Every winter I go into purge mode and want to go through everything in the house and discard the extraneous—clothes, books, magazines, life’s random detritus that accumulates in kitchen drawers, etc. I do get a bit done, but a major clean-out never happens because it’s so time consuming. Plus once you’ve cleaned, half the chore is then getting rid of your new “trash”—donating it, selling it, or just throwing it out. (Which is what garages are for–extraneous junk.)
That said, I also love beautiful things—clothing, dishes, seashells, napkins, books…so many books, jewelry. Whether it’s a sign of my age or the times, I now try to be very, very picky about what I bring into my life. Because as beautiful as I think everything I own is, it’s still just stuff and if you acquire it and then tire of it, getting rid of it is not always easy. (Plus the last thing the world needs is more trash, but that is a whole other topic.)
Plus self-editing can create deeper self-awareness. If you go about it in a considered way, being deliberate and choosy about what you surround your life with can help solidify the true essence of who you are and what your believe. My north star on intentional/minimalist living is Georgia O’Keeffe. Maybe when I’m 80 I will get there, in the meantime, I’ll keep trying. Plus being thoughtful resonates beyond acquiring/purging things.
I posted about this topic before and included the quote below too, because it is an evergreen for me—one I return to again and again as inspiration and a reminder to keep it simple. It’s from a New York Times op-ed David Brooks wrote a few years back called The Evolution of Simplicity. It reads:
“Early in life you choose your identity by getting things. But later in an affluent life you discover or update your identity by throwing away what is no longer useful, true and beautiful. One simplicity expert advised people to take all their books off their shelves and throw them on the floor. Only put back the books that you truly value.
That’s an exercise in identity discovery, an exercise in realizing and then prioritizing your current tastes and beliefs. People who do that may instinctively be seeking higher forms of pruning: being impeccable with your words, parsimonious but strong with your commitments, disciplined about your time, selective about your friendships, moving generally from fragmentation toward unity of purpose. There’s an enviable emotional tranquillity at the end of that road.
In a world of rampant materialism and manifold opportunities, many people these days are apparently learning who they are by choosing what they can do without.”
Now I feel somewhat energized to tackle my closet. Perhaps the bookshelves too.
Just what I needed today to deepen my January edit resolution. Thank you FI and David Brooks.
two weeks ago i told my husband and 3 grown children i was cleaning out our home library. if there was anything they wanted now was the time to find and keep what they wanted. i was so sick of the clutter and dust and books that have been on the shelves for 30 years that no one ever touches. needless to say not one of them even ventured in the library! so, this past weekend, i took every single book off the shelves, kept the ones i truly loved and packed up the rest, 40 boxes in all and sent them to a local thrift store that services families in need. it felt so good! i have done this all throughout our home. my motto is to only surround myself with things i love. people and dogs included! its so great living without all the clutter! your article was wonderful and obviously touched home for me!
I love this… thanks for sharing Jennifer. DB is so eloquent and highlights the relationship between identity and “things” through the lens of time so well… I just shared your post with a coaching client of mine today who is in the middle of a massive purge and was struggling with the idea of parting with treasured things while understanding the value of simplicity.