Technology, whether you like it or not, is here to stay. Unfortunately, technology can be tough. It takes time and effort to understand. It can get expensive. We can spend as much time investing into technology as we actually save from using it. And without intentionality, the endless pursuit of the latest and greatest gadgets can be a fruitless endeavor.
On the other hand, technology offers countless benefits: the ability to stay connected, the ability to communicate to a far broader audience, the ability to solve complex problems, the ability to save time, and the ability to clear some physical clutter from our lives.
For those of us who hate physical clutter, consider these 15 ways that technology can help clear clutter from our homes:
While many of us enjoy our physical photographs arranged in photo albums and scrapbooks, few people have good systems for storing physical photos. Luckily, a simple software program such as Iphoto or Adobe Photoshop Elements not only store your photos digitally where they can never lose quality, but offer a wide range of options for sorting them. Without the right equipment, the process of converting physical photos to digital files can be time-consuming. But, for a fee, services such as ScanDigital will do it for you.
Even the smallest of MP3 players (8GB) store approximately 1,500 songs in their memory, somewhere around 150 CDs – that’s a lot of shelf space that can be replaced by one device that fits easily in your pocket. And MP3 players can easily be played on any audio system that allows for an auxiliary input.
Less and less homes these days are showcasing DVDs. For starters, Blu-Ray players have replaced DVD players in both quality and functionality. But more importantly, companies such as Netflix stream such a large assortment of movies and television shows on demand that keeping all those DVDs on the shelf is no longer necessary. And what about all those movies that you’ve already purchased on DVD? DVD-Burning software (such as Handbrake) quickly eliminates any reason to keep the physical DVDs cluttering up your living room.
4. Contacts / Address Books.
The contact information of business associates, extended family, and old friends used to fill address books, rolodexes, and the margins of phone books. But this is no longer the case. Every computer today provides opportunity to digitally store the information of even your most-obscure acquaintance.
5. Yellow Pages / White Pages.
Depending on the community you live in, those Yellow Pages may be taking up far more space than you prefer. But yellowpages.com contains all the same information… providing an invaluable opportunity to clear up some space in your junk drawer.
Maps come in a variety of forms: atlas, fold-up, handwritten directions. Today, GPS devices come standard on almost all smart-phones (Iphone, Blackberry, etc.) and even some vehicles. For those of you who don’t use a Smartphone, a simple GPS device can still replace all those maps taking up space in your glove compartment.
Cookbooks may be among the hardest hit by the recent explosion of free websites and ebooks. The number of photographs in physical cookbooks is severely limited by price, size, and opportunity. But online, recipes are not limited by the same restrictions. As a result, not only can countless photographs be used to guide the rookie chef through the cooking process, but limitless videos can also be used to answer any questions. An entire shelf of cookbooks in your kitchen can quickly be replaced by a few keystrokes on your computer.
Ebook readers (Kindle/Nook) have exploded in popularity and digital books now outsell physical books on Amazon. While reading books on a screen may never replace the actual experience of flipping pages in your world, it certainly provides a golden opportunity to lower your monthly book budget and conserve space on your bookshelf for only the books you desperately need to keep.
EBook readers offer newspaper and magazine subscriptions (Kindle subscriptions/iPad subscriptions) to some of the most popular industry journals. This means, of course, fewer periodicals cluttering up your home or office… and more trees standing in the forest.
Ever wish someone would create a product that could replace all those sticky-notes and scratch pieces of paper laying around your home and office? So did the creators of Evernote. And while it may take a bit of effort to figure out how to use, it’s certainly not more effort that sorting through a stack of yellow-sticky notes every time you need to find a note.
11. Cameras (Still/Video).
With the ever-increasing quality of cell-phone cameras, the need to carry a simple point-and-shoot camera is far less important today than it was even 1-2 years ago. Skilled photographers will still use their advanced equipment to capture photos far better than cell phone photographers. But for those of us who just want to be able to capture life’s unpredictable moments in the blink-of-an-eye, the camera lens on most cell phones does the trick.
12. Cable TV.
There are new products entering the marketplace nearly every month that make cutting the cable in your home that much easier. Products such as Netflix, Apple TV, and Google TV are offering more and more television programs than ever before. And while dropping Cable TV from your home may not clear much physical clutter, the savings of $50-60+/month will certainly clear up some space in your checkbook.
13. Landline Phone.
With more and more people choosing to rely exclusively on cell phones, only 49% of American households use a landline phone (that is down from 97% in 2001). People all over the world are making the switch from landline to cell-phone coverage only. After all, why send money to two different phone companies when you can only talk on one at a time?
14. Computer Data Storage.
Computer workstations and office drawers used to be home to floppy disks… 3.5in disks… CDs… and external hard drives – all for the purpose of storing more and more data. But now, office drawers are beginning to empty again as more and more people choose to store their data in the cloud using free services such as Dropbox. Not only does Dropbox keep data safe from fire and flood, it stores it in a place accessible from anywhere.
Oh sure, nothing may ever fully replace the family calendar posted on the inside of your pantry closet door, but the Calendar functions and the syncing abilities across platforms (desktop computers, cell phones, and online) of computer devices sure helps the digital storage of your appointments give that old calendar a good run for its money.
Now I know full-well that the use of technology is a personal decision. Some people will never replace their physical books, magazine subscriptions, or favorite cookbooks. People lived their lives free from clutter for thousands of years without the technology available to us today.
But with the recent advancements in both the functionality and intuitiveness of technology there are very real opportunities available to us to clear physical clutter by using it. And if that’s the case, I’m in!
I have a Kindle and I hate it. I find it useless when I really enjoy a book and want to pass it along to 2 or 3 friends or my mother – easy to do with a hard copy but an e-book. Also, I can find really cheap paper books at second hand and thrift shops and fetes (and for free from a library) and Kindle books are not cheap (much more expensive here in Australia than in the US).
I understand Netflix is coming here – but again, at a more expensive cost than for US customers (though it’s not an issue for me as I don’t watch TV or movies). Cable here is about A$25 per month (and up from there).
My phone is an old Samsung flip phone (calls, texts and the occasional photo, costs me about A$20 per month). We have a landline to save our elderly mothers the expense of calling our mobiles (cells) (landline is A$43 per month plus calls – usually about A$55 in total).
I have a PC which stores all my ditigal photos on the hard drive, no laptop, iPad or iMac and a total of about 40 CDs in a box, all on an 8GB early generation iPod. I have an external hard drive for my PC, not a fan of the cloud.
I somehow wound up back here re-reading this article and wanted to comment based on recent experience. I lived for over 10 years where we had great high-speed reliable internet. I did get rid of many DVDs, had Netflix, and more importantly bought any new movies or TV series as digital items only. Then we moved, twice now, to where we have no home high-speed internet. It’s not even an option where we currently live. Trust me, I am all for having everything online and streaming and digital products, but I suddenly found myself unable to access some of my kids’ favorite movies or the only TV series I like well enough to have purchased seasons of. I had to go out and purchase a few on DVD, which is definitely not minimal to me to have them in both formats. But when you live in a 150 sq ft horse trailer/camper with no internet and only a TV/DVD player, you do want a little entertainment. I’m sure at some point we’ll get to move again where we have high-speed internet and the DVDs will either be sold or kept as back-ups, but I just wanted to give a different perspective. I do love being all digital…except when I can’t have internet.
You could certainly see your enthisiasm within the rticle you write.
The arena hopes for mmore passionate writers ljke you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe.
At alll times follow your heart.
eliminating cable only saves 20 to 30 dollars average as most reasonable speed internet is bundled with tv. my comcast bill went from 99 to 79 by eliminating cable. savings are savings but 50 to 60 dollars overstates this a bit. then add netflix back and your savings is cut in half. and you end up going to a sports bar to watch your favorite team once and savings for the year are gone.
Our family of 6 uses Cozi Calendar app. It has both an apple and android app. It syncs all information that any of us put in the calendar! I love that! We still have a dry erase physical calendar on the kitchen wall to glance at when needed. Thanks for the article
I definitely see the value in technology. However, for me, living a more simple life means I would like to use it less and not be so reliant on it.
-We have a laptop which we also use to watch tv shows, this is shared by the 4 of us. We use Facebook but no other social networking sites.
-Myself and my husband have a cell phone each with no internet connection so it is only for texts, calls and as a camera.
-We have one TV which we only use for DVDs.
-No ipads, kindles etc. We have the laptop and we use the library for books. We have kept a number of older books, mainly classics, and the majority of the kids books as I feel it is important for children to have physical books as they learn to read and learn about the world.
I know families where at many points in the day, they are all online (one on a laptop, one on the ipad, one on their DS, one on their iphone etc) and not talking to each other for hours at a time. ipads are given to kids to keep them quiet and busy for long stretches of time. For me, this is not living simply or in a minimalist way. Technology has huge benefits but I think society has to be careful about how reliant we are becoming on it and especially how it will affect our children who have never experienced life without these things. The examples Joshua gives are all very helpful and valid but I have read articles by other minimalist writers who seem to think having lots of expensive technology and gadgets = minimalism and that’s not what it is for me.
Why have a landline? Because you can’t count on 911 knowing where you are with a cell phone. When my diabetic spouse is failing to respond to treatment for low blood sugar, having seizures or losing consciousness, I want them to KNOW where I am when I call, especially if it takes both hands to deal with him.
Plus, when the electricity goes out for 45 hours, you can still call the power company.