I have been on a personal quest for the last three years to become the best possible version of myself that I can be. Over the course of that time, I've learned that in almost every instance it wasn't about more, it was about less. It was about less food, less procrastinating, less drama, less unhealthy relationships, and just generally less bullshit.
There seems to be this thing in us that wants fill the voids in our lives with more. We think we need more people, more stuff, and more money to be happy. We treat ourselves to fancy coffees and new clothes, are obsessed with apps like Tinder that make dating as meaningless as fast food and make random purchases on our way to check out stand thinking that in the moment, that stuff makes us happy.
You've all heard the expression: You can't walk into Target without spending $100 dollars. Why can't we leave Target without dropping a Ben Franklin? Because we see all of this shiny, pretty shit on the way to the register that we think will make us happy. (See this as reinforcement: "Ten Ways Target is Robbing You.")
I had a photo shoot a few weeks ago at someone's private home. It wasn't the client's house, but at a mutual friend of ours, Tommy Keenum. I've known Tommy for years but had not ever been to where he lived. As a photographer, I have been on a lot of beautiful sets, I have been to a lot of amazing homes, I have seen multimillion-dollar estates, but I have never seen any place quite so beautiful and inspiring as this tucked away, hidden gem right in the middle of my own neighborhood.
It wasn't the size or the grandeur that was so remarkable. It was the thought and consideration that he had put into it that took my breath away. It wasn't the cost or brand of the furnishings that was impressive. It was the attention to every minute detail that he had cultivated that left me awestruck.
(He used copper on walls and added unusual architectural details in the doorways and ceilings.)
Most of the furnishings were heirlooms or auction finds and many were things that as it turned out, he had made by hand. Things he had designed or created from found objects. The one common denominator was that all of them were things that he loved.
(This bedside lamp / table he made himself from things he found and I loved the use of old mirrors in the hallway.)
(Hindu carvings on the banisters give the staircase new interest and he designed an outdoor fireplace himself and enlisted a friend to build it for him.)
I tossed and turned all night that night knowing what I had to do.
The next day I hauled all of my old shitty living room furniture, except for the one chair that I truly love, to the dump. I enlisted a wonderful artisan, writer and friend to build me a desk by hand to work from. I made a deal with a friend to help me go room by room and throw, sell or give away everything that I didn't need, love or had made myself. I wanted to start over with a completely clean slate so that I can cultivate that kind of space to live, love and create in.
Over the course of two weeks, we've been through every single drawer, closet, and forbidden hiding place. We dug out everything from under the beds, opened and went through every stored box, bin and tucked away bag. We literally left no stone unturned. It's been a filthy, emotional and hilarious process. One day, among the shit we found were 37 tiny bottles of dirt that I had collected and a pair of Possum fur nipple warmers.
What the literal fuck? This is the shit that is taking up space in my home and life?
Nope. Not anymore. I got rid of the cheap Target bookshelves and Ikea side tables. I gave away stacks of books, frames, crappy lamps, clocks, kitchen utensils, piles of clothes and all kinds of shit that no longer serves me.
I threw out old flowers from funerals, old gifts and mementos from relationships that have long since run their course. I let go of things that I have held on to for far too long. I kept a small box of things that I will pack away to keep. But I literally touched every single item under this roof and asked the question, "Do you need it, love it or did you make it?" and if the answer was "no," no matter how hard it was, it went.
Maybe I'll take up a new hobby by visiting auctions or flea markets. I don't know. I'll get furniture at some point, but it will be pieces I love or that mean something to me. And I don't mind the space one bit in the meantime. It gives me room to breathe.
To say that it has been cathartic is an understatement. To say that it feels good is a gross misrepresentation. Not only is everything clean and organized; I no longer cringe when I open the closet in the laundry room, I no longer shiver when I think about the top of the refrigerator and what might live up there. It is also very much a physical manifestation of what I want for every aspect of my life.
I want to surround myself with the things and people I really love and need. I would rather have nothing than have a bunch of shit around me that is falling apart, reminds me of the past or serves no purpose other than to take up space, needs constant attention or dusting, or simply feeds my ego in the moment.
I want to give everything in my life, relationships and work the same respect and attention to detail that Tommy put into building his home. And in order to do that, I have to strip away everything that doesn't add to my life, art, work or well-being.
My home is now a reflection of what I want my world to be. Filled with only things I need, love or made. It feels fresh, clean and healthy. It feels like a solid foundation to build on and Jesus H. Christ on a Popsicle stick that feels good!
Go ahead, you know you want to. Look over there at that bookshelf that you secretly hate. Pull out the two things from it you really love and throw the rest of that shit away.
Epiblog: A place for paying it forward and supporting artists, entrepreneurs and people who inspire me. I hope you find some inspiration here too.
This week's epiblog goes out to Aaron Lee Tasjan.
(Photo Credit: Stacie Huckeba)
As I clear things out that no longer serve me I find that I have more space to add things that do. And just like with my home, it applies to my life. Aaron Lee is a new friend that I am making some space for these days. He is smart, funny and works his tail off. He is also a brilliant songwriter and some kind of Voodoo master on the guitar. He's one of the good ones. Clear some space off your own music shelf to make room for his records then treat yourself for doing it by going to see his shows -- aaronleetasjan.com