11 August 2011

On a Quest to Simplify - Declutter Your RSS

I have recently caught myself thinking of simplifying my life. And by simplifying I don't mean well-known phrases like Buy Less! or Reduce Your Clothes! or Declutter! No, I mean, really simplify everything I do every day. Real steps. Because the mean tiny streak of doubt has been creeping through my thoughts for a while, implying that I spend too much time and I put too much effort with not enough results in return. This injustice got me thinking that there must be something I am not doing right. 

In this line of thinking I talked about deliberate singletasking last week and getting rid of the myth of saving time through multitasking. But finishing tasks one at a time was not enough to clear my overloaded brain although it was a positive step ahead.

Photo: kanelstrand

As it usually happens, when you pose a question you get the answer. Some days ago, I read how Leo Babauta drastically decreased the number of his RSS feeds and, what do you think? Of course, I decided to follow his advice because I quickly identified my 200 strong RSS feed army to be a major obstacle on my way to simple living. 

I must admit here, that I am guilty of gluttony. Ever since I set on the blogging journey I have been adding feed after feed to my Google Reader, often attracted by information that looked valuable at the time or to return the favor to other crafty bloggers who followed me. 

But can you imagine a day of mine? Going through 200 feeds takes up quite some time, especially if I want to comment under some posts or to concentrate on important information. With time, going through my Google Reader became a chore and I started procrastinating reading it. I even got to the point of organizing the vital blogs that inspired me in a separate folder, so that I didn't have to browse through all 200 to get to them.

I asked myself why did I have to keep all those feeds, some of which have not offered any insights or haven't helped me develop at least a bit. Do I really have the time for all this not necessarily useful information? Isn't my aim in life to try and use my time wisely and grow? And this is how my clean-up began.

Photo: kanelstrand

Day 1.
I cleaned up all subscriptions that weren't updated in the past month. To my dismay, I found some that weren't updated since April. That took me down to 169 feeds. Not bad for a beginning.

Day 2.
I identified the feeds that were duplicate. I receive updates on Twitter and Facebook for 11 of them, so I simply unsubscribed. (By the way, hang on Facebook, you are next!) The figures got down to 158.

Day 3.
I reserved the third day for the very hard task of purging feeds that did neither enrich nor inspire me, thus making me subconsciously avoid them. I got to 145.

Day 4.
On day 4 I said goodbye to uncommunicative bloggers, and more precisely the ones who never reply to comments left on their blogs, never visit mine, or whose posts are mainly showcases of collections. Although I respect their choices, I hardly find it inspiring enough or triggering empathy that might result in sharing my point of view. Unproductive on both ends. I reached 134.

Although my aim is to go below 60, shared between feeds from which to learn and blogs, part of my creative community, I will still give some of the feeds a chance and let them live for another week or even a month. If we get along well, we keep our friendship; if no one is benefiting, we part. That is as fair as it can get.

One thing I learned is that I need to be merciless to remain sane in the age of information. I much more value the friendship of a handful of sincere, like-minded people than the indifference of hundreds.

You might want to read the other posts in the series On a Quest to Simplify:


  1. How timely this is, for I have had similar feeling lately, especially in regards to reducing multitasking, and reducing my Google Reader list. Like you, I feel friendship, caring, sharing & big inspiration are the keys to blogging. It may be ruthless, but this paring down liberates us from what has become the norms of online life and creating the online life we truly wish for, care for & give to. Well spoken, Sonya! :o)

  2. Thank you, Tracy. With so much information around I believe that the only way to differentiate ourselves from the "Brave New World" is to go back to sensible basics in every aspect of life.

  3. Sonya, you are so right about us being kindred spirits. I felt myself nodding as I read your post today:):) I recently did the same thing to simplify my life too:) Love this post and your blog, which will always be on my list.

  4. it really takes some mindful work to reduce in this way ..I actually quit using my reader it was too overwhelming to me.. LOVE your photosas always

  5. I am going to be following this closely as I am also on a simplification quest!

  6. This is such a smart idea--the RSS feed is ridiculous for me, too. I actually set a timer so I don't reply to blogs for more than 20 minutes, but it's still a chore some days. I might have to take the plunge too, and empty out the blogs that just aren't updating anything at all.

  7. Oh, I also had a timer set but it wasn't a very productive idea...

  8. Absolutely! I did much the same thing. If I wasn't connecting with another blogger, I stopped reading their blog. I simply don't have TIME to keep up people who can't keep up with me. I'm not trying to be mean; I just don't have the time to devote that much energy to Blogger each day. :) I hope you make it to your goal of 60 feeds, Sonya! :D

  9. It does get hard to manage it all sometimes! The computer can really be a time drainer!
    When I went back to work (after being laid off for 6 months) the first thing I did was hide several people from my home page on facebook. This way I could get the important info from the people I cared most about :)

  10. I couldn't agree more! I have been doing a bit of cleaning out of sorts myself. I created a folder marked "favorites" in my reader. That is where I put the blogs that I really love and enjoy. That way, those are never missed. There are probably 40 or 50 in there. As for the other 300+, I clean out every now and then. I'll start reading and like you, if I find that it's rarely updated, an unresponsive blogger, or nothing but collections and new listings, I delete them as I get to them.

    I like the idea to simplify my life a bit.

  11. I just recently started using Google Reader everyday, and it has been a big time saver. Thank you for sharing your plan for simplifying, it has inspired me to create a plan to control the feeds that I follow.
    Everyday Inspired

  12. Sonya, this my be my favorite post you've written. I noticed the other night that in the evenings, Robbie and I spent probably 90% of our time on our ipads or computers, and about 10% together. It made me kind of sad, especially when I only have him home half the year. I reminded him how just a few years ago, before we had smart phones and ipads and fancy laptops, we DID a lot more together, even just watching movies. Not to mention that it would probably be much more mentally healthy for me at the end of a 10-15 hour work day (most of which is spent on the computer) to spend time AWAY from the internet.

    I love the advice you lined up for decreasing the number of blogs in your RSS feed. I, too, have way more than I need, and I agree with what you said about choosing blogs with bloggers who interact and participate, and post about things that are useful or interesting to me. I'm definitely going to take the time to do this. Reading our feeds should be enjoyable anyway, rather than a chore.


  13. I think I will have to do the same!

  14. I love your post today! One can get mired down in all the blogs out there and I have found for myself I have made a transition from when I first started to what I enjoy now. And that may change over time again. But I'm with you, I only enjoy going to those places that inspire and enrich my daily view on life.
    Very very good post today!

  15. Good job! I can't imagine reading that many blogs! I only read about 5 or 6 blogs, but that takes time too!

    My time death trap is facebook! I spend way too much time on there!

  16. Oh I really need to do this too! I hate to admit it, but I'm sure I have followed a few blogs in the past only to enter a giveaway or something and felt compelled to keep going back. But life is too busy and time to precious for that. I recently cleaned out my physical space; now I need to clean out my virtual space too :)

  17. Heartbreaking as it is, you're right.

    Steps 3 and 4...!
    Tears will be shed.

  18. You have inspired me to do the same. It is kind of overwhelming but at the same time liberating. I already feel lighter:) Thanks for the inspiration.

  19. I really have to declutter my feed because I didn't check out some of my favorite blogs for up to ten days. It became like dealing with dirty laundry - when you procrastinate and always wash the clothes on the top, rarely getting to those on the bottom. :)
    Actually I'm just in the middle of organizing blogs in different folders for the first time, I hope this will work. I really like what you did on day 4. Comments are very important to me and I can't understand bloggers that don't even respond to direct questions. So I stop following huge and/or uncommunicative blogs pretty quickly.
    What do you do with those that you follow them to return the favor, do you put them in a separate folder? I read feeds via google reader so I "have" to go through GFC friends but I just don't have time for all of them - I know you understand me. :P

  20. Maša, the problem with women is that we want to get things done, we want to get to the bottom of the laundry pile, no matter if we like it or not.

    By the way, I keep on repeating day 4 from time to time because yes, I tend to add new feeds all the time.

    I must admit that I stopped following blogs to return the favor. I realized it was pointless and not very sincere. The new blogs that I add go through a "test" period, i.e. I classify them in a separate folder called TEST. I then start observing, commenting when I have something to say. If the blogger doesn't react in a month or so neither on their blog, nor on mine, well... he/she has to go.

    On the other hand, my Google Reader holds some very, very precious feeds of authors from whom I learn something every time, and I don't care if they will go beyond their posts and shake my hand... I simply appreciate their wisdom and don't need them to "talk" to me any more than they do.

    And yes, I do understand you about going through all your GFC friends. That is why mine are now under 50, but I am sure that I value them and find time at least twice a week to drop by and comment on as many posts as possible. We are all together on this journey and need to find like-minded souls and keep on inspiring each other!

  21. great post! just today i went through my feeds and unsubscribed from a handful. lots have stopped blogging and some i skip over anyway. its overwhelming sometimes and i don't want to feel stressed when reading blogs i like.

    1. I do that so often too! Every few months I go through my reader and unsubscribe from blogs that are not being updated or I don't feel a connection with. It frees up space for creative connections!