Today I took advantage of my lack of deadlines and appointments to sit down for a few hours and sort through some of my stuff that has been occupying prime real estate in our office/den. Most of this stuff is paper – articles I’ve never read, brochures picked up on our travels, and the contents of a few old professional and personal files. I also had three drawers full of art supplies, most of which I’ve been saving for art making projects with our son Theo. The papers were cluttering the area around my desk and the art supplies took up a chunk of the den closet, so even though I doubted I’d find much to give away from here, I sat down with a cup of tea and some chocolate and started sorting.
To keep me company during this clean-out, I decided to play podcasts of the TED Radio Hour, a truly enlightening series of radio programs on NPR based on TED Talks by experts and riveting speakers in all areas of life. (http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510298/ted-radio-hour) Each program has a theme, like The Source of Creativity, Quiet, Being Nice, or Screen Time. Today, my clean-out soundtrack began with a fascinating exploration of work called The Nature of Work, in which entrepreneurs shared their approaches to working successfully and scientists explained their findings on what makes work rewarding. I listened intently, nodding to myself as I threw out a pile of notes for lectures I’d enjoyed giving recently and some articles I’d used for research for a book I wrote a while back. I followed it up with an episode about the origins of humans, in which paleontologists and other scientists presented some perspective on out species’ place in the timeline of this planet, making me even keener to use my short time here as productively as possible.
Finally, I tuned in to the episode entitled Simply Happy, in which a range of fascinating speakers – including music producer and singer Pharrell Williams, a Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast, and scientists and business leaders – were asked to reveal the secret of happiness. Though none professed to know for sure, they all agreed that being grateful for what one has makes us happier people. I was impressed and inspired by all of their words, but as I tossed papers into a big trash bag and made a pile of art and office supplies to give away, the speaker who perhaps resonated most strongly with me was Graham Hill. His segment was entitled Less Stuff, More Happiness (http://www.npr.org/2014/02/14/267198655/does-less-stuff-mean-more-happiness), and it told the story of how he had become wealthy early in life, had bought a large house and filled it with stuff and then realized that this didn’t make him happy. He decided to get rid of most of his belongings and now lives in an apartment that is just over 400 square feet in size. Hill is now an advocate of living with less and taking up less space and is the CEO of a company called LifeEdited, which works with developers to market buildings that embody small space living. He is also the founder of Treehugger.org, a sustainability website I have visited on many occasions. Hearing him talk about living more simply and efficiently and happily spurred me on in my sorting. Soon, I had a whole large trash bag full of paper to recycle and a box of art and office supplies, DVDs, books and some shoes to take to the thrift store later in the afternoon. I have less that 25 days left in my Giveaway project but now I am more determined than ever to clear a bit more space in my life and our house for happiness.