Returning to simplicity

“On a basic level, there are three general methods to simplifying your life: stopping expansion, reining in your routine, and reducing clutter.”

– Rolf Potts, Vagabonding

Long before I discovered minimalism or the Kondo-method, there was a book I had read discussing the hows and whys of long-term travel. And I wasn’t ready for it when I first read it, back in 2003. The world was where I’d wanted to be, but I had a lot holding me back. It wasn’t until 2016 that I took significant steps toward making the dream of long-term world travel a reality.

Still, I combat the clutter and spending in my life. Having finished Strayed’s Wild, a portion of me wants to rid myself of nearly all my things, the bulk of which are already in a storage unit. She burned books after she read them, nightly, lightening the load of her pack to make walking just a tad easier.

We’ve all moved, and know that each time we lift that heavy piece of furniture we think that next time it’s not coming with us. But what about the smaller pieces, the things that don’t add value to our life anymore – things we just carry out of familiarity? Wouldn’t moving on be easier without them?

Maybe they’re not all material. Maybe some things we carry our internal – things that don’t serve us. Maybe those are the most important things to let go of…

Mise-en-place

Another in a series of thoughts on decluttering and belongings, the French culinary specialists have given the world mise-en-place, or everything in its place. And the principle extends beyond the kitchen. When I lived in my small home, I tried to adhere to this principle to maintain my sanity (with mixed results).

How far you take it is up to you. Maybe the bookshelves keep a clean and orderly appearance.

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Or you meticulously organize your pantry.

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On the other hand, maybe you’re lucky if everything fits on a shelf. 11844881464_95278ba223_b

Whichever side you currently find yourself on, remember that it can be better. Find a home for everything – one that looks pleasing to your eye. Then, make sure every item returns to its home after use.

If you don’t have room for everything, then that’s a discussion for a later time.

How much does one need?

Second admission: I have too much stuff.

My last house I lived in a 750 square foot cottage on half an acre. I didn’t particularly like the house, but I loved the yard.

Moving into it, I had too much. It got crammed into nooks with no hope of me going through it. That was my fault. I hadn’t at the time learned about decluttering and minimalism. It was only when I was nearly moving out that I started getting rid of stuff. Over twenty boxes went to Goodwill, and more went in the trash. Just stuff that had accumulated.

I talk with friend about accumulation often. It’s amazing all that stuff that we keep in case we need.

Now, I’ve been in the same place for over two years. And if you’ve read the blog for a while, you know I’m a bibliophile with a penchant for acquiring new books.

But I want to live lighter. I want to live more nimbly, and more simply. With less, one is freer to travel and explore. With less, there is less to clean. Less to look through when searching for something.

How much does one need? Admittedly, much, much less than I currently have.

The challenge of letting go

First admission: Letting go is a challenge for me.

There. I said it. Admitting it is the first step. You see, I think a very specific way. I was first alerted to differences in the way that people think while listening to a talk given by Dr. Temple Grandin. In this interview, she describes that process.

I don’t think in pictures. I think in the abstract. For me, visualization is difficult to achieve. I don’t see many pictures in my mind’s eye. I have done exercises to increase that ability, but I’ve made little progress.

But emotional context, I can recall with 100% clarity nearly in every instance. I can tell you exactly how I felt when something occurred. And because of this, I tend to attach those feelings to items that were present at specific moments… a lot of items. Which can then be complicated when trying to declutter, because items will have an emotional life. As I’m sure you can understand.

While we work through the clutter of our lives, it’s important to deal with the emotions, positive or negative, that arise as well. Otherwise we won’t change our patterns.

Weekly Rundown

What I’m reading: Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy by Robichaud and Irwin. Sometime last year I played D&D for the first time, though the campaign only lasted a few months. Some friends and I have been talking about getting back together on a weekly basis. Also being interested in Philosophy, this was an interesting find for me.

What I’m listening to: White noise. Lots and lots of white noise.

What I’m spending time with: Decluttering. Between selling things on eBay, throwing stuff out, and donated gently used items, it seems like I’ve gotten rid of so much and yet I still have too much. I’ve found that everything has a way of piling up. From the smallest receipt to the boxes that online orders come in from. I started with Marie Kondo’s book three years ago, and have waged a war in my house against excess stuff. It’s still anyone’s guess which of us will win.

Other things of interest:

  • HBO’s new series featuring the indomitable Helen Mirren as Catherine the Great. This article addresses the troubling effects of rumors, especially as they relate to women who take their sexual power seriously. A good read. Another over at The Daily Beast.
  • Star Wars Episode IX final trailer is out. Umm, I have thoughts. I’ll wait to see it, but I was underwhelmed by Episode VIII. I thought Force Awakens set up a good series, but then Last Jedi felt less like a part of the saga a more a one-off film featuring characters from the Episodes. So like I said, I’ll wait to see it.
  • Vulture’s Read Like the Wind – a new space for discovering books. I like books. They like books. It’s two for one.

Improving

It’s no fun working to get better at some things. Most of us aren’t inherently wired to find joy in the difficult tasks.

Maybe that’s going to the gym. Or cleaning house. Separating transactions into individual accounts.

For a select few, that is a place of extreme joy. Some people love going to the gym and pushing themselves to their very limits. Some people love organizing, cleaning, and meticulously managing a household. And some people love numbers in such a way that accounting becomes both game and reward.

Us others are left looking in with amazement. However, we can cultivate that joy. We can improve. It’s just a matter of sticking with it.

We may be limited in ways that will prevent us from being top performers. We may not be. We won’t know until we try.

But no matter what it is, we can get better by doing.