Ah, the perennial challenge of clutter. Scattered laundry. Stacks of mail. Unread magazines, loose change and stuffed garages. Seems many of us are just shy of ending up on one of those TV hoarder programs. And then there's mental clutter, too. The appointments, dates, responsibilities and endless psychological fragments that torment our brains with worry and fatigue.
My old, cramped painting studio in the garage
Another photo of my old garage studio
It's not surprising that author Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up became such a best seller. I think people yearn for simplicity and peace. Increasingly, the advice today is to downsize, un-complicate and let go of the stuff we're shackled to. Stuff like selling the big house and moving to a smaller place with a sensible mortgage. Selling or donating all the crap you don't need. Letting go of toxic friendships and saying no to commitments that thwart your true ambitions.
To varying degrees I've done all of these things. I've found that less is often more. An uncluttered home calms the mind and spirit. It's easier to clean and find things. Selling and donating stuff has a freeing quality to it. Marie Kondo's book applies a simple approach. Pick up each possession and ask "does this bring me joy?" If the answer is no, let it go. I've found that things I considered "sentimental" didn't always bring me joy. Once unearthed from some box in the attic, that old tennis trophy brought a momentary memory or reflection. Maybe a brief smile. But joy? Not really.
Once you start letting go of stuff and winnow down, some things are harder to part with. We all have items that truly bring us joy. An old book your Dad bought you. That quilt your grandmother made. Your favorite paint box.
Some of the things I value most are the small things. Here are a few examples of everyday items that bring me joy.
My Dog, Nanuk, and library of art books
Each art book is like an old friend
My Saddleback leather satchel and matching folio
Where I sketch cartoons and write ideas
My fountain pen collection
My homemade wall easel
My homemade pochade boxes
My commercially bought pochade boxes and art supplies
Did I mention I have a pochade box addiction?
Like...serious pochade box addiction!
Journals, watercolors, pens and sketchpads
New books, like this one by Austin Kleon
I know what you're thinking. All of this stuff doesn't look like the home of a minimalist. But actually, these are the small things that bring me tremendous joy. Status cars, expensive fashion, endless furniture and boxes in the garage are not my thing. I have no desire to keep up with the Joneses and don't feel I have to compete with anyone. Success to me is defined by good health, love of family, creative expression and intellectual growth.
Simplifying your life, pairing down and identifying the stuff that brings you joy invites a kind of inner peace. If your life is feeling a bit harried and unhappy, maybe a bit of minimalism and the joy of small things will help center your world again. Why not give it a try?