It’s a trendy word in design, cleaning, and skin care these days, but its roots run deep in so many other aspects of our lives. We see trends constantly emerging that capture this concept: capsule wardrobes, white walls, tiny homes, even entire podcasts dedicated to becoming minimalists; case and point, who has been busy Tidying Up lately? Moving towards a minimalist (read: clean + simplified) lifestyle has extreme benefits, so how can we embrace some of the principles of minimalism in the therapy world?
When I first started in a brick and mortar school setting, I walked into an old classroom filled with speech supplies dating back to 1970. As a novice therapist, Imagine my anxiety wiping away thick dust only to find years and years of varying protocols and outdated testing resources. I learned very quickly that "not reinventing the wheel" didn't mean using every resource ever created.
As a therapist (and now, as a teletherapist), I have found many tools to help keep my resources up-to-date, accessible, and dust free. Here's my guide to being innovative, efficient, and effective as a teleherapist all while maintaining a minimalist mindset.
Toss it. Any guide to minimalism begins with getting rid of what you don't need. If you haven’t used a resource in three months and it’s something you aren’t required to store, you don't need it. All those laminated cards you spend hours trimming and printing in graduate school aren’t doing you any good if you aren’t using them. Same goes for old notes or textbooks. Get a digital copy when possible, and donate what you can.
Make it electronic. One incredible element of teletherapy is the ability to use electronic resources. Keeping your resources on your computer helps de-clutter your space, but it's just as crucial to de-clutter your desktop. I keep an up-to-date folder on my computer desktop and organize resources by age and category for easy access.
Gone are the days of sorting worksheets, copying, and laminating. Not to mention, creating simple electronic activities cuts down on prep time and offers just as much (if not more) engagement and progress.
Additionally, if you fax things often, consider using an online fax service like eFax.com or use a service at an office supply store.
Make is Accessible. Using a secure platform you can access from any device, such as Google Drive, is a necessity. I’ve sent emails, evaluations, and electronically signed documents from many places other than my home office. Keep a separate folder for each district and include things like district calendars, places to find local news and severe weather alerts, and a list of your students' teachers. While finding a cloud-based option, make sure you can still secure your information and limit access as needed.
Ditch the printer. Instead of having my big printer out on my desk for easy use, I keep mine in my closet, and I am very mindful about taking it out. I ofter ask myself: Do I have to print this? Can I email it instead? Do I want to store this?
Don’t forget that you can electronically sign documents in Adobe Reader using the Certificate feature. I will note, I can’t give up my paper planner. It’s the most efficient way for me to organize the chaos, but even that is organized and minimal.
Clear your desk, clear your mind. Although that might not be the exact saying, there is something so powerful about emptiness. My desk is a 2x4 foot table. On it, I have my computer, planner and a pencil box. My desk has no drawers so I keep a utility cart from Ikea to store protocols and my “quick fix” toolbox filled with activities that aren’t electronic.
Let the light in. If you're really living the minimal lifestyle, you might have a small space to work in. By setting up your space to get as much natural light as possible, you can make your space will feel bigger. My equation for minimalism that works: subtract clutter and add light.
Make it multipurpose. I recently took this approach in my kitchen (I mean how many variations of crockpots does one person really need?) The same can be true for therapy materials and appliances. By creating materials that are multipurpose, you will better utilize your time. Make sure to buy or make materials that take up less space but still have a significant impact for your caseload. Think about age and goal when you’re shopping or creating and try and make things that work for several students and several scenarios.
Add a plant. After subtracting all the extra, add a plant. It’s a mood booster, air purifier, and a great listener.
Why the minimalist attitude? The benefits of changing your mindset and space are exponential. Minimizing your work space gives you extra time for you, saves you money, and increases your clarity of mind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Morgan Chapman, MS CCC-SLP // Morgan believes that a little bit of boldness goes a long way. Wife to GI Joel (blind date over tacos turned into marriage) and mother to daughter, Waverlee (with another on the way), Morgan is a full time [millennial] speech teletherapist who works out of a vintage camper office behind her home. Check out additional posts in Morgan's blog series here.