Dealing with my silent to-do list

The concept of a ‘silent to do list’ comes from Fumio Sasaki’s book on minimalism, ‘Goodbye, Things‘ and it’s one that really resonates with me.

Simply put, the silent to do list is not the one that you have written out or typed up in your favourite app, but the tasks arising from the stuff you own in your environment.

All the physical objects you own require some kind of action, whether it’s maintenance, cleaning or simply organising and putting away. So in addition to all the tasks we give ourselves that centre on work, family and health, everything in our environment is also silently inserting itself and requires some kind of attention.

Look around you now. What in your environment needs some maintenance, some tidying, some organisation? That object or objects could be part of your silent to-do list and contributing to feelings of overwhelm.

My perspective

This really helped me understand why I personally feel overwhelmed and frustrated by clutter and why the periodic, seasonal clearing out of my wardrobe is so cathartic! And where I cast my eye around my office, the sight of unopened post and unread magazines can fill me with (fleeting) dread.

Anyway, this is a very long and introductory way of saying that I’ve been using this concept a lot lately, to both minimise the physical objects I possess, but also the digital clutter in my life. Multiple online accounts closed, apps deleted and social networking personas binned forever.

It felt very, very good. I think it’s easy to forget the noise that digital clutter can cause – the notifications, the obligations to participate, the updates to apps. None of that exists if the app doesn’t.

New desk, new me

As I write this, I’m sitting in my office, waiting for staff from the business centre to come and remove some furniture. I’ve had the same desk, pedestal and chair since I moved into this office and it never felt right, never felt permanent. And all three were far too big! Massive 80’s style office furniture that just wasn’t me.

So I bit the bullet and asked for it to be removed a couple of weeks back. The guys from maintenance should be here within the hour to take it all away.

Meanwhile, I’ve bought a smaller desk, a smaller pedestal and a better ergonomic chair. I’m not going to fill the space I get back with more things, I’m going to enjoy the new space. I’m going to enjoy the comfort of a healthy workspace set-up and I’m going to scan this office for more fixtures of the silent to-to list that can be removed, recycled or binned.

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