“Happiness is not found in things you posses, but in what you have the courage to release.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne
I like paper. I have always liked paper. It started with paper dolls as a child and has never gone away. I like the way that it feels. Super smooth and refined running the gambit all the way to rough and full of texture. I like variety in colors and patterns. I like hand-made papers, papers with kimono patterns, fancy marbleized techniques, papers that feel like cloth and others that have been smoothed mechanically. I can tell by touching a sheet of paper what it has been made with and the weight of it. I like the possibilities that paper provides. As a collage artist, I use a lot of paper in my work.
I was showing a friend some paper that I was using for an installation piece. He said, “This is a lot of paper. How much paper do you need?” We have only known each other for a couple months at that time and he was new to my art and creative process. I looked at him and smiled, “You can never have too much paper.” He laughed and said, “For your artwork that is true!”
This got me thinking about stuff in general. How much stuff does one person need? I have seen the terrifying preview for a television show about hoarders and someone being buried alive. I have also seen the program about tiny homes and listened to the interviews from people who want to be free from stuff.
Our consumer driven society pushes people to purchase things. Advertisements sell us images of perfection and products that will “make” us, our homes, and lives more “beautiful” or “youthful” if one purchases this or that product. This compulsion to have more drives one to purchase things that they do not want nor need. And after the purchase has been completed does the luster wear off and buyer’s remorse set in? Or does one rush to the next purchase?
I began to wonder, am I owned by objects? Do they control me? Not a pleasant thought. Then I wondered, how does one go through and decide what they really want and need?
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris
I am inspired by the life and work of William Morris who lived from 1834-1896. He was an English thinker, designer (carpets, patterns, and typefaces among other things), author and publisher. He was saddened by the poor-quality, cheap and soulless decorative art that was mass-produced in 19th- century industrialized England. I sometimes wonder would he be horrified if he were to see our modern society of mass-produced cheap and disposable items? He instigated a revival of traditional arts and crafts, establishing his own working community. The goal of his Arts & Crafts Movement was simplicity, beauty and craftsmanship.
Since I did not have the arts and crafts community of William Morris, I turned to a modern organizing guru, Marie Kondo. She is the author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Known as the KonMari method, it is the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. One starts by discarding and then organizing the space, thoroughly, completely and in one go. I found this book challenging and amazing all in one. There is so much helpful advice and encouragement in it. One thing that I found particularly helpful and empowering from Marie Kondo’s book was what I call the joy principle. Does this bring me joy? Yes. Keep it. No. Get rid of it.
In preparation for my move, I had been cleaning up and going through my possessions. I used the joy principle when deciding what to get rid of and what to keep. I had a couple yard sales and given boxes of stuff to charitable organizations. Some things that are special I have given to family and friends.
I do think that there is a healthy amount of possessions. And what that amount is, depends on the person. For me, there has to be a variety of paper to work with for my art. For a friend who is a mountain biker, owning three or more bikes is necessary. The bikes have different purposes. For another friend who quilts, fabric is a constant staple.
What are some of your favorite things? What is necessary for you? What brings you joy?