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Simplify Thrive

Simple Living Productivity: Freedom from Distractions

A version of this post, Simple Living Productivity, was previously published here on 9 November 2018. 

Minimalism is about more than editing your material possessions. It’s a mindset to help you focus on what’s important. That means being protective of your time and energy as well. Those are finite resources that are even more valuable than money. Stop wasting them on things that don’t matter. I call it simple living minimalism, and it’s how I’ve been able to accomplish things while still finding a healthy work/life balance.

Productive Minimalism

One thing that an hourly wage structure has conditioned us to believe is that activity is the same is productivity. You don’t have to be busy, you just have to look busy. As long as you’re keeping up appearances, your boss will probably still pay you. That means that all tasks are theoretically equal. A flurry of activity that amounts to doing nothing is perceived to be better than standing around doing nothing, but the net result is the same. It’s fine if you’re satisfied with just serving time, but if you have any ambition at all it’s just wasteful.

If you want to be productive, you need to target your efforts. Cut out things that you know are a waste of time. Stop pretending that they aren’t, or trying to justify those tasks as having some meaning that they don’t possess. Do the things that most need doing.

The Cost of Distraction

Distractions kill productivity. Time is money and all of that. Eliminate the unnecessary tasks, get more valuable work done, make more money. I wish we could get beyond that, because while it’s true, it’s not everything. The cost of distraction is increased pressure to meet deadlines. Instead of getting done on time or even early, you waste time and have to scramble to finish on time. Who needs that stress? The cost of distraction is the feeling that you shouldn’t make time for yourself. You’ve already blown your “free” time when you should have been working.

Productive minimalism is eliminating the trivial wastes of time. Then you can enjoy longer blocks of time, and spend them doing meaningful things. We all hate meetings and pointless emails, because that’s time we could be putting toward a useful or interesting project. Five minutes surfing the internet here, ten minutes playing a game on your phone there, all add up to hours you could be spending with loved ones, reading a book, or even sleeping late.

Simple Living Productivity

This is the latest in a series of posts on Simple Living Minimalism. If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Simplify Thrive

Exploring the Concept of Spoonie Minimalism

A version of this post, Exploring the Concept of Spoonie Minimalism, was previously published here on 8 March 2019. 

Over the past week I’ve been ill. I really don’t want to get into it, because I’m not here for sympathy, but it’s a case of multiple things converging, and one ailment exacerbating another. The part that’s useful and constructive is that I had to prioritize what absolutely needed to be done, because I don’t have the strength or energy for anything beyond those essential tasks. It made me appreciate that fact that I’m already a minimalist. I also grew to accept the self-applied label of spoonie even more. What I started to picture in my head was a Venn diagram where the two overlapped. I’m officially calling it “spoonie minimalism”. Here are some preliminary thoughts; this is probably going to be a work-in-progress.

My Take on Minimalism

I’ve always defined minimalism as getting rid of what you don’t need or want in order to make space for the things you do. Most people see this as material possessions and clutter. It also extended to not spending money where you don’t have to, so you can afford necessities and a few luxury items. Don’t waste time on tasks that don’t serve some larger purpose, so that you have time for stuff that’s actually important. Never waste time on toxic relationships, giving you space to establish healthy ones.

The new factor that I’ve added is getting rid of unnecessary tasks that sap your strength, so you have the energy to do the things you truly need and want to do. This hit me on some very fundamental levels. I love to cook, but I realized I don’t have to prepare a full meal in order to feed myself.

When I need to save my strength for other things, I can let that go. It’s okay to have some fruit and a piece of toast, make a simple sandwich, or a bowl of yogurt and muesli. If I’m going to the store, and can only carry so much, I have to be sure to only get the items we absolutely need. Even going from one room to the other to get something has been a bit of a planned trip; the kitchen is only three meters away, but why make five trips if you can make one?

Minimalist Spoon Theory

Spoon theory states that people with chronic illnesses only have a finite amount of energy, and they need to spend it wisely. Everything they choose to do has a cost. This means that things need to be prioritized. Choices have to be made. You start by determining what is necessary. From there, you have to look at what yields a return, the things that will be beneficial later. Sometimes that’s “I should do that now, because later I won’t have the spoons for it”. When possible, you need to save some of your spoons for things that make you happy, just to keep yourself sane.

All of which dovetails with various takes on minimalism. Sometimes it’s not about what sparks joy, it’s about what doesn’t leave you exhausted. It’s not always about what’s beautiful, it’s about what’s convenient and doesn’t cause pain. Fewer possessions means less cleaning and maintenance. A concise task list means getting the most value from the smallest number of actions. It’s never about less for the sake of less. It’s less for the sake of not having the strength to do more. Like time and money, energy is a finite resource that needs to be carefully budgeted for maximum impact.

Simple Living Spoonie

My big learning of the past week is that I need to stop finding resources – time, money, strength – for things that aren’t worth it. You’ve only got 24 hours in a day. There’s only a certain amount of money in your bank about. You can only do so much before you’re too tired. You’re in too much pain to function. There are obligations to be met, things that need to be done, but you also need to save something for yourself.

Spoonie minimalism is the fusion of productivity and self-care. If I can get eight hours of work done today, then I will get eight hours of work done. I will make the most of those hours. But if I only have the energy to work for an hour, I need to make that the most productive hour possible, and then not feel guilty or ashamed of the fact that I need to take an extra seven hours to recharge my batteries and tend to my health.

Exploring the Concept of Spoonie Minimalism

This is the latest in a series of posts on Simple Living Minimalism. If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

 

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Journal Simplify

Getting Started with Simple Living Minimalism

For a movement that prides itself on simplicity, people sure like to make becoming a minimalist complicated. Getting started with simple living minimalism isn’t that difficult. You don’t have to pile everything you own into the middle of the room. There’s no need to create lists and charts and elaborate plans. Just find one thing you don’t need, and get rid of it. That’s all.

It could be a material possession that you don’t use. You might be tired of moving it to get to something else, or tripping over it, or having to dust it. Get rid of the clothes in your closet that you don’t wear. Take those canned good you’re never going to eat to a food bank. Throw out those expired products in your fridge, or your in your bathroom cabinet. If it serves no purpose to you, sell it, give it away, donate it, recycle it, or put it in the bin.

Remember, this is about more than material possessions. If there’s something in your daily routine that’s not providing you with any real benefit (checking social media six times an hour, for example), stop doing that. Cancel a meeting and send what you have to say in an email. Mute your phone for a couple of hours when you need to focus on something else. Turn off the TV that’s playing in the background, even when you’re not watching in. Tweak your routines a little bit, so things flow more easily.

Here’s the Secret

If you really want to simplify your life, you don’t need to look for tips and tricks. You already know where your pain points are. You know what you need to do. It’s a matter of having the dedication to actually do it. There’s no need to do everything at once. It doesn’t have to be some broad, dramatic gesture. That sort of change rarely sticks anyway.

That’s why I say pick one thing. It doesn’t matter how small. Get rid of it. Tomorrow, pick another thing. Deal with it. A few minutes at a time, one problem at a time. If something is more complicated, like sorting through all of the junk stored in the garage or breaking a longstanding habit, then you might need to make a plan. Otherwise, it’s all about following up intention with action.

Getting Started with Simple Living Minimalism

This is the latest in a series of posts on Simple Living Minimalism. If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Journal Simplify

My Biggest Challenges with Simple Living Minimalism

Sometimes the hardest part isn’t deciding what to get rid of. My challenges with simple living minimalism mostly stem from acquiring things. It’s often an issue of not having too much stuff, but having the wrong stuff. I make due with what I’ve got, and it’s not always because I can’t afford the better, more efficient, or more compact thing.

As an example, for 5 years I worked at a kitchen table. Nothing wrong with that; I still work in the kitchen. The problem was that the table we had wasn’t suitable for use as a desk. It was an Ikea NORDEN (not sponsored) gateleg table. There was no way to sit comfortably for long period of time, because there’s always a crossbar under your feet. I kept banging my knee into the drawers, which were oddly-shaped and thus useless for office supplies. But because we’d spent €199 on the thing, I felt obligated.

Katie finally got fed up with my complaints, spent €25 on a simple table, and sold the old one for €100. Now I’m comfortable and happy, and realize that I could have fixed the problem years ago. The value of the thing is never what what you paid for it.

The Pressure of Consumer Society

In the United States, I spent a lot of time feeling bad about myself. Even when I was working as a writer, living in a nice apartment, leading a pleasant life, advertising and social pressure made me feel less than. Although I was happy to be free from the financial burden of a car (and the terror of New Mexico drivers), I had to put up with questions and remarks because I walked or rode the bus everywhere. There was a stigma to not owning a car. There’s an overall stigma to not having stuff, as if possessions are a measure of your worth as a human being.

Everything you do in the United States is based on your credit score. Your ability to get a basic bank account, rent an apartment, get a job, is based on that one metric. Everything else about you is run through that filter. Even if you make good money, are highly educated, and can prove that you’re dependable, you will be judged by your credit score. How can you fix your credit score? Buy more stuff!

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

Moving to Finland opened my eyes to a lot of things. Not every flat surface is plastered with advertising, for a start. People all dress pretty much the same, because ostentatious displays of wealth are looked down upon. There’s not a lot of jockeying for social status, at least not based on material possessions. Everyone walks, bikes, and uses public transportation. The rise of streaming services means I don’t watch broadcast television, so I don’t see TV commercials. Because everyone here is paid via direct deposit and pays their bills online, anyone can get a basic bank account.

It’s taken a lot of the pressure off. I can live however I choose to live, and not feel judged for it. There’s no need to be defensive. I don’t feel like I have to buy things I don’t want, with money I don’t have, to impress people I don’t even like. In the United States, even when I got all of the stuff I still felt awful, because there was always more stuff. While I struggle less, my biggest challenges with simple living minimalism still come down to worrying about what other people will think.

My Biggest Challenges with Simple Living Minimalism

This is the latest in a series of posts on Simple Living Minimalism. If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Journal Simplify Thrive

Simple Living Minimalism as a Spoonie

It’s easy to advocate for simple living minimalism as a spoonie. We can start with the practical. Maintaining things uses spoons. Cleaning and dusting things uses spoons. Having to move things to get to other things uses spoons. Trying to not knock things over, because your motor skills aren’t all that great, uses spoons. Able-bodied people don’t always understand how stressful clutter can be. Less stuff immediately translates to less effort.

Visual Noise

Mentally and emotionally, removing the demands of taking care of stuff eases a burden. It can become an issue of guilt, brought about by a society that often labels people with invisible illnesses as lazy. I don’t look sick, therefore I should be able to deal with *gestures broadly at the world*. When you add in the way possessions become equated with status, then the pressure to own things creates further demands on your spoons. It’s not worth it.

Unwashed dishes stress me out, for example, especially when I’m low on spoons. Having fewer dishes, two place settings for two people, means they have to get done. It means there’s a finite amount that can pile up, and even if I used every plate and bowl in the kitchen it won’t take more than a few minutes to do the washing up. Less stuff, less obligation, less anxiety.

Less stuff means less to keep track of. With my executive dysfunction, that’s important. I don’t want to have to remember to dust the knicknacks, or set reminders to water a large number of houseplants that each have specific needs. My world is already filled with white boards and sticky notes and bullet journal trackers. I don’t need visual noise to distract me from important tasks, or to make my reminders less visible.

This does not mean that I don’t have aesthetically pleasing or visually interesting things. Quite the opposite. It becomes more important to curate decor. The few things around me are soothing and make me happy. They don’t get lost in the clutter, so I can see them and appreciate them. It’s easier to dust what needs to be dusted, and to see when they need dusting.

Beyond the Material

There’s more to simple living than having less stuff, of course. Planning simple, easy-to-prepare meals saves time, money, and spoons. Maintaining a well-stocked, efficiently organized pantry cuts down on draining trips to the grocery store. Even keeping your social life manageable, with strategic outings and as little drama as possible, can be hugely helpful.

All of the things I’m talking about apply to everyone, not just spoonies. It’s just easier for spoonies to say no, because we understand the implications and complications. We’ve learned to filter out the necessary from the unnecessary. We know our limitations. Everyone has finite time and money, but spoonies seem to have a better grasp on the reality of finite energy as well. Simple living minimalism as a spoonie means being efficient and targeted in our efforts, because that’s how we’ve adapted in order to function in the world.

Simple Living Minimalism as a Spoonie

This is the latest in a series of posts on Simple Living Minimalism. If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.