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Archive for the ‘Simplicity’ Category

Digital clutter

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Some years ago I embarked on a comprehensive decluttering project [I interchange the word declutter with unclutter, though the latter is not recognized by my spellcheck], purging unwanted and unneeded books, clothing, household items, various trinkets and baubles, as well as scanning all my photographs and paper documents and culling both down to the bare essentials. A couple years ago I swallowed hard and purged my DVD collection. I’ve embraced a minimalist way of living, not only in the things that I own but also in my daily activities, taking part in only those things that bring me the greatest sense joy and fulfillment (aside from work, naturally).

Yet I’ve allowed my computer to harbor an ever-growing collection of digital data, and it’s reached a point where I often spend so much time attempting to retrieve a quote or a photo that I either forget why I was looking for it or lose interest altogether.

Digital clutter is easy to accumulate as it does not take up space in our lives the way a book or a piece of clothing would. Storage space is incredibly cheap, both in disc/SSD format and in the cloud, and most of us will never come close to filling up our computers’ hard drives. But the point is that, just because every file we ever create can be saved forever, doesn’t mean they should be.

Over the next few months I’m going to review and purge three main areas on my MacBook. The month of May will be devoted to the six thousand-plus songs in my iTunes library, while June will be focused on my nearly four thousand pictures in iPhoto.

April will be spend on Safari, my web browser of choice. I have a knack for saving bookmarks to sites I will likely never revisit, and over the years I’ve created folders within folders to tame them. But the bookmark zoo has grown far too large. I have 20 main folders, covering topics such as movies, employment/resumes, simplicity, nutrition, exercise, computers/technology, places/travel, habitation and (everyone’s favorite) “random”. Most of these folders contain several dozen sites; my exercise and random folder have well over a hundred, as does my employment/resume folder if I count the sub-folders for resume-writing, interviewing and recently-unemployed. Whew.

So my first task is to go through each folder and sub-folder, open up every bookmark in a separate tab, review the site, see if it’s something I still want to reference, then either keep it or delete it. Having done this to several of my folders, I have already found somewhere between a fourth to a third of all bookmarks are dead links! Of the live links, I’ve tried to delete multiple links to the same web site, opting to keep just one link to the main page if possible. I’ve probably already eliminated a couple hundred bookmarks already, and I’m not even halfway done… I’m saving the two biggies (exercise and nutrition) for last, as they’ll correspond with folders cluttered with various clippings on my hard drive.

Once I’ve purged my bookmarks, I will move on to the Reading List, a neat little feature built into Safari, like a Netflix queue for web articles. It’s insanely easy to save a page in the Reading List to read later… and then forget about it completely. Such is life. But I dislike having so many unread articles out there. It gives me the feeling of having unfinished assignments hanging over my head, a feeling I came to dread when I was in college.

I made a cursory review of the list last weekend and deleted about a third of the one hundred or so articles saved therein. What’s left will be read, consumed, contemplated, then either referenced on this here site or deleted. I’m going to resist the urge to simply transfer saved articles to my bookmark folders.

Thinking about my to-read pile reminded me of this article in Unclutterer about handling the flow of information in our lives. There’s a lot of shit out there on the internet and not enough hours in the day to consume it. I can’t read every article or watch every video posted to my Facebook feed (note to my family and friends — PLEASE stop posting links to Facebook on a daily basis!). As Chris Miller is quoted in the article, “my time and attention are the most valuable things I possess.”

Upon reflection, I think I save so many bookmarks and Reading List articles because I want to learn, to stay informed, on as many topics as possible. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that life is just too damned busy for me to keep up with every topic of interest. I have to develop an ability to cull from the monstrous pile of information, to seek out what really benefits my life and focus solely on those things, and be at peace with leaving the rest of it behind me. With that said, I’ll close with this gem of a comment from the Unclutterer article:

EVERYTHING is interesting when you have a curious mind but we can’t read everything, can we? Why are we becoming so afraid of missing out on the latest post, article, whatever? Why do we have to follow so many feeds or “friends”?

I am just as guilty in some of these areas as everyone else and I have been asking these questions of myself lately, so this is not intended as just criticism for all of you and not me. I realized that in my quest to remain “informed” about so many things, I was actually learning less by becoming distracted and scattered. I am trying to turn that around now but it’s not easy!


Written by camcarlson

April 14, 2014 at 9:55 PM

Posted in Apple, Simplicity

325 sq. ft.

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I was reminded a few weeks back by my good friend Mia about tiny houses, and it got me thinking about how I don’t post much about dwellings or simplicity anymore. So today’s entry is an attempt to get back on that horse. I found this video on a small little apartment space in Barcelona that doesn’t look that much smaller or larger than my own, aside from being more narrow in design. The kitchen was retrofitted into the space, and looks far more functional than the rinky dink pocket kitchen I put up with here in the Mandalay. The bathroom looks nice and cozy, as does the minimalist bedroom. I didn’t get a good sense of windows in the main (lower) room… a lack of natural lighting would be a dealbreaker for me. Not crazy about the exposed brick ceiling, but since it’s natural to the dwelling, I’m glad they kept that feature. I honestly can’t imagine any overnight guests sleeping on that sliver of a foam mattress under the stairway. But overall, a comfy little space for one or two people to call home.

Written by camcarlson

February 19, 2014 at 9:48 PM

Posted in Simplicity, video

Single-serving Apartments

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Where do I start with this video? So many intriguing ideas and concepts raised. A highlight: the statistic shared (2:07-2:25) that the percentage of the US adult population living alone in the 1940s-50s was around 10%, whereas today it’s closer to 30%, and unfortunately the housing supply hasn’t adapted for this changing demographic. So many single men and women would like to own a house, but they don’t want to own a house built with a traditional 50s nuclear family in mind — three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two-car garage, etc.  This dovetails nicely into a separate discussion on how the average annual salary in the US hasn’t kept up with the increase in home prices over the past 20 years, making mortgage more unaffordable.

I don’t like the title of the video though… living micro? If 200-400 sq ft is micro, I wonder what they think is average or normal. How about “living with a space that accommodates your actual needs”?

Anyway, fingers crossed…

Written by camcarlson

October 5, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Posted in Simplicity, video

The only thing I really value in this flat is the hot shower. Everything else I can do without.

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I admire the audacity and bravery of this piano tuner in giving up nearly all of his material possessions and living outdoors. Don’t think I have it in me (yet) to do the same.

Written by camcarlson

January 21, 2013 at 5:33 PM

Posted in Simplicity, video

Blame it on Rio

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Ever since I signed up for Hulu Plus, my evenings have been largely spent watching all the movies on Ebert’s ‘Great Movies’ list that I haven’t seen. I’m three away from all the ones that are available to stream, with about 30 left to procure by other means. So I’m using that as my official excuse for not updating these past two weeks. But really, I’ve just been living life. Inundated with the coming of autumn. I don’t know.

So aside from watching dozens of movies, I’ve been running the same routine: work, gym, dinner & drinks w/ coworkers on Friday nights, trying to save more money than I spent, uncluttering my living quarters and not bicycling as much as I should be. But that’s okay. I’ve become rather sanguine about cycling this year. I’m stuck about about 700 miles or so and I doubt I’ll add much to that in the weeks to come. C’est la vie. But I do plan to accomplish two life-goals within the next month or so, so I keep plugging away.

It just occurred to me that I haven’t turned on my television since the Thursday before my weeklong vacation in September. That was August 30th — 33 days ago. The remotes for the television and the DVD player are sitting atop the television and… let me check… yup, they’re beginning to show signs of collecting dust. I think I can safely get rid of them at this point.

Written by camcarlson

October 2, 2012 at 10:38 PM

Midsummer Roundup

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Halfway through the summer. The past few weeks have been spent working overtime during the day, practicing digital sabbaticals on the weekends and slowly plodding along with my twin archival and purging projects.

With a few exceptions, temperatures have been consistently in the nineties and the air stiflingly humid. Suffice to say, bicycling has taken a back seat to running and weightlifting at the gym.

A few good books read over the past few weeks:

-The Company of the Dead, an alternate history of the 20th century where the Titanic didn’t sink, the US loses WWII and the Nazis and Japanese control the US coastlines. In the new 2012 there’s a Kennedy working for the Confederate intelligent agency out of Texas, who kidnaps the current captain of the Titanic, flies him out of New York City in a German zeppelin, fights with samurai in a hotel in Tennessee and rallies Native Americans to fight a tank war in the Nevada desert while powering up a time machine recovered from Roswell in the hope of… well, I don’t want to give it away.

-It’s All About the Bike, half a history of the development of the bicycle and its various components, and half biography of author Robert Penn, traveling the world and spending an ungodly sum of money (as in over $5,000) to procure the best parts for his dream bike.

The Moviegoer, the tale of a man turning 30 living in New Orleans in/around 1960, during the week of Mardi Gras, who doesn’t seem to engaged in his job or his family or his meager circle of friends but is willing to flee with his cousin (I think that was their relationship) to Chicago, and somewhere in those 240 pages he goes to the movies too. That last one was so-so… the aunt had some good lines towards the end of the book.

A cold began working on me last Wednesday and unleashed its fury last Friday night. I was waylaid all weekend, downing 7-Up and cranberry juice and engorging on seasons 2 and 3 of The West Wing on DVD (I did manage to join Sam and Sharina for dinner and a roller derby double header at Young Arena Saturday night, but my finicky sinuses kept me from enjoying myself). Coming off a weekend of general lethargy and ill health, I’m trying to play catchup.

The A/C has been working more overtime than I have these past few weeks. I’ve turned it off for the rest of the night but it knows as well as I do it’s going back to the front lines tomorrow morning. Good thing my utilities are included in the rent.

Movies seen over the past couple months: “The Happening”, “Whip It”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (dumb fun), “Magic Mike” (believe it or not, there’s a story, but it takes second place to Soderbergh’s “Haywire” from earlier this year), “Ted” (funny but it’s a rental), “Tomboy” (interesting French film about an androgynous 10-year old girl), “John Carter” (not nearly as bad as the bad press led me to believe, but still… not good), “Margaret” (a movie written in 2003, filmed in 2005 and stuck in production and legal limbo until this year’s DVD release; a captivating original story with very good performances) and several DVDs I own (“JFK”, “Paris Texas”, “The Social Network”, “The Squid and the Whale”, “The Darjeeling Limited” and “Gimme Shelter”).

…and “Prometheus” — saw it twice, once in 3D; currently my favorite film of the year, so good and creepy, a modern prequel to “Alien”, a bit faster-paced with a few glaring plot loopholes but still a very solid piece of entertainment. Jim Emerson wrote extensively about this movie and its relationship to “Alien” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It’s a very good essay and worth reading, even for those who didn’t see “Prometheus”. Seriously, read it. Now.

Summer reading

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Last week I read Insanely Simple by Ken Segall, a fun read about the virtues of simplicity for Apple Computers, both within its design concepts and its management style. Segall has a couple decades experience working as one of Apple’s ad men, so his insights were based on firsthand anecdotes.

I also read Overtreated by Shannon Brownlee, a fascinating analysis on the multiple ways our nation’s health care system is spiraling out of control. Brownlee’s premise is that America’s system is not making us any healthier or keeping us alive any longer than other developed nations, despite the astronomical amount of money we spend compared to other countries. The book was written in 2007, so I would love to read some follow-up after the partial implementation of ‘ObamaCare’ that has taken place thus far.

And now I’m diving right into The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. It’s one of the rare texts on the field of happiness based on scientific studies, and although I’m only a couple chapters into it, I already like what I’ve read. I took the happiness test in Chapter 2 and I scored about average for my age group… I think my score was down only because I had coming off of a 9-day vacation and was slightly bored by the end of it. Thankfully, I completely failed the depression test in the same chapter, which is to say I’m certifiable not depressed. Which I already knew. But it’s reassuring to be tested as such, I guess.

After I finish this book I’ll get around to checking out Moby Dick, which has been on the deck for over a month now. I guess I’m just on a nonfiction role at the moment.