April challenge – shopping ban

Shopping mallIf you didn’t know, during April it’s Fashion Revolution Week. It was created as a reminder of Rana Plaza, the clothing factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on April 24th in 2013 killing 1134 people, and tries to raise the question of fair and ethical conditions within the fashion industry. As a way of honoring this week and the horrible conditions many (most) garment workers face today, I decided to make my April challenge a shopping ban.

So why did I decide to do a shopping ban? Well, mostly because over-consumption is one of the biggest problems in fashion today! In the last decades, the consumption of clothing has drastically increased, while the prices and thus salaries for those making the clothes have gone down. One of the best ways of decreasing one’s own impact through fashion is to buy less, so that’s what I’m doing! One month is a pretty short time, but sometimes it’s harder than you think because our entire society is built around shopping and consumption. We are constantly told to renew ourselves, our closets and our homes and this pressure can make even the most conscious person go crazy. For me, one month is a start and probably, I will challenge myself to a longer period soon.

So what does this small shopping ban entail? Well, it means no buying clothes, shoes, accessories, home decor, books or anything. The only thing I am allowed to consume is necessary stuff such as hygiene products, medicine, and food.

Have you ever tried a shopping ban or have you thought about doing one?

Declutter your tech: computer

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Just like a smartphone, many of us tend to use our computers a lot of the time, whether it’s for work or just personal use. A decluttered computer with freed up space can help you be more efficient and experience less waiting times because of a slowed down system. Compared to a phone, we tend to stock even more unnecessary things on a computer, since it has more storage space. We tend to save old documents, family photos and videos, music and what not. Even though the files look small, it easily builds up until you get a notification that you have less than 1% storage space left. So how do you deal with the computer? Where do you start in the decluttering?

Programs & Apps

Well, I say start with the biggest (and probably easiest) first. Programs and apps. Depending on how your OS works you’ll have programs or apps installed on your computer. These you should go through, delete anything you do not need or that takes up too much space. If you have a Mac, go through the dock to see what programs you actually use on a regular basis, the others you can remove from there (I don’t mean delete completely, just from the dock). If you have the option to group programs together, this can be an idea too (I have grouped all Microsoft programs together in a folder, as well as Adobe).

Photos

After arranging the programs I would continue with photos. Start with deleting all bad photos, duplicates, etc. then do a back-up either to an external hard drive or to an online cloud service or similar. Or do both. I have previously used Flickr for storage, but unfortunately, they no longer allow free unlimited storage, so if you have a lot it might not suffice. I also use Google Photos (mostly for RAW format). I also keep an external hard drive around for extra safety. When the deleting and saving part is done you can either leave it or you can continue with organizing it all. I have all my photos organized into years and months so that I can easily find what I am looking for. Special trips are also in designated folders. Newer cameras and smartphones will also have the geotag option which is neat for grouping albums together. Whatever suits your needs best is the best option!

Music & Video

After photos, go through other files, such as films and music. If you are like me and you use streaming services for everything connected to media, then maybe you don’t need to keep your old library of iTunes songs that take up space? If you do not use them, but still do not feel ready to part with them, maybe a solution can be to transfer them to an external hard drive for safekeeping? Either way, the same procedure applies here as with photos. Delete everything not needed, back-up and then organize the remainders in a suitable way.

Documents

When all media is done and sorted through it’s time to deal with all your documents. Delete everything you don’t want or need to keep. Then back-up all (I keep mine in Dropbox). Something I try to avoid are “lose” documents. I put everything in folders named related to what it is so I can more easily find them. For example, I have folders that are called *School”, “Work”, “Important”, and under each, I have further classification like “Master’s”, “High School”, etc.. 

E-mail & Bookmarks

Finally done with all files, it’s time to take on the online stuff, like your e-mail and saved bookmarks. Go through e-mail, unsubscribe to all that “bad stuff” you do not need in your life (like online shops that spark your inner shopaholic, things you never signed up for…), create a system of how to categorize the e-mails you need to be saved (I use folder for this too, like “Work”, “Payments & Receipts”, “Important”). Then starts the big job. To get the inbox down to (more or less) zero. It’s not necessary to have a completely empty inbox (I, for one, like to leave important e-mails in the inbox as flagged as to not miss/forget them), but it’s really nice when you have had an inbox of 1000+ e-mails to get down to 20 or even 50. A good way to avoid getting a cluttered inbox is to delete the irrelevant ones directly. I try to do this immediately when I read them, so I don’t have to go over 1000+ emails every time I feel like decluttering. Also, don’t forget to go through your saved folders every now and then. Something that was important a year ago might not be today!

Lastly, go through bookmarks! I tend to save a lot of stuff to my bookmarks, which in the end can make it quite hard and annoying to find things. Go through them all and rearrange those you want to keep and delete the rest.

Now what?

Now you can enjoy a computer that is less cluttered and less stressful!

At least until the next decluttering session!

Declutter you tech: phone & tablet

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How decluttering your phone can make you feel better

Let’s face it, most of us rely on our phones a lot. We use it as a camera, we use it as a calendar, for reminders, for grocery list and all this is in addition to its original use communication.

When your phone is cluttered, it can feel crowded and stressful. There are too many apps taking up storage, you have trouble finding all your pictures because there are so many and you have no system for them. Also, you never seem to find the right number you are looking for in the contact list because you seem to have kept all contacts since you were in junior high. Then all of a sudden it starts acting up because you have no storage room left (this seems to happen no matter how many GB there are in there…).

Easily put, decluttering your phone will have the benefit of making it more easily manageable, which in turn will lead to you having to spend less time using it. This, of course, can lead to you clearing up precious time you could spend on more fun things. Decluttering your phone is similar to decluttering your home or your closet, you can expect less time looking for things and more ease of mind.

So how to go about it?

Phone

I always like to start with something easy, just to get into it a bit. For me, this tends to be apps.

Go through all your apps and delete the ones that are not being used or that take to much energy or time from your day (or that give you anxiety or maybe even an urge to shop!). Then arrange them in groups/folders according to what they are about, so you minimize the space needed. Then you drag them to the second and/or third page and only leave the most used/necessary ones on the home screen. It’s less stressful to be met by a clean, decluttered home screen than a crowded, messy one. I also would suggest a clean background that does not distract. If you want to use a family photo or something fun, maybe that can be used as a screen saver instead?

After apps, I suggest moving on to pictures, which if you are like me, might be a slightly more time-consuming feat. Go through all your photos! Delete old screenshots, duplicates and just plainly bad photos that you have no use or joy for. If you feel like more decluttering in the photo department you can transfer them to your computer or a cloud service and delete them locally, which will allow you to open up more storage space on your device. If you are more like me, who likes to keep things on all possible devices, or you have no problem with space, create albums that are based on happenings, what type of photo it is, or based on time (+ also make sure to have a back up anyways, since your phone might give up on you). This will allow you to find photos you are looking for quicker.

One thing I am guilty of is keeping all contacts. Honestly, will you ever again call your old soccer coach you haven’t seen in six years? And if so, don’t you think you could find his number on the white pages? Also, today you can pretty much reach anyone through Facebook, so if you get FOMO from deleting someone’s number, don’t!

Text messages. I honestly, don’t really use them anymore. Most of my communications go through Facebook messenger or Whatsapp. Still, I do get a fair share of messages for important things (or from grandma), so doing a clean here can be beneficial. You will have to decide yourself what is irrelevant here. I delete all promotional and reminder e-mails and only keep the conversations from friends and family. If you are not at all sentimental, you could always wipe it completely.

Lastly, we have video and music. If you are like me and you use streaming services you won’t really need to do much in this area, but if not. Look into what you actually need on your phone and what you can be without. Another thing I would like to add here is podcasts. I love them, but they tend to take up more space than any other app or file, so I try to make sure to “unsave” the episodes every now and then.

Tablet

This obviously only applies if you have a tablet, which I do. I use it mostly for reading, watching clips and movies, as well as playing games. This also means that I do not keep a lot of files on there.

For the tablet, the same process as for the phone applies: apps, photos, movies, and music.

Here I also keep a good amount of downloaded documents in iBooks, so going through them to delete all the old things I do not need (looking at you pdf from second year of uni…) is a must.

Extra

If you want to go even further in your decluttering, go ahead with your other tech.

If you have a camera:

  • Delete all duplicates and bad photos.
  • Transfer all photos to a computer (or wherever you tend to keep them).

Another neat thing to do is to look through all the chords and devices you have at home. Do you use all? Do you need all? Have you maybe thrown away the device that actually goes with that one chord? Then that should go too!

 

How to Stay Mindful on Social Media

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Social media can be a great source of inspiration and a way to keep in contact with friends and family. It can equally be a source of great stress and anxiety, leading us to feel bad about ourselves and our lives.

So what can one do to maintain a healthy relationship to social media?

My first tip is one that I live by, only follow people or accounts that make you feel good or inspired! When you notice someone’s account or pictures on social media are constantly bringing you down and making you feel bad, unfollow them, forever or for a while. Maybe you are in a bad place right now and you cannot handle that influence. If it’s a friend or someone you don’t want to hurt, try just turning off their visibility or notifications. I have over the years gone from obsessively following fashion people, who after a while made me feel bad because I just didn’t look that way or could afford the things they were consuming, to only following fitness people, which in the beginning motivated me, but in the end, just made me feel unworthy. Lately, I have been weeding out all accounts that are wasteful or don’t care about sustainability, they tend to anger me and I really don’t need that type of negativity in my life.

My best way of keeping this balance of only following accounts that makes me feel happy or inspired is to occasional audit and sort out irrelevant accounts. Sometimes it happens simultaneously when I am scrolling in the feed and I see something that makes me feel bad. However, I try to take some time every now and then, when I notice that social media makes me feel more anger and sadness than joy and fulfillment, to go through all my followings and contacts.

Lastly, a simple reminder to all of you. The most important one. Remember that social media is not reality! It’s easy to get wrapped up in other peoples’ accounts and believe that it is how their lives look like all the time. But comparing yourself to someone who gets clothes for free and has a personal photographer or who has the money to travel 300 days out of the year is not going to make you happy. And to be honest, they are probably struggling with many of the things you are, even though their lives seem like a dream to you.

How to Minimize Your Time Online

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The World Wide Web has been revolutionizing for the way we live online. So has social media. Today, it is rare to meet people in the west who do not engage in any kind of social media platform. Finding someone who doesn’t use the Internet even less so.

It’s easy to see the positive aspects that the Internet and social media has brought into our lives. It has made knowledge more accessible and communication across the globe easier. But it’s not only positive. Except for the simple fact that social media can make us more distracted and less efficient in our offline lives, social media can make us depressed.

So what can we do to stay on the positive side of social media and Internet usage?

Ways to limit your time spent online

Disable notifications

When we have notifications for all the different social apps on our phones, it’s hard to keep the hands off. By disabling notifications, we don’t notice as easily when something “happens” and it might help us avoid opening up social media in the first place.

Set boundaries

By setting boundaries, you make it clearer to yourself what is okay use and what is not. Maybe you only want to use social media in the evening or a certain amount of time a day. By making it clear to yourself it is easier to hold yourself accountable.

Use tracking apps

Funnily, there are apps for helping with excessive screen time. Moment is one app that can help limit the use of the phone. It measures screen time and how many times you pick up your phone in a day. If Instagram is your worst vice, you can set a notification within the app that will remind you when you surpass a certain amount of time in a day.

Be mindful

Try not to grab your phone every time you are bored. Try to think before you open an app what the purpose really is and if it will do anything for you. Will it make you happier? Will it just waste your time?

Try a short detox

When there is a problematic behavior, my best tip is always to lay it off for a while, to do a small detox. This can be anything from avoiding social media altogether for a few weeks, to having a designated day or two a week where you avoid social media and/or tech.

March challenge: digital detox

nick-morrison-325805-unsplashFor the month of March, my focus will be on minimizing my use of the Internet, computers, tablets, and phones. After a lot of consideration, I have decided that I will have one full day, without social media every week, preferably a day during the weekend since that’s when I tend to get stuck in scrolling the most. Plus, I will challenge myself to do a longer detox of a few days during the month as well.

My goal is not to do a full-on detox where I skip all type of social media or the Internet. I actually love Instagram and all the inspiring accounts I follow there, but I want to get some distance and more awareness about my habits. I tend to grab my phone whenever I am bored, stressed or whatever, and that is the behavior I want to kick. Instagram should not be the first and last thing I see every day…

I will also use this month to do some digital decluttering! Going through mail-boxes, old photos, files, and contacts. Today we tend to have so much storage space on our tech appliances that we never actually get rid of the old stuff. But clutter is still clutter, even if you store it somewhere else (like a hard drive or a cloud service).

How do you feel about social media? Do you easily get FOMO or are you fine with going offline for a few days at a time?

February challenge: summary

I don't believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.So it’s the last day of February, this (normally) dark month of the year. I had two goals this month, to meditate daily and to finish the first book in my conscious readings for the year. Did I succeed? Ehrm… no.

So what happened? Life, I guess. I had to do some really intense reading of 19th century French literature for school and it completely threw me off. The book was not bad, but the stress of making finishing it on time really took a toll on my energy levels and my overall quality of life. Except for that, I just plainly forgot some days. When visiting family and friends, meditating might not be at the top of the list and you might be, you know, enjoying your time with loved ones so much that the last thing on your mind is meditation.

Still, I do not see this as a failure, because I really enjoyed myself and the meditation I did do. If you put it in perspective, I had not meditated more than a few short sessions in the past months, but now I got over 20 sessions in just during February! The perk of setting quite high goals is that even if you do not reach them, there is a fair chance that you improved and learned during the process.

So all in all, I am happy with the daily meditation challenge. It has made me realize how much I enjoy this type of guided meditation since it slows my mind down and brings me back to me and what’s important. If you too would like to try meditating more, I shared some interesting post on meditation and mindfulness this past month, such as mindful eating, mindful mornings, how to sleep better with meditation and some good meditation apps.

Regarding the conscious book club, I’m just going to continue reading into March. So far I like the book, but I’m only about 70 pages into it, so we’ll see how it turns out!