The often ignored secret to relaxation: 4 ways you can declutter your life

Published by nedmortimer on

Do you ever meet people who seem really relaxed and zen and wonder how they do it?

As we talked about elsewhere, one of the big selling points to going freelance is the ability to take control of your immediate surroundings.

But this is only great if you take full advantage of it. In this article, we are going to talk through four ways you can use your extra time and independence as a freelance worker to create a calm, ordered world around you and free up your headspace for more important thinking.

And decluttering isn’t limited to physical clutter – in fact, most of the changes apply to intangible things like computer data and other information.  

1 – A clear living space 

Let’s start with physical clutter. 

Have you ever thought more carefully about how often you use all of your possessions?

Clothes

Let’s say you own a full wardrobe of clothes. Actually, let’s make it two wardrobes.

You probably only regularly wear a smaller selection of your clothes – cycling through a smaller set of favourites shirts, dresses, trousers or skirts – leaving most of your clothes fairly redundant. 

Apart from the fact that this is taking up valuable space in your flat or house, you’re also effectively hoarding items that could be better used and appreciated by someone else. 

Spend a couple of hours going through your wardrobe and picking out any clothes you’ve not worn more than once or twice in the past 12 months. Donate them to a clothing charity or give them to a charity shop – you’ll feel good knowing that you’re helping someone else, whilst also de-cluttering up your personal space.

Kitchen

This same approach can be taken towards kitchen items – appliances, cutlery, crockery, and so on. 

I have never understood why people own a pizza cutter – an item that is used for ONE thing and one thing only! Scissors are just as good and can be used for a whole host of other things.

Similarly, you might have several bottle openers, enough plates to host a thirty-guest banquet despite living in a flat that couldn’t possibly fit that many for dinner, and you maybe even have trendy gadgets lying around that seemed cool at the time but now sit gathering dust.

Go through your kitchen and identify the things you never use or really don’t need and offer them up on Freecycle or your local “gifting” company. Your creaking drawers and kitchen cupboards will thank you for it!

I could spend hours going through examples and every person’s possessions are different (even if there are some persistent trends). All I would say is that a simpler, more logical approach towards owning possessions is a great way to free up headspace.

Final point: some people really struggle with the sentimental connection to their possessions and decide to outsource the physical decluttering of their house or flat. We can highly recommend X company and many of our readers have used them to declutter their apartments.

2 – Sort your computer files

Depending on the nature of your work, it’s very likely you spend a large chunk of your time on your laptop or desktop computer.

The importance of regularly tidying our room is drilled into us as children, but the same applies to our digital space – the various folders on our laptop, as well as things like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

Rather than having a jumble of random files and photos, you should have a system so that anything is easy to find, easy to place somewhere, and every time you go on your laptop doesn’t feel like stepping into a room covered in dirty laundry and dirty dishes.

There are several steps to a de-cluttered digital space:

  1. Create your filing system: I like to organise my files into these folders and sub-folders:
  • Business Projects (things you make money
    • [Project number 1]
    • [Project number 2]
    • [Project number 3]
    • etc
  • Creative Projects
    • [Project number 1]
    • [Project number 2]
    • [Project number 3]
    • Etc
  • Admin/Finance
    • Invoices
    • Receipts
    • Official docs
    • Other
  • Photos/Videos
    • Organise by place, month & year
    • Miscellaneous (a folder for pictures that don’t fall neatly into the above)
  • Miscellaneous (very important for things that don’t fall into the above categories)
  • Archive (this is for anything older than 12 months that you never use) 

2) File all files in the correct folder

This is the step that could take a fair bit of time. You can save yourself some time by putting all old files (older than 12 months) into the Archive folder.

Everything else should go into its appropriate folder, or the Miscellaneous folder if it doesn’t fit anywhere.

All your invoices should be named something like this:

DATE_COMPANY INVOICED_INVOICE NUMBER

(For example, it might look like this: 2019-01-31_BBC 6 Music_NM056)

3) Keep an almost empty Desktop folder

All Macs or PCs have a Desktop folder – you should keep this completely empty except for a small handful of files that you open ALL the time.

That way, these are easy to get to, but without the stress of lots of random files with horrible names coming up when you open your laptop.

4) Repeat this process once a week

As with accounts, which we’ll come to next, you should check your filing system is all in order at regular intervals – e.g. weekly (I like to do it every Sunday).

Just as your room will only stay tidy if you do it once a week (and it’s much easier to do it when it’s only been a week since the last tidy), so will your Laptop/Computer!

3 – Tidy Finances

I know that having tidy finances might seem a strange, unglamorous way of leading an decluttered lifestyle, but the truth is, having a good understanding of how much money is coming in and out, and knowing how much you spend on different things is a huge step towards not feeling financial stress.

Either, you’ll realise that your finances are not as bad as you thought, or, if they are, you’ll understand how better to fix them.

We have a complete guide to creating and maintaining good accounts as a freelancer, which even includes a spreadsheet template you can download and use.

If you download your bank statements via your internet banking, with a bit of Excel/Spreadsheet knowledge you’ll be able to create lovely accounts and see how much you spend on groceries, travel, going out and so on.

As we said above, one of the great things about being freelance is taking control of your life – and better understanding your finances means better understanding yourself.

4 – Declutter your Email Inbox 

Inbox (1,274)

If this looks familiar, this paragraph is for YOU!

Having a ridiculous number of unread emails, most of which are from people you’ve either forgotten you subscribed to or never even heard of, will only create stress whenever you open up your inbox.

It will make you more likely to miss important emails, slow your reaction time to new emails (which means even MORE emails as people chase you) and generally give the impression that the world is more overwhelming than it is.

As with accounts, this is so important that we’ve created a separate step-by-step guide to decluttering your email inbox.

As with all great things in life, the path to a decluttered and zen existence begins with some upfront work.

But taking the time to clear your physical and digital space of unnecessary mess will pay dividends towards your mental wellbeing.

And as a freelancer you have the time to do it, without it eating into your evenings, weekends and social life!

As always, thanks for reading and please leave a comment below if you found this useful!


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