The words in the title have never been more true to me than now. The idea of ‘less is more’ goes back farther than most people commonly think, but for the most part, we attribute the concept to architect and furniture designer, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969). He was trying to help people understand how simplicity and clarity lead to good design.
I’ve just been through the first two phases of trying to achieve more simplicity and clarity in my life…by clearing clutter.
And yet not.
I didn’t want to ditch my husband, or get a dog, but something needed to change. At the time I even wondered if I wanted to leave Alice Springs and start a new adventure. It didn’t feel like a mid-life crisis, more like a renewal of purpose and consolidation. When I began my 365 photo challenge in January, I fell in love all over again with the Alice, so I knew leaving here wasn’t the answer.
Even before that, I had started following a blog written by Courtney Carver, Be More With Less. Her advice made sense so I allowed it to inspire me toward the goal of lightening my load.
Courtney says–Having more stuff doesn’t make you more of yourself.
The useful ‘stuff’ is just what we use to illuminate our path, to show ourselves to ourselves. It doesn’t make us more, it just shows us who we already are, or can be. The other stuff is just in the way, and drags us down, holds us back.
To my friends, and any untrained eye, my home looked perfectly organised and showed no evidence of needing to be de-cluttered. I had/have a spare room with nothing in it but what a guest would need. I had empty shelves and plenty of room for more things; but still, I wanted less. To my inner eye, my life was cluttered. I was blocked…creatively…energetically. You see, physical clutter is but an outward sign of what is going on inside us. If we cannot mentally leave the past and move forward, we will also have trouble getting rid of things in our environment. We think of ‘clutter’ as mostly a condition of modern times, though I can recall quite a few old barns and sheds from my childhood that seemed full to bursting! It is greatly enhanced by affluence, to be sure, but it is also reflected in individuals who have a poverty of spirit, or fear that life won’t provide for them.
So, where did I start? Mental preparation was the first phase of the process:
- I bought only minimal things to add to the load, and when I did, I adopted the practice of getting rid of something when something new came over the threshold
- I inspired myself; reading about Feng Shui, clearing energies, organisation
- I took mental note every time I opened a drawer or cupboard, paying attention to what I used and what remained untouched.
- I evaluated which activities meant the most to me, and therefor the tools that I would need to pursue those activities.
In the heat of summer, I struggle to have enough energy to do the basics, so I always knew the task of physical clearing would have to wait for cooler days. Two weeks ago we got a cool precursor, followed by one last-hot-blast of summer. That was my cue. Phase Two–the ‘purge’, began. Things came flying out of cupboards and shelves. I became a fiend for a cluttered drawer, unrelenting to old papers. Soon, I had only a small path leading to the computer in my office, lined either side with once valued items from my life. I no longer felt attachment for them. I had assimilated what they had to give me, and now it was time to move on.
And then, suddenly, I stalled. Stuck in the mucky energy again, I was unable to figure out prices and organise things to sell or give away. Enter: Two. Good. Friends. They ‘double-teamed’ me, one helping with pricing and organising, the other helping with the nuts and bolts of tables, cash/coinage and advice. The day one friend showed up to help price things, she brought with her a little book…Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston. Only four days to lawn sale time–I read it cover to cover in 24 hours. Even though I had read much of what it contained in other sources, I’ve never seen it all in one concise, helpful place. Along with my friends’ help, the book renewed my resolve and helped me push ahead.*
(If you think Feng Shui sounds too much like superstition, or good design, to award credence, then try to accept that the end result, ridding oneself of clutter, makes things work and look better!)
Kingston, who coaches people to help them clear the clutter from their lives, has much wisdom on the topic, but perhaps the observation that most affected me was this:
“…when we feel moved to collect a particular thing, or even when we ‘accidentally’ end up with such a collection, what we are in fact doing is responding to an intuitive need to gather a particular type of essence that we need for our own personal growth. It’s a specific frequency that we need to bring into ourselves at that time, and this is entirely valid. But life is constantly changing and moving, and we actually only need to collect that essence for as long as it takes us to spiritually integrate it into our life. Then we can move our focus on to something new.”
Letting go in order to move on, keeps us learning and discovering. It allows me to enjoy the things I have kept, that are still meaningful. I see them more clearly, not filtered through other things–or worse, stored away in a cupboard never to be seen. As I’ve cleared space, things previously stored away have come to light so that I can use them. And some were no longer of value, the way old thoughts that no longer serve us, can be let go. Mostly ‘things’ have never been that important to me. I left nearly all of it when I migrated to Australia 32 years ago. But of course, I enjoy beauty, and certain objects with emotional attachment remain. For me, it’s not about having nothing, it’s about choosing which things deserve my energy, and even renew me.
I know this– have known it for a long time.
We are all a work in progress. Sometimes the progress is slow, but it is still progress. Phase three of the transformation will be to continue the purge. I still have more things to shed. Even if scales don’t reflect it, I am lighter and more vibrant, without the weight of the ‘stuff’–that is the more of the less.
(* I later discovered another valuable book on this subject: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo)