Friday, 11 October 2013

Minimalism and Filofaxes: part 1

Photo courtesy of Hilde Skjølberg

The lovely Jane got in contact with me the other day to ask me this question:
'Out of ALL the voices who speak of collecting Filofaxes, you're the only one so far who has said you only want to own what you use. 
Have you always been a minimalist, or are you just trying to simplify your life?
I'm trying to simplify my life and I know I spend WAY too much time drooling over Filofaxes.
Sure would appreciate your thoughts!'
Thank you for getting in contact, Jane, and I'd love to answer that question as it's a subject I've been meaning to write more about! 

I think my minimalist tendencies come from when I was growing up, as our household was kinda cluttered and I kept my bedroom tidy as my own little bit of control. Even as a child, I was never very good at collecting things. I collected seashells for a while and had a couple of favourites on my window sill, and the rest was stored under my bed. One day it seemed silly to have the rest hidden away, so I had a go at displaying them and quickly realised that it became too cluttered and busy for me. All of a sudden I couldn't cope with owning them all, kept the few favourites and gave the rest away. I tried one further collection of animal figurines from when we visited the local zoological park, and again once my little gathering reached a certain number, I felt crazy and gave most of them away again. 

It seems that I have some kind of internal gauge that periodically goes, "Aaarghh, too much stuff, must get rid of it!". And when I come back empty-handed from donating items to our local charity shop, I feel a sense of peace and contentedness. Before I lived with my husband, I had a room in a shared house and I loved having all my possessions in the same space. One night, we were curled up on my bed watching a DVD and he asked, "What are you doing?" I didn't really understand what he was getting at and asked him. "You're scanning your possessions and plotting what you can get rid of, aren't you?" was his reply. I admit that I was, and I sometimes have to take a step back to make sure I don't get rid of things I might miss. 

I love Filofaxes, but I don't want to own too many. It seems with some trial and error that two is my Goldilocks number. I've tried just one personal sized binder, but have come to the conclusion that I just can't fit everything in. My personal binder functions as my external brain, with an A5 for extra space for planning and projects. I recently thought I could cope with owning one further personal for when I fancied a change to swap into. I really should've known better as it didn't last very long and I've now sold the extra one. Both personals were models that I adore, but I knew one had to go. I enjoy looking at other people's fabulous collections, but for me personally I'm very content with the two I currently own.    

I like the William Morris quote 'have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful'. For me, it helps to explain why I use a Filofax as they're both useful and beautiful. I want to love what possessions I do have and use them. 
So, my short answer is, "Yes, I'm a bit of a minimalist and I'm trying to simplify my life too". 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for your very kind comment! :)

  2. I am SO glad I read this today. I have the opposite problem - waaaaaaaaay too much clutter from multiple purchases, and I'm finding that it's really hampering my inner peace. But at the same time, I feel like with certain items I've sold, I've experienced "seller's regret". Some I even had to re-purchase because of that.

    I'm thinking for me, a very small but *manageable* collection is the answer. Have a few that I can switch in and out of depending on season and organizing needs, but nothing more. For example, I don't seem to want to use light, pastel colored planners in fall/winter, but they're perfect for spring.

    Thanks again for this great post.

    1. Thanks for your comment :)
      I admit I've also sold some filos, regretted it & then swapped or bought them back. I think it's all about finding what works & what makes you happy. Part of me would love to have lots of binders to swap into, but I know that it's just not for me.

  3. I know I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but I hope you won't mind a comment, as it's a subject I also feel quite strongly about.

    I too have two Filofaxes - both Personal sized - a vintage Hampstead and a Cuban which I bought last year. I only use one at a time, and switch between them, but they serve slightly different purposes insofar as the Cuban is something I would take to London on business - it's very elegant and 'business-like', and I like carrying it in those circumstances, whereas the Hampstead is a much more 'all terrain' binder, and tends to be my go-to binder for most days when I'm *not* in London, since I cover a variety of situations (work, meetings, gym, pub, etc) in any given day and like the fact that the Hampstead seems to work well in most situations.

    i progressively downsized my collection of Filofaxes because I really don't need any more than that. Size-wise, I realised that A5 was way to bulky for me (notwithstanding the space on the page being great), so I sent one off to Australia and another to Scotland (I think). My most difficult moment was parting with the ochre Malden Personal, but sometimes a determination not to own more than I can use (or legitimately admire, like the Cuban) is something I just have to try to stick with.

    Regarding minimalism generally, I suppose I've been a 'progressive minimalist' for a few years....we made a decision in 2006 that rather than trying to increase our income 'aspirationally' and set material goals, we would try to reduce the amount of money we can live on, and work only enough to provide that, leaving more time available for enjoying each others' company, for leisure interests, and especially for 'just being'. I set a target of not working more than 40 hours a week (I'm down below 35 now), and not allowing work to expand to fill the time and space available. If something isn't being used, and doesn't contribute to our environment, it pretty quickly finds its way to the charity shop. When we moved back from our larger house in Wales (which we're now selling - anyone interested?!) to our tiny cottage in Somerset, we took quite literally van-loads of stuff to the charity shop and the dump (sorry, er, recycling depot), yet we had only been in that space for 18 months. It's amazing how stuff accumulates. I highly recommend the periodic de-clutter, and making it a regular event (not chore - event). It keeps things simple. Now our one 'blind spot' is books - we're always buying books - but even that's gradually getting better, especially since Mrs P bought me a Kindle......

    I highly recommend John Lane's book 'Timeless Simplicity for anyone interested in reading more about this.

    1. Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment & apologies for missing it earlier as I've been a bit neglectful of my blog of late.

      I think it sounds like you & I have a lot in common! I sometimes slip up with purchases, but I try to consider if I'm going to really use something & have also rehomed items that turned out to be just excess.

      I'm relieved that I've realised that A5 doesn't seem to be for me, despite admiring the qualities of the larger size. Recently I asked myself the question, "What would I take from my home in an emergency?" My truthful answer would be our cat, my MacBook & my personal filo. I certainly wouldn't consider trying to take an A5 out with me if there was a fire or flood etc. I also think that question is helping me to consider that means I probably own quite a bit still that I'm not too attached to.

      I think your downsizing journey sounds very interesting & I also work less hours than I once did. Ah books, an area I'm still working on as well!

      I also love Timeless Simplicity & think I might've got a copy based on a previous recommendation of it from you :)