Ambient Minimalism (For Readers)

Jenny over at ExConsumer recently had a fantastic post about the fact that many A-listers are telling people to stop reading blogs – or stop reading as many, anyway.

It’s instructive to note, however, that most of those people would still tell you to read their blog.  After all, that’s where they get the huge subscriber numbers that make them A-listers!

Love him or hate him, at least Everett Bogue was consistent – he not only told you to stop reading so many blogs, but he’d be the first to tell you to stop reading his own blog if it didn’t do anything for you.

Those A-listers do have at least a minor point, though – not everybody can read every minimalism blog out there.

A Cluster Of Clutter

Not that I didn’t try at one point, mind you!

In fact, I used to follow several dozen of them.  They were all on my “to read” list, and given equal priority.  This was great, because I got lots of information.

The problem came when I missed a day (or two).  I’d made some sort of mental commitment to reading this stuff, but a day or more off resulted in a huge backlog of unread posts.

As anybody who’s ever been overextended can tell you, mental commitment + large backlog = stress.

I needed a strategy.  Specifically, I needed a way to maintain close contact with a few favorite authors, but still be consistently exposed to the best ideas from the others.

That strategy is what I’m outlining here.


I use RSS for my blog subscriptions, specifically Google Reader.  You could accomplish the same thing with e-mail subscriptions if you like, but it would take more time.

When Tanja posted her humongous minimalist blog list, I went through and subscribed to them all.  Yes, all 120+ blogs, because I’m just crazy like that.

This also meant that for many of the blogs I had to manually find the RSS feeds; you’d be surprised how many blogs don’t have a nice “subscribe” button on their homepage!


I already had a “Minimalism” folder in Google Reader.  This folder contained all the minimalism blogs I’d subscribed to before I’d run across Tanja’s humongous list.

To that, I added a “Misc. Minimalism” folder – and I put every blog from Tanja’s list that wasn’t already in “Minimalism” into that folder.

Yes, “Misc. Minimalism” has well over 100 blogs in it – but it takes up exactly one line when it’s collapsed.

Clear The Clutter

The next step was to evaluate the blogs in my main “Minimalism” list.  Some of them I read because I want to see everything they have to say; some I read most of the time; some of them only post something good once in a blue moon.

Anything I didn’t read almost religiously got bumped down into “Misc. Minimalism”.  This keeps it in my system, but moves it to a place where I don’t feel pressured to deal with it if I don’t have the time.


Now when I have a few minutes and I want to do a bit more reading, I just expand my “Misc. Minimalism” folder and skim through the headlines.  Out of a few dozen headlines, there are likely to be at least a few that catch my eye.

I pick what look to be the most interesting posts, and click into them.  If I really like them, I click over to their blog and comment!


Sometimes a particular blogger stands out.  Maybe I really like what they say, or I really enjoy their style.  I might just notice that I’ve read three or four of their posts in the last week or two, which means that they consistently draw my attention.

When that happens, I move them up to my main “Minimalism” folder.  They’ve become a “priority read”.

The reverse is also true – sometimes a “priority read” becomes less interesting, so I bump them down into the “Misc. Minimalism” category.


This isn’t rocket science, just a simple method that works well for me.

It lets me keep tabs on the six to twelve “priority reads” that I have, while at the same time getting a good mix of all the 100+ other minimalist blogs on a semi-regular basis – all without a lot of undue stress!

What about you?  Do you have any strategies you’ve developed for managing “blog overload”?  Let me know in the comments!

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21 Responses - Add Your Input!

Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

Hey Robert! Thanks for linking to my post. :)

This is a nice way to organize and keep track of the blogs you follow. My method isn’t quite as organized, but it’s working for me right now. I have maybe a dozen or so blogs I subscribe to, and the the others I keep track of through Twitter. Also, if a blogger comments on my blog, I always go check out their blog within a day or two.

I’ve also been picking through titles that catch my eye from an RSS feed for Minimalism Moms that Faith from Minimalist at Home set-up.
Jenny @ exconsumer recently posted..Consumer Debt Remaining

    Posted April 6, 2011 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    I’d be the first to say that any system that works for you is the system that you should be using.

    The biggest thing for me wasn’t the method of organization, but the fact that things were organized in some manner. Priorities are good!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Jenny!

Posted April 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

Hi Robert!
Thanks for sharing your tips on how you stay organized. I’ve been manually following each and every blog and it gets tedious. So sharing your tips will really help me out a lot. I love your honesty and love how you point out how A Listers suggest to follow less except their own. How true!
jenny smythe recently posted..Why I write LESS

    Posted April 6, 2011 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Credit goes to Jenny (ExConsumer) for the observation about A-listers. I know I’ve had the thought myself before, but when I wrote this post it was her comment about it that was swimming through my head. :D

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Posted April 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

Well you’ve set me quite the challenge Robert! I shall make it my aim to get myself out of the misc minimalism bucket and into your must-reads ;)

Personally, I follow a form of Patrick Rhone’s RSS setup, though a minimalism list like yours probably would be a good addition to it.

Thanks for sharing your system – I’m a complete geek for posts like this…


    Posted April 5, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I meant to link to Patrick’s setup – http://patrickrhone.com/2010/02/15/my-rss-system/

      Posted April 6, 2011 at 2:19 am | Permalink

      I implement a version of that setup as well – the post above was mostly talking about how I deal with the minimalism blogs I follow.

      I have a bunch of other blogs that I read, grouped into “A-List” and other groups.

      I felt the need to differentiate the minimalism ones though because I’m committed to actively engaging in conversation in this niche. The other blogs, not so much.

      And now I’m off to give your blog a good once-over. :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Posted April 6, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

AMEN. You said all I had Hoped someone would talk about. The Overdoing of Blogs to follow. That can be a total time stealer in itself. When I started to Minimize my Life in January it seems I didnt know much about Google reader or Twitter, let alone following these MANY Blogs daily. I would read one then feed off another one and save that one as well. This reminds me of getting rid of Clutter and Unneeded Items in my life, to Replacing them with BLOGS to consume my Life. I have deleted and then subscribed again then it starts over again, It is addictive in itself. I get to a point where I want to STOP following everything all together. I have printed off a whole Notebook for hints on everything. What more do I really need? For me I am finding that I want to ZONE into their lives. I can say, I appreciate this Blog Tons. Thanks

    Posted April 6, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Tammy, thanks for the encouragement! It all comes back to making the technology serve us rather than us serving it, doesn’t it?. It’s a distinction that’s easy to lose sometimes. :D

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Posted April 6, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

I subscribed to blogs by email, and you’re right. Many bloggers don’t make it easy to subscribe.

I try to unsubscribe from things I don’t read so that if I get an email, I know I want to read it. I only follow about a dozen blogs, and that’s plenty for me. Truthfully, I need to shed a couple of those because they usually get deleted.

Getting behind is a problem for me sometimes, especially if I check email when I don’t really have time to deal with all of it.

Gip/So Much More… recently posted..The Flow of Good- Have You Disconnected From One Too Many Systems

Posted April 6, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

I do a “Trial” folder for blogs I am not sure about. I don’t like seeing their unread counts even if I know I can mark them all as read :)

Here’s my take on how I handle RSS Feeding
The Everyday Minimalist recently posted..Quote of the Month- Tyler Durden from “Fight Club”

    Posted April 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I used to do the reverse of a “trial” folder – it was called “on probation”. :) Rather than delete a blog I was less interested in, it went in the “on probation” folder, with a date.

    If I didn’t see a reason to restore it within a couple weeks of that date, it went in the trash.

    I do like the idea of the “trial” folder though!

    Thanks for commenting – I’ll have to head over and check out your post!

Posted April 6, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

I think you have finally convinced me to start using an RSS reader. I never bothered bc I figured it’d be one more thing to keep track of, but at this point, i get so many blog posts in my inbox, it’s very distracting and time consuming. If I don’t read one right away, I save it and then it just accumulates.

I have been spending so much of my time reading and commenting that I don’t get much done for myself these days! It’s hard to keep up!

I think I am going to start unsubscribing to a lot of these blogs now and just keep them at Google reader. Thanks for the tips! I really like the idea of folders and making folders for those that you don’t plan to keep up with every single day.
marianney recently posted..Are You Prepared to Make a Difference

    Posted April 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Oooh. Definitely do rss Marianney! I wasn’t doing it till just a few months ago and it really saves me a lot of time.
    Tanja from Minimalist Packrat recently posted..We Have a Winner Make that Winners

      Posted April 7, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      haha i think i added everyone to my RSS feed, but now that means i have unsubscribe by email to all the blogs. i hope no one gets upset! i promise i’ve added you all via RSS!
      marianney | A Life Set Free recently posted..Are You Prepared to Make a Difference

        Posted April 7, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        Anybody using FeedBurner won’t see a change in their subscriber counts – e-mail and RSS are all lumped together in the one number. :D

    Posted April 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I like RSS because it lets me go to my feeds when I have time, and organize them in a way that’s convenient for me. It’s a fantastic technology!

    Thanks for commenting Marianne!

Posted April 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

You know why I made that list in the first place Robert? To keep track of all the bloggers I wanted to follow. Frickin’ nuts!!!! To my credit, there were only about 60 names on it at first (that’s not too many to follow right? :), and then when I made it public I ran around and gathered a bunch more.

I think it’s definitely possible to overdo it. I sure was. But I have cut back and it feels awesome.

Now I do pretty much the same thing as you. I went to each blog in my list (that had an rss feed) and added them to my reader. Then I sorted them by my absolute top weekly fave’s (you’re in my fave’s Robert), my sometime visits, and my-far-out-in-the-radar-once-in-a-blue-moon visits. Now I’ve got about 20 bloggers that I consistently keep up with, reading everything that comes out. I check every one else out when I have time and feel like seeing what’s going on elsewhere. It’s tighter but I still feel like I can hop in and check up on folks.
Tanja from Minimalist Packrat recently posted..We Have a Winner Make that Winners

    Posted April 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I think there was only one in your list that I couldn’t find an RSS feed for. Not that it was easy, mind you – but with a little bit of tech knowledge most blogs have an RSS feed that can be found – even if it’s not linked anywhere!

    Thanks again for that list, by the way – it sure made my life easier! Are you planning to keep it updated?

    Thanks for commenting Tanja!

Posted April 8, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

[...] Ambient Minimalism (For Readers) at Untitled Minimalism. This was exactly the post I needed this week. Before reading this, I subscribed via email to all my blogs and it was starting to become a cluster in my inbox! I finally took the leap and started using Google Reader this week to organize my reading. Awesome. [...]

Posted April 11, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

[...] time I discussed this topic I outlined a method that allows readers to stay closely connected with their favorite bloggers, [...]

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