Here’s a link to an interview with Jess Lee, the CEO of Polyvore on keeping it simple in a corporate culture. Her advice is to make lists of what you are doing, weed out those which are not important and focusing on what is, in a more focused way. Sounds simple, right? Actually, getting to simplicity is not that hard to read or talk about. Think about things. Prioritize. Focus. Weed out.
But it’s not so easy to carry out in action, though. What I have found in my journey to simplify is that it’s usually easy to start out and hard to maintain as a lifestyle. Being human, we go up and down about buying and accumulating things, a pattern that humorously seems to maintain a stubborn stasis of how much stuff we have. It’s hard not to be tempted by a nice necklace in a shop when you already have a few that you don’t wear that often in the drawer. It’s hard not to want a pair of boots for the winter season when you already have two perfectly good pairs that you like and wear. It’s hard not to think about gifts and surprises for friends and family when everyone already has all that they might need and more.
Still, the idea of simplifying is still so tempting, a siren’s call to pare down, slow down, reflect in silence. Dress more simply. Take jewelry off rather than putting it on. Looking for gifts that are simple but still wonderful. Last year, I made small mince pies to give out during the holidays. Eaten with a little cheddar cheese or ice cream, they were welcome presents not easily found in stores. This year, although G. has reminded me I still have jars of unopened mincemeat, I saw a recipe in the latest issue of Bon Appetit for savory shortbread made with caraway and fresh rosemary. Sliced in long strips, they will look great in cellophane bags with white dots that I used for the mince pies last year, tied with a ribbon and a sprig of fresh juniper from the yard. Maybe I’ll make both and offer up some of each. Providing “simple” gifts still takes work and care, doesn’t it?
We are planning a family holiday in a rental on the Cape after Christmas and are inviting a host of friends, their children and parents to a “dumpling fest” on the Saturday that we’ll be there. These are friends my daughters have known and played with since kindergarten. Now, their children will have a chance to meet each other, take walks out on the private beach and then come back to the house to eat piles of hot asian dumplings with different dipping sauces. Two kinds of soup: a clear soup with winter melon and a miso soup will simmer on the stove. This may not sound simple to you, but we are doing one thing that makes the whole thing do-able: and that is rather than making Chinese dumplings from scratch, we are going to heat up frozen dumplings (Korean ones with pork and chives; Trader Joe’s Thai shrimp dumplings and vegetable dumplings; pork bao etc.) There was a day in the past when I would have made everything myself from start to finish. But having tasted the Kimbo brand pork and vegetable dumplings, I’m satisfied that they’ll do nicely–even the wrappers are kind of glumpy like the ones that are home-made. I do confess that I’ve still had flashes of thinking I might make some up in advance anyway and freeze them. Probably not though.
So, little by little, simplicity enters our lives. Or, to put it another way, a not-so-complicated-as-usual mode might be a first step. I’ve also noticed that the fashion of the day is ultra simple clothing with very little other adornment. You can actually see the person underneath without all the flashy stuff.
Still, human nature is by definition often changeable and fickle. Besides, the holiday season is upon us with a late Thanksgiving and a few more weeks until Christmas and other holidays that are celebrated. Maybe the simplest thing of all might be just not to struggle so much with anything: being simple, not so simple or whether to make or buy. Just do what feels right and let it go.