worried that would make me feel less loved but it hasn’t affected my self-esteem, rather I’ve been freed from the clutches of constant checking! And when I do check my emails or social media on my computer, it would seem, I’ve missed nothing. Yes, I’ve had a few messages, but I don’t think a few hours delay in my responses have been in any way detrimental – all it’s done is relieve me of a weight I hadn’t realised was hanging over me.

Now, when I’m bored, I find I’m instinctively reaching for my phone but as soon as it’s unlocked, I realise nothing on it is of use (unless I have a message to reply to or a call to return) and I put it back down before finding something else to do which this week has been puzzles with my daughter, longer and more strenuous walks (with my camera and tripod), developing film, reading more books and putting more effort into my work for uni. It feels like my days are longer – which they are; I’ve just found 5 hours a day!

Whether it’ll last is another story – I hope it does. I’m enjoying the freedom from the clutter of the digital world and if I can turn it into a habit for the Spring, I’m on course to it being a new way of life, or rather a return to the time before I became so dependent on something with so little value.

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