“Nests are full of twigs, bits of fluff, string, moss and bark. Stuff birds take home, and fit to a shape that accommodates their lives.”
– Dominique Browning
This past weekend, I read a piece in the New York Times, Let’s Celebrate the Art of Clutter. The author, Dominique Browning, says we’re “being barraged with orders to pare down, throw away, de-clutter.” That it’s “all pointless and misguided.” That life is about cherishing our treasures, and it’s “time to liberate ourselves from the propaganda of divestment.”
Browning writes beautifully about our attraction to stuff:
I would like to submit an entirely different agenda, one that is built on love, cherishing and timelessness. One that acknowledges that in living, we accumulate. We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display.
And over the course of a lifetime, we forage, root and rummage around in our stuff, because that is part of what it means to be human. We treasure….
In accumulating, we honor the art of the potter, sitting at a wheel; we appreciate the art of the writer, sitting at a desk; we cherish the art of the painter, standing in front of an easel.
She has, however, missed the fact that minimalism isn’t about getting rid of all our stuff. It’s not even about divesting ourselves of all nonutilitarian items.
“I came to the conclusion that the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”
– Marie Kondo
Minimalism, done right, is an agenda built on cherishing our treasures. We do love, collect and display – in stark contrast to where most of us began. With garages and attics full of stuff we didn’t cherish. Stuff we didn’t even remember we had.
Stuff we would treasure if we could see it. If only we could find it under all the crap we have.
The family photos stashed on the top shelf of the linen closet. The handmade coffee mugs shoved in the back of the cupboard behind the ones we got for free. The quilt grandma made stored in the attic. The rocks collected during a lifetime of vacations, in a jar in the garage.
Although Browning obliquely refers to Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, she seems unaware that the KonMari method is about keeping things that “spark joy” as well as those that are useful.
Kondo says,“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a closet or drawer that you have forgotten its existence?”
Far from the depressing picture Browning paints, minimalism helps us focus on the things we value most and to cherish our treasures, whether tangible, as Browning’s books and antiques, or intangible, as peace of mind and time spent with friends and family.