Wednesday, August 29, 2018

How do you best store digital things part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about how to best store your digital documents. You can find that here. Today, the focus is going to be on pictures. Gone are the days of gigantic photo albums, waiting to get your film developed, and waiting to see how many of your pictures turned out. Now, pictures are on demand, and you can edit and perfect them as you see fit.

So, in this on-demand world, what do you do with all of those pictures? They take up plenty of space on your phone or tablet, so where to put them? I’d suggest either saving them on a portable hard drive, your computer, or in the cloud. My wife and I have a 1 Terrabyte portable hard drive that we store our pictures on. The great part of it is that you can share it between devices. Saving it to your computer is another easy way, just plug your device into the computer and save. For many, though, saving to the Cloud is the easiest. If you’re an Apple user, you can save to ICloud. You can also use Dropbox, Google Photos, Amazon Photos and others. All of these are helpful tools, the only drawback is the limitations on space before you have to purchase more space.

The same principle applies for pictures as it does documents. You don’t want them just haphazardly thrown in one big lumped file. The organization can happen as you see fit. You can break it down by year, by subject, by month, however you want. And as with the documents, it’s a lot of work upfront, but once you get your storage organized as you want it, it’s very easy to keep up with. Also, once you’ve saved your pictures from your device, delete them if you don’t want them on your device. That frees up more space. This is a process I’ll be starting very soon, but I’ll be doing it while watching football, so I’ll be multitasking!

But what about those old not digital pictures? How do you store them? You can continue to store them as you have in the past, or you can digitize them. Either you can scan them in a flatbed scanner (or if you’ve got a printer/scanner combo) or you can use your phone. I’ve found a great app called Scannable, which connects to your Evernote account (and if you’re not using Evernote....well, that’s another blog post) and you can save to it. Also, the app Tiny Scanner works just as well.

Finally, if you want to share photos, you can get a digital picture frame and upload your pictures to that. Many of them connect via wi-fi, so that’s an easy way to share pictures with those around you. Another way that my wife has found, which is super easy and inexpensive is For $10 you can have your pictures automatically uploaded from social media, your devices, wherever. She’s made a bunch of them for our girls and summer adventures.

I highly encourage you to consider digitizing your photos. They are great snapshots and memories of your life. As I have seen in the area around me over the past year with Hurricane Harvey, water comes and destroys, no matter how valuable your things are or what your income status is. If you have solely physical photos, they may be gone forever. But if you have digital copies, you’ll be able to see those pictures and remember.

Check out the Uncluttered course as it will help you if you’re stuck in your journey of minimalism, or if you’re wanting to dive in.

Also, join The Minimalist Musician group on Facebook

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How do you best store digital things part 1

The next 3 posts will be dealing with storing digital things. While digital things take up less space than physical things, they still take up space and do need decluttering from time to time. I’ll be breaking them down into 3 areas, pictures, videos/music and today’s post, documents.

Storing things digitally is a wonderful advance. It gives us access, space to store things that would take up so much physical space. But it can create clutter and hassles if you’re not always on top of it and keeping things organized.

So today, we’re dealing with documents. PDFs, Word documents and things like that can take up a lot of space and can create lots of clutter. Think of your hard drive or storage device as a filing cabinet. The device holds things, but inside the device are individual folders that hold individual files, or ideas. So, how to store all of them? How best do you organize and operate in that organization? Is it by year? By type of document? By idea? However you best think and organize, set it up that way.

Some things have a certain “shelf life” or usefulness. If your ou meant has outlived its usefulness to you, delete it. Or if you know you’ll need access to it down the road, consider moving it to another file or another storage device so that you can access it later.

For me, I work best by ideas. For my job, I direct different musical groups. So my files are organized by group, then in each folder is a sub folder. I’m in the process of updating them and organizing them more, and what I’ll end up with is it broken down by year. Now, if your brain doesn’t work that way, then don’t do it that way. Figure out what works best for you and how you best process things and then go from there.

It will be a bit of work upfront to get things organized, but once you get organized, if you keep on top of it, you’ll find your life less stressed and you won’t be having to spend time looking for things.

Monday, August 27, 2018

A minimalist office

What does a minimalist office look like? The easy answer is, whatever you want it to look like. The harder part is what practical form does it take on?

A desk, right? Sure. Does it have to be big or small? Well, if you have a big desk, but not much use for a big desk, then that won’t work. And the other way around, too. It has to be functional for your needs.

What about storage? Books? If you have books, you need a place to store them, right? Shelves work. Shelving units or shelves mounted on the walls.

Ultimately, I could walk through everything in an office, but really, you have to determine what you need and what priority that has in your life. Will you need a pen to write with? Probably so. But do you really need 50 pens? You can probably get rid of a few of those, right?

Minimalism doesn’t mean spartan and bare. Unless you want it to. As I look at minimalism, it’s about practicality, function and purpose. Start with what the purpose of your office is, then the purpose of the stuff in your office will follow suit. Don’t just ask the question once. Come back to it again and again. Your purposes may change, and then your needs will change with the purpose!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

One year ago...

One year ago, August 26th, was a Saturday. Hurricane Harvey had already made landfall to the south and west of us in Houston. There were predictions of the potential of a whole lot of rain, but by mid day, it had rained just a bit. I went to our neighborhood Kroger to run errands and heard people commenting about how this hurricane was a dud. How I wish that would have been true.

As a church musician, sleep on Saturday night is essential. As the afternoon wore on and evening started, there were heavy bands of rains moving toward our area. In our staff text thread, the plan was to have worship as normal. The church isn’t far from Cypress Creek in Houston, and we don’t live too far from that. In fact, my drive to get to the church runs parallel to the creek for most of the drive. It started raining that night. Heavily. And kept raining. And kept raining. And kept raining. I got concerned, because our street in front our house regularly floods when there is just a bit of heavy rain. And the street the church is on has bar ditches along the street that regularly fill with water with minimal rain.

As Sunday morning came, the realization was that people weren’t going to be able to safely get out. So worship was cancelled. As Sunday wore out, it kept raining. Thankfully, we didn’t flood, but watching TV, keeping up with all of the updates on Twitter and Facebook, it was bad. The street I drive on to get to church was impassable by car. The Interstates were filled with water. I had experienced this on a smaller scale the year prior, because on April 15th, the “tax day flood” happened. We had heavy rains which led to heavy flooding and schools were shut down for the entire week. This was the “tax day flood”, but on a much grander scale. We finally lost power on Tuesday, because there was so much infrastructure issues and there were many without power. Thankfully, because the storm had passed, it was cooler and less humid. We made it 24 hours without power before we borrowed a propane powered generator from a friend.

Finally on Wednesday afternoon, I was able to get out. We as a staff met at church to figure out what we needed to do. We contacted members and found that about 25 families had major flooding, as well as families connected to our childcare. Getting out broke my heart. I couldn’t go my “normal” way, so I had to go another way to cross over the creek. I could, but the water was so high, still under the bridge, but so many houses were saturated with water. I cried the entire drive. We also have a time of worship Thursday night, and basically opened the church and our gym for families on that Friday. All of it was powerful, cathartic and needed. “How are you doing” became the question we all asked each other.

When I was able to drive on my normal route, the piles of debris were unbelievable. Brick walls were knocked down. A Catholic Church that was nearby suffered horrible damaged and had to worship in an outdoor location until mid May. But what I saw out of that devastation and destruction was people pitching in, helping out, and a city coming together.

So what does all of this have to do with minimalism? Everything. While yes, minimalism has to do with “stuff” and our relationship with it, it’s a choice that we have to make with our things. Harvey changed that for many people in my area. It didn’t matter if you had a million dollar house or you lived in an apartment. Because of 51 inches of rain, if the water comes in to your residence, what you valued, treasured, loved, now junk. So many piles of debris were out in front of people’s houses for so long. To me, that was the biggest lesson I learned in relation to things from Harvey.

Having things is essential to living. A roof over your head keeps you dry and comfortable. What you choose to put under that roof is something that is replaceable, but hopefully, it’s your choice when and how to replace it. Seeing all of this first hand breaks my heart because these people lost their choice to make in regard to their things. A year later, much looks “normal” in the city of Houston. We’re all changed by it, no doubt. And I think that people have been changed in many different ways. For me, it’s how I value things and how much more willing I am to pass things on to others if their need is far greater than mine.

For a visual of then and now, check this article out.

Check out this link for information about the Uncluttered course, which I highly recommend!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

I did something crazy

This week, I tried an experiment. I have an IPhone and an Ipad. They are both somewhat redundant, but I am trying to intentionally give a purpose to each one. For my phone, it’s using it as a phone (shocking, I know), texting, music, tracking my walking and Fitbit check in. I have a few other apps like my Bible, photos, but that’s pretty much it. My Ipad has pretty much replaced my computer to do things. In fact, I’m typing this blog post on my Ipad. None of this is crazy thing that I did.

The crazy thing that I did is that I took my emails off of my phone. I had found myself checking my phone, like many others, over and over and over again. Did this mean that I would be ignoring people that emailed me? Not at all. It was taking more control of my time and intentionally making specific times to check my email.

So what happened? The obvious. I didn’t look at my phone as much. Did I miss emails? Not at all. Did I get more control of one portion of my life? Absolutely.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to do this, but what I am saying and encouraging people to do is consider their relationship with their phones/tablets and how they choose to use it. Minimizing distractions and focusing on what is important in minimalism, and our technology can most definitely be distracting!

Check out this blog post for more about minimizing your screen time.

Check out this blog post for information about the Uncluttered course

If you’re on Facebook, click here to join the Minimalist Musician Facebook group

Friday, August 24, 2018


Are you struggling as to what the first step is take in Minimalism? Or do you feel like you got rid of a bunch of stuff and you’re struggling where to go? May I suggest Uncluttered.

Uncluttered is a 12 week online course led by Joshua Becker, a minimalist whose voice has resonated with me, as well as many others.

What do you get out of the course?
Videos with step-by-step instructions
Interviews with thought leaders in productivity and minimalism
Live webinars tackling specific tough-clutter topics 
Live Q&As for members to ask questions
Weekly challenges
And accountability and encouragement from a super-engaged community.

One of the best parts I think about this course is that you get LIFETIME membership! That means that if you get to a “stuck point”, you can come back and review the material covered. 

The course is offered 3 times a year and registration starts today and goes through September 2nd. The cost for the course is $89. Check it out and sign up here!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Minimizing your screen time

One of the primary things people talk about and think about when it comes to minimalism is getting rid of stuff. And that’s a big part of it. However, I feel, as do many others, that minimalism is about relationships.....with things, people and in the case I’ll be talking about today, technology.

Technology is awesome, isn’t it? Well, it can be. I remember growing up without an answering machine until I was in high school. We had a rotary dial phone until I was in 6th grade. And in the time since the 90’s phones have gone from big and bulky, to fitting in your pocket...if you have the right sized phone. But technology can be distracting. How often do you look around, if you’re looking up from your phone at all, to see people walking and looking down at their phones? We’re obsessed with our screens. We’re connected whenever we want to, which is good and bad.

I did a personal experiment when we were on vacation in July. I didn’t really look at my phone much for anything at all. I used it to play podcasts and music when I went for walks, but that was pretty much it. I limited my time to check e-mail, rarely checked social media. The shocking thing was....I SURVIVED! Tomorrow, my girls start back to school. We’re getting back into routines. And that’s the one thing I’m going to be doing more often. Getting back to using my phone to make and receive phone calls, minimal texting, and checking social media and e-mail twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. I’ve realized that I’ve personally become very engrossed in my screens, and it’s something that I cannot continue to do if I want to be productive.

I’d encourage you to consider your interaction with screens. Are you also finding yourself distracted by them? There are times I’ve considered going to a “dumb phone”, but haven’t gone there yet. Maybe you have. That’s great if you have. I think that getting rid of apps goes a long way. If I want to use Facebook, I have to log in and use it. It takes more time and work to do it. So I have to think about it before I do it. Breaking habits are hard. This week will be tough, no doubt about it. But I know that I can intentionally do it. I’d love to hear your feedback on what you do in regard to screen time!

How do you best store digital things part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about how to best store your digital documents. You can find that here . Today, the focus is going to be on pictures. Gon...