This book is no joke, and it's shedding new light on my art practice.

I've been a borderline hoarder for much of my adult life, at times gathering more stuff than I could possibly store, and it made me deeply unhappy. It got worse when other parts of my life were getting out of control, too--relationships, stress at work, feeling lost--and this just snowballed into more unhappiness as my collections of cameras, table linens, and wooden clogs grew. Stuff seems to function as a temporary buffer between myself and reality--if I'm surrounded by stuff, I don't have to acknowledge that anything is wrong. I made a lot of art about that for a while, arguably my best work, much of which I still find interesting today.

But throwing stuff away, OH BOY DOES IT FEEL GREAT. And it seems so obvious that having less stuff should feel good. I find this very interesting, though--is the tidying up making me happy, or am I happier and thus ABLE to tidy up? Which one causes the other? And how is this going to affect what I do in my art practice...or has it starting affecting it already?

I think it's started already; I'm leaning toward minimalism in the photos I like best, and shying away from busy patterns and bright, harsh colors. Subtleness is beautiful, I've always thought so; I just think maybe, in the past, I was afraid to embrace it. I think it gets boiled down to this, and I've thought about it a lot: when you don't have the best quality thing, you can make a lot of that thing to distract from its imperfection. You can make the flaw seem intentional by supporting it with other flaws of a similar kind. Ten broken vacuums are more interesting than one--the repetition holds some kind of information. Wearing 4 thrift store shirts, one on top of the other like I used to do, is more interesting than wearing just one--none look that good, but together they make something new entirely. My mind has always worked this way, wanting to work with the imperfection that's already there instead of starting over fresh. I think that's why I like sourcing materials that are used, expired, or broken. The stakes are lower when something is already kind of shitty. And I think there's beauty in trash. 

Well, I don't know where this line of thinking will lead me artistically, clearly I still think multitudes are interesting even as I am throwing away 5 full garbage bags of stuff. Perhaps I just have a clearer view of what exactly I find interesting about all this. Maybe it's because I'm not trying to peek out from under a mountain of stuff anymore. Maybe I don't have to actually live a hoarding lifestyle in order to have a lot to say about it. 

In any case, I recommend The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. It's pretty incredible.

Amy LangeComment