The illusory joy of de-cluttering?

In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Pamela Druckerman notes that clutter is having a moment and that everyone she meets seems to be “waging a passionate, private battle against their own stuff.” She admits that she too has caught the de-cluttering fever, before concluding that “less may be more, but it’s still not enough.”

I would rush to say “Well of course it’s not enough,” except I’ve had my own moments where I shook metaphorical fists at the heavens and asked “Why am I still stressed out?” After doing so much work to get rid of things, don’t we all just want to be done and living a new dream life?

That’s when I find it helpful to think of simplifying as a journey. Getting rid of excess physical stuff frees up time and energy and is good practice for focusing on living more intentionally. In my own experience and from what I’ve read, de-cluttering is often a first big step in simplifying, and what comes next is highly personal—changing jobs, investing more in relationships, actively pursuing a dream, getting healthy through diet and exercise. These are things that can bring real joy, unlike the “illusory joy”—as Druckerman calls it—of de-cluttering.

What do you think?




Happy New Year 2015!

I wish everyone reading this good health and the love of family and friends.

If you’re thinking about resolutions and ways you will be doing things differently in the new year, I hope that you find inspiration and motivation all around you—and that you recognize the inspiration you may be giving others simply through your choices and actions.

Best wishes to you!




You, and me

Many of you have commented since I started this blog in July 2013, and every time it has been valuable to me. Interacting with you
 makes me feel like I’m part of a broad community of simplifiers. It’s great.

In fact, I would love to hear from you even more. Why are you interested in simplifying? How did you start? What have the hurdles been? What is challenging and what has been easy? I hope you’ll share.


Ellen, Simplifying at Home

— I live in St. Paul, Minnesota, my home state, and I have also lived in France, Latvia, and Argentina. Although what I post makes most sense in an American context, I hope that there’s value here for people living in other countries.

— I’m an introvert who likes and is interested in people. Blogging offers a way to interact with a lot of people one at a time.

— I share my experience and what has worked for me, and try not to sound prescriptive.

— Two years ago I cut my work commitment to 36 hours/week. That small reduction in work hours has noticeably improved my quality of life, and I’m grateful to be in a situation where it is possible.

— I’d like to come up with more content for “Five-minute simplifying.” We all need more ways to feel successful, rather than overwhelmed, right?

Using words to express gratitude

An idea came to me today as I thought about an acquaintance at work who brightens up the place with her smile, laughter, kind words, and occasional well-placed profanity, which just proves she’s no Pollyanna (if work isn’t making you swear, you’re retired).

My idea is to give notes of appreciation to a wide-ranging group of people the week of Thanksgiving (that’s less than six weeks away, so I need to start writing immediately yesterday).

This should help with an annual “Christmas problem.” As that holiday approaches, I find myself feeling stressed as I struggle to come up with appropriate gifts that will please friends, neighbors, child care workers, and people at work who don’t need more stuff. The gifts quickly start to feel like necessities because, in my mind, they are a way to say “I like you/you make my life better/you are important to me,” and not giving a gift somehow risks implying the converse. But wouldn’t a heartfelt note that says “I appreciate you for the following 36 reasons” communicate that message better than scented lotion or a bag of homemade biscotti tied with holiday ribbon? I think so.