Making Money Online? A Minimalism & Decluttering Blog Report

Minimalism blogger sitting at her tidy white desk, looking up from her laptop smiling into the camera.

Google updates, traffic ups and downs, top posts, and hefty expenditures: it’s year-in-review time. Is blogging still worth it?

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Tidymalism is a home organisation and decluttering blog that doesn’t cut any profit to date, so I’m in no position to qualify myself as one of the more successful bloggers out there.

That said, anyone can go on Twitter and claim they’re an online entrepreneur with a new blog that’s making them 40k a month. Is it true? Who knows, but I doubt it. I’d estimate saying so gets them clicks though!

What’s the point in writing an annual blog report if there’s no income to speak of? Well, it helps keep me accountable – both to my readers and myself. Hence, here’s a retrospective on the content that resonated most with you in 2023, how much it cost me to run this website, and what’s on my backlog and in the pipeline.

The Roller Coaster Ride of Google Core and Helpful Content Updates

What a year, at least in terms of Google updates. Up until the end of Q2, I had been tweaking a lot of old content and removing and consolidating some of my earliest posts, which had not been ranking. I started to see my traffic really pick up in July and was so excited the site was gaining traction.

Then Google began changing its algorithm on what felt like was a weekly basis, throwing not just my work for a roller coaster ride, but impacting the traffic of most other bloggers out there, too.

Core updates, helpful content (“HCU”) updates, product reviews updates and more: Google threw it all at us last year. To add insult to injury, it started serving only Reddit, Quora and corporate content from the likes of Forbes to search queries. That meant bloggers were getting pushed into oblivion in the SERPs.

Most of 2023 felt like I was running around in circles. I would edit something on my end, see an uptick, and then Google would pull me back down again. By the time August rolled around I was totally fed up and decided to simply not do anything at all anymore in terms of the HCU or improvement to the site.

Thankfully, after the September and October updates rolled out, Tidymalism’s traffic was climbing again. The Google lords had deemed my content helpful, hallelujah. πŸ™

So here I am in January 2024, and my traffic is back to what it was six months ago: about 25k page views per month, with a MOZ DA hovering around 31. Not too overwhelming, considering I’ve been blogging at Tidymalism for well over 2.5 years.

Why I Don’t Publish Monthly Income Reports or Blog Income Reports

As mentioned in last year’s blog report, I’m not much of a fan of blogging about blogging. My readers come to Tidymalism looking for solutions to clutter and organising problems, decor inspiration, or intentional living tips. Are they interested in what hosting service new bloggers should pick, what my first month income was, or how I monetise? Not so much.

Japandi style home office with a laptop opened on the desk, and a blog report file visible on its screen.

That’s the main reason you won’t find any revenue or “make money blogging” type posts on this site. I know there are a lot of income reports from other bloggers out there, but I’m sticking to my niche of home organisation.

The other reason you won’t find much here in the way of how I earn money from blogging is because Tidymalism is simply not profitable yet. Despite the fact that I have been blogging in various forms since the late 1990s, I had no experience in generating income from a blog when I started this site.

Background

I’ve been very deliberate about the content I create manually. I’ve made a load of technical mistakes along the way, I had no idea how to build a funnel, and I’ve been admittedly sloth-like when it comes to building up my email subscribers. πŸ¦₯

To be fair though, Tidymalism started for funsies. Yes, I was curious about monetisation, but blogging was primarily a nice diversion from a rough patch I was going through at the time. It gave me a sense of purpose.

Within a year though, as my page views grew, I started to realise I was on to something. Plus, running the site was fun and I’m a writer anyway, at least by trade. So I decided to commit to it as a side hustle and here we are.

Blogging Traffic

iPad on a tidy kitchen countertop in an organised kitchen. A blog analysis graph is open on the iPad and we can see some diagrams and pie charts in it.

Most of my modest traffic came from organic search last year, with Pinterest coming in second place. I’m happy with that ratio, and with my domain authority: it’s climbed to 31. That’s okay for blog less than three years old.

Two years back, I had stopped putting time and effort into my Instagram because it has close to zero return on investment.

Instead, I opted to go all in on Pinterest. That turned out to be a great decision that is still paying off.

I’ll probably return to IG at some point, but for now I’m sticking to Pinterest for my marketing strategy.

Overall, despite all the Google changes last year, traffic to Tidymalism grew by 249.75%. I am thrilled, honestly. Thank you so much for reading, for following me on Pinterest, and of course for continuing to come back to read more on this blog πŸ™‚

Email Subscribers

Subscribers to the Monthly Minimal newsletter also grew by 99.26% last year. I’m super happy with that increase and aiming for a similar growth rate this year. Sign up if you haven’t yet!

Top Posts of 2023

This is where the blog report gets really interesting for me every year: seeing what pages y’all are reading the most, and how these compare to my personal favourite posts.

Overall, I published fewer posts in 2023, but they were longer: 30 new articles with an average length of 2,115 words.

Laptop opened on a desk, surrounded by pads of paper and writing utensils On the laptop we can read "the blog report."
The really scary thing is that I’m getting used to typos in AI-generated artwork πŸ˜‰

30 blog posts
12 newsletters
72,169 total word count

2023 Output

Readers’ Top 5 Favourite Posts Published in 2023

  1. Best book apps for organising a home library was your #1 fave post. Wow. I had no idea so many of you were bookworms like me. I’m so glad you bibliophiles found the guidance in here helpful.
  2. My post on quitting Evernote for Devonthink also resonated with a huge number of visitors. Based on how much time they spend on this page, it appears the overview of all the testing I did of various note-taking apps scored with many avid note takers out there.
  3. Coming in at #3 was my guide on storing knitwear. Seems a lot of readers were as tired as I was of shoulder boobs! πŸ˜‰
  4. How to make a natural shower cleaner also pulled in a tonne of traffic. I’m tickled. I still use that recipe to this day.
  5. Another big traffic driver was the post I did from a more psychological standpoint: how to stop being messy.

Top 5 Posts from Past Years

Some of my older posts also had a massive uptick of traffic in 2023. After working on my SEO some more last year, I was thrilled that people were now finding these articles more easily.

  1. Small Kitchen Ideas to Maximise Space was a post I wrote in the summer of 2021. The struggle with little kitchens is evergreen, it seems!
  2. The missing Swedish Death Cleaning checklist was as popular last year as it has been in the past. I plan on finally adding a printable download to this article later this year, I promise.
  3. Over in the organising category, my rundown of no-closet bedroom ideas for tiny living situations with zero closet space was another readers’ favourite.
  4. Another one of my evergreens is my adulting 101 post featuring an easy-peasy cleaning routine for single people.
  5. Why Under Bed Storage Is a Bad Idea is an old post that continues to be hugely popular. Yup, I stand by it, too. I still refuse to put anything under the bed.

Tidymalism’s Fave Posts of 2023

These were my personal favourites:

  1. I came to a sort of revelation last year and dove into why happiness is our moral obligation and our own choice. If you’re into Stoicism at all, I think you’ll like this article.
  2. Barbiecore decor for minimalists. Pink makes me happy. But I can do without the kitsch factor at home. Here’s how you can infuse some Barbie-inspired accents into your interior style without cluttering your place up.
  3. My post on staying safe while working from home turned into a mammoth step-by-step guide. Hey, I’ve been #wfh since the late 90s and have a lot to say on the topic.
  4. Designer handbags are my weakness, and I had a blast researching and writing about luxury purse storage tips, finding the right place and taking care of these exclusive accessories.
  5. Over in the area of sustainability and the circular economy, I took a deep dive into why our old stuff is still holding up so strong while our newer possessions fall apart very quickly. Spoiler alert: it’s deliberate.

Expense Breakdown

Because Tidymalism only generates losses thus far, I’m still officially considered a hobbyist blogger. That said, I do diligently track expenditures just so I know how much loss I’m racking up. And of course, I have to keep my eye on the numbers anyway because as soon as I cross the magic threshold into profitability – even it’s only one single buck – I’m obliged to start reporting everything to the tax man.

Backend, Frontend, Software: €1,100
Hardware: €1,700
–––––––––––––––
Total damage: €2,800 (USD 3,049)

Backend

In 2023 I completed a huge web server migration to my own dedicated server managed by Hostinger. The server was my biggest purchase of the year and it set me back over $430 because I chose to pay in advance for four whole years in order to get a 50% discount. So at least I’m all set here for awhile now.

I paid another $80 or so for ICANN and registry fees in 2023. All of these expenses were kinda yikes, but I actually should have done it sooner.

Overall the site runs a lot smoother now and the folks from Hostinger were good about helping me with a couple of technicalities I had during the big migration. In such, I was able to do it all myself without having to hire a developer.

Frontend

I had had my eye on a new theme for this site for quite a while called Popcorn, and when one of its creators, Alex of WP Eagle, said they were going to be hiking up the price, I went all in and purchased it even though I didn’t have time to implement it yet. That ran me about a hundred bucks.

So that’s still something on my to-do list this year: I’ve slowly started work on the site’s re-design and look forward to re-launching later this year. I’m hoping it will improve a few page speed issues I’ve been having, particularly on mobile.

Software

Software and tools comprised most of my other expenditures last year. I dedicated an entire article to my massive migration of nearly ten thousand notes after leaving Evernote and moving to DevonThink (see readers’ favourites above). Becoming a DT convert cost me about €200 but it was a one-time fee.

Apart from all that, I had some subscriptions to pay.

Monthly subscriptions

On a monthly recurring basis, there are a few things I subscribe to and get a tonne of use out of.

Although I don’t use AI to write my content because I’m such a stickler for quality and authenticity, I do indeed harness ChatGPT on a daily basis for a wide range of tasks in an equally wide range of areas. I’ll sometimes brainstorm my content plan with it or ask it to help me refine an outline. Or I’ll cook dinner with it. I use it for my freelance business and financial planning. Sometimes I just shoot the breeze with it about history, the joy of life, or hobbies.

I also build my own GPTs with it such as Empty Fridge Recipes, which gives you a selection of things you can quickly cook when, nomen est omen, your fridge is empty. (Try it out, it’s free!) $20 a month for Open.ai’s Pro version is a good ROI if you ask me.

Midjourney is another AI tool I use constantly, particularly for a lot of the header images you see here on Tidymalism, as well as to create pictures for my Pinterest pins. It’s a blast using it, and it runs me $10 a month.

ConvertKit logo

Sometime last summer, ConvertKit, which I use to manage my monthly newsletter (sign up, it’s free!) and mailing list, invited me to join their Creators Network for free for a month. So I tried that out, got some new traction, and opted into their monthly subscription.

Well, I wound up cancelling it after a few months and reverting to the free version because I just didn’t feel the size of my still-small mailing list warranted the expenditure. I was only getting a few new subscribers each month through the Creators Network.

I still really like ConvertKit and once I reach a more substantial number of subs to my list, I plan on going back to their monthly subscription. I can wholeheartedly recommend them (phenomenal customer support, too) and if you’ve been thinking about migrating your list or you’re just starting a newsletter from scratch, you can try out ConvertKit for free.

Finally, I’m a massive fan of the SEO tool Lowfruits. It has a totally clean, easy to navigate user interface that makes it fun to do keyword research, clustering and SERP analyses. I find it super easy to brainstorm article ideas with it and save my keyword reports in custom lists so I can pull them up again.

Annual subscriptions

Canva is a no-brainer if you blog or run any sort of online business. It’s pricey, but I get so much use out of the Pro version every week, it’s worth the cost for me. Hence, I sucked it up and renewed my subscription again for €110.Β 

This year I also purchased a really helpful affiliates plugin called Affi.ai for the website. It automatically embeds and updates any Amazon, eBay or other affiliate links in your content. Plus, it makes the product boxes a lot prettier, which you might have noticed on many posts around here.

The developer is super responsive and you can even set Affi.ai to automatically insert products based on the content of your posts. I haven’t worked with that function yet, because I tend to recommend specific products to my readers which I use myself. But I can imagine that this feature is quite useful for e.g. niche site owners or bulk publishers.

TastyPins is another WordPress plugin I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone creating a lot of Pinterest pins. It allows you to disable pinning of certain images on your site, force pin hidden images, add pin banners and a hover button to all pins, and so much more including manage your ALT text for better pin SEO. Love it!

Those were my main expenses last year in terms of software specifically related to running Tidymalism. I really do tend to be picky about what I spend my money on, so when I do take out a subscription, it’s something I really love using on a frequent basis.

Equipment

Since I had already upgraded my ancient laptop in late 2022, I didn’t need much new hardware this past year. I replaced my old iPhone XS Max with a new iPhone 15 Pro Max (great camera) and I also bought a gimbal I had been coveting: the Insta360 Flow. That was it.

This gimbal is nothing short of amazing. I’ve been learning how to use its many features while I also teach myself some basic video editing skills so that I can finally make some content for YouTube. Hopefully later this year!

Looking Ahead to Next Year’s Blog Report: Content Strategy and Marketing

Although I wasn’t a new blogger per se, I’ve learnt a tonne since the launch of this site. Not just in terms of SEO and web development, but also ad, referral and affiliate stuff, AI and copyright, how to fix DNS records and caching issues myself and so much more.

Cosy home office with an empty chair in front of a desk, where a laptop has been left open so we can read "Blog Report" on the screen.

There’s still a ways to go though. I want to grow my conversion rate, get that new design ready for the frontend and be more strategic about my content plan in general.

Marketing has never been my forte, particularly not when it’s self-marketing. But it’s also high time for me this year to ramp up my content marketing game. Hence my growing interest in e.g. video, and diversifying my traffic sources.

A year ago I honestly did not think I would still be sitting here without having had turned a profit by now. Then again, nobody knew in advance how rocky those Google updates were going to be! Some of those successful bloggers I mentioned in the intro saw their entire business model tank within a few weeks. That must have been terrifying.

Ergo: I do have a ballpark figure I’d like to hit later this year. In the meantime I’m aiming to get my running costs covered asap.

I believe I would continue with the site even if I never cross over into the realm of profitability. I’d certainly be forced to scale back the number of hours I work on Tidymalism each week if that were the case. But if all else failed, it’s still a passion project for me so I’d continue to run it as a hobby.

I’m pretty positive though that Tidy is on the right track, and optimistic about next year’s blog report!

iPad on a tidy kitchen countertop in an organised kitchen. A blog analysis graph is open on the iPad and we can see some diagrams and pie charts in it.
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