52 ODES TO JOY: SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY

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(Photo from Bonappetit.com)

                                                             When I get the urge to purge,

                                                             I first put on some music.

                                                             A little more punk and a little less dirge,

                                                             Then I’m trashin’, smashin’, thrashin’ like a lunatic.

“STUFF OWNS YOU…Wash it, dry it, fold it, iron it, have it cleaned, repair it, wax it, dust it, pack it, sweep it, paint it, pick it up, put it back, hang it up, file it, store it, insure it, oil it, shelve it, stack it, separate it, rearrange it, protect it, service it, recondition it, untangle it, refill it, polish it, refinish/remodel it or display it. SOME ALTERNATIVES: REFUSE IT IN THE FIRST PLACE, GIVE IT AWAY, SELL IT, RECYCLE IT, COMPOST IT OR BURN IT FOR FUEL.” (This is from a “Simple Living” blogpost at wildschwein.com.)

SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY asks us to look at how we spend our time and our life—then simply structure our priorities for greater happiness and fulfillment. Reflect on “The S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) Joyful Aging” basic, four elements and keep things simple. Eliminate things that distract you from actively, honestly experiencing joy.

“DAMNABLEE SPLOTHER” was what my drama-king dad called much of mom’s decorative acquisitions and exquisite “googaws.” He was a philosophy professor and savored sharing nuggets of his acquired wisdom like, “The best things in life are not things,” and, “Your mother’s dust-catchers and ‘splother’ are crowding the life out of our house and our lives.”

Dad would have felt saddened but validated when shortly after his and mom’s deaths, like so many families, we children selected some items of sentimental or aesthetic appreciation and then hired auctioneers to do a thorough “American death cleaning.” Much of mom’s splendiferous “splother” was shuffled along for others to spend their lives displaying and dusting.

First, I was afraid, I was petrified…but I went from owning, or being owned by, 3000 books to keeping only 30. For a few months, this intentional act of SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY made me feel a bit unmoored. It had been years since I’d read many of the books, but they had become a familiar backdrop. I selected several to give to close friends who had particular passions and the remaining hundreds, I donated to the bookstores of various public libraries in Alabama. Books are meant to circulate.

A few years ago, after reading this SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY idea in “The New York Times,” I decided I only needed one type of drinking glass. I crated up and gave all my fine and not-so-fine wine glasses, Martini glasses, Sherry cordials, tumblers, juice glasses, Champagne flutes, Highballs, Lowballs, Margarita glasses, Brandy snifters, goblets, Pat O’Brien hurricanes, coupes, tankards, pilsners, shot glasses and sake cups to friends who entertain at home more than I do.

Wish you’d been around? Sorry, all those sippers are now collecting dust in other homes or possibly at Goodwill. I only have about a dozen of those chunky, cheap-ish, café’ glasses which I’m pleased to report work just fine for both water and bourbon-and-water as well as juice, milk, wine, Champagne or any potable.

SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY doesn’t mean you will be constantly happy or acting happy all the time in your Walden Pond-ish cabin. Positivity is not something you’re born with or is always the emotion you authentically feel. It is something you do. The Oxford English Dictionary defines positivity as: “The practice of being or tending to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”

Also, to experience the joy of SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY, one doesn’t have to live a Spartan, excruciatingly minimalist lifestyle. Though it does mean thinking about those things which truly add joy to your life and prioritizing them. Here’s what tech innovator Steve Job, said, and you can bet he was wearing his black turtleneck sweater and jeans daily uniform as he shared it: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

To get you started on the path to SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY, Tucker Cummings on Lifehack.org suggests these:

“6 EASY TIPS FOR LIVING WITH 100 ITEMS OR LESS”–

  1. MAKE A LIST OF EVERYTHING YOU OWN—This will allow you to see everything in your inventory. Then, categorize all your things in some way such as by room in your house, seasonal use or purpose (eating, entertainment).
  2. ONLY KEEP MULTI-PURPOSE ITEMS—Don’t keep any asparagus forks (unless they truly, actively give you joy) but do keep a table that can also serve as a desk.
  3. DON’T BE TOO SPARTAN—Simplifying means having to care about less, not denying yourself real joy.
  4. OBEY THE 12-MONTH RULE—Cummings says, “Ditch anything you haven’t used in 12 months.” That unicycle that got you attention and perhaps got you laid in college but would now get you laid out in the morgue? Ditch it.
  5. RE-PURGE—Purge. Enjoy. Repeat. Plan to declutter again in 3 months and see if you’ve used the things. If you haven’t used them, ditch them. Your Aunt Martha will let you borrow her pie crimper.
  6. TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS—Your home office no longer needs a fax machine, most 20th century tech or homing pigeons.

The “bottom line” per Tucker Cummings is that “…sorting through all your possessions could take you months. But, if you have the patience and the will, you might find that living the ultra-minimalist lifestyle affords you the kind of physical and mental ‘breathing room’ you could never have achieved otherwise.”

SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY is the foundation for the work of Marie Kondo, the current day “de-cluttering queen.” Kondo is known for advising her legion of followers to only hold onto those things which— “spark joy.” If you haven’t experienced the delight of her gentle counsel, I encourage you to search YouTube for Marie Kondo for such thoughts as, “The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t.”

“All I need is a room somewhere, far away from the cold, night air and one, enormous chair. Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely.” That song from “MY FAIR LADY,” by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe (1956), remind us that joy can come from just having enough. One my not need nor want a boatload of Wedgwood China nor 400 pieces of a dust-and-fake-snow-covered Christmas village.

Per an article in “Real Simple” magazine (August, 2021) Laura Moore, a professional organizer and the creator of the ClutterClarity Way, advises reframing: “Don’t think of it as getting rid of stuff, which sounds disrespectful. You’re taking care of your stuff in a way that feels good.”

In that same article, I liked this idea from Mark McClure, who co-owns Caring Transitions of Greater Nashville, and which helps seniors downsize. “Photographing the things you’re parting with can be liberating. It comforts our clients to know they can scroll through images of beloved items that have found new forever homes.”

SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY trends (irony alert) have created mounds of books to eventually purge from one’s shelves. If I were just to choose only one to keep, it would be BLESSED BY LESS by Susan V. Vogt. The author begins with the Christian observation of Lent and sacrifices an object in her home for each of the 40 days of this religious practice. Then, she finds such joy in “feeling lighter” and continues her minimizing for an entire, spirit-fulfilling year.

Even if you are not Christian nor religious at all, you can find encouragement in Vogt’s experience. She describes her SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY journey as “It’s an attitude of living with fewer burdens and encumbrances, whether you’re 21 or 65.”

SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY ODES FROM OTHERS:

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”—Confucius

“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” –Plato

“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”—John Kabat-Zinn

“Live simply so others may simply live.”—Mahatma Gandhi

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Minimizing can be exhilarating. If you continue decluttering, you just might find a zest for life that you didn’t know existed under all that stuff.”—Lisa J. Schultz

“Simplicity with curiosity is the lap on which success rests!”—Israelmore Ayivor

“The height of sophistication is simplicity.”—Clare Booth Luce

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify. Simplify.”—Henry David Thoreau

SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY LAFFS

“I was purging my storage unit and found a ticket from the local shoe repair shop. It was from three years ago, before COVID. I figured they have been given to Goodwill but on the way home, I stopped by the shop. I handed the fellow at the counter the ticket and he said, “Just a minute, I’ll have to look for these.” He disappeared into the back and yelled, “Here they are!” I said, “That’s terrific, I would have bet good money they’d be gone after all this time.” The man came back to the counter empty-handed and said, ‘They’ll be ready Thursday.’”

“A mom was decluttering her teenaged son’s room and found a box filled with handcuffs, a little whip and a feather. She asked her husband: ‘What do we do?’ Her husband replied: ‘I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t spank him!’”

“I put on some gym shorts to declutter the garage and heard my neighbor’s daughter tell her mom, ‘That guy next door is hot.’ I was flattered until she added, ‘You need to take that old coot some water, he’s gonna have a heat stroke.”

“After cleaning up from tornado damage, I offered a friend wood for his fireplace. He thanked me and said, ‘You know, free firewood doesn’t grow on trees.’”

JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK:

May 14—Mark Zuckerberg

May 15—Jasper Johns

May 16—Liberace

May 17—Sugar Ray Leonard

May 18—Tina Fey

May 19—Nora Ephron

May 20—Cher

                                                         SIMPLY THE BEST BLT—IOWA

                                                             (Source: bonappetit.com)

Each week, JOY & GERONTOLOGY shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.

The BLT basics for SIMPLICITY POSITIVITY are: lean bacon, ripe beefsteak tomato, crunchy lettuce and mayonnaise on lightly toasted Pullman bread. Then, the “Bon Appetit Magazine” (June, 2013) editors suggested the most excellent extras to make a BLT simply a bit yummier:

–HOT PEPPERS—Pickled cherry peppers add tangy heat. Mix some of the brine into the mayo for more zip.

–FIG JAM—A sweet counterpoint to the salty bacon and fresh crunch of the lettuce.

–CHIPOTLE MAYO—Swirl chopped chipotles—and some of their smoky adobo sauce—into mayonnaise.

–AVOCADO—A few slices of ripe avocado are never a bad idea. Including them turns a BLT into a BLAT.

–SPROUTS—Spicy radish sprouts add another layer of crunch, not to mention a healthful halo.

–FRIED EGG—A runny yolk will bathe all of the ingredients with rich, delicious eggy flavor.

1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued):

430. “The Joy of Less,” a minimalist guide by Francine Joy.

431. A lovely, handwritten ‘Thank You’ note from Ashley Judd.

432. www.yourclassical.org .

433. Captain and Tennille’s “Song of Joy” album.

434. “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night.

435. Popcorn balls.

436. Ball jars.

437. “C’mere and give me some sugah.”

438. “I Feel Bad About My Neck” essays by Nora Ephron.

439. “I Got You Babe.”

440. Paddington Bear.

441. The body pride profile of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

442. “That’s What Friends Are For.”

443. “We Are the World.”

444. “Third Rate Romance.”

445. “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” by Wes Anderson.

446. “Po Folks” by Bill Anderson.

447. Prison food reform by Pamela Anderson.

448. Seeing summer matinees for six RC-Cola bottle caps.

449. Mercury glass garden globes.

450. “I’m a hugger.”

451. “Are you a planner or a liver?”

452. Simple Simon and the pie man.

SIMPLY HAVE A JOYFUL WEEK!

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Ben South