Leo Babauta of the blog Zen Habits always forces me to think about simplifying.
He is the Grand Poo Bah of simplification.
This guy has his wardrobe down to a few interchangeable items and has gotten rid of almost all of his books. (Oh my God, that would be soooo hard for me!) He has pretty much detached from material things and lives quite happily.
Looking at him, I feel like I should be on that reality show Hoarders.
At first blush, simplifying and getting rid of stuff a la Leo seems so appealing and cleansing. Except there’s just one teeny tiny little problem for me. There’s some stuff I really like. (Remember Steven Martin in The Jerk? “It’s not the money I’ll miss — it’s all the stuff!”)
The other day I walked into my friend Julie’s house. She has a lot of stuff, but her house feels lovely and warm and welcoming. Her stuff made me feel happy, not because I envied it or it was extravagent, but because it expressed beauty.
So is it wrong to want stuff?
I don’t think it’s wrong if it’s for the right reasons. I have things I’ve bought on a whim or from boredom or envy. I have other things I’ve bought because they provided an uplifting feeling — warmth, coziness, beauty, fond memories, or comfort.
I am beginning to think that drastic simplification is great for some, but that artful accumulation isn’t such a bad thing. Here are my thoughts on artful accumulation versus mindless accumulation:
- It brings beauty into your life and stirs your soul.
- It supports a passion or hobby.
- It helps bring family and friends together in a creative, meaningful way.
- It educates and enlightens.
- It makes life profoundly simpler so that you can pursue more meaningful things.
- It helps someone who is sick or incapacitated.
- It is useful and necessary for day-to-day life.
- It’s part of a meaningful tradition or a reminder of a special event.
- It’s purchased on a whim.
- It’s purchased to impress others.
- It’s purchased because you feel you deserve it.
- It’s purchased when you can’t afford it.
- It’s purchased to update something that still works or looks fine.
- It’s purchased because someone else has it and you want it too.
- It’s purchased because the advertisement seduced you.
- It’s purchased because you are bored.
- It’s purchased because buying soothes you.
When you are about to whip out the credit card, ask yourself why you are buying this thing.
There are not too many things we really need to survive. So why do you want this? Are you spending money on something that really brings sustained pleasure or just fleeting satisfaction?
Spending artfully is another way of simplifying — for those of us who can’t get rid of everything!