On Simplicity

April 21, 2008

The One Pencil Philosophy: Long-Term Results

Filed under: Productivity,Simple Living,Starting Out — Serendipity @ 5:24 am

Previously, I discussed the simple change in my life that led to big change: limiting my pencil cup to just one writing implement. I mentioned that this one life edit brought me numerous rewards. These big picture rewards are what I’d like to discuss today.

1. If you give yourself half a chance, you really can get by with less. Do I need twenty wine glasses? Or 35 pairs of socks? I really started to question my “But I need them as backups” excuse in many other areas of my home. The trick is weighing the benefit of having an endless supply of something with the cost of having to store and riffle through that collection to get to what you really need on a daily basis. As for me, I’m heavily leaning toward having less and just making do if I run out.

2. When you get rid of the crap, you make more room for quality. I loved working with something I truly liked each and every time I needed to write. I wondered what it would be like if my closet was organized in the same way, so I took out a lot of stuff that was just “okay” (for example, stuff that didn’t quite fit perfectly anymore, or that was getting worn out, or that had been purchased because it was such a bargain…) and shelved it for awhile. (I’ll touch on my method for “trying on” decluttering in a later post.) I ended up loving the fact that my closet was filled only with things I truly loved wearing, and I’ve rarely missed any item that I took out. (I think I’ve brought just two items back.) This point definitely translated well to many points in my life.

3. The time you waste looking for “stuff” cancels out the productivity benefits of having everything within reach. Being able to reach for a pen and always know it would be there ended up giving me some great insight into simplified productivity. I started filing more items away, and found that I didn’t spend much time looking for them or needing them. For my job, very little stuff needs to be truly within reach. And without some of these extra piles around, I’ve been feeling less bogged down. It’s another great benefit that has spread into multiple areas of my life, all starting with the simple pencil cup.

4. Have less, value more. Even though the pen I use isn’t fancy or even really cute, I’ve learned to really value it. I protect it, I keep it safe, I put it back where it belongs. And I like that. I like valuing something more, even if it’s just a basic utility item. Because of the scarcity of pens on my desk, something largely worthless became precious to me. And if simple scarcity can make things seem wonderfully valuable, think of how much value you can add to your possessions simply by trimming them down. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about monetary value, but your underlying appreciation of things. As research has been showing that appreciation and gratitude are key components of happiness, this is likely a good thing. The other bonus? Taking better care of what you have means that you replace items less often–this is fab for both your wallet and the environment.

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