I love the idea of a curated life! A life that has been crafted deliberately and purposefully.
I am, after all, drawn to all things minimalist–art, music, prose, fashion. It has been a mantra for as long as I can remember: Strip down, strip down, strip down.
Yet despite my best efforts (and life-long preferences) the bloat has crept in.
Surfaces once bare have collected little objects and nick knacks. Kitchen cupboards bulge with gadgets and gizmos I haven’t used in years (maybe never)–A massive, industrial-kitchen-sized food processor, a candy thermometer, a grapefruit spoon (?). The garage can now fit only one car.
And this bloat is not confined to the material. It extends to the virtual: Online subscriptions I never read or use, playlists I’ve archived “just in case,” and “free” books/courses/webinars that float past my screen so temptingly . . . Just one more . . . .
One more book club, one more professional organization, one more diet, one more formula for success, one more holy grail of self-improvement that will (surely!) make my life better.
The excess has overtaken my life, and it is now time to fight back!
What can I get rid of that no longer serves me?
Books, papers, homework from fifth grade, textbooks that were obsolete twenty years ago, the two-foot pile of scratch paper that seems to refill itself by magic. All of it.
Clothes that no longer fit me. Clothes that no longer flatter me. Clothes with holes in them. Clothes never worn. Clothes that are not part of my “uniform” of pants and knit top (like that cute top with the ruffled neckline that itches). Clothes that I am “holding” for other people, like my son’s suit, my daughter’s choir dress, my sister-in-law’s toiletries so she doesn’t have to bring so much when she visits us. A sewing machine from when my mother-in-law made cute outfits for my children. They can all go.
Canned goods from 2004. Disposable tablecloths that I used just once, that are “still good.” Gingerbread house kits (those things last forever!). Styrofoam ice-chests. Empty storage boxes and canisters for cereals and rice and flour and sugar–the things we don’t eat anymore. Cake molds. All fit for the bin.
My inbox is always overflowing with offers from retailers, newsletters from online marketers who’ve hooked me in with some sort of freebie, emails from lists I have (inadvertently) subscribed to, and any amount of spam. Some days I make a feeble attempt to unsubscribe to a few; most days, though, I just go delete, delete, delete. My inbox needs a major cleanse.
Then there’re the myriad memberships and subscriptions I pay for and never use. I counted them up the other day and found they total almost forty dollars each month. That’s a nice steak I could be eating! I have only one paid subscription (to an online group) that actually brings me any value; the rest can (and must) go.
Finally, there are the news feeds. Many years ago, I stopped watching television–I couldn’t hack the constant state of alarm the news channels aroused in me, nor could I handle the inane chatter of the programming–chat shows, food shows, home shows, reality shows–they all made left me in a state of overstimulated exhaustion. But of late, I’ve found a similar creep of low-quality, high-stimulus cacophony entering my virtual spaces–political haranguing, celebrity tweets, Facebook wars, . . . It’s all too much. Either they need to go, or I need to go.
This one is interesting. Ostensibly a portal for personal development and growth, self-help and do-it-yourself “educational” informational products have infiltrated my reading space, a space I formerly held sacred and responsible for my spiritual growth. Now I’m not saying this is all bad–after all, this is what I do; I “create and curate content for personal growth”–but there is just so much poor quality content out there, that it has become overwhelming to sort through the chaff to get to the good stuff.
Also, there is a real emphasis on quantity not quality. How many blog posts can you get out there each week, how many views, how many clicks, how many, how many, how many. Everything is speeded up and out of focus. I find myself rushing to meditate–ding! I can cross it off my checklist. It’s time to slow down and drill in. Quality over quantity. One good (and short) session is better than several half-assed ones. Or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know because I’m usually just rushing to finish.
Always rushing. Rushing to get to the next thing. Rushing to finish a task. Rushing even to meet with friends. My spiritual life is in desperate need of curation. Just like everything else.
So how do we do this? How do we create, curate a life that feeds us?
Marelisa Fabrega, blogger and author of the personal development site, Daring to Live Fully, makes the interesting analogy with how museums curate collections.
They select pieces that cohere and tell some sort of story
The exclude pieces that do not fit or detract from the story that is being told.
They organize a layout for flow and clarity.
Similarly, a curated life can be built around three organizing principles:
Retain what is essential, what is nourishing, what pushes us towards our goals.
Remove what is extraneous or counterproductive to the life we are trying to create.
Design a framework around which the essential elements of your life can fit
To that end, here are some questions to consider when curating the material, virtual, and spiritual domains of your life:
What purpose does this serve in my life?
How does this make me feel?
Which core value does it align with?
Why is it worthy of my time, attention, and effort?
These are the questions I ask myself as I continue to strip down, strip down, strip down.