Minimalist Life Hacks: Donation Sundays

Stacks of empty boxes

In my quest to own fewer things, I stole borrowed one of Danny Dover’s minimalist life hacks called “Donation Sundays.” (What can I say? It was a great idea.)

Since December 2013, I’ve reduced my possessions by five things every Sunday. Over the course of 55 weeks, this amounts to 275 things!

Donation Sundays Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s how you can try it for yourself:

  1. Set up a recurring to-do item in your task manager of choice to repeat every week. I use OmniFocus and love it. It should say something like “reduce possessions by five items.”
  2. Find a donation box that will temporarily hold your discarded stuff.
  3. Before you go to bed on Sunday night, find five things you no longer need and put them in the donation box.
  4. Rinse and repeat each week.
  5. Every couple of weeks, take your donation box (or boxes) to the Salvation Army or local Goodwill.

Donation Sundays Tips and Tricks

It has been pretty tough to keep it up for so long. Toward the latter half of the year, I started facing some difficult decisions—do I get rid of family heirlooms? My favorite books? Entire video game systems?

Through it all, I discovered some tricks to keep me motivated. If you’re thinking about paring down your belongings through Donation Sundays, then maybe these will help you, too.

  • Start with books, DVDs, and CDs. I found them easier to give away than most other things. They can be easily repurchased in digital formats if you truly want them, and it enabled me to get a head start and build some momentum at the beginning of the year.
  • Don’t worry if you get a week or two behind. That can easily happen if you go on a trip or get lazy. Just find ten things (instead of five) the following week to catch back up.
  • Don’t take conference swag. It’s relatively worthless and only serves to embed brand names in your brain and on your desk. (Although I have to admit that most MozCon swag is pretty great and tough to resist.)
  • At birthdays and holidays, ask for gifts of experiences, services, subscriptions, or time with friends or family. These will give you memories which are lightweight and easily transported. Need some ideas? Check out SoKind Registry’s gift ideas for meaningful alternatives to toys, clothing, and gadgets.
  • The bonus for donating your stuff in the United States (and probably elsewhere): itemizing charitable contributions can help get you an income tax deduction.
  • Periodically ask friends and family whether they want to rummage through your donation box. New parents especially love snagging toys, books, and board games.
  • When your possessions are reduced to the point of tough choices, ask yourself whether the thing will be useful, bring you joy, or have some sort of inordinate value? My general rule of thumb: if the thing hasn’t been used in over a year, it may not be all that useful to keep.
  • Tell someone what you’re doing. It’s way more difficult to quit if someone knows about your goal and occasionally asks about it. I decided to publicly blog about it—you might try that yourself.

I hope you find some ways to reduce your stuff. Life becomes lightweight when you get rid of things.

What do you think? Do you have any minimalist life hacks that work well for you? Let me know on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

How to Make an iPhone Battery Last Longer

Probably once a week I get asked by someone how to save iPhone batteries from dying so quick. Do I have any tricks for how to make an iPhone battery last longer? Of course I do.

The best article on this comes from Scotty Loveless:

One quick thing before we start — 99.9% of the time it is not actually iOS that is causing your battery to drain quickly. I guarantee you that if you erased your phone and there were no apps or email on it, it would last for ages. But, no one uses their device like that, nor should they. Hopefully with these steps you will be living in iOS battery bliss while still using all the apps and features you love.

Check it out for yourself and enjoy your long-lasting iPhone!

How to Meet New People with IFTTT

Eagle Creek luggage at O’Hare Airport ORD

Have you ever wondered how to meet new people who are influential in your particular industry?

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you may have noticed some weird airplane symbols. You may have even noticed some of our mutual friends doing the same thing.

What is that about, you ask? Good question. Let me explain.

A few years ago I heard a great talk by Wil Reynolds at SES New York in which he espoused the benefits of IFTTT (If This Then That), an automated service that ties the Internet together using “recipes.” In order to meet new people of various industries, Wil would use IFTTT to trigger an email whenever someone Tweeted or posted their arrival in Philadelphia using the name or airport code of PHL. That way he could see if someone influential was close, and then he’d reach out with an invitation for a drink. Smart.

During flights to other cities or countries, I started marking up my Tweets and posts with the airplane emoji (✈️) and airport codes (e.g., MDW). And oddly, it kinda worked! Even though scant few of my friends were using IFTTT with Wil’s recipe, I began receiving text messages from folks in each destination city.

It would be awesome if everyone had similar nomenclature for travel. That way we could meet up in cities all over the place.

Here’s how you can get started:

  1. When traveling, post to Twitter or Facebook with your originating and destination airport codes or city names. Separate them with a travel emoji such as the airplane (✈️), train, bus, or automobile.
  2. When at home, create an IFTTT recipe to track influential people against airport codes and cities in your area. When they post on Twitter or Facebook, the recipe should automatically email you so you can arrange a a meet-up.

Pro tip: you can access a Mac emoji picker with the key combination control+command+space.

I’d love to meet up with you, too. Feel free to track my travels on Twitter or Facebook.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

Airplane wing and engine from Shanghai to Toronto flight

I get a little freaked out when I fly. According to some sources, it’s called aviophobia, but I’m not sure my fear is actually strong enough for an official label.

On a flight from Nashville last fall, during which we attempted to land in a derecho-like storm, I harkened back to my camp days and sang desperate renditions of “Over My Head,” “I Love You Lord,“ and “Sanctuary” under my breath. My brain gets carried away on calm flights, too, as I start to imagine the many scenarios in which the plane will nosedive or blow apart. I have even noticed an increase to my phobia over time as I experience more flights—you’d think it would get easier, but for some reason it has not.

Recently, airlines in the United States have begun allowing electronic devices during taxi, takeoff, and landing. It used to be a widely held belief that signals from electronic devices—even ones set to airplane mode—could interfere with a plane’s instruments. But with the new mandate it’s become a little obvious that they’re just fine.

Thankfully, I discovered a trick, a travel hack, that helps me overcome my fear of flying.

Rather accidentally during a bumpy flight takeoff, I set my iPhone to play Heather’s Song by Andy McKee, a terrific all-guitar instrumentalist. The song was a light, cheerful, playful mix of a August Rush-like childhood quality, and it had me bouncing in my seat, bobbing my head, and embracing the minor turbulence with the attitude of a kid again. It was fun!

The trick here is to find a song that channels feelings which counter your fear. Play the song on repeat with headphones, and embrace the turbulence as something enjoyable. Face your fear head-on and disarm it, rather than hide from it.

And if that doesn’t ultimately work like it has for me, then try reading this article on how to overcome your fear of flying. It’s more factual and less playful, but it might help nonetheless.

Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks on overcoming your fear of flying. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Wardrobe Life Hack: To the Left, To the Left

closet full of clothing including shirts, pants, and coats

In my conquest to own less things, I’ve been developing some life hacks to whittle down my possessions or to not acquire new ones.

One of my favorite wardrobe life hacks has been smartly dubbed “To the Left, To the Left” by my good friend Mary Gwen, and it helps me decide which articles of clothing are worth keeping or if I’m able to give them away. It works like this:

  1. Hang all shirts, pants, coats, hoodies, and sweatshirts in a closet.
  2. Go about my normal life wearing clothing items from the closet.
  3. When finished with my day, I hang each used item on the far left-most hanger.
  4. Over the course of several months, my most used clothing gravitates to the left and my less important items filter toward the right.

With this hack, I can see at a glance which items are truly worth keeping and which are not. This has made my decisions on Donation Sundays much easier.

I hope this inspires you to try this wardrobe hack yourself. Do you have any hacks of your own? Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ to share your own ideas or questions.