The epiphany happened a couple of years ago in the express checkout line. I stood there with my basket of bananas or toothpaste or whatever other emergency item had prompted that particular grocery dash, and I stared long and hard at the magazine in my hand. It came to me that, if I wanted to reduce the clutter in my life, perhaps a good starting place was to quit buying magazines that promised me “10 easy tips for reducing clutter.” And while I was at it, a corollary might be to start managing my money better by refusing to buy magazines that promised me “10 easy tips for managing my money.” I put the magazine back.
That wasn’t the first epiphany, nor will it be the last. My path to living a simpler life has been slow and winding, full of backtracks and unnecessary diversions. But the one thing that has been consistent is that the more I simplify my existence, the more I want of less. I also discovered along the way that the process of reducing the clutter in my life and the process of managing my money better were in fact one and the same.
Stuff takes up space. Space costs money. It’s a fairly simple equation. By the time I sold my townhouse and moved into a smaller space, I was paying for the privilege of owning an entire basement room that was serving only one purpose: to contain stuff. It was surprisingly easy to part with a great deal of that stuff. The hard part was wading through it all to pick out the handful of items that I really needed to keep. Or thought I needed, because an interesting thing happened when I started unpacking it all in my new space. I discovered that even some of those things I thought I needed no longer had the same hold on me.
The funny thing about having less stuff is that I enjoy the stuff I have more than I did when it was hidden by a mountain of less important stuff. Now that I have less space to keep stuff, I think harder before I acquire new stuff. Part of the decision process is always “where will I keep it?” Sometimes that means “what can I get rid of to make room for it?”
Which brings me to the next big frontier in simplifying my life: de-cluttering my time. Certainly getting the physical clutter under control helps. If you only have what you need and everything has a space, you don’t waste nearly so much time hunting for things. But time clutter is a challenge for me because I am distracted by ideas. I have a tendency to go after what a friend calls “the shiny thing in the corner” when I am supposed to be concentrating on some other task. I check my Facebook page and before I know it I have spent an hour chasing links, some of which are gold mines, but many of which are of dubious value. What I really want to fill my time with is more writing—more personal creativity. So the same way that, if I want to squeeze a new jacket into my closet, that tatty sweater I haven’t worn in a year has got to go, I need to give up something to make room for something else. This blog is “something else.” At the moment the thing I have “given up” to make room for it is my day job—I’m on a temporary leave of absence. It is going to take some well thought out time de-cluttering to sustain it once my leave ends. Creating the blog is challenge to myself—a commitment to de-cluttering my time as ruthlessly as I have de-cluttered my closet and my bookshelves.
And if my blog lacks the polish and pizazz of other blogs you’ve read, chalk it up to my resistance to spending too much time and money on “10 easy tips to creating the perfect blog.”