“Creativity is subtraction.” – Austin Kleon
Over the past year I’ve had an ever present concept humming in my brain. It’s by no means a new concept, and is know my many names, but I like to refer to it as “Constant Refinement.”
Constant Refinement is the practice of identifying and eliminating unnecessary or undesirable elements from your life. These elements can be physical things, behaviors or people, but their unifying trait is that they don’t work for you anymore.
When you’re younger we’re all taught that the world is your oyster. You can be anyone, do anything, go anywhere. Every door is open. But as I near the end of my 20′s I’ve focused in on a more narrow spectrum of who I actually am and what I’ve learned about myself. I’ve chosen to close some doors and dedicate my energy on the ones I’ve left open.
I’ve chosen the man I’ll be spending the rest of my life with. I’ve chosen a career that I truly love that challenges and inspires me. I’ve learned what kind of clothes look best on me and most reflect my personal identity for now. I’ve learned how to communicate and express myself effectively. I know what makes me laugh and what makes me roll my eyes. I’ve found friends that encourage and stand by me through ups and downs as life fluctuates from euphoric to really shitty. I’ve identified what habits help make me a better person and which ones stand in the way of my progress.
Constant Refinement doesn’t close the door on new experiences, people or things, because as humans we’re always evolving and what I need and wear 5 years from now will certainly be different than what it is today. I’ll always be open to new things. But I’ll also always be editing what doesn’t work in my present to make room for what I’ll find in my future.
We live in a world where more is better. But I want less. Less clutter, less drama, less dust, less stuff. I want to absolutely love every item I have in my life. If I don’t love it, it’s going to get weeded out.
As I’ve explored the concept of Constant Refinement more, I’ve stumbled upon other people who are practicing it (interestingly, most of them the same age and life stage as myself). My favorite is Liz, a graphic designer in North Carolina who does a lovely job of documenting her “Never-Ending Edit.”
Obviously the refinement is multi-faceted, but over the next few months I’ve challenged myself to get rid of 50 things from our home that just don’t work for me anymore. We all hold onto useless stuff – clothes we don’t wear, tools we don’t use, sentimental items we’ve outgrown – and it all ends up weighing us down. I’ve even realized some of my “things” I’ve grown to downright despise.
Every day I look around, chipping away at the things I don’t need but have held onto for some reason or another. I expect I’ll get rid of much more than 50 items during this time period. Doing a pass through the house today, I found 12 things I’m getting rid of:
- 4 shirts I don’t wear (one ill-fitting tank top, one sleeping shirt our cat chewed on, an old college t-shirt that I never wear, and – the only one I’m sad about – a John Cusack tee with a quote from Say Anything that I bought online because I loved it but it’s so wide I never wear it)
- An old purse I haven’t used in 3 years
- A thick red bangle I’ve worn maybe once
- A Baby G watch I’m embarrassed I still have, last worn in 2003
- A blue decanter and 4 tumblers that I bought because I thought the decanter looked like an oversized beaker but have only used them once
My refinement will continue to be documented here. I have plenty more useless things to eliminate from our home. I have books I’ll never read, shirts I’ll never wear again, an old pair of nightstands I need to sell…you get the idea.