Oct 9, 2011

Editing Your Life

I'm not sure why I feel the need to keep slogging away at this topic, but since I don't think I've covered it on this blog yet, and since a friend sent me a fantastic video from the TED lectures, I'll share some thoughts.


What do you WANT?  Ok.  But what do you NEED? 

Ruthless life editing means realizing that your old shirt from 15 years ago will mean just as much to you in a picture on your facebook page as it does in a drawer.  I have a shirt like this and should heed that message myself.  It means realizing that the old pair of hinges you saved from that door you found once aren't really going to make it onto a door anytime soon... if ever.  Perhaps it means selling those old baseball cards instead of hoping for some future day when they'll be "worth something".  (another one I'm guilty of).  But hinges and cards are small things that really could be hidden away.  What about sports equipment you don't really use?  Do you NEED to own skis?  Or should you just rent the one time in 5 years you go skiing?

Another key to living extremely simply (I don't claim to be THERE yet) is multi-functionality.  If one thing can be made to do the work of two things in a passable way, then your life is less cluttered.  The spork is a perfect example- why have a spoon AND a fork when you can have one utensil that does the work of both?  I'm kidding a bit (though I do love sporks) but the principle holds true for many other things.  Just as an example, if a Leatherman can do the work of pliers, screwdrivers, and a knife, why not have one tool instead of three tools?

The computer thing I mentioned above can be carried out in many ways.  With access to a scanner (does Staples have them?) a lot of paper can be eliminated.  Those old love notes you simply MUST keep, but you know you don't need?  Scan 'em.  Heck, scan the whole shoebox of old letters you have.  One less thing to worry about.

This touches on an interesting point about all this ruthless editing- it sounds very unemotional.  When I read what I've written, it sounds like this kind of thing is only for heartless people.  I don't think that's true.  It's not a matter of getting rid of things that are important to you.  The goal is to get rid of what's unimportant and weighs you down for no reason.  It sounds a little heartless to get rid of a box of old letters, but honestly, do you really NEED to keep the pieces of paper?  Really?  That sounds beyond sentimental and almost idolatrous or totemic (is that the right word?).  As if the very piece of paper has some value to recapture your past.

I suppose it is a matter of choice.  Will you go through life with an albatross around your neck, but never having that experience of having 'just' gotten rid of the thing you needed? Or will you trade some of your material possesions for psychic freedom?

Just how much of an anchor ARE your "mountains o' mountains of things" as Tracy Chapman once sang?

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