"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness."
"Before printing was discovered, a century was equal to a thousand years."
-Henry David Thoreau
A sample ballot, a letter from a non-profit requesting support, an application for Rite Aids’ Wellness program, a McDonald’s receipt, a paycheck stub, Bicycling magazine, a JC Penney coupon—these are just some of the paper that has come into my house in the last week. While all this is coming in through the door I have been working clean the rest of my house, a Sisyphean task for certain.
A search for ‘getting rid of clutter’ produced 1,590,000 results on Bing, which seems to rank up there with ‘eating well’ and exercise as a challenge we face. It is estimated that a weeks worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century. We have al this mail and all this information pouring into our lives. Technological advances have made it even worse.
I have boxes and boxes of photographs which I’ve taken beginning at the age of six. Prior to Daguerre (circa 1840) people didn’t have boxes and boxes of photographs. It’s not even likely that they had one or two in the living room. Boxes full of pictures, boxes full of magazines, it can get overwhelming. It makes me thankful for whirlwinds and catastrophes.
While away for a weekend the hose on my washing machine blew. With great force it sprayed water to both ends of my garage. That water landed on boxes of magazines, manuals and letters. You can’t undo water damage. Photos stick together and books warp making them useless. I was forced to chuck boxes of things. It was a great relief. I don’t miss them at all. Downsizing dramatically would be difficult though.
Have you heard of this ‘100 Thing Challenge?’ The idea seems simple: whittle your life down to 100 things. Let me just say this; I have a teenage daughter. I think there are 100 things in her bathroom. I couldn’t do it. I like my shirts (maybe twenty tee-shirts alone), I like my shorts, I like my CD collection.
It’s the clutter and the paper I abhor most. I burned out the paper shredder this past weekend. It was glorious. In the end it seems it all comes back to discipline. Organize, be aggressive, be purposeful all apply to the piles in my life as much as they do to my eating habits and my exercise regimen. I wonder if there’s a magazine I could subscribe to that would help me with that?