S is for Simplicity

I’m drawn to simplicity, efficiency, and order—a place for everything and everything in its place. For me, outer order contributes to inner calm.

I’m drawn to space—the efficiency of physical space.
I’m drawn to clearing clutter—mental and emotional.


On February 16, 17, and 18 of this year my friend Terrill Welch did a series on wabi-sabi over on her blog, Creative Potager. It really hit home because it resonated so strongly with my lifestyle—simple, functional, and full.

I’ve shared with you before that my creative muse is wabi-sabi: a practice where inessentials are trimmed away or eliminated. The intersection where wabi (minimal) and sabi (functional) meet is the platform for my creativity—space and quiet solitude—simplicity.

In over 31 years of marriage, the one bone of contention that Len and I tug back and forth good naturedly is that I’m a minimalist and he’s a “maximalist.” I throw and he saves.

During a recent discussion he asked, “Just exactly why is it that you need to have empty space around you?” I answered, “Because it appeals to my zensibilities.” I meant to say sensibilities, but in retrospect, the word I said fits so much better.

It’s more than being content. For me, it’s the enjoyment of very little with an awareness and deep appreciation of how less is truly more.

Do you remember the television show The Odd Couple? Are you more like Felix Unger—neat as a pin, or more like Oscar Madison—creative disarray? What’s your lifestyle?

© lauriebuchanan.com

30 thoughts on “S is for Simplicity

  1. Laurie,

    My thoughts wander to the woods I walk everyday and the chaos of trees, leaves, sticks and branches, wild bending paths… yet there is order in this chaos. Simple in its beauty and effectiveness of evolution.
    Our lives here as I have shared before is filled with too much stuff, gathered from each of us who have lived here at the family home off and on for years, we even have “stuff” stored away in the garage and a storage unit…
    Is there order in that chaos, is there simplicity in that stuff we save for some day that has not arrived yet, I think not.

    I am a messy guy, yet through that messiness wings some simple elegant creative appearances!

    I am Love

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  3. I’m way into simplicity too. And–oddly enough–so is Barry. Strange. I don’t know why we’re not the Odd Couple in this regard. Or maybe we are the Odd Couple because we both like Zensibilities. It’s interesting that this was “s” today because I was musing about writing a blog about Simplicity again. One of these days, maybe. About how one part of self longs to always do more, but another part of self wants to prune everything away to bare essentials. It’s challenging figuring out how to satisfy both parts.

    • Kathy – “It’s challenging figuring out how to satisfy both parts.” Yes, somewhat like walking a tight-rope, without balance, a person can easily slip one way or another.

  4. Canada stands for peace, order and good government.
    However, where it comes to order I’m not Canadian.
    I would like to claim the opposite but my Felix is trapped in an Oscar body.
    When I attempt to tidy I get concerned that the things I cherish will disappear and I’ll never see them again. So I’m surrounded by piles. I usually know what are in these piles, but they are still piles. My Felix is disgusted, but my Oscar is at peace.

  5. We are each of us such complex and multi-layered entities that any idea of simplicity or order is very much context dependent.

    Ailsa and I have very different default contexts, which can be a source of friction and tension.

    For me, something is ordered if it stays where I put it.
    If it is where I put it, I can go straight back to it.
    If anyone else moves it, or puts something else on top of it, then life becomes more complex and difficult (I need to bring my full conscious awareness to the task of finding whatever it is I am looking for, rather than leaving it to my subconscious “monkey”).

    Ailsa operates differently. For her something is tidy if it is out of sight.
    She is happy to stuff things anywhere at all, provided they are out of sight. Very rarely is anything ever in exactly the same place twice.
    That works for her, but my “monkey” hates it, because it means he can’t do his job, and I have to leave whatever I am contemplating, and take over the monkey’s job.

    I’m with Len, I collect stuff. Before moving here to Kaikoura, I had lived at Waitakaruru for 34 years, and had 3 large sheds. We had a garage sale that sold over 5,000 items, gave away anything friends and family wanted, and then took 9 2ton truck loads to the dump (other than the 45 cubic yards of stuff we bought with us).
    So much of that stuff I miss – gear boxes, engine parts, boat parts, plumbing bits, all sorts of engineering stuff, wood working stuff. I could either find the right thing, or something close enough that I could make it fit, to fix almost anything – but not any longer.

    Still – different role in this community.

    Now I collect cyber stuff, and nobody changes anything that I put on my hard drives (they are free to copy anything they find, but not to change the order of relationship (my monkey is much happier there)). The 2 Terrabyte drive is about 70% full, so I need to buy a couple more.

    • Ted – I can’t even BEGIN to imagine having that much stuff. I simply can’t wrap my mind (monkey, or otherwise) around it. similar to Len and I, you and Ailsa do, indeed, have different approaches to your stuff.

      I leave for San Diego next week and while I’m there, I hope to do some writing. I have an 8GB thumdrive that I carry around my neck with a lanyard. It’s more than sufficient to hold what I need. I can’t begin to imagine having a 2 terrabyte drive – yowza!

  6. I like the feel of cozy comfort around me, however I don’t like a space that is busy/cluttered. Currently my space is not in my best interest and I cannot afford to change much of it except to occasionally purge or at least tidy up the clutter.

    • Ann – I’m with you… not comfortable in my own space that’s busy or cluttered. I’m happy as a clam in other people’s space that’s kept in that manner — it doesn’t bother me in the least. I’d just get the willies if my own space were to get that way.

  7. Laurie:

    The Oscar Madison/Felix Unger analogy here is perfection, and I’m afraid to say I am very much like Oscar, and also to a degree like your husband Len. The creative disaray can be seen by all who visit our home. In fact on Tuesdays nights a bunch of our friends come over for pasta dinner, and what with five kids, three dogs, two cats and two parrots, chaos often ensures! Ha! I think the only thing that is “ordered” in my house are my massive DVD and CD collections, but I’m trying. And then with Lucille working a full-time job, it adds to the difficulty.

    I must say I love the term “zensibilities” and I couldn’t agree more with you when you assert that “outer order contributes to inner calm.” With outward confusion there is some stress, whether it manifests itself overtly or whether it’s suppressed. I think that latter contention is applicable to me, even if my optimism is projected in a general sense.

    This is yet another vital piece of the puzzle here, and it’s superbly delineated, my friend. As I confess to having a kind of OCD, it it would be constructively applied to find the order that you have so resoursefully incorporated in your own life.

    • Sam – Between the meal, the kids, and the menageria, it sounds like the “creative disaray” at your home is wonderful, warm, and welcoming! How in the world DO you index/catalog your ginormous collection of DVD’s and CD’s? A huge wall system, or bookshelves like stacks in a library? Or clearly marked storage boxes? Do you store them in alphabetical order so you can find things fast, or in alphabetical order by genre? Do you have one huge master list? I can’t even beging to imagine how you manage a collection like that!

  8. I am a Felix with an Oscar lifestyle. I love space, clean living, and everything neatly ordered, but I go at such a frantic pace sometimes (always ready for my next adventure!) that I don’t leave myself with space in my life to make my physical space clean and neat. That is something I would like to give myself for Christmas!

  9. When I need a deep emotional purge, I clean my closet. Matter of fact it needs a great trouncing right now. All my shoe boxes lined on the shelves, all pants in one area, white shirts in another, sweaters all grouped. However….today I needed some nails. Big fine nails, the kind you can give a good, healthy smack. In my junk drawer I found several kinds of nails, screws and fasteners. All in their respective boxes and packages. I even found the hammer, No 10-penny nails that I needed to do some repair work with. I grizzled and grouched but who could I blame? Only me. I went out to the shed and there they were….right where I left them last time I used them. I need more wabi-sabi instead of harum-scarum in my life. I don’t know how these things, possessions creep up on you but over time they will. At this point, a dump truck, a fire hose, and several gallons of paint would be fun to play with.

    • Sandi – I love what you said, “I need more wabi-sabi instead of harum-scarum in my life!” That made me laugh! By the way, before I step on the plane this coming Thursday morning for San Diego, I’m going to pop the November issue of “Mindful Metropolis” in the mail to you. The cover article is one you will thoroughly enjoy: “Thank you for Being a Hen – Chicken Enthusiasts Take Roost in Chicago.”

      The “blizzard” we were expecting hasn’t arrived as of yet (9am Sunday morning). However, when you look out the window it LOOKS like it’s snowing fierce – only it not. It’s simply extremely enthusiastic wind clearing the roof tops!

  10. I like simplicity and clean. I have a mild tolerance for “little messes” or projects to be out. David likes tidy but doesn’t notice clean other than my incurable desire for him to participate in the doing of it with me. He is a practical and functional being. The shoe horn needs to be on the windowsill by the door where shoes are put on. It makes him so pleased to find it there that, out of love, I resist the urge to grab it and put it “where it belongs” in the cupboard two steps from the windowsill.

    Confession: I have a few weak areas in my simplicity and clean practices. The laundry room usually has a basket of clean unfolded clothes and there may be another load in the dryer. It is a red-letter day when the clothes are washed and folded down to the last load on laundry day. The other area is my bookkeeping. I start of strong in January and about June papers get stuffed together for sorting later… which is about now as I get everything into their proper piles for the bookkeeper so that sense can be made out of it for end of the year taxes. The third is sending birthday cards. I usually get them mailed on the day of the persons birthday. I set them out weeks ahead of time and then… look at the cards, think about the person and finally sit down to write on their birthday. Christmas cards I do a little better but not much and it is a bigger “little mess” at the end of the dining room table. So simplicity is my desire, my comfort and my passion but I am not always successful in my practice.

      • Terrill – You’re welcome. The wabi-sabi series you did was so delightful for me that it was a pleasure to be able to point others to it 🙂

    • Terrill – Your “confession” cracked me up!

      [Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone, but Len actually refers to one of the drawers in my chest-of-drawers as my “Mary Poppins drawer” because you can find ANYthing and EVERYthing in it. Are you looking for a compass? It’s there. Are you looking for a saddle? It’s there. Need some rock climbing gear? It’s there. Looking for a screw driver? It’s there. Need a spare lightbulb? It’s there.]

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  12. I like to think that I am both and believe that at different times of our lives we all are both. I like things in their place, but if you have kids or live with people, good luck with that! I also like neat but lived in, instead of a room that makes you feel like you should not touch anything. AAHHH, the desk. Yes it is messy, but I can find everything very quickly. I am a pile person, but working on losing a few each week. Wish me luck.

    • Lisa – Like you, I like neat but lived in — VERY lived in. The kind of house that opens its arms and says, “Welcome – come on in, take a load off.” The kind of atmosphere where company feels good about putting their feet up on the coffee table.

  13. Me. . .I’m a Felix. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE having the space around me. The clutter annyos me. But having said that I also have to say that thru Wabi-Sabi I am coming to see the beauty of it ALL. . . as I share in my latest post, your comment on which resonates with me completely Laurie. Thank you.

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