Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can Simplicity and Clutter Co-Exist?

"Out of clutter find simplicity." Albert Einstein

I noticed quite a few people at a local Car Wash this morning while on my way to a favorite bagel shop, and pondered the car-washing compulsion. It's clear that I don't have any such compulsion, as my 2000 Ford Ranger pickup truck hasn't been washed in years. I often joke that I'm doing my part to help the environment.

Not only is my truck unclean on the exterior, the extended cab is cluttered with all sorts of things: various items of clothes ("just in case"), books on tape (I'm listening to Deepak Chopra currently), a yoga mat, and various remnants of meals past. There may even be a board game under all of the clothes (Apples to Apples). Spare change spills from several locations in the console... and whatever you do--don't open the glove box.

My truck is not all that unlike my house. Frankly, my house rather cluttered; however, I should offer this caveat: the house is 448 square feet. For those of you not familiar with square footage, it has 4 rooms: bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room. The average American living room is larger than my house.

Might I mention that I live in the little house with my 16 year old daughter? My landlord describes the house as perfect for one person...or two people who REALLY love each other. You may not be surprised to learn that we're very close. I don't think it's for any reason other than we can't hide from each other. If we argue, we HAVE to face each other. There's no escape.

My daughter occupies the bedroom, so I sleep in the living room. I've set up folding partitions and cordoned off a corner as a makeshift bedroom. It's surprisingly cosy. We have a recliner and an overstuffed chair for furniture in the remainder of the living room space, and a bazillion books pour out of various corners.

You may be wondering who builds a 448 square foot house. The Assessor's database claims the house was built in 1777. According to my landlord, it was originally a one-room schoolhouse--ala Little House on the Prairie. Apparently a family of eight lived there during the Great Depression, and they were probably happy just to have a roof over their heads. Sometime later, the one-room house was subdivided into the current four rooms.

So, my tiny little house is cluttered by necessity; but, frankly--we don't have much stuff by any standard. We do not own a TV (by choice). There are no video games. (I did relent and allow my my daughter to get a stereo for her room). We have 2 chairs and two beds--and that is the extent of our furniture. There's a gas stove and mini-fridge in the kitchen. Otherwise, there are no appliances.

I often describe my place as my little cabin in the woods. We're surrounded by open fields and wooded areas, as well as quite a variety of wildlife. There's no Walden Pond, but we do have a stream nearby, which I can hear quite clearly when we've had some decent rain fail. Henry David Thoreau--I think I understand you. Simplicity and seclusion is tonic for the soul.

Speaking of the soul, Wayne Dyer taught me (via CD) that we came from One-ness and currently exist in a world of two-ness. It's a paradox: a spirit living in a physical world. Thus, we need to find balance as long as we live in this physical world. Much in the same manner, my life is a paradox. I live in simplicity, yet my abode is quite cluttered. I require balance.

From time to time, my daughter and I go through our stuff and downsize. We recycle clothes that we haven't worn in a while; we give away books; and, we make more room for our simple life. This is true of all of our lives, isn't it? We live in a relatively simple world, yet we clutter it with all sorts of things that encroach on our very sanity.

Yes, I think simplicity and clutter can co-exist; in fact, they must. And, if they must, we need to find balance.


  1. I'd like to say that I find your writing to be insightful and thought provoking. Even though, most of my writing has been about my journey with my kettlebells and has inspired some, I find that the writing I relate to most comes from those that provoke thought and reflection as your does. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for the reminder. This week another reminder fell from the sky into my lap(top)about keeping books to a minimum so between that and your piece i'm off to cull my belongings.