Marie Kondo, author of the endearing and practical guide to de-cluttering your life, “The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying”, has a new series on Netflix. But somehow the commercialisation of simplicity makes it complicated. For someone who built a reputation on minimalism, she has become annoyingly difficult to get rid of.
Then Mary Oliver died. The Pulitzer Prize winning poet so in touch with the simple pleasure of being out in the natural world that her self reflective and observational prose seemed to merge with the landscape itself. She fashioned beautiful art from natural space and would consider a good walk one that inspired her to such an extent she would stop where she stood and write, making the very most of the precious moment. To ensure there was always something to write with she would hide pencils in the trees.
It’s taken me my whole life to learn that letting go is the very best route to worthwhile achievement and rich fulfillment.
When my own life was at its fullest, busiest and most demanding both internally and externally, I was usually lost and unhappy because I had lost the ability to be discerning about what occupied me.
Scattered across my life are moments of intense joy that gloriously litter the landscape, memories that are always to hand. Most of them involve creating or connecting. Growing a pumpkin from a seed, writing a story or a song, maybe a contented afternoon pottering about in the kitchen. But mostly I am drawn to a day I spent at home when my children were babies. As they slept peacefully in their afternoon nap I just looked at them and was filled with the most intense happiness I can ever remember feeling before or after. It was overwhelming and, at the time, I didn’t understand its meaning.
As the years passed it became clearer that I am always drawn towards the aspects of myself which are the most defining. Connection and creativity. That’s all I need. The simplicity of it is liberating, and when I allow too much that is not of this realm to get in the way my energy saps and I begin to unravel.
Stripping away, doing less, cutting things out carves room for us to power our most amazing inventions and provides the palette on which we are able to paint our own best life. A letting go of what is not needed opens us up to feel ourselves more deeply.
It is with increased nothingness that we come to truly know ourselves.
These days one of my most powerful strategies for creating space and simplicity is walking for miles with Daisy. Whenever we pass the goal posts on the heath I smile and consider that neither of us has any goals at that moment. There is nothing that needs to be done until later. In the meantime we replenish, saving ourselves for the important work of our lives, at which point we will give everything because we have determined it of true importance. Until then we will prepare by searching for pencils in the trees.
“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
From “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver