Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On being selective: To have fewer, but better things

Organize + Tidying Up = Spark Joy
Whether it was a desire to have fewer things in our lives or merely say thank you and bid adieu to things that fail to "spark joy" – or that we no longer value – my wife and I both agreed that we needed less.

In recent years, our buying habits have changed. Rather than rush out to buy books, we've made better use of our local public library as a resource to check out books we've read about in The New York Times or garnered an interest in from seeing an author appear on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. And, our music purchases have shifted away from physical CDs to mp3s via iTunes, which we can play on our iPhones (and I still have a classic iPod I use at the gym). Plus, thanks to streaming movies and binge-watching TV series using Netflix, buying DVDs has become irrelevant. There's definitely an ease of portability that we are using to our advantage.

Now, our living room space is neither minimalist or lacking in abundance – just decluttered.

We used the occasion of a remodeling project to "declutter" our living room, following in the success of the decluttering superstar Marie Kondo, who has written a couple of best-sellers on the subject, including The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, we assessed four bookcases-worth of books as well as several hundred CDs and DVDs. Following Kondo's guideline, we "dumped" the contents of both collections – first our books and later our CDs and DVDs – in the middle of the living room floor and decided what could stay and what needed to go among our material excess of living.

Following Kondo's guidelines, it forced us to ask ourselves whether each object was achieving a purpose. Did it spark joy in our lives? I'm happy to report that things went much smoother than I anticipated. There were no tug-of-wars or endless debates about what to keep or what to let go. By the end of our back-to-back sessions, we had earmarked 55 books to donate to the Friends of the Oakland Public Library store and close to 100 CDs and DVDs to sell for credit at our favorite record store in Berkeley.

It's taken time, but we have become more selective about what we buy and own – following a trend of having fewer, but perhaps better, things. We no longer feel the need to rush out the first day an author publishes a new book or a music artist releases a new album to purchase it. Now, our trips to our favorite bookseller or record store are fewer but more meaningful.

If I've learned anything from this exercise, it's this: Having fewer things of a higher quality – things which we can adore and enjoy – is a decluttering philosophy unto itself.

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