I’ve been preaching the “simplify your stuff” mantra for the past decade. I’m not alone; these days you can scarcely pick up a shelter magazine without at least one article on simplifying or organizing your stuff. (Real Simple purports to devote the whole magazine to the subject – however the astute reader will instantly see that the articles are mere placeholders for advertisements for more Stuff.)
The good news is that some of us have actually made a concerted effort to simplify and de-clutter our homes. Yay us.
So why do we still feel overwhelmed? OK – why do I still feel overwhelmed?
It’s because my mind is still cluttered. My computer, which was once a tool to help me become a better and more productive writer, has become a gateway to an ever-expanding universe of information, social connection, and entertainment. And every day I get sucked through the gate (fall down the rabbit-hole?) into that addictive world.
*I check my email. I follow my friends’ adventures on Facebook. I scan the NY TImes. I read a couple of blogs. I make a phone call. Lather, Rinse, Repeat from *. Then it’s dinner time.
Meanwhile I’ve learned that North Korea is mourning the loss of its tyrannical leader, that Republican candidate X is surging/falling back in the Iowa polls, that Benjamin Moore’s 2012 color of the year (Wyclif Blue) is very different from Pantone’s (Tangerine Tango). I’ve learned that my friend Lee is enjoying a break in Hawaii, that Judy (who is a friend of a friend of a friend) likes a YouTube video of an African Frog (it was funny), and that business acquaintance Robert must be running out of fresh inspirational quotes because he’s begun to repeat himself.
Wahoo! I’ve joined the ranks of the average American, who now spends more than 8 hours a day on the computer. At the end of the day I’m just pissed off at myself.
Is this furthering any of my nobler plans? No, no and NO! A book is not getting written, home and garden projects lie waiting, and most important, physical face-to-face in-person connections are not being made… But… FWIW butt cheeks are getting widened.
Pico Iyer, a travel writer for the NY Times, recently wrote a column on the “Joy of Quiet” (which I take to mean the freedom from distraction):
The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” He also famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
Disconnecting from the Internet for several hours every day would be an excellent start for me, even if my work requires me to sit at the computer. I’m gonna work on this. I’ll call it the Minimimalist Mind.