Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Five Spaces to Simplify

Simplicity killed the landscape

Tina and I dropped off at least half of our wardrobe at Goodwill this afternoon.  It felt great.  As far as clothing, I am just down to the bare essentials.  There is something about eliminating excess that releases anxiety and gives me a sense of clarity.  This purge got me thinking about those spaces in our lives that gather clutter, and how good it feels to clean them out.  If lately you’ve been in a funk, try breathing simplicity into one of the following:

Digital Space

  • MP3 Library.  I love my iTunes library.  It’s deep and wide.  But to be honest, I haven’t listened to that live DMB album in two years.  Get rid of the files you don’t use.  Pare it down to what you love.
  • Desktop.  You probably see this more than you see your reflection in a mirror.  Use folders and the trash to give yourself a cleaner view.
  • Inbox.  Get rid of those old e-mails and make some spam filters.  It’ll feel great.
  • Cell Phone Contacts.  Do you really still need the number to Louis’ Novelties? This is an important social space, and simplifying it can actually help you stay in touch with people you care about.

Your Car Trunk

Cleaning this out will give you a great excuse to go to the beach, mountains, or Goodwill.

The Closet

Clothes are about relationships, identity, and expression.  We dress up or down depending on the occasion.  We pick out shirts in our favorite colors, shoes in the latest style, and outfits that fit our mood.  But these pile up, and closets get cluttered.  To eliminate anxiety in this space, get rid of anything you have not worn in six months.

Mental Space

Sometimes its best to be direct.  If you are stressed, take a few minutes to meditate and clear your head.  Try freewriting.  Put the pen to the page and fill it up with whatever comes out.  Then throw it away and leave the mental clutter behind.

Your Fridge

Clean out the old containers, pots, and cartons.  Leave only what is edible, fresh, useful.  This can take away some of the guilt surrounding food, or at least help you take stock of your diet, and see if you need a change.

There are many more spaces that attract clutter.  This short list is just intended to inspire us to simplify.  Had any experience with this yourself?  Anymore suggestions?


  1. Great post. Transom and I have been doing this for quite a while. Probably almost five years. But it’s taken that whole time to keep paring down. (It’s amazing how much STUFF you can gather/collect/drag around. And really do nothing with. Or keep telling yourself you should do something with and then feel guilty about not actually using it.) We’re the closest we’ve been to a richly simple life and the closer I get the more it seduces me.

  2. Car Trunk is a great one to mention — it improves your gas mileage as well.

    Let me humbly suggest two questions to ask when you decide whether to keep something:

    1. Is it useful?
    2. Is it beautiful?

    If the answer to both questions is no, then get rid of it. The perfection I strive for is that every one of my possessions is either useful or beautiful or both.

  3. I really like the language of seduction applied to simplicity. There is something beguiling about the efficiency of having just enough.

  4. Great questions. It is interesting to think about how function can have its own beauty, but also how beauty can exceed what we normally view as functional.