the simplify guy

Daily acts of simplification

Month: May, 2012

Day 31 – Bye Bye Birdy


I saw a great tweet on Twitter this week by success guru and bestselling author, Robin Sharma (@_robin_sharma):

You can play Angry Birds on your iPhone. Or You Can Change The World. But You Can’t Do Both.

Advice doesn’t come any clearer than that, so Angry Birds has been deleted from all of my devices!




For me, Subtraction is one of a few key pillars of the simplification process. Before I explain, I’ll start with a disclaimer. I was going to write a longish piece on this subject but, since I started thinking about it, I have discovered that one of my favourite authors is releasing a book on this very subject later this year. The Art of Subtraction by Matthew E. May is due for release in October 2012. For more information visit Matt’s site here. Matt’s other books are also relevant to this subject, in particular In Pursuit of Elegance – needless to say, I am a fan and take inspiration from these works. As such, it would be wrong of me to stray too far into this patch, but I will explain how I came across the concept of subtraction and how it found its way into this project.

For a number of years, I have been a keen photographer. I have studied the subject and worked hard at learning ways to create good pictures. Subtraction is a key technique used by photographers to enhance visual impact. Essentially this involves arranging yourself, the camera, or the scene, so that the only things within the frame are those things that contribute to the effect you are trying to achieve. The average snapper will place a camera between themselves and a nice scene and press the button. The great photographer will spend time envisioning the impact, emotions and connections they want to make with the ultimate viewer, and clearing the frame of everything that takes the eye away from the intended vision. Less is more.

Just as Michelangelo created the statue of David by subtracting marble from a large slab of stone, the photographer removes distractions to create the perfect image, and a person can create the life of their dreams by removing worries, clutter and excess.

We are nearly one month into this process, so this week I will summarise my findings to date. Subtraction will certainly feature as a significant contributor to the Daily Acts of Simplification so far!

Day 30 – Distraction-Free Dinner


For today’s Daily Act of Simplification I have taken the decision that I will not take any mobile communications devices to the dinner table. Phone, iPad, Blackberry – all three would often be on the table ready to distract me from food and conversations about the day. Not any more! Through this process I am discovering that a key way to keep life simple is to bring presence and focus to the activity at hand, free from the symptoms of Continuous Partial Attention. This is another step in that direction.

Day 29 – The Road Less Bowled


I am a keen Tenpin Bowler, and for the last few years have enjoyed playing in a league one evening a week as well as a few tournaments and the odd practice session. This season I picked up an extra league to fill a spot in a team who lost a member early in the year. However, this meant I was bowling on a Monday and a Tuesday evening. The evening leagues involve getting home from work on time, spinning on my hooves really quickly to get fed, watered and changed, and heading back out of the door in time for league. By the time I get back, it’s very much bedtime. Whilst I do enjoy bowling, this routine meant that the first free evening in a week that could be used to fit anything else in (or indeed just chilling out!) was a Wednesday, and everything seemed to back up giving us very little free time. I began to resent it slightly as this extra commitment tipped the balance the wrong way. It was also £50 a month that could be put to other uses!

Last night was the last week of the Monday league so today I have officially taken the decision not to partake in that one again next season. By focussing on one league I think I’ll enjoy the game more, and the extra free evening at the start of the week will really make a difference to my commitment/free-time balance. I can always go for a practice if I get the urge, but not having that extra commitment will make a huge difference to my week!

Day 28 – Wise Man Say “Two Shoe Better Than One”?


After yesterday’s exhilarating return to unencumbered running, I decided that today something in the running kit was going to get axed. The eventual target – an older pair of running shoes that I think had a hand in the injury that kept me out for 10 weeks. I have newer, better shoes, so why was I hanging onto these? They are now in the bin, and the shoe rack is slightly less overflowing!

Day 27 – Running Free


I love to run. I’ve taken part in a number of races and events up to and including a few half marathons. I love the freedom of running and the meditative effect it has on the mind. Unfortunately though, while training for a marathon, I got injured and had to have a 10 week break. No need for the zero-based thinking question here – I have missed it and have been itching to get back.

One of the things I noticed during my break, was just how much running stuff I have. From the clothes to the gps devices, to energy gels and drinks, backpacks, bottles, iPod holders etc etc. Thinking from a simplification point of view, I’ve been wondering if I can trim this gear somewhat. There is however a place for a lot of this stuff. You do need to think about hydration and fuelling, you do need to carry certain things with you for comfort and safety. So how to go about this?

Today was my first proper run back, so as an act of simplification, I decided to go minimalist. Shorts, t-shirt, trainers and that was it. 6 1/2 miles of the challenging West Highland Way in Scotland with a good friend, very hot day, and a wonderful setting. No baggage or clutter, just running free. This is why I got into running – body, land, and a quiet mind. Even got to jump into a pool to cool off!

I am not yet sure whether I can permanently ditch some of my gear, but I will consider this further and certainly cover some of my runs in a minimalist way. Unencumbered running is definitely a simple pleasure!

Quote for a Simple Home

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris

Day 26 – Friends Without Words


Today I have deleted the “Words With Friends” app from both my iPad and my phone. Essentially scrabble across the Internet, this game can become all consuming, especially when you have several games on the go at once! The novelty has now worn off, so the zero-based thinking question led to only one conclusion – delete!

Day 25 – Ready to Sell


Following on from yesterday’s Paypal streamlining, today I have done the same with my eBay account. This was a much simpler process, all done online in one go. The door is now open for some online recycling of future simplifications!

Day 24 – Paypal cleanup


Pre-emptying that fact that future Daily Acts of Simplifications will involve removing things from my house, and some of those items could be recycled in a way that could generate some cash, I have become aware that my EBay and Paypal accounts have been gathering dust and my details are probably way out of date. So today I’ve sorted Paypal.

First I asked myself the zero-based thinking question: “Knowing what I now know, would I have opened a Paypal account in the first place?” I answered “yes” so then asked the supplementary question “So what isn’t simple about it?” My answer was that my details are out of date, it references the wrong bank accounts and it has retained about 9 different variations of my address which need to be scrolled through when I want to buy something. It was suffering from a combination of non-use and neglect.

It’s amazing how much red tape, bureaucracy, and rigmarole are involved in updating Paypal details, but I guess as a payments system that is a target for fraud some of these measures are necessary. It took a while but we got there in the end with a combination of online amendments, emails and faxes. Phew, hope EBay is easier!