I’m a minimalist. Well, when you hear this, you might imagine the people who lives with only a few stuff in a cosy space. I think it’s not incorrect. I own a few things. I live in a tiny 18m² space (this smallness is very common in Japan).
But I think where the minimalist’s way of living leads is FOCUS. After more than 10 years of continuous declutter, now I’m interested in maximising time and focusing on the things I want to do for life more than having less stuff. So, here I’m going to show how I optimise my life as the saying “Less clutter, more focus”.
First of all, doing/owning less helps us to notice what we must do more. In my case, my mind is very messy far more than my room (and sometimes it causes a clutterific room even I own less stuff). So, for me, reducing tiredness of my brain (by too active curiosity, constant interruptions by others, and fear) is the most prior thing.
To reduce decision counts, I do:
- Buying grocery for a week at once, preparing meals for a week at once. It saves much time significantly. In my case, cooking takes only two to three hours in a week.
- Not buying non-reusable things to make less chances of shopping decision to buy refill or not. For example, I own MUJI’s microfibre cloth and cellulose sheets to clean up my place, instead of non-reusable dusters. At first, I simply wanted to reduce the time to decide buying them again or not, but soon I noticed that this habit has one more important side effect. Non-reusable stuff makes wastes. To consume non-reusable items continuously, we need more energy. Some people says that these products may reduce your time to wash a duster, but what about our environment? Taking convenience is not an evil, but I prefer to choose the ethical way. (Plus, habitising will reduce the decision count by washing.)
- To reduce the time to think about outfits, I would like to have same style clothes (like chick monotones) and a few colourful accessories (I don’t want boredom!) in future.
Cutting living cost is one of the effective way to be mindful. More income can solve the problem if you have quite low income, but what more important is to optimise your financial habits to focus on whatʼs important to your life. So, I subscribe less services.
Recently, I quit all the unnecessary premium subscriptions of creation tools besides Adobe Creative Cloud, the global standard applications for digital creators. What I’ve quit are:
I have an iPhone. As you know, Apple offers us not only the smartphone itself, but also many basic pre-installed (or free-downloadable) apps which can run your business easily. It means we already paid the cost to get qualified apps. Many of these apps are not fancier than third-party apps, but you can run your business with them or some free apps GAFA (I’m sure it’s more like a negative word, BTW) offers without spending additional costs. I mean, sometimes enough is enough.
For password management, I use Bitwarden. It’s secure, its auto-fill feature which works on various browsers makes me feel relaxed as like as 1Password, and surprisingly, it’s free because this is an open source app. I’m a fan of open source projects since when Firefox 0.9 has released.
Tip: Keeping accounts by self
It makes more saving money. I switched account keeping tool to Google Sheets from an app which keeps all my spending automatically by fetching the data from every bank accounts, because it has time lag until the latest payments show up, and it categorise spendings with my debit card and NFC incorrectly. Furthermore, I used to avoid to check how much I spend for what with the automatic app.
On the other hands, with Google Sheets, I have to enter all of spending by myself each time. Do you think it’s time-consuming? I think it might be less annoying than you think. I use a format downloaded from the Web. I can access to the sheet online from everywhere I go, even with my smartphone with this app. What the most important is to determine the living cost, especially the minimal living cost. Knowing how much I need to live for a month makes me feel safe.
For automatic payments, I check them with official apps of each bank.
Art Materials Which I No More Use
At the past, I suddenly became a watercolour artist and make some works for half of the year. Many people said I have a talent. I was happy with it. But on the other side, I already have been a digital artist for 20 years and my true enthusiasm is clearly in the digital world. When I talk about this subject, some people ask me “Why do you throwaway your business tools?” or even say “You should be a traditional artist”. But I don’t care. It’s clear that to listen inner voice and follow it is the key to live happier life. And the materials I haven’t used for years show how I don’t have an enthusiasm for traditional painting. I decided to increase the time to commit digital creation, then I’ve gotten rid of them.
For some worse habits, “less” is not enough. Simply, quit them instead.
I stopped to listen music or podcasts when I’m walking, to reduce chances to open apps without aim just after skipping songs. Years ago, I purchased a bone conduction headphones to keep myself safety at walking and it was reliable for long time. I think they are more useful at office where I should notice people talking at me. But in the noisy street, they become useless gadgets without earplug. I suspect the rumour bone conduction headphones save people from hearing loss. Even with them, sound will still damage your cochlea if you listen for long time loudly. For sound quality, EarPods give me nicer experiences on budget.
If you have an iPhone, Turn “Do Not Disturb” or flight mode on and put the phone away when you work. Also, I set “Downtime” during night to early morning to focus on reading or watching films, instead of scrolling social media.
Only LINE and phone calls by specific people can reach me at that time.
I recently quit always LUNCH, a subscription service which offers eating out experience with fixed cost (you can see what you can eat here). This service actually reduces time to prepare meal, but I was feeling to spend more time outside of my place once I went out. Working at cafe treats this feeling if I pay additional costs. But, is it worth to save both time and money? I need to take all of the heavy gadgets, find a place where has sockets, Wi-Fi and enough space to put my 15 inches MBP and pen tablets!
In addition, I’m good at preparing a bunch of healthy meal quickly, of course with a low budget. So time-saving doesn’t work so much for me too.
Tip: Time-blocking System
This is powerful to avoid such feelings. Having a next event helps to switch my mood easier. Schedule yourself, habitise yourself to focus on work when you working, play hard when you playing.
Reducing-only minimalism is the boredom of emptiness. It won’t get your life better also. So, let’s find “more” things by manage your physical/mental habits.
Turn Off (Almost) All Notifications
As I wrote earlier, I set both Do Not Disturb and Down Time during night to early morning. Sorry, to tell the truth, I turn off almost all notifications all the day. To get deep focus, I decided not to bother myself with notifications from messenger apps. I check them twice or three times a day in average. For more time-saving and detailed conversations, video chatting with zoom is my preference. Plus, zoom reduces time and cost to meet the people offline without cutting real experience so much. And even it cuts the risk of catch COVID-19 (now is 2020)!
Maintain SNS Habits
Facebook: From desktop, I highly recommend to use the official distraction-free Messenger.
I use messenger for business talking. But when I open up facebook.com/messenger even directly, the red bell icon takes away my focus. I don’t want to see its timeline filled with posts of delicious foods, their kids’ photos and sometimes grumbles… Especially when I’m working (I rarely find business-related posts). Further more, none of them add value to my life. Well, honestly, I want to deactivate Facebook except Messenger. Maybe it’s the time to stop procrastination. But anyway, this tip is an alternative way.
Twitter: Make lists by category. Rescue valuable tweets from the mess. This tips makes my Twitter life much stress-free. When I want to see only the tweets related to illustration, I simply hit “Design” list, then I see the timeline fully filled with tweets by the people who talk about design-related topics. It works like a news app magically. With over 200 of follows, it was hard to catch tweets of the people who doesn’t make tweet much frequently.
Blog: Recently, I found here erikaobama.com is the most widely viewed place where I post my stuff and articles, while others don’t make significant results. Blog is still powerful, while people still use search engines to find specific, detailed informations they need rather than Twitter.
YouTube: I don’t mean that YouTube is trending. You don’t need to make videos if you feel it’s not suit to me. For me, as a digital creator who decided to focus on 3D illustration, this platform well suits. Maybe Vimeo is also as a portfolio. And I’m a minimalist. I’m going to share some life hacks for everyday life as Vlogs.
Work (on what I want to do)
Have multiple income streams. But don’t forget to focus more on what is the most important to you. Honestly, it’s not the way I garantee – while I don’t have any stable income stream, since I quit my job at some company (my budget was 1/2 to 1/3 of average!) to start my own business (without a clear plan or speciality. Shit). What I learned from this situation is to lean on one income stream is vulnerable, while I don’t give up to live with the way I truly want.
I don’t think I have to completely give up my freelancing job. Instead, I just need to do both running my own business and building my skills up. For a long tme, I believed part-time freelancing doesn’t look professional. But, wait, to build my skills up more effectively, commiting on a day-job on the right field is not so bad nor shame (if I do less overtime), isn’t it? This maybe will give more chances to connect with good people in the industry or outside of the industry. This is much important to me, a too shy person.
I watch and read various sources talking about how to live with the way you can love. If you suspicious about living life with this way, I recommend a life coach Chris Monsen’s YouTube channel and his book. Currently, he shares his thought with Japanese language (and with some English partially), but he says he is working on the English version of his book now.
To get stronger, I do 5 minute workout “HIIT” 3-4 times a week in the morning. With HIIT, I can get healthier in your home with no equipment, without spending long time. This is why I like this method rather than go to gym. This version of HIIT is flat-friendly because it doesn’t include jumping menu.
By using VoiceOver on Kindle, or the listening feature of Pocket, while not all the books I read are Auditory compatible. I prefer listening over reading because I’m a mix of visual and auditory person. When I summon my memory, my brain starts to play a video in my head to remember when/where/how it happened, basically. But when it comes with language, I’m more like an auditory person (Reading is something painful). Maybe I can cure it by plenty reading experience, BTW…
For many people, reducing time to watch TV or films will work to make their life better. But for me, opposite will work fine definitely. Somehow I habitually committed too long time to output, so having no time to consume visual entertainments like novels and films was normal. But please note that I’m not a person who have no interests in such types of contents! The result of worng time management, I’ve got a long queue of read/watch it later.
Getting rid of unnecessary physical things, having less procrastinated issues, and maintaining daily habits. These will lead us to more intentional life. I’m still at the beginning of the way of optimising my life, but I hope this article will inspire you more or less, anyway.
I’m a digital creator / minimalist.
Since I dove into digital creation world in 2000, I’ve been making 2D/3D illustration, graphic design, web design and video editing as hobbies and business.
My recent hobbies are watching videos of minimalists’ life styles and seeking life hacks for better life.