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Blog // Travel
July 17, 2009

Touch Everything

Hong Kong is my first experience of living in an apartment. Sure, I’ve done my fair share of serviced apartments on holidays and some longish stints in hotel rooms, but never before have I lived in an apartment – and to be blunt, although we do well, most Hong Kong apartments are small. As I […]

Hong Kong is my first experience of living in an apartment. Sure, I’ve done my fair share of serviced apartments on holidays and some longish stints in hotel rooms, but never before have I lived in an apartment – and to be blunt, although we do well, most Hong Kong apartments are small.

As I write this, I’m in my home studio, which is only marginally bigger than the storeroom I had in the studio in India. It’s a little less than half as big as the loft conversion study I had in London, but with much less space. All the music equipment I use and books I reference on a week to week basis are housed in a built-in cupboard smaller than one of the four identical huge cupboards I had in the studio in India. The dramatic lack of space is reflected across our whole home, from the tiny kitchen, to the drastically reduced wardrobe.

Living like this has taught me a lot about clutter and the dangers of rampant consumerism. I have to count the physical cost of everything I buy. As someone with a fairly low tolerance for messiness and a fairly refined tendency to laziness and procrastination, it’s a dangerous situation. More times than I care to mention I’ve blown my cool trying to figure out how to keep things clean and organised.

I’ve also learnt an uncomfortable truth; there’s only one way to keep on top of all of my stuff – touch everything!

Mess, clutter, dust and confusion build when things are left untouched. That’s kind of obvious. The only solution I see is to go through everything, every so often. By everything, I mean, everything in my home!

It’s a sobering thing to do a real stock-take of one’s home. Time and again I’ve found myself asking, if there is a thing I haven’t touched for over a year (be it a CD, item of clothing, book, tool, kitchen utensil, whatever), then what is it’s function in my life? Why hold onto it? Of course, some things only exist to take a space in our life, to function as mementoes and memorabilia. But, it only makes sense to keep those if they will be touched, or at least looked at and cherished.

Everything we own carries with it an unfulfilled obligation. That’s not always a bad thing – such obligations can give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning and can fuel our waking days. But, too many obligations can burn us out. Ever felt like you can’t bear looking in a cupboard, or box, or even a room? That’s the weight of those obligations bearing down on you. That’s your mind making reality unbearable.

Touching things makes them more real to me and forces me to acknowledge their physicality, their role in my space. I first implemented this in the kitchen, which was a constant source of frustration. It soon becomes much easier to manage w working space like that when you dispense with the things you don’t regularly use. I’ve done the same with my clothes and am enjoying living with the smallest wardrobe I’ve ever had and having to make smart purchases along the way, I’m currently doing the same with the studio, which is a tough job, since I keep making excuses for prized bits of kit I seldom use.

I know this sounds incomplete, but I’m a work in progress on this issue. I still have too much stuff and too large a propensity to make unneeded purchases. But, I do feel like I’m learning and growing – or, should that be, observing and shrinking?

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