While driving the eight hours back to my parents place from visiting family in western North Dakota, my mom and I stopped for gas and while we, humans, have started taking selfies everywhere, I was in awe of the woman in the car next to us. Her significant other pumped the gas, she took no less than 10 selfies of her in the passenger seat. At a gas station. I can only hope the captions were documenting some whirlwind adventure but my guess is that was not the case.
I was fresh off looking at old family photos from the 1900s and learning about my lineage and it got me thinking:
There’s a huge cultural phenomenon of documenting every single moment of our lives. While I’m very much a part of this phenomenon, it still baffles me. We literally photograph everything…every meal, outfit, haircut, cute dog face, baby squeal, birthday bash, and beastly beards.
But how often do we look at those photos?
I mean, the popular social media app, Snapchat is based on the fact that we’ll never want to view those pictures again. Same is true for Instagram and Facebook stories. Then we have “last year on this date” photo reminders from Facebook and Timehop to help us glance at our memories.
So why don’t we look back at photos more regularly?? I think it’s because like most things, the more we own, the less we value.
For example, digital photos are everywhere yet we rarely look at them. But those few black-and-white family photos from the early 1900s? They are framed and proudly displayed and we could stare at them for hours.
We look at overstuffed closets and conclude we have “nothing to wear.” But we can travel for a month with a lightweight carry-on.
The more nick knacks, shoes, and fancy moisturizers we collect, the more likely we’ll shove everything into a closet or pile, to be ignored.
And yet —
Usually, the more we own, the more we want.
We’re dissatisfied with this mountain of stuff. “This ____ just isn’t me.” And like a junkie needing his next hit, we wonder if maybe the NEXT THING might satisfy.
Our closets and drawers burst with items we need to organize, clean, maintain, store and retrieve. It’s exhausting.
Our stuff owns us.
But there’s a simple thought that fixes everything: The less we own, the more we enjoy what we do have.
Our five favorite shirts. Our tiny, beautiful assortment of plates and bowls. Our mostly-empty pantry that holds only the foods we’re excited to eat (this is still my challenge area!).
One thing I’ve realized is that owning less isn’t deprivation. It’s curation. The less we own, the more space in our lives for things that matter.
If we want to boost happiness, we must curate our belongings (and lives) with the same swift ruthlessness that a museum director uses to curate his exhibit.
Because here’s the reality: We have space for anything, but not everything.
We can fill our lives with whatever we want, until we run out of space. Or money. Or time. That’s why we need to edit the clutter from our homes just as a writer edits words.
Editing makes us calmer. Happier. And here’s an unintended bonus benefit: when we curate, we also spend less without feeling deprived.
We’re not trying to save money. We’re not being frugal for its own sake. We’re asking the deeper question: “Do I want to let this into my life? Does this bring me true joy?” Most of the time, that answer is no. And this “no” creates space for the rare things worthy of YES.
Curation isn’t “acting cheap.” When I worked at Old Navy in college, I bought SO many clothes from the clearance section and add that to my employee discount and I thought I was living the good life with abundant clothes. Turns out those clothes were mostly ill fitting and ended up barely being worn before ending up in the donation pile. Now my purchasing philosophy is to own fewer but better. I’ll buy a pair of high quality $100 pair of yoga pants, but I’ll wear those pants three times a week for the next four years.
Curation includes minimizing free and cheap stuff.
Unfortunately, most people don’t curate free stuff. (Ahem, digital photos and Craigslist free section.) Do you want to hoard 44 paper towel rolls and a broken chair? Or would you rather enjoy a calmer, simpler life?
Curation is a practice, like yoga, painting, or cooking. You make small gains and improve with time. Sure, you’ll mess up along the way. But you keep going. You’ll never be perfect but you’ll get a heckuva lot better because action => experience => wisdom.
Curation is a conscious mindset. It’s critically thinking about every element in your life: objects, friendships, time.
Especially curating your time.
Time feels abundant when we’re young, so we get tangled by insecurities or “not enoughness” or just unnecessary drama. Then we wise up. We own less time now, so we value it more.
So what is the point of this post?
Simplify your life for true abundance.