I’ve been throwing away a lot of stuff this year. Spurred on by Marie Kondo’s bestselling de-cluttering book I’ve tossed a few carloads of household junk. It’s been a few months since the big purge and I can honestly say I don’t miss a thing. I couldn’t even tell you what I got rid of. For those unfamiliar with the process it goes like this:
First, you first gather all your like items (books, clothes, etc) in a big pile.
Second, you pick up and hold each item in your hand and ask the question “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it, if not, chuck it.
That’s it. That’s the whole deal. Clutter-free nirvana awaits the willing.
I see myself as a minimalist but I’m not one in practice. It’s one of those helpful self-delusions I maintain to insulate myself from consumer culture. To look down on it. The disappointing truth is that I live in a house and it’s filled with stuff. Two pianos. Half dozen guitars. One fancy ass Japanese toilet seat complete with blow dryer. Yeah, I’m not exactly a paragon of consumer restraint. And yet, my brushes with actual minimalism leave me thirsty for more.
I toured for nine months to support my last record. One suitcase, one bag; eat, drive, play, sleep, repeat. The Groundhog Day-like repetition became almost a mantra in itself. The daily rhythm provided a fertile back beat where my thoughts could freely flow. I remember one of my first days back from tour just sitting in my house and hating everything in it. My possessions felt oppressive. Heavy. Suffocating.
So I left. I took up ultralight backpacking and spent two weeks on the Superior Hiking Trail. I was surprised by how much I didn’t have to think about on the trail. No stuff around the house to fix up, no emails demanding attention, no collection of objects to maintain. Those two weeks were glorious. I worked out plans for a new record, came up with a concept for a youtube show and wrote a few songs. My brain, free of distractions, leapt into creative action. My cognitive circuits, riddled with cultural and consumerist malware, had been given a fresh reboot.
With my physical space streamlined I started to think about clutter in my digital world. Does the time I spend online spark joy? I can still browse Twitter and be happy. Reddit too. Instagram’s alright with me. But Facebook? Not so much.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint when Facebook jumped the shark. Maybe it was when they went public. Maybe it was when they made it so only 3-7% of people could see my posts. Maybe it was when they started asking me for money to “boost” my content. Maybe it was when they fired the trending news team and replaced them with algorithms. Maybe it was during the election when my feed turned into the National Enquirer. Maybe it was when my mom joined.
Or maybe it’s just me? Maybe I don’t like having my personal life monetized. Maybe I don’t want my data shared with advertisers. Maybe I don’t like that it makes me think the worst of my family. Maybe I don’t want to constantly debunk fake news stories. Maybe I don’t enjoy ideological shouting matches that convince nobody. Maybe I’m just tired of maintaining a digital persona that exists to make other people think I’m cool. Maybe I don’t need the affirmation anymore.
It’s complicated for sure, but it certainly doesn’t spark joy. When I finally deactivated my account I felt a sense of relief. It’s only been a week, but I don’t miss it so far. It might be a long journey to complete digital bliss, but I feel like I’m on the path.