|This is one my favorite pieces by Pablo Picasso.|
Note: how it only took him a few lines to represent
a rooster. That's simplicity for you.
I knew I had a problem with having too much stuff, when I opened my luggage one day and I couldn't find the conditioner. I could, however, find three small shampoo bottles, three toothbrushes, several toothpaste tubes, and a number of hand lotions. (I collected most of these from the hotels, where I stayed, and they were all in such pretty little bottles.) If my luggage represented my life, I realized, I had a problem. This was too messy to go on this way. I was in Mexico City then, when I realized I had a problem, and I jotted it in my head, note to self: fix when you get back.
Back in Los Angeles, I asked my friend Joy, who is perhaps one of the most organized people I know, I have too much stuff, and I'm disorganized. (This is opposed to myself, who is absent minded, loses stuff all the time, and is disorganized.)
Well, bingo, I asked the right person for advice. She was an avid disciple of Marie Kondo, who wrote the best selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Not to generalize, but women tend to love this book. I really mean love it. (I have to admit, I can't understand why they love it, but even I highly recommend it for people who need more organization. It's the first book of many that I read that actually worked for me.)
I picked Joy's brain and figured out what I had to do. I had to throw things away. Basically, you can't even begin organizing, if you have too much junk.
This was hard for me, especially coming from a poorer family - who always told me not to waste anything. It was also hard because I just got used to having items around forever, like notes I took in college 14 years ago. I don't know why, I had such a hard time letting go. But I had a problem, I had clutter, and I wanted my life to be simpler.
I also found it challenge to get rid of books. No matter how poor my parents were, my father put in over time if I wanted to buy books. (So, I had a lot of books as a child, which is probably why I don't watch TV today.) My parents raised me to believe books were precious and sacred. And although that's true, I had to come to peace with the fact that most books (fiction being excluded) is basically just information. And many of my books, especially my college ones, were outdated and the information was no longer good. So, the entire change in thought was difficult.
The number one rule that Kondo says, is basically throw out everything that you don't love or doesn't bring you joy. My college notes on organic chemistry, I neither loved nor did it bring me joy. It was out, and so was so much other stuff.
Going back to all the toiletries in my bag, I basically put all the extra toiletries in storage and kept what was needed. So, when I used up, let's say my shampoo, I'd just grab another one out of storage to replace it. See, that simplified everything.
In the end, I donated 6 boxes of books and 6 trash bags full of stuff. I felt tired. It was mentally tiring to really think through each item and ask if it brought me joy, if it needed to be tossed, or if I really, really needed it in the future.
I had to go through the decluttering process twice. Twice I got rid of old clothes, some of which were from high school (but still fit!)! Twice, I got rid of books, some of which were also from high school. In short, I cut out the junk accrued, from 20 years of living.
Like magic, I felt a great burden lift from my spirit. It was such a freeing process to cleanse my life of all the unnecessaries. It made me realize that the curse of the American way of life, is that the American Way tries to convince you that you can't be happy without having stuff. But there's such a heavy weight in holding onto such useless objects, I didn't even know it, until I got rid of it. And when I did so, I realized what's really most important in life, and it's not having stuff; that's for sure.
Like the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde once said, "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing."