Archives for Minimalism
I’ve written before about my constant battle with an affliction called Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). It’s an almost compulsive need to purchase new equipment in the firm belief that the new item, be it a guitar, amp, or effect pedal, will be the spark that ignites stale monotony into inspired genius. Sometimes it works, but I find that more often, buying new equipment is just a substitute for doing the hard work required to be creative.
This isn’t unique to musicians. Most hobbies require some type of equipment, and therefore present the temptation to acquire more or better gear. We’ve covered the topic of breaking up with a hobby, but an alternative is to simply try to do more with less.
Over the weekend I happened to watch a fascinating documentary called Standing in the Shadows of Motown and I was inspired by the minimal amount of equipment that James Jamerson used. His bass playing on hit songs such as “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” helped define the Motown sound, and completely revolutionized the role of bass in popular music. Jamerson’s influence permeates so much of modern music that it would be nearly impossible to list it all, yet his bass rig was very minimalist. Just an upright acoustic bass, and later his 1962 Fender Precision Bass were all he used for most of his studio recordings. The bass was simply plugged directly into the mixing console.
One of my resolutions for 2010 is to buy less hobby-related equipment. Instead, I’m going to try to follow Jamerson’s example, and look for ways to do more with less.
Voluntarily living in less than 175 square feet is a skill. It is not a skill I possess or wish to possess, but I have respect for the people who do and am inspired by their way of life. They find a way to do without traditional conveniences of a home. They sacrifice a great deal of comfort to pursue whatever it is that matters to them more.
This week, I’ve been mesmerized by two articles on extreme minimalist living I want to bring to your attention. The first article from Salon is about a graduate student named Ken Ilgunas who attends Duke University and has chosen to live in his van instead of an apartment:
Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.
I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.
Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
Ilgunas continues in his article to describe how he cooks meals over a propane stove, doesn’t clean his dishes, and has no friends at school so that his way of life won’t be discovered.
The second article from the New York Post goes inside the $150,000 175-square-foot condo owned by Zaarath and Christopher Prokop:
The couple wakes up every morning in their queen-size bed, which takes up one-third of the living space.
They then walk five feet toward the tiny kitchen, where they pull out their workout clothes, which are folded neatly in two cabinets above the sink. A third cabinet holds several containers of espresso for their only kitchen appliance, a cappuccino maker.
They turn off their hotplate, and use the space on the counter as a feeding area for their cats, Esmeralda and Beauregard.
“We don’t cook,” Zaarath said, adding that their fridge never has any food in it. “So when you don’t cook, you don’t need plates or pots or pans. So we use that space for our clothes.”
Once in their running attire, the two change the cat litter box (stored under the sink) and start their small Rumba vacuum — which operates automatically while they’re out, picking up cat hair.
They then jog to their jobs in Midtown, picking up along the way their work clothes, which are “strategically stashed at various dry cleaners.”
Be sure to check out the amazing photo gallery that accompanies the second article.
My immediate reaction to both articles was that I wanted to purge everything I own and give extreme minimalism a try. Then I remembered that cooking is a passion of mine and I would be unhappy if instead of pots and pans I had workout clothes lining my cabinets. I am incredibly impressed by all three of the people in the articles, however. I have more than a few things I can learn from them.
(Image by Angel Chevrestt at the New York Post.)
In 1952, Popular Mechanics magazine ran an article about science fiction author Robert Heinlein‘s then-new 1,150-square-foot minimalist home. Titled “A House To Make Life Easy,” the article written by Thomas E. Stimson, Jr., explores the “house that’s called extreme today but may become conventional before the 20th century has run its course.”
More than half a century later, it’s interesting to look back on this article and see which of the futuristic ideas caught on and which ones didn’t. One of the more interesting items that didn’t become a mainstream feature in American homes is the “commuting” table on page 66:
The “commuting” table allows you to set the table in the kitchen and then push it through the wall into the bookshelf-lined dining area. As full-time housekeepers were becoming more rare in the 1950s, I’m sure this was seen as a luxury for Heinlein’s wife. Nowadays, most new homes simply have open kitchen and dining floor plans where no walls exist between the two areas.
Check out the article (be sure to catch the jump from page 69 to 228, and then again to page 230) and learn about Heinlein’s minimalist home that supposedly only took “about an hour” to clean. Then, come back here and tell us your thoughts on this house that was supposed to make life easy.
Thanks to reader Robert R. for leading us to the article.
We’ve written before about Jay Shafer’s 96-square-foot house. We recently came across the following new YouTube video of him giving a tour and we’re particularly impressed by the amount of storage space:
If you would like to see more pictures of very small dwellings, check out Jay Shafer’s book.
Since it opened to the public in the spring of 2007, I have been eagerly waiting to tour Philip Johnson’s glass house. This weekend, I finally got my chance:
Johnson’s house, which was built in 1949, is heralded as an icon of minimalist design. As you can tell from the image, the house has four glass walls and sparse furnishings. It is a home without excess and a home without clutter.
I’ve always admired Johnson and his ability to live so minimally … that is, until I went to visit his home.
Was he a minimalist? Ha ha! Ho ho! Hee hee!
In addition to the glass house, the 47-acre grounds are covered with numerous other homes and buildings where Johnson spent his time:
- the brick house, a small guest house that also hides the mechanical support systems for the glass house
- the Popestead farmhouse, a second guest house with an enormous kitchen he used to cook in when he had guests (even though he had a kitchen in the glass house and another in the brick house)
- the studio and library, where he did his work and stored his collection of books
- the painting gallery, which housed 42 of Johnson’s friends’ large paintings
- the sculpture gallery, an entire building devoted to his sculpture collection
- Da Monsta, which Johnson built for no apparent reason and named it to sound like a hip-hop reference (not a joke)
- Grainger, the house where he watched television
- Calluna Farms, a fifth house on the property where his boyfriend lived that is currently occupied by the grounds keeper
In my mind, there is nothing minimalist about a nine-house/gallery property. If you have a separate house where you watch tv and another house where you keep your books and another where you keep your boyfriend and all of his things, it completely defeats the purpose of calling oneself a minimalist.
If I had more than one house I could easily keep one of them in the perfect minimalist condition. Imagine how clutter free you could be if you had nine houses/galleries to contain all your stuff.
Oh, and I should mention that Johnson also had an apartment in New York City containing even more possessions.
Was the glass house architecturally amazing? Yes. Was the property beautiful? Yes. Do I recommend seeing the property if you have the chance? Yes.
Do I still think of Philip Johnson as a minimalist? Not in the least.
After the tour it felt as if the glass house was little more than a publicity stunt.
Philip Johnson’s glass house is located at 199 Elm Street in New Canaan, Connecticut. The house is a National Trust Historic Site and tickets to tour the home can be purchased online.
(Image by Eirik Johnson for Time magazine’s article “Splendor in the Glass“)
A friend who is getting married recently asked me what I think are the essential items in my kitchen. I first directed her to the “Creating a multi-tasking wedding registry” post I wrote last year. Then, I made a list of the 10 things I can’t live without in my space.
Making “essentials” lists is a risky endeavor. Obviously, the items I turn to every day aren’t going to be what other people use. It was still a fun experiment and I created my list by answering the question: “If my home were destroyed in a disaster, what 10 items would I replace first?”
The minimalist kitchen:
- 10″ cast iron skillet. The Lodge version and the Le Creuset enamel-coated version both get the job done extremely well. I prefer the enamel coated version because I don’t have to season it and can throw it in the dishwasher, but both are excellent and the Lodge price tag is unbeatable. They work on the stove top, in the oven, and on the grill.
- 12 qt. stock pot with lid. The best and cheapest way to get one of these is to head to your local restaurant supply store and pick up a well-made aluminum one for under $30. You can make soups, pasta, and sauces, as well as using it for frying and soaking. It also works in the oven and on the grill.
- 9 qt. cast iron Dutch oven. Roast or braise in this amazing product. You can fit an entire chicken in this bad boy. Plus, it can go on the grill or directly over an open flame. Expensive, but it will last you a lifetime.
- Two silicone oven mitts. I use an Orka brand, but there are many others out there. Because they’re silicone, I can reach into boiling water and grab things without risking burns (the way you do with fabric oven mitts).
- A good knife set. I’m a big fan of the Cutco 5-Piece Set because they’re durable, can go in the dishwasher, and come with a solid warranty. Plus, since there are so many dealers around, it’s always easy to find where to have them sharpened.
- Cutting board. I love my Epicurean Cutting Surface because it’s nice on my knives, can be tossed in the dishwasher, and can be used as a trivet (up to 350 degrees F). I’ve had mine for a number of years and it is as good as new.
- Tongs. Not a lot to say about them, but love that they lock closed for easy storage. Long-handled stainless steel ones can be used for items in the oven as well as on the grill.
- Food turner. I grew up calling these things spatulas, but apparently that is not their official name. Again, you can use them on the stove, grill, or in the oven. They also do nicely in the dishwasher.
- Infrared thermometer. Simply point it at your food and know the temperature. Nothing to clean, and really cool.
- Baking pans. All you’ll need to get started are anodized aluminum sheet cake, loaf, and jelly roll pans.
I believe anyone can make fantastic meals with only these items. Do I have more in my kitchen? Definitely. This is just a basics list and nothing more. If I were to add five more items, I’d throw in a long-handled ladle, heavy-duty stand mixer, bread machine (I use mine twice a week minimum), coffee pot, and tea kettle.
Are there essentials that I have forgotten from my list? Do you think any of these items are unnecessary? Give your opinion in the comments.
Whenever I see a piece of furniture that is brilliantly simple, my first thought is, “I want to share that with the Unclutterer readers.”
This week, I learned about the Piegato One shelves and instantly wanted to share them with you. They’re designed by Matthias Ries and will be manufactured by his company MRDO Products. The shelves ship flat and then you bend the metal into place with very little effort:
A short video shows how to setup and install them.
I know that the industrial look isn’t everyone’s favorite style, but you can still appreciate that such a beautifully engineered product exists. This shelving system is simple, streamlined, and wholly uncluttered.
When I decided to get clutter out of my life — physical, mental, time, and productivity clutter — I did it because I wanted to have more time and room in my life for the things that matter most to me. There are only 24 hours in the day, and I want to spend the majority of my waking hours doing what I value and find important.
Sure, there are chores (about 30 minutes a day) I don’t love, but doing them keeps stress and other negative effects out of my life. My overall life is better because I have routines in place to take care of the not-so-great parts.
One thing I don’t like doing is gardening or anything to do with the yard. I know that some people love gardening and are horrified that I don’t like it, but I enjoy things that I’m sure they have no interest in doing (cheese making, doing stand up comedy, reading mystery novels, playing the pedal steel guitar). We’re all different, which is what makes unclutterers so great.
Since I’m not fond of gardening, I have fake plants in all of the flower boxes on the front of my house. These are high-end fake plants. Even when you’re standing inches away from them, you have no idea that they’re not real. But, unlike real plants, I don’t have to do anything to maintain their beauty.
- No watering.
- No weeding.
- No dying plants.
- No plant diseases or pests.
- No maintenance.
If you’re interested in sprucing up a flower box with fake plants, follow these tips to make it so that no one on your block has any idea:
- Use high-end fake plants. If it looks bad in the store, it’s going to look bad in your flower box. The French make the world’s best fake plants, and if you can afford them, buy them. My favorite is Trousselier at 73 blvd Haussmann in Paris. If heading to France isn’t in your future (Trousselier doesn’t have an online shop), check out your local craft store and be very picky about what makes it into your cart.
- Buy plants, not flowers. You don’t have to worry about things blooming in the wrong season if nothing blooms. And, even when they are very well made, fake flowers can still look fake.
- Only display the plants during appropriate seasons. If a fern wouldn’t be growing outdoors in January, don’t have a fake fern outdoors in January. Store it into a garbage bag in your garage, and put it back out in the spring.
- Only buy fake plants that could grow in your region.
- Take the time to plan out and landscape your flower box before you go shopping for fake plants. You want the plants to look as natural as possible.
- Buy fake plants with realistic looking imperfections. Not every leaf on a plant is the exact same shade of green, and sometimes a leaf or two is brown. Nature isn’t perfect, and neither should your fake plants be.
- “Plant” your fake plants in gravel with fake moss or fake grass as ground cover. Weeds won’t grow in rocks, but they will grow in dirt. If you “plant” in dirt, you’re still going to have to pick out weeds.
Okay, now you know my time-saving secret. Where do you cut corners to free up time in your schedule to pursue the things that matter most to you?
(My apologies about the picture being small. It was hard to line up an image that didn’t flash my neighbors’ license plates to the internet.)
A graphic design student at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Steve Haslip, designed a prototype for a mailing envelope that transforms into a clothes hanger. As far as we know, the design isn’t yet manufactured. But, we absolutely love it and hope that someone starts using it.
From the product description:
The concept was fairly simple: I buy t-shirts online and they always come wrinkled and I always run out of coat-hangers. So I designed a sustainable, reusable way to send and keep your t-shirts. As you open the package you create a coat hanger. The packaging could be made from recycled material whether it is card or plastic and the only waste is the green tear-away tab.
Do you know of additional product packaging that keeps clutter and waste away? We’re always on the lookout for great, uncluttered design.
(via Packagings of the World)
It seems like nearly every day, I go to a popular website and see examples of how not to design a site. And the number one no-no that all of these highly-trafficked sites commit is that their designs have too much thoughtless clutter.
The worst case is when a seemingly clean site has a random patch of cluttery buttons in the corner somewhere. I took this screenshot yesterday of a popular dictionary site.
Apparently the makers of the site decided to cram as many social networking site buttons into the upper-right corner of the webpage, in hopes of getting attention on social sites.
Would you click on any of those buttons? I know I wouldn’t. Aside from placing those buttons in the last place they’ll be seen on the site, they just add clutter. The buttons have effectively taken attention away from the core section of the site (the definitions and dictionary look-up), and are digitally waving their hands and screaming “look at me! look at me!” in the nose-bleed section of the layout. I think it’s safe to assume that those buttons have a really, really low click-through ratio.
If I was going to use one of these buttons, I’d have to take about 20 minutes to scan through all the buttons just to find the bookmarking service I wanted. Also, the buttons feel like they were hastily added, as an afterthought. It’s as if some big-wig in the company read about social networking in the newspaper the night before, burst into the designer’s cubicle and demanded the designer increase their “social media whatchamacallit” NOW.
Would I Click This?
Every element should pass the “would I click on this?” test. When I’m laying out a design and want to add something (like a button or a link) outside of the content, I always ask myself if I would click on it as a visitor. If I won’t, then visitors probably won’t either.
Every ounce of space is precious. When you have a great minimal design like Unclutterer has, every tiny thing you add to the layout is going to be seen. Especially if the element is added thoughtfully and tastefully.
Take Unclutterer’s new “Subscribe on Twitter” link. Erin mentioned yesterday that the Unclutterer Twitter account had received a ton of new followers last week, probably due to the recent addition of a simple link and button to the sidebar. Compare these two implementations and ask yourself which you would rather click on:
When it comes to design, every bit, every piece, every ounce must be weighed and thought through. Adding even a tiny thing dilutes the rest of the design, but if added carefully and thoughtfully, can actually enhance the overall design.
Minimalism has reached all-new heights with the Free Spirit Spheres. Instead of finding a small corner of the world to call your own, you can swing from the trees in a ball of wood.
A description of Eryn, one of two sphere options from Free Spirit Spheres:
Made of Sitka spruce, Eryn is 10 ½’ (3.2m) in diameter giving her 1.8 times the volume of Eve [the other sphere model]. A well-appointed interior with galley, table/sitting area, double bed and loft bed, Eryn can sleep three. The loft bed has a weight restriction of 165 pounds. The galley includes a sink, small refrigerator, microwave and dishes.
Eryn has five windows. Two large windows; one next to the bed, the other beside the table, and two small windows; one in the door and one over the galley counter. A large skylight facilitates communing with the forest canopy and the stars. Every window is dished to the same radius as the sphere shell.
Eryn is insulated, plumbed and wired for 20 amps, 120/240 volt AC. She is easily heated with a small electric heater.
A view of the “kitchen” in the Eryn sphere (people included for scale):
A view of the “living room” and front door in the Eryn sphere:
There don’t appear to be any laundry or bathroom facilities in the spheres, so you would need to find additional methods to tackle these vital tasks. Otherwise, I think they look pretty cool. I don’t think I could live in one full time, but they might be perfect for a vacation. What do you think? Could you take up residence in a minimalist sphere?
(Thanks to reader Jessica for bringing the MSN article to our attention.)
The New York Times recently published the article “Move Up? Move Out? Families Squeeze In” on the topic of middle-class families choosing to live in small urban spaces.
“There seems to be a large contingent who don’t move to the suburbs anymore,” Mr. [Andrew A.] Beveridge [a demographer at Queens College of the City University of New York] said. “Oftentimes both parents are working and have lives in the city and don’t want to commute in and then worry about having to get back home. There is a much bigger traction to city life.”
The article looks at families in New York City and San Francisco who live in one bedroom apartments with at least one child. Clutter and stuff in general is eschewed since there simply isn’t space for it.
Setting up a one-bedroom home for a family of four is not easy. In the making-space-out-of-nothing department, Dina Weiss and Jason Severs are master illusionists. A walk-in closet in their one-bedroom co-op on the Lower East Side was converted to a nursery in 2005, when their son, Sam, was born. But when their daughter, Matilda, followed 19 months later, they gave up their master bedroom for the children to share.
“We don’t feel like we’ve compromised,” Ms. Weiss, 35, a part-time teacher, said on a recent tour of their bright, clutter-free home. The couple sleep in the 8-by-9-foot former closet that housed their first baby. It is now a cozy cabin with a wall of built-ins and a queen-size bed tucked into the shelves. “We’d rather have another bathroom,” she added. “In New York people will do anything to have an extra bathroom.”
The article is inspiring and does a nice job exploring the possibilities of small-space living.
Image by Tina Fineberg for The New York Times.
This is the second in a two-part series on how you can use a deep freezer to help with meal planning.
As I mentioned yesterday, we see meal planning as the best process for planning healthy meals, creating a simple shopping list, and avoiding the stressful “what’s for dinner” moment in front of the open refrigerator. A meal plan helps to keep clutter out of your body, and streamlines your at-home eating.
One of the ways you can use a freezer to help with meal planning is by vacuum sealing foods you buy in bulk. If you don’t own a product like a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer, using freezer-safe zip-top bags and squeezing out as much air as possible can work as well. To get the air out of a zip-top bag, close the bag except for an inch at one of the corners. Submerge the exterior of the bag in water almost to the top of the bag. Let the pressure of the water release air from around your food, and then quickly close the last inch at the top of the bag. Be careful not to let any of the water into the bag and onto your food.
The way we use our FoodSaver is pretty straightforward. We start by buying fish filets, beef filets, chicken breasts, roasts, ground turkey, some pork cuts, and usually one or two other meat items based on what is freshest at our butcher’s shop. (If you buy half a cow from a CSA or another animal in larger portion, ask to have the meat butchered for you. My butcher does the vacuum sealing for his customers for a small fee.) Then, we head to our farmer’s market or grocery store and pick up some lettuces and other vegetables that are in season. We buy what we know we like and will use in the next three months.
After shopping, we go home and divide everything up into meal-size portions (we’ll put two fish filets in one vacuum bag, for example). We seal up the storage bags, adhere a piece of masking tape with the date written on it, and throw them all in the freezer. Well, except for the vegetables we want to eat fresh and the lettuces. Lettuces should never be frozen — you don’t want to freeze vegetables with high water content. When you put meat into their bags, you also can add marinades in with the food and they can absorb flavors during the time in the freezer.
When I create my meal plan, I “go shopping” in my freezer and see what I have and what meals I can create from the food in the freezer. I write down what meat I need to pull out of the freezer and transfer it into the refrigerator to thaw two days in advance. (Don’t thaw meat or fish on the counter.) Vegetables I usually don’t thaw ahead of time.
How do you use your freezer to keep meal planning simple? I’m looking forward to getting our deep freezer and having the convenience of being able to buy more in bulk than we already do.
We are delighted to have Leo Babauta of Zen Habits as a guest columnist today. Please give him a warm welcome and check out his awe-inspiring website afterward. We thank Leo for being a part of our month of sharing.
How minimalist is your workspace? An uncluttered workspace is a thing of beauty.
On Unclutterer, my favorite feature is the Workspace of the Week, with its cool setups.
Today, I thought I’d share my pretty minimalist workspace, and share some thoughts on how to go about creating one of your own.
What’s a minimalist workspace?
That question will have different answers for each person. There can be no single definition. The ultimate minimalist workspace, I think, would be to have no desk or papers or computer or anything of the kind — just yourself. You’d think, and talk, and maybe sit on the floor.
Of course, that won’t work for most of us, so it’s more useful to look at our minimum requirements, and focus on creating a workspace that addresses these essentials and nothing more.
So the first step is for you to consider your requirements for working, and what’s essential to your workflow. If possible, streamline and simplify that workflow and those requirements. Then, once you’ve got that down to a minimum, see what the minimum setup would be for those essentials and your workflow. Eliminate everything unnecessary.
What are your requirements?
It’s interesting to note that what you think your requirements are might not be the minimum. They might just be what you’re used to doing.
Taking myself as an example: I used to work with tons of paper, files, sticky notes, and all the usual office tools (pens, pencils, notebooks, pads, stapler, hole puncher, whiteout, calendar, personal organizer, etc.). But then I realized that it’s possible to work without paper, and I’ve eliminated the need for all that stuff. In fact, as I’ve eliminated paper, I’ve eliminated the need for drawers.
Now, you might not have that luxury, and I’m not saying you need to go that extreme. Your needs may be different than mine — but the point is to see if it’s possible to change the way you work, so that you still get the essentials done, without all the same requirements. It’s worth some thought at least — and if you make changes, as I did, you might find that changing things in small increments is better. I didn’t do away with paper altogether. I did it in steps, eliminating different needs for paper one at a time.
My Minimalist Setup
Basically, I have an iMac and a table. No need for papers, files, drawers, other tools.
I work from home these days, and I do everything online. I do have a phone (elsewhere in my house, so it doesn’t disturb me) and a cell phone (also elsewhere), but I don’t have a PDA, an iPod, a printer (though my wife has ordered one for her needs), a scanner, a fax machine, or anything like that. I don’t print anything and I don’t use fax (an outdated technology).
On my computer, I mostly just use Firefox, as I do nearly everything online. I also use text programs for writing (TextEdit, WriteRoom mostly) and a couple other utilities such as CyberDuck for uploading files, Quicksilver for everything, and GIMP for photo editing.
All my organizing needs are taken care of on the computer: Address Book, Gmail, text files for to-do lists and errands and ideas and projects, Gcal for scheduling.
Tips for Creating Your Own Minimalist Workspace
You won’t need to have my setup, but once you’ve determined your minimum needs, here are some tips for making your workspace as minimalist as possible. Not all tips will work for you, so pick and choose which ones will work best for your workflow.
- Have one inbox. If paper is a part of your life, keep an inbox tray on top of your desk and make sure ALL papers, including phone messages and sticky notes, go into this tray. You might have to train your co-workers if they’re not already used to this. Don’t leave papers scattered all over your desk, unless you’re actually working on them at this moment. You might also have a “working file” folder for papers you’re working on but not at this moment, but put this working file in a drawer, so that it’s out of the way. Clear out your inbox each day — nothing should go back in there after you process them. It’s not a storage bin, but an inbox. Read more on clearing your inbox.
- Clear your desktop. Aside from your computer, your inbox tray, your phone, and maybe a nice photo of a loved one, there should be nothing on top of your desk. No papers (again, unless you’re working on them), no notes, no stapler or pens or other junk. Clear as much of it off as humanly possible. If you want to include a couple other essentials, you should, but be sure they absolutely must be there. Keep it as clear as possible, as a clear desk is a relaxing workspace.
- Get rid of knick-knacks. This goes with the above item, but many people don’t even think about all the little trinkets they have on top of their desk. They’re usually unnecessary. Toss ‘em!
- Clear the walls. Many people have all kinds of stuff posted on their walls. It creates visual clutter. Get them off your walls. If it’s a reference guide, put it on your computer and set up a hotkey so you can call the guide up with a keystroke when needed.
- Clear your computer desktop. Many people also have tons of icons on their computer desktop. It’s the same principle as a real desktop — clear it of everything unnecessary, so you can have a nice simple workspace. Keeping icons on your desktop is usually inefficient. It’s hard to find them among a jumble of files. If they’re necessary to open many times a day, file them away and use a hotkey to call them up. Quicksilver for Mac or Autohotkey for Windows are my favorite programs for this.
- Re-examine your paper needs. I started doing this a little over a year ago, and one by one, I realized I could eliminate my different needs for paper. I stopped printing stuff out to read (duh!) and just kept it on the computer. Yeah, that’s obvious. I also stopped keeping paper copies of files I had on the computer, as they just took up more space. Also fairly obvious, perhaps. I also asked people to stop faxing me stuff, and to email it instead. That should be obvious, but I think a lot of people ignore this step. I also asked people to stop sending me paper memos, and use email instead. Stop circulating documents by paper. I stopped bills and notices coming in by paper that I could get online. I stopped catalogs and newsletters coming in by mail. I still get some mail, but for the most part I toss it. You might not be able to eliminate paper, but you can probably reduce it.
- Eliminate unnecessary tools. Think about each tool you have in your desk, in your work area, and even in your office. Do you need a stapler and hole puncher? Do you need all those pens? Do you really need a fax machine? Or a scanner? You might not have control over all these types of tools, but if you do, eliminate the ones you don’t really need, maybe one at a time.
- Simplify your filing. As mentioned above, it’s unnecessary to keep paper copies of files you have on your computer or can access online. Back stuff up online if you’re worried about losing them. Having stuff digitally makes them searchable, which is much better than filing. Just archive, and search when necessary. If you do need paper files, keep them alphabetically and file immediately, so that you don’t have a huge “to be filed” pile. Once every few months, weed out unnecessary files.
- Go through each drawer. One drawer at a time, take out all the contents and eliminate everything you don’t need. It’s much nicer to use drawers if you can open them and see order. Have a designated spot for each item and make sure to put those items back in that spot immediately, every time.
- Use a minimalisk desk. As mentioned above, I just use a table, as I don’t need drawers. While you might not want to go to that extreme, you can find desks without too many drawers or contraptions or designs. Simple as possible is best.
- Clear the floor. There should be nothing on your floor but your desk and chair. No files, no boxes. Keep it clear!
While looking around the web for multi-functioning kitchen tools and gadgets, I stumbled upon the following design for a modular kitchen. As you can see from the photos, the modular kitchen designed by Fevzi Karaman is an interesting concept for small spaces. It looks to be, at this point, just a concept. Hopefully, in the near future this modular kitchen concept will be available for purchase. Just about everything you need in a kitchen is packed into this small, rectangular counter top:
Obviously, this is intended for small living spaces and isn’t going to be very useful for larger families. For a small space, however, it is well done.