Purging Regrets

For the most part, I’m a ruthless purger. In my early days of tossing, while I was still developing my style and methods, my mother used to worry that I was too reckless. That I got rid of too many things without thinking about them enough.

I have to admit that I have had a few purging regrets over the years. But they’re small, hardly significant really, when compared to the vast numbers of things I’ve purged without any second thoughts. I still feel a little silly that I sold my Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album. At the time I’d listened to it so many times that I was tired of it. I made a decision to pass it along and get something new for my collection. Some time later I came to regret that decision, but it was easily rectified by buying the album again.

Every once in a while I’ll get a pang for something I cleared out that can’t be replaced so easily, maybe an article of clothing I used to like or a tchtochke that had meaning. But then I recall a fond memory of the item and trust myself that I made the right decision to let the physical object go. Then I move on with my day. I go through the same exercise for digital content, too.

Many people focus on decluttering physical stuff without a thought about how inundated and overloaded we all are with digital content. The same rules and basic strategies apply.  Here are couple of useful tips to consider when embarking on these types of cleaning projects.

  1. Develop some guidelines.
  2. Follow through with your decisions and don’t waffle on your choices.
  3. Move things out right away (e.g., donation bin, recycling, trash, etc.) so you don’t have second thoughts about them.

I once mentored two students at my job. Their task was to analyze 62 boxes of backlog records in the corporate vault to determine if we should keep them or destroy them. We reviewed their work and finalized the decisions. On their last day, I left them in the vault with a 96-gallon shred bin and a time limit to load up all the records to be destroyed. Then we locked the bin and went for coffee. The lesson learned was to feel confident about your decisions and complete the actions without hesitation and second guessing yourself.

The 300th Posting

It’s hard to believe that so many weeks, so many years (almost six!) have gone by since I started The Deletist. When I launched my blog in June 2013, I thought about other blogs I enjoyed reading and wanted to create a similar experience for my readers. I wanted to post frequently enough for content to remain fresh, but not so much that it would feel onerous to read or to keep up with content if someone missed a few weeks. Out of these aspirations came two rules, post on Mondays and limit posts to 400 words.

300 postings later I have adhered to these rules strictly, but always in reverence to the first, and most important rule. The Deletist is, and will remain, my creative space. This has led me to develop and explore many interesting topics, including “Technombie,” a fictitious world I created where people live and make decisions based on the analysis of their data feeds. In recent years I added a part 5 to the original series and a new host of characters in these vignettes:

Jellyfish” stands out as a favorite. I was inspired by headlines about fake news and the desire to use this cool photograph I had taken of a jellyfish underwater, capturing its reflection on the surface.


I’m always expanding my series, postings dedicated to a specific topic. I launched “Spring Cleaning” for posts related to targeted cleaning projects, on any scale. Two highlights for me are “Bathroom Hoarder,” how I finally managed to reduce toiletry expenses and waste by organizing my cupboards, and “Junk Drawer.” Everybody’s got one.

Deletion” is related to this category but focuses specifically on getting rid of things to make space for new things in our lives.

Productivity” is relatively new and features tips & tricks, or small strategies to make your life easier. Posts range from creating prep kits to breaking down large projects into manageable tasks. Two of my recent favorites are “Getting Unstuck and Finishing Tasks,” a true story of how it took me over 2 years to install lights under my counters and “On Being Nibbled to Death,” strategies to avoid getting overwhelmed with tiny things that pile up over time.

Iceland” was recently launched to showcase my latest adventure with my family on a tour with Overseas Adventure Travel.


Iceland: From Vikings to Horses to Lava Peaks

We left Stykkisholmur early in the morning and headed to our first stop, Eiríksstaðir, a Viking Long House. This was the type of house originally built by Vikings when they first came to Iceland. From the outside, it looks like part of the landscape, a grassy, hill-like structure with a sturdy wooden door in the front. Stepping inside, I was surprised by the high ceilings, the cozy feel of the interior and the lack of windows. A woman of Viking descent gave us a “tour” of the different features inside, including the types of tools that were used to survive in the early days. One surprising item she showed us was a sheep’s jawbone. None of us guessed that it was a toy her grandfather played with as a child.

Viking Long House at Eiriksstadir

We emerged from the Long House and enjoyed the sweeping, peaceful landscape surrounding it. A few sheep stuck out as bright white spots against the greens, browns and grays. Some grazed grass near the trees, or by the river in the land below. After a quick trip to the souvenir shop, we boarded the bus for our next activity, the Gauksmyri Horse Farm.

Iceland horses are special. They’re a breed of two different types of ponies and one type of horse. Among other things, they are highly prized for their natural ability to Tölt, the iconic gait of the Icelandic horses. We ate a delicious buffet lunch complete with plates of horse meat before watching a demonstration of the five gaits and visiting the horses in the stables.

I’m glad we ate the horse meat before we saw the show and visited with the horses. I wouldn’t have been able to eat it after spending time with the horses.

Although we saw many, many waterfalls during our short trip in Iceland, Kolugjúfur stands out as a highlight in my mind. Kolugjúfur had three main parts of the waterfall which cascaded down into a gorge, decorated with a mosaic of mosses on either side. Standing below the falls with an extended view of the river below, felt like being in the pages of a fantasy novel. In the distance, snow-capped mountains extended underneath a mottling of gray clouds.

I reluctantly boarded the bus, sad to leave this magical place. An hour or so later we were nearing Akureyri, our landing spot for the next 3 nights, in the northern part of the island. We encountered a snow storm on the way making some impressive patterns in the lava peaks at one of the viewing spots we stopped at.

Read more about the trip to Iceland here.

Information Distillation

While listening to a podcast in January I was shocked to hear that one of the host’s New Year’s resolutions was to read the articles on his Twitter feed before retweeting them. I honestly didn’t realize people might retweet, favorite, or share articles without having read them first. It would never occur to me to share something that I hadn’t read first or at least skimmed through in its entirety. If I didn’t know what the article was really about, how would I know it was worth sharing?  Some headlines are intentionally sensationalized to get people to read something, or it seems, to share it without even knowing what it was really about.

We’re all inundated with information daily. I understand the temptation to scroll through headlines and tweet-sized summaries to get an overview of what is going on in the world. Or to skim through a succinct list of bullet points, numbered items, or catchy headlines like:

  • “Top 10 ways to…”
  • “Top three habits of…”
  • “Seven things that will…”

These types of information distillations are everywhere. Instead of committing a few minutes to read through anything in its entirety, or to research the source, we’re seduced into thinking a few lines of catchy-sounding highlighted statements provide us with enough information to share something, or talk about it with authority.

When dealing with a never-ending stream of information, each one of us has to devise a strategy to stay current with the things we care about in a way that doesn’t consume our time 24/7. There has to be a balance. I aim for balance with a two-part strategy. The first part is prioritizing quality over quantity. To accomplish this I limit the number of notifications I receive automatically by subscribing to a select number of services. If I’m interested in learning more about something, I can always perform additional searches. Every once in a while, I re-evaluate the automatic notifications. If I find that I’m consistently deleting them without clicking on the content, then I unsubscribe.

The second part of my strategy is allocating time each day to read a few things. I’ve discovered that if I save interesting things to read later, this almost never happens. Instead, I reserve about an hour each day to read news, or articles related to my profession. I fit in the fun, leisure reading around that.

Smart Home Devices: Delightful or Detrimental

Some months ago the motor started dying on my electric toothbrush. It was over 5 years old, a geriatric by today’s technology standards.

As we shopped around for something new, I realized it might be difficult to find a replacement that only meet my basic needs: a sensitive setting (i.e., slower and gentler) and a timer. That’s it. The other fancy features are wasted on me.

Everything available was much fancier and sleeker, fortified with the latest and greatest technology. We wouldn’t be able to replace my simple two-setting model with the same thing. Almost all the new models offered fancy settings to floss or polish your teeth, in addition to regular brushing. The most significant new feature was the capability to connect the toothbrush to your smartphone.

We ended up with a new model that offers 6 specific settings and the smartphone-toothbrush connection.Admittedly, the new travel case with a built in charger will come in handy, but I’ve always been fine on vacation using a regular, manual toothbrush.

As we were setting up the new toothbrush my partner’s reaction was “cool!” He immediately downloaded the app and figured out how the special suction-cup phone holder worked on our walls. I inwardly groaned already thinking that I would never be able to get dental insurance again. It’s just a matter of time before insurance companies will want us to submit our brushing records when applying for dental coverage or before agreeing to pay their share when we do go to the dentist.

When properly connected, the smartphone tracks how often you brush and the duration of each brushing session. Oddly enough, it would only maintained one log for both of us. If you activate all the features, it will provide feedback through sensors on which areas of your mouth are being brushed too rigorously or not getting enough attention. While you’re brushing, you watch what’s happening on your smartphone, which is held tightly to the wall by the suction-cup apparatus.

After the first few trial runs, one of which resulted in the suction-cup failing causing my partner’s phone to crash onto the floor, we haven’t continued to use it. And we never fully set up all the monitors and linkages between the phone and the toothbrush. At least for now I can maintain some privacy about my body and avoid technological surveillance in my mouth.

Productivity Tip: Take Note

I find it useful to have a dedicated place to jot down notes and record things that I want to remember. For example, people are always recommending books to read or movies to watch. Sometimes verbally and sometimes electronically. Prior to developing my system, I would always do my best to remember the recommendation. Inevitably, the information would fly out of my brain the moment I was at the book store, searching the library catalog, or perusing options on Netflix. Or I would save the electronic message for a long time until I could take action on it. If I remembered it was there.

Even if I did write down the recommendation, rather than tricking myself into thinking I would remember it, I could never recall where I had written it down. Was it in the notebook, my paper planner, a tiny scrap of paper tucked away somewhere?

To resolve this challenge, I dedicated a place to record these types of things on my smartphone. One centralized place specifically for taking notes, writing down recommendations, or cool things to look up later. On my phone I have a few different lists in Trello to capture notes while I’m on the go. Or sitting around.

Trello is a web-based task management system. Incidentally, I also use it for my routine and ad-hoc “to-do” lists, plus a few other things. In Trello I dedicated a list for Book and Media recommendations. Every time I hear about an album I want to buy, a good book, or a cool movie, I add it to the list. Then when I’m looking for books at the library, I can consult my list for items to borrow or add to my account wish list for later. I do the same thing with Netflix. Every so often I go through my media recommendation list and see if any of them are in Netflix to add to my account. Then I delete them from my phone.

I also use Trello to jot down ideas and notes for this blog. One never knows where and when inspiration will strike for the next great posting. You don’t have to download Trello to replicate this system. The most important part is to dedicate one place to record things for yourself. It could be a note app, Google Keep, or anything that you already use. Then remember to use it!