What does Minimalism have to do with addiction?

When you start on a journey towards a more organized life, it is okay to start from your home, where an average person spends the most of their lives (if you’re like me, though, it is well above average). And once you stop being crazy about cleaning and organizing, you can have lots of free time. Some people even worry about what to do with their new-found freedom. This is what we need to look out for: we need to make sure that habits overcome addictions.

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I have found that addiction and minimalism are closely related. Once you get rid of worthless stuff (be it actual stuff or not), you start to feel this emptiness. Well you can fill it with anything you want, from writing that story that’s been bugging your head to meet friends and have mindless conversations, to actually wrap yourself up in a good addiction. But good news, because minimalism makes you also mindful of your actions, it may be easier than ever before to kick an addiction.

What happened to me was I realized I had the addiction once the emptiness struck: I was playing ridiculous amounts of video games per day.

Long story short, I’ve been playing on and off for like twenty years. I remember in the 90s, in summer holidays I could play up to 7 hours a day. Outside was boiling hot, I was playing with my sister and cousins most of the time, it was like a favorite pastime activity. Come winter my father used to take the adapter cable to work, and filled with study, I wouldn’t remember games at all.

At university also I was doing pretty great, except summers. In summers, where there was no studies to fill up my mind, I would get carried away by computer games like Sims or Diablo. I would only come out for meals. But that didn’t bother me at all, I was fine with it and didn’t consider it an addiction.

When I started to work in 2010 things took a turn. I now was playing not for fun, but to take the anxiety of the work away. I was doing what people were doing with alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. I would forget about every distressing detail and that is why getting rid of it was not easy. The iPad I bought for reading e-books had become my playmate.

But one day I discovered Leo Gura’s channel on youtube. His videos are, to say the least, life changing.

Basically what Leo says about addictions is that you have to be fine with emptiness, no matter what. And the simplest (although not the easiest) way to do is meditation. Sit down there and do nothing. This is pretty effective and more difficult than it sounds, but every time you have an urge to do no matter what, sit down, think about why you think you need to do it. What if you just sit down and don’t do it?

And on another perspective, I like to think about an older Pelin, say, 90 years old. What would a 90-year-old Pelin give advice to a 27-year-old one? Would she want me to spend 7 hours a day doing an activity that would hinder my progress towards my goals, hurt my back, neck, hands and eyes? She would rather have her find her life purpose as soon as possible and pursue it, right? And enjoy the moment in the mean time. So I try to listen to future Pelin’s advice. It is funny but effective. And I think it can apply to every mild addiction, like shopaholism or food addiction. I agree alcoholism and other severe addictions might be handled professionally.

As you go through junk in your life, it might be a good idea to go through the junk actions, too, and everything from talking to drinking coffee to watching something can be a form of addiction. Looking at our lives from a distance and noticing the actions which benefit us and the ones which seems “fun” on the outside but killing us slowly help a huge deal in living a more purposeful life.

 

 

 

Where do you call “home”?

Since I was born, I have lived in 8 different places. Come to think of it, the place where I most felt at home was the dormitory, where I spent four years at university. It was the smallest place ever, four beds( two bunk beds actually), four closets and a long table with four chairs across the beds. As you can imagine I had a very limited supply, just clothes and books. Very few sentimental items and that’s all. I was living the minimalist lifestyle before I knew about it and I recall these times as the happiest of my life. I was very productive, wrote a lot, studied very effectively and was quite social.

Why do I need to remember those times today?

Because I am at a crossroads. I may live abroad  if I want to, but for that I need to shift my career a little bit and maybe never go back to my native country. And it made me think if I ever feel at home here.

This decision also made me reconsider my belongings, so much can fit in a suitcase, right? Which of these will certainly make it with me I will have to see. And when I actually get there I can be very conscious of everything I buy to create the minimalist living I am up to.

So many possibilities. Along with so many worries. Let’s see what the future brings.

Experience over things: the case of museums and malls

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Yesterday I went to the natural history museum in Ankara. I live in Ankara for eight years-on and off- but never really thought natural history museum was worth a visit. It’s funny because I love biology, paleoanthropolgy and most definitely I love geology and stones (I have a small collection of semi-precious stones and have some glass animals, just looking at them gives me joy).

The museum had everything I love and more. I really enjoyed the experience. Surely, I enjoyed myself because I had a limited time to look at them, and they weren’t mine. If they were mine, if I had all the stone collection there, would it make me happy? Certainly not. And I don’t know why, it made me think of a shopping mall. If I had all the shopping mall, it would definitely not make me happy. So maybe approaching the mall as a museum of sorts is a good idea. Watching and studying stuff but treating them as a collectible that I can’t and won’t have. And cherish the experience, even if it means making fun of /maybe feeling sorry for fashion and human nature.

My German teacher once told me that he and his wife always did window shopping. They would do window shopping for the whole year. Then, they would do actual shopping once a year, knowing what they want and need. No room for impulsive shopping or regrets. You have to have massive will power for this, but why not? It sounds very logical and also freeing. Some people, including me in the past, feel the urge that they need to buy something once they go out of the house. It must be freeing not having to buy anything.

 

Decluttering & Simplifying Digital Space

Well, you all know the feeling when you search for a digital document, you look everywhere in your computer, and everything is such a mess you end up with frustration.

“I just had it somewhere” clogs your productivity in such a way that you cannot even start a task sometimes. And welcome procrastination.

It hit me that I hadn’t organized my digital space for a long time when I encountered this:

before

It was filled with junk. I hadn’t pressed the delete button for a long long time. It was a stressful semester at work, I had changed jobs and keeping up wasn’t easy. So I had a lot of documents from my old job that I can toss and a lot from the new job to organize. Plus I’d watched a lot of series lately and all of them downloaded straight to the desktop. I had the idea of downloading everything to desktop because that way I could see it and say goodbye when needed. But not so much of that had happened in the last few months.

Before I started organizing and decluttering (well they go hand in hand) I also took a screen shot of my hard drive space.

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It turned out I freed up 17 GBs of unwanted- will-never-be-needed documents!

One big advice who wants to declutter their digital space, be it computer, tablet or phone, is that you should start doing it ASAP.

Starting is the biggest helper. If you have a lot of stuff to go through, you can chunk it.

The second big advice is that you shouldn’t leave any documents without a folder. Folder anything. Believe me, it helps a lot, because you know you folder everything, next time you download something recyclebin-worthy, you’re gonna know it and erase it soon.

Here was the order I followed:

First, Desktop. So many things on that desktop that I don’t need now. Films/videos watched and not going to be watched again, e-mail attachments I won’t need, downloaded pictures, edited/cropped pictures, unfoldered photos and so on.

I sent the ones I want to keep to their folders (and created folders when need be).

Then, Documents Folder. So many things here, I didn’t know what to do first. I had three separate folders for e-books, such as e-books, books, and pdfs. I decided to tackle this first and I created 1 e-books folder with the sub-folders “fiction” “non-fiction” (for self-help, cookbooks and science-related books, probably will revisit and reorganize this sub) and “English” (for reference and linguistic books and such). This was the most difficult thing to do. As Brian Tracy suggested, I “ate that frog”. The others unfolded very easily. I erased lots of stuff from my workplace, and foldered everything else, even if they have silly names like “needed” “unneeeded” “from husband’s PC” etc.

The third stop was the Pictures folder. Luckily, I had done some organization before, filing the photos by year every year, starting from 2012, when I bought this laptop. For the miscellanous pictures and artwork, I had a separate folder and I made other folders for the old photos and food photography.

On to the Music and Videos folders. I realised I don’t save MP3s anymore, rather I go on listen to things online. But my all-time favorites like Coldplay, Alanis Morissette, Pink Floyd and Chopin 🙂 deserve to stay there. I can always return to them without the help of the Internet. This was the time for me to see some songs/artists on my PC do not resonate with me anymore. So I fared well 🙂 Same thing true for the Videos folder, which I use to store movies. I said goodbye to those that I know I won’t watch again, ever. But some classics I like to watch over and over again, stayed with me.

Lastly I went to Program Files and uninstalled some programs I never use. This also frees up a lot of space.

Things I couldn’t let go: My game files of Sims 1, Sims 3, Diablo II and Diablo III. Yes, I love ancient video games (which are far more difficult than recent games) and although I haven’t played for over two months, I still feel an attachment to those. I know I am kind of addicted and recovering. Maybe one day I will give the idea up.

Lastly I ran CCleaner to clean up any leftovers.

My desktop afterwards:

after

I chose a simpler wallpaper so it feels much lighter now. And another tip, if you’re a visual person, you can download icons for your folders and have fun with them. You can see my elephant and zebra there, which are soo cute, just my taste.

So that’s it. I hope this post encouraged you to organize some parts of your digital space for clarity and productivity. I am really relieved to free up my space by 17 GBs, it feels just as though you organized and cleaned your bedroom and will sleep in a clutter-free bedroom now.

If you want to read more about digital decluttering and why, there is a great article  on becomingminimalist.com, go and check it out.