Want a minimalist life? Mindset for decluttering 3 top difficult items.

The choice to live a minimalist life is not just a switch. It is a journey of communicating with and understanding yourself. Here are the top 3 items that took me a while to set my mindset and remove them.

Printed Pictures

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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting to toss all the photos for the sake of minimalism. Although rare, there will definitely be times when you want to look at old photos to reminisce the past or to remember someone. My suggestion is photo digitalization. Tools like Google Photos have functionalities that allow you to tag, categorize, and even set reminders for an annual trip to the past. Last year, I discovered that Google photos automatically categorize photos by year, people, location, and event. The other day, Google photo just sent me a “Rediscover this day” notification and showed me photos that I’ve taken on the same day 2 years ago. In a way, online photos are able to make their way back into my busy daily life.

Storing physical photos is also a risk. They can be misplaced, torn, or even just spilled on. It can be horrifying to think all these memories can disappear in a flash without absolute no backups. Hence, last year, I made the decision to digitize all of the family photos. I’ve got to say — the results have been great. Now that I have access to all old family photos anywhere with Internet, I was able to show my grandma old family photos without digging out and carrying the heavy photo books. It was also fun to have a family night guessing baby pictures. Side note: Google Photos facial recognition is surprisingly accurate. You can type in a person’s name, and it’ll show you all the photos — even baby photos — of the person.

Gifts & Cards

The purpose of a gift is completed the moment it is delivered.

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Photo by Kasturi Roy on Unsplash

It took me a while to orientate my mindset to this. I was associating these cards with my actual relationship. Yet, in reality, what really matters is whether I’m spending time with this person and investing in the relationship. Maintaining a relationship is much more than keeping all the cards and gifts. At one point, I realized that I was spending time reminiscing about the cards and gifts rather than directly reaching out to the person. This realization prompted me to take photos of the cards and gifts, tag and categorize them, and throw them out.

Books

Learning Tools:

This includes reference books (ex: dictionary, thesaurus) and engineering textbooks. For texts in this category, I have completely digitized them over the course of a year. These are books that don’t require reading from cover to cover. I mostly access these books because I need to search for information. And being able to hit Ctrl + F (search function for digital texts) to search for a particular term or theorem in a textbook has been an extreme time saver. This is the same reason why I’ve digitized my handwritten notes as well.

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Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Leisure:

I read around 30 books a year and I have so many favorites. It took me a while to set the right mindset to declutter these books. In the end, I came up with a strategy. Instead of thinking ahead and deciding whether I would read the same book again in the future, I look at each book as though I’m taking a stroll at the bookstore. I would ask myself: Would I purchase this book again if I throw it out today? For my all-time favorites such as The Harry Potter series, the answer is definitely a yes. Yet, for others, while I enjoy its contents, I would probably prefer to read new books in that time.

I would like to emphasize, minimalism is definitely not for everyone. Yet, for those who are searching for a bit of peace through decluttering and freeing up space, I hope these mindsets help you in your journey as they did for mine.

Written by

software engineer (web full-stack) + Machine Learning grad student at UT Austin. I write about studying tips, productivity, and minimalism.

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