The changing weather means that I’m sifting through my closet and drawers again, deciding what’s still serving me and what’s just not. I’m asking, where have I let clutter creep back in? What needs weeding out? What can I let go of to make things simpler in this season?
And why does it feel like there are eighty-five ill-fitting tee shirts in here? (There aren’t really. But when I’m overwhelmed, exaggeration helps.)
I always intend to keep things simple, but it’s still easy to collect one more thing and one more thing until±well, see above, re: tee shirts.
Maybe for you it’s not your closet. Maybe it’s your countertops or your kitchen pantry or your calendar. Too many coffee dates that leave you worn-out instead of energized, or too many tasks you should never have volunteered for? Or maybe there’s just too much of everything and not enough white space.
In Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding, Leeana Tankersley writes about collecting versus curating. “One of the things I love most about this idea of curating a selective environment,” she writes, “is the idea that we must practice the discipline of learning what we love.”
I like that she uses the word “discipline,” because it does take practice. It doesn’t always come easily, this figuring out of what we love and what we want to live with.
How do we cultivate that discipline? Here are five ways I’m practicing.
1. Stop with “just in case.”
“Just in case” is so close to “useful” that sometimes I don’t even realize I’ve fallen for it. Plenty of things are theoretically useful, but never actually used. We’re keeping them around just in case we ever need them.
If I’m going to curate my space or my schedule, I have to admit when something is useful-but-not-useful-to-me and let it go.
2. Ease up on convenience.
Convenient doesn’t always mean simple. If it’s easy to do but not right for you, it’s not going to simplify your life.
If I want to curate an environment I love and find useful, “convenient” might have to take a backseat to “intentional.” Saying no when it’s inconvenient is uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to make room for my best yes.
3. Practice listening.
Do we even know ourselves well enough to decide what we want? To curate our lives, we have to be realistic about what we need and don’t. We have to be honest about what this season of life looks like, and what belongs to some other season. And we have to notice what lights us up and what sucks our energy dry.
The more clear I am on who I am and how I’m made, the simpler it becomes to make choices that are right for me.
4. Use things as things, not as therapy.
The things in your life are not a measure of your worth. A full calendar does not make you more important. Filling your life up with clutter and busy-ness is a distraction, one that keeps you from understanding who you really are and what you really need.
My things and my schedule serve me in lots of ways, but they can’t tell me who I am, and they don’t make me more worthy of love and connection.
5. Forget “should.”
What we think we should love, what we think we should own, what we’re supposed to want or need: none of these are helpful criteria for curating a life.
“Should” tells me what someone else thinks. It rarely leads me toward my best decisions. Instead of thinking about what I should want (or need or love or believe), I can simply ask what I do.
It’s a drawer full of tee shirts, and it’s more than a drawer full of tee shirts. Letting go of what doesn’t work is a way of making room for what matters most. It’s a way of creating space for your self to breathe, to flourish, and to make a difference. It’s how we quiet the noise and listen.
As Leeana says, “I’d love to know what your life and soul now have capacity for because you’ve exercised the spiritual discipline of hushing so you can hear.”
What do we now have capacity for? That’s what I’m always curating to discover.