welcome and leaving Procrastination-book

I recently had a piece in the Globe and Mail’s Facts & Arguments section and have a guest post up at BeMoreWithLess.com this week. This has meant quite a few new readers to my site. Welcome!

If you’re new to my site and want to read about my minimalist journey and thoughts on living a rich life with less, you can visit here, here and here for background.

If you’re new to minimalism and looking for more how to and inspiration on living with less stuff, here are three e-books I recommend:

Finances: paying off over $50,000 in debt in less than a year was a huge feat for us. Our approach was pretty simple: we spent less and sold things we weren’t using. If you need a pep talk in getting started, along with more detailed how to, I suggest Unautomate Your Finances by Adam Baker. I’ve now read it a few times and it’s helping me stay on track as we tackle the rest of our debt.

Getting rid of clutter: Getting rid of more than half of our things was exhausting. I blindly attacked rooms and drawers and spent two months with piles of things to sell and donate in my living room. For a more methodical approach, I recommend the 30 Day Clutter Bootcamp by Tanja Hoegland.

Minimalism: Leo’s book The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life was the first e-book I read on minimalism and is a great way for anyone to get started. He writes in a very gentle and approachable manner.

Now back to my post of the day: more thoughts on why I deleted my Facebook account.

Leaving Procrastination-book

Some of you may be using Facebook in a thoughtful and engaged manner to connect with friends, loved ones, causes and groups that you care about. I applaud you and wish you continued success with that.

For me, Facebook had become Procrastination-book. Any time I was trying to buckle down to write (I’m a freelance writer. I’ve dropped the ‘trying to be’ part of that the job title since selling my first article a few weeks ago) I’d check Facebook. I didn’t spend hours on the site, but checking a few times a day had become a compulsion. It had become a habit gone bad.

Beyond a bad habit, I was also concerned with the rampant narcissism Facebook fed into. Unflattering photo of me with my son on his first trip to the pool? Un-tag. Un-tag despite the fact that it was his first time at the pool and he looked adorable. Un-tag because my five months post-partum figure was not what I wanted people to see.

I was not alone in this narcissism. I barely recognized some of my friends from their smoldering, over the shoulder, hair tousled, profile photos.

I didn’t like how much I was checking Facebook and I didn’t like how I was using it. If you don’t like something you are doing change it.

I tried turning notifications off to help. It worked for a bit. Then I wondered, am I missing a key message about a meet up with friends?

This post by Faith at Minimalist at Home and Courtney’s notes about the downside of minimalism put things in perspective for me. I want to use the Internet for good in my life. I don’t want it to be a crutch for boredom, procrastination or narcissism. So I deleted my Facebook profile.

Have I missed some social invites from not being on Facebook? Probably. But the upside is too big for me to let the downside draw me back. I feel less tethered to the Internet. I feel more connected to the people around me. When I use the Internet, it’s for reading, commenting, writing and research that brings me positive and thoughtful ways to connect and understand myself, my surroundings and others. I continue to remind myself that screen time should be used to make your time away from it better.

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  • I think you’re at the front end of the backlash on Facebook. Remember when we thought it was rude when people emailed and didn’t call with big news? Now they don’t even email. They just add it to their facebook profile and hope you saw that they moved/got engaged/broke up/had a baby. And the ‘check-in’ feature is now freaking me out. I used it for travel but see folks checking in all day long and wonder if they think we all care that much about what they do and where they are and who is with them. Facebook seems to be filling that void that was left for some people when they realised their life wasn’t going to be playing out with a soundtrack. That the movies are not their reality.
    I’m enjoying twitter but am worried it is the same addiction in a 140 character size. While I enjoy the links and some of the more thought provoking quotes, there are some bloggers on there that use it as a way to let us all know where they’re meeting up with, where and when. It is like they don’t know there is a direct message feature. Why would people following them care to read that ‘they’ll be there in 5’. Again, back to the idea that our ego is still hurting from not becoming a celebrity.

    • I love me some shortcuts in life but Facebook does seem to give us a few too many.
      Still not sure about Twitter myself. I just don’t want to be checking in and updating every hour of my life. And who really wants to read that? I am enjoying it for a very efficient way to read blogs and articles.

  • Nice work on deleting the Facebook account…. I’ve thought about it, but am not there yet. The compromise is that I deleted about 40 ‘friends’ this weekend and removed the Facebook app from my i-Phone. It’s helped, but still find myself wasting time checking in on people I really don’t care about!! You are an inspiration!

    • What were our vices before Facebook? I guess I zoned out more, or checked my email more, or read the style column of the paper. Twenty years ago I would have had my Walkman on and would take that moment to listen to a cassette from the awesome Milli Vanilli.
      You’re an inspiration, Shelly. Love that you have left the faux security of a ‘good job’ to pursue something you are more passionate about.

  • Ironically, I found the link to your blog from the link to the G&M article that I saw on … Facebook! :) But I agree, it is great for procrastination, not so great for writing. Enjoyed your article very much. Looking forward to reading more on your blog.

  • Rachel, I LOVED your article in the Globe and Mail. Phenomenal. I often look around and wonder why I have so much junk I don’t use. But with flipflopping weight, I tend to go back and forth to items in the closet that may remained unused for a year. Also, I am the type of person that needs to be aesthetically pleased and since I run my business out of my home, I feel my home needs to be “pretty,” so some of the stuff that I keep – stuff I’ve picked up on travels, I feel I need in the house, even though I don’t really use them. They just make me feel like the apartment is pleasing to my eye. How do you justify getting rid of that stuff?

    Otherwise, I’ve never been one for a lot of sentimental value–my parents packed everything they had in two suitcases and fled Poland, lived in Nigeria and then came to the US. They didn’t have a lot of choice in what they could keep, but now that we found a few photos in Poland and were able to bring them back, I suppose that I would want to keep those. When my husband’s grandmother died, I was astounded about the amount of stuff everyone wanted to keep. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have any memories of that stuff, but who am I to talk? I have a million books that have been read and I won’t pick them up again, especially since I have a kindle. And I get overwhelmed when my over stuffed drawers have to be slammed. Maybe it is time to start the process…thanks for not being judgmental in your article! I feel like you and katydunnet.com are the only two minimalists who aren’t extreme. You’re very relateable!

    • Dominika, I’m fairly new in the process and would get overwhelmed easily when I first began. I can tell you what’s working for me if you do decide to tackle those overstuffed drawers. :-).

      I found it too tedious to go through things one at a time and make the keep, toss, or donate decision. What I do is completely clean out an area and then look over the contents I removed. I reach for the things I know for sure that I absolutely want to keep and put them away. Next, I remove the things from the pile that I am sure I want to let go of (donate, toss or sell).

      What’s left are the things I need to make the more difficult decisions on BUT, it’s a much smaller, more manageable, pile than I began with. Most times I realize that since it didn’t make the first cut, I don’t love it enough or use it enough to justify keeping it in my life.
      Hope this helps and good luck to you.

    • Hi Dominika! How are the green shakes going?
      I think finding the balance of comfort and what you need in your home is different for everyone. Once I purged most of my clothes I found that I really wasn’t attached to a lot of things. It was easier to identify what I actually used rather than what I thought I used (or would use some day). That said, I do like a sparse look to my home. I’ve never been much of a decorator.
      If you work from home you probably have a good idea of what works for you. There’s nothing wrong with having a “pretty” home if it makes you feel good and energized.
      Clothes: I had a baby 15 months ago so I know a bit about having different sizes in the closet. I think it helped that when I got rid of most of my stuff I was back to pre-pregnancy weight/size. Losing the post-baby interim stuff was cathartic. Will I have to buy some clothes if I am back at that size again? Yes. But I’m now used to having a small wardrobe so it won’t be much.

  • I still use Facebook but I don’t use any of the games. Instead of updating I send a Tweet and allow it to automatically post, so I am down to checking it a couple of times a day.

    I did eliminate MySpace from my life, but FB is the primary way I communicate with some of my family members so I’ll stay with it for a time.

    Kudos to being honest with yourself and finding a solution!

  • I’ve never really gotten into Facebook. I don’t check it or update my status. I do, however, respond to emails and birthday reminders form Facebook. But I don’t think it’ll ever fully catch on with me – I’m just not into it!

    • I was never overly concerned about the privacy issue but I did have some friends slowly whittling their names down. Every week they would remove a letter until I sometimes forget who they were. I was told this was a way to protect privacy.

  • Still working up the facebook gumption. However, in the mean time I have noticed I am way more conscious of the time I am spending. Thanks for helping me focus on what I want to be doing rather than just letting my time slip away. Time, the only non renewable resource.

  • Hello there! Just read your essay in the Globe and I am intrigued. Although a lot older than you and despite moving across the world after thinking I had really pared down my life, I still need to do more so as to stop feeling tied down by my possessions aka stuff. I’ve bookmarked your web site and hopefully learn more to inspire me on my own minimalist quest.

  • Great article! I’m far from a minimalist as most people would define it, but I am finding my own balance and contentment in my journey to less “stuff”.

    I noticed reading the comments after the article that quite a few people got hung up on what you let go of rather than seeing it’s actually about what you keep that’s important. If a big TV, family photos, or a particular hobby or past time is important to you, you’ll be able to enjoy those things more when the useless things are removed.

    • Completely agree with you, Pat. It’s not about what you get rid of – it’s about finding balance. We’re still working on it – just got rid of a lot of furniture we no longer need – and I see that we’ll always be in a state of editing our possessions.

  • Really enjoyed the article in the globe and mail. You have a common sense approach to minimalism that will reap many rewards going forward. It’s an approach that for me means longevity – not a fad! (extreme measures tend to be just that – look at the dieting industry – ’nuff said!) – I am newly inspired of late by such great reading as this. I’ve been slacking on the chucking out front – and have been having ‘wedding dress’ thoughts…

    • Thanks, Jo. The G&M is a pretty big deal here so I was shocked/delighted when they contacted me last week. I wrote the essay and submitted it a month ago. Excited to add it to my freelancing portfolio.
      I’m also in round two of chucking out. Trying to be patient. We have purged so much and these last few things will feel great to be rid of.
      Wedding dress: I loved reading that Rayna also got rid of hers! Now, you do have a daughter so there is some reason to keep it.

  • Congratulations on the article! It was very nice. I’ve been following you since you started and you have really accomplished a great deal. You are a inspiration to all aspiring minimalists!

  • I found your blog through the Globe article – well done! You presented a balanced way to pare down and I think you gave some terrific concrete examples that others can relate to.

    I’ve tried to be a minimalist for several years and for the most part, I’m pretty good about it. Books and CD’s however, are always in my collection. Even though I have 3 large bookshelves full, they all DO get re-read and listened to often. E-books just don’t give me blissful pleasure. Besides, I hate fiction. My books are all reference, art and cook books.

    I’ve poked around your blog a bit and I think one of the most sane things I’ve ever read about minimalism was this sentence: “Instead of encouraging 10,000 people to live with 95% less why not encourage 300 million people to live with 20% less.” I don’t think you included that line in the Globe article, but what an amazing message!!

    Best of luck with your freelance writing. Your writing style is wonderful.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Maria. While we don’t have a lot of books or any CDs anymore, we do have a decent DVD collection. We sold and donated about a third of it. In another year we will pick through it again and see if we really are watching any of them. If you use things they are worth keeping =)

  • Ugh, I’ve been wanting to but I can’t bring myself to delete my account. Although I have REALLY cut back my time spent on there. I love when friends of mine ask me “didn’t you see my post on facebook?” Well, no I didn’t, so why not tell me about it now?

    I do find it a nice way to keep up with my family, so I may keep it for the purpose. I’ve blocked a lot of the applications, so I don’t get silly updates about people playing games and the like. which I find has helped me stay away.

  • Hi. I’m coming over from your G&M article. I agree with what you’re doing regarding minimalism for lifestyle and consumerism. I think you may be minimalizing something else though, and wonder if it’s intentional.

    It appears you have a sex-based division of roles for you and your husband. You stay home with your child. You will find this will create a minimalist career and insecure future for you too, if that continues. Not your husband of course, who has a growing CV, established credit rating, skills accumulation, contacts/network support, professional reputation.

    Sometimes minimalism is not a good thing.

    • Interesting comment and take on work and family life roles and repercussions. You’ve inspired me – I’ll be responding to this tomorrow in a post about my minimalist career.

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