So what’s all this malarkey about this living without so much stuff? I mean, I’ve worked hard, and I should be able to choose whatever I want and how much of whatever I want – isn’t that the purpose of working hard and having some money in my budget left over for me? Really, it’s the American way. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, it’s been about making not only enough money to cover the basics but then to get some goodies extra. Even professional budget-makers and budget gurus tell us to put a little in our budget for personal goodies.
Centuries later after the start of the Industrial Revolution, we are now living under the burden of that thinking – the thinking that more is better – no matter what: more appliances, more furniture, more nicknacks, more decorator items and of course more clothes. We are all busting at the seams and not only do we not have enough room in our homes, we have to purchase space to store all our stuff.
There are some parts to this more is better theme that have finally taken hold and we have discovered are bad. It used to be that if you have enough money to feed all your family and over-feed yourself (IOW, you as the head(s) of the household were overweight), this was a sign of wealth. The “Big Daddy” character in “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” epitomized this beautifully. We finally figured out that was bad. As with Big Daddy, it led to multiple health problems that could be laid at the foot of an excess of food. Even such excesses as too much drink, smoking, and other eccentricities, were discovered to be bad – period!
I’m even going to say something that will sound very controversial, but I have been fortunate l to see the inside life of some people who have led very privileged lives. Fortunate in that it has given me an incredible insight into the life of truly very wealthy people. And one thing that I have noticed is that they truly do not know who their friends are nor do they know how to pick out friends. They are always worried concerned that they will be swindled or otherwise taken advantage of. For those who are first or second generation wealth, their lives are fraught with being on guard at all times. In this case, too much money is a very bad thing as is too little money.
The lesson we can take from all this abundance is that too much and too little are equally as bad. Too little and we have to choose between necessities which aren’t good. At the same time, too much may force us into an unprepared, unintended and sometimes inescapable situation of too much. What do we do with all the stuff we have.
In thisarticle that talks about confronting our obsession with too much: it lays bare every bad shopping decision, you’ve ever made. What happens is that we purchase something (for whatever reason), and think that we will deal with it, use it or otherwise find purpose later, but in the meantime will store it here. Then suddenly that day comes when we have to make the decision to figure out what to do with this item along with thousands of others to finally clear out. If we are lucky it is due to a good thing – a change in jobs that are good, a change in abodes that are good – most of the time it is. But even if we aren’t going through those changes, there’s no reason we can’t simply take ourselves by the lapels and have a good discussion to hopefully stop the excessiveness that permeates every part of our lives.
This is a cute little video about some very young kids discovery of the joy of living a more edited life. It’s a little like watching a child find joy in mud pies, but other than the fascination with the newness of living a more edited life, it’s got some great points – one is that living without is actually not that bad.
This actually isn’t a new thought. This is actually very, very old and can be found in many of the tenants of Feng Shui which preaches (over and over) non-cluttered living. Feng Shui is the ancient art of Chinese placement. It’s not a religion or even a philosophy. It’s a way to arrange things so that they suit our purpose better, not the purpose of the things or room or anything else. For a long time, Feng Shui has not only said keep your living and working areas uncluttered but clean up and neaten-up at the end of the day. As explained to me one time, this was to prevent walking into your room (at home or work) and having one or another project, task or other endeavors out and suddenly having them all scream at you, “Hey, see me, do me first,” or “Hey no, do me,” or “Hey look at me, you have to do me.” The point is that if you make a list at the end of the day of where you were (and believe me as an artist, I have to make lists all the time) and then have everything neatened up for the next day, you have time to organize your thoughts and then you can actually ascertain which task/project/duty should be done first and can accomplish a lot more.
Here’s another one of my favorite videos on choice.
Barry Schwartz talks about how too many choices is actually bad for you. It’s bad because if you have 2 choices then you have a chance of 50% regret. If you have 100 choices, then you have a chance of 99% regret. Listen to his great spiel on TED here.
Living in a well-ordered universe….or at least home!
OK – so let’s say you’ve cleaned out your life and you’ve gotten all the clutter, and unnecessary stuff out of your life. Now how do you keep it that way? I will be honest with you that doing an uncluttered intervention with yourself and completing it isn’t the end of living a well-edited life. I prefer well-edited or well-ordered to minimalists, as the former sounds more like my choice rather than choices foisted on me!!! I loved the effect of this well-ordered environment so much that I decided to do something very elegant for myself: I would only bring something new in if something old went out. That means that if I want a new sofa, the old one has to come out, but I like the old one….why do I have to lose it?….then why do I need a new one? If I want a new lamp, an old one has to come out. If I want a new piece of fabric then I have to use what I have to make room for it.
Yep, you can see where I’m going here. There’s all this press and publicity about how horrible the waste that fast/cheap fashion creates in the recycling of things we no longer need. The problem is that the clothes are so cheaply made that they are garbaging up the system and nothing is actually being reused again – it’s simply clogging up the drain, like a hairball or something! Not only that, but the funnel into those clothes, like your stash, is a great place to start some well-ordered-ness. If need be, give away what you know you won’t use and what you think you might not have any use for.
One of the facts of life is that we all have phases that life gives us – we start out as little babies, then children, then teens, then young adults, then adults, professionals in our field, parents, college parents, grandparents and retired leisured life! Each phase of our life governs our life and our needs for our environment. There is nothing wrong with changing. Changing from one phase to another is normal and thinking that we must hang onto those items that are no longer useful, because of some reason that we weren’t being frugal, or purchased the item frivolously or guilty about the purchase, will only further the mistake and guilt.
Look at it this way; every time you look at that item, albeit not very often, you will bring up the guilt of not using it or buying it on a whim. Let that object go, and it will no longer haunt you. There are some items that hold deep beautiful memories. I would never think of throwing away or tossing out my family photographs, and there are even 3 objects I keep in my closet for the wonderful memories they give me. I don’t feel guilty about keeping them because they are taking up minimal space. They are also incredible artistic objects worth a great deal of money. There are some beautiful china and crystal I have passed down to me from my family that I will not give away. Even when it came to my retirement, a place where I would not be serving high tea with my high tea silver service anymore (like it was a lot anyway), I passed this onto the next generation, who may not use it, but at least they will have it. So there can be selected momentoes that you will want to keep, and I have some special pieces of fabric that are the same, but when there is a stack of fabric that I can not use or will not use, there is no need to keep it. Keeping it only confuses and further obstructs my life which gets in the way of me living the life I want now.
There are lots of before after shots out there, but arranging your closet and your studio and your stash are great ways to start a well-ordered life.
This IS the after shot of all the boxes above.
Even when you think it won’t matter, or that this is too simple to really have any effect, don’t kid yourself.
These simple guidelines and helpers can truly change your life for the better. Decisions come faster, old bad habits fade away, and there’s a sense of freedom that’s hard to explain. Freedom to actually have control over how you spend your most valuable resource. That’s what this is all about – taking a little time, to create more time for yourself and time is your most valuable resource. Having a well-ordered studio can make or break a workplace and a living place and can add freer dimensions to your life that you might not have even thought could be there.