Is less more?

Written November 25th 2017

#600words Is less more?

In a recent edition of the New Philosopher Nigel Warburton writes about the Question:  Is less more? I picked it up while having a cuppa in the library at school.  

I

Lack of clutter, clean lines of glass, white walls, empty kitchen benches, tidy if not empty desks and running shoes lined up in cupboards may point to simplicity in your physical environment. Shopping on the fringe aisles of the supermarket buying fresh food and only ducking in the aisles for toiletries, purchasing the basic running gear for training with perhaps one pair of good quality shoes and getting your thoughts organised into 600 words suggest a lifestyle of simplicity.  

By implication in the minimalist movement  having less of things requires less clutter.  Marie Kondo suggests only keep the things which spark joy.  This is something I have not mastered at all – there are too many things that bring me joy.  The books I have purchased and received from my father, the medals and t shirts from all the running races and everything I have written, teaching resources and publications.

I have plan for a way through the clutter. As race t-shirts get old or I get bigger my goal is cut them up only keeping the logos, slowly I am starting to scan all my writings, race certificates, however, the best I can do about the books is to think about what I can cull.  

II

Simplicity does not necessary require order and tidiness. Warburton states: ‘I’m not convinced the the ideal intellectual workspace is an empty cell.” I remember seeing a well known picture of Einstein’s desk cluttered with papers, reports and documents.  I can identify with this. I work well with people around me, with resources close by and the TV on in the background – when work does not require deep thinking.  

A realisation occurred to me while reading the article; when I am across what I need to do an untidy work space is not an issue because I know where everything is.  When I have to do something that requires deeper thought, is technically challenging and has tight deadline, I de-clutter to minimise the distractions.

So I guess it is not a question of an all or nothing approach, rather I prefer to think in terms of a middle way.  A life of clutter and de-cluttering based on the circumstances can benficial. 

III

Simplicity in thought is not simplistic thought. I find immense value and intellectual rigor from a cycle of cluttering and de-cluttering my mind. I like a cluttered mind exposed to a range of information which keeps me up-to-date and informed. By itself this is not enough. To get clarity of thought, however, I rely on simplicity to de-clutter the mind getting back to first principles. 

For example, when I prepared for a recent long run from Pennant Hills to Richmond I cluttered my mind with as much information as possible.  I needed to know about distance, pace, gradient, whether the roads had footpaths, spots for toilet breaks and refreshments, knowledge of where I had to go and how much food and drink to carry.

In the few days before the run all I needed to do was to break the run down into chunks, in my case 6 kms at a time and running the flats and downhills and delay walking the uphill for as long as possible.  This is only possible when the mind is de-cluttered and there is a simplicity of purpose. 

Maybe more  can be less.  Less is more in terms of possessions and life style.  A bit of clutter is needed in terms  intellectual pursuits – build a base then simplify.  

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