Keeping it simple | As It Turns Out | January

Life can get hectic. I no longer enjoy multi-tasking, even when I can.

What I used to do in a couple hours now takes me a couple days. Distractions are my faithful companions. I walk in and out of rooms trying to remember what I was just doing. Much of the time, if I don’t write it down it’s forgotten.

The older I get, it seems the more I seek out personal simplicity. I want nothing more sometimes than to surround myself with the sanity of simplicity. I look at my home as one of the few things in my control.

In an effort to help separate my private life from the chaotic outside world, I began studying Zen simplicity. What better time to do this sort of thing but while anticipating a new year?

My husband, Mike, says he favors the clean lines of a minimalist environment. A traditional Japanese home with one or two pieces of furniture and one or two pieces of art subtly displayed would suit him fine. This is true even though his office is surrounded by overstuffed bookshelves and his desk often supports a couple inches of archeological strata. It’s hard being an organizer.

I come from a long line of collectors and creators. Chaos and clutter were a way of life for my foremothers. And so it has been my way of life, and also my business – the business of selling books and objets d‘art.

Much of my energy is used in my business by deciding what will sell well and what the right price will be, finding the most flamboyantly eye-catching ways to display, and figuring out how to get the inventory into a limited shop space. Buying trips add to the chaos because my office is in my home, so inventory detours through the house.

I’ve begun simplifying slowly over the past year by removing clutter bit by little bit. Each of our cupboards and drawers now contain only items we use regularly. Our closets have been pared down, although there are still items that are kept because of extreme high hopes of “fitting back into” them someday.

One recent simplification success was the removal of non-essential furniture, wall hangings and a television from our bedroom after having repainted the room. I also removed all non-essentials off the floor and flat surfaces, leaving a few pieces of simple artwork. Since there is no neighboring house out our bedroom windows and plenty of deciduous trees shade the house, I edited the blinds from the windows.

There’s more that can be done, but the bedroom now has an airy and peaceful feel that’s more conducive to rest. The room is far easier to clean and keep cleaned than beforehand. Our persistently mischievous kitten now has less to get into trouble with. The items we no longer want can be given away, donated or sold.

What remains are functional, essential items and art in which we take joy. I’m not as brave as I may sound; there are some things that will be stored in the basement until we’re positive we won’t need them again. Now, on to the living room.

Living simply doesn’t mean living frugally, but these days who isn’t already attempting that? Sometimes it feels like possessions can psychologically own people. Less means more freedom to spend on what’s truly important.

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