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In Praise of Simplification

Dear Friends,

It feels as though January has flown by- how many people have already given up on New Year’s resolutions?

DRIP by Leslie Fauvelle
"Winter Water."

To many people decluttering their space is a perfect resolution: Clear your space and clear your head! Make room for the new!

There is indeed a lot to be said for creating space to think. According to Psychology Today the health benefits include:

1. Decluttering creates a sense of confidence and self-efficacy 

2. It is energizing

3. Cleaning and organizing reduces anxiety

4. It allows mind-wandering 

5. It can reduce relationship tension

6. Sometimes you find lost treasure

We don’t really need to read an article in a science journal to know that cleaning up our mess feels good and therapeutic. That being said, it can feel overwhelming to organize and when that happens nothing gets done.

For this reason, it was with great pleasure that we spotted an article on the benefits of clutter! The New York Times says what we often dismiss as “clutter” …. can actually be good for us:

“Decluttering is a trendy take on minimalism that equates the blank-space aesthetic with mindful sophistication.”

Everyone has all seen those homes – beautiful and empty. Perfectly arranged. When is all the stuff that says something about who you are, where you have been, or who you love? To live in a space which lacks these items would be as if wearing the same clothes everyday. What happened to variety and self-expression?

There is a distinction between “stuff”, “a collection”, and “hoarding”.  Stuff are items that you collect which are useful like shopping bags. A collection is a deliberately put together set of objects that you love, and it says a lot about you as a person and your life story. Hoarding is keeping things because you can’t let go and can become pathological.

“We found that things are cherished not because of the material comfort they provide, but for the information they convey about the owner and his or her ties to others.” Moreover: “We began to notice that people who denied meanings to objects also lacked any close network of human relationships.”

Arthur Brooks as usual has a unique take on all this. He says we should simply simplify – he just raises the point that when we have a problem we always think of what we can add to make it work as opposed to what we can be take away.

“Taking things away can be generative, can be inspirational, can actually help you to find, to define the person that you really are.”

Our takeaway is that it is good to prune or get rid of the stuff or the hoard that is weighing you down but keep your precious collections – they make us happy and we should enjoy them. There is also a lot of overlap with the skills needed to construct a sequence of photographs. The next time you look at your camera roll perhaps you will notice collections of moments across time which have a new meaning to you…

Until next time,

The Team at SeeingHappy



The team here at SeeingHappy are all photographers who enjoy the process of creating memorable photos. We are a mix of educators striving to share their knowledge and psychologists dedicated to increasing happiness in the world.

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