March 28 – Simplicity

by Martha Slavin

Simplicity. Just the word itself sends me on a mental quest. What a wonderful idea, something that most of us crave in our lives. Do you have a favorite way to make your life simpler?

I have a friend who is a wiz at decluttering her house. She has removed objects that no longer matter to her. Walking into her house feels like taking a breath of fresh air. Her art adorns the walls, and the furniture is arranged so that you want to sit, relax and have a long chat. The best part is opening the door to the back yard into a lovely garden with a 180-degree view of bay waters, hills, and Mt. Diablo in the distance.

I haven’t learned the art of decluttering. I tried the trendy method of holding an object to see if I have still had any connection to it. No luck for me. Not only do I have a response to almost everything, but the object becomes a new distraction as I sit down and look through its pages or rub the sides of the teapot to bring back fond memories or wander through the stacks of art materials in my workroom. I can always find something interesting that keeps me attached to that object.

I’ve realized that being organized matters to me. When everything gets stacked up and my space to work becomes too limited, I can’t produce as well as I can if the room is more open. I spend a day organizing, and I come away with a sense of accomplishment. I know I have more mental space to pursue my creative projects.

I spent a week one summer at Scripps Camp, a retreat for alumnae from Scripps College. We stayed in the simply furnished dorm rooms with just a bed, desk and chair. To my surprise, I accomplished a lot, even forfeiting opportunities to take workshops and to attend get togethers with other alums because the room opened my senses to the quietness and stillness of the world around me. I wasn’t thinking of a million different things like I do at home. I had time to listen to the silence.

I still struggle with how to carve out that kind of space in my daily life. Going to our local coffee-house, sitting outside at a table, and sketching the people at other tables gives me a little of that freedom. Walking on the Iron Horse Trail opens my eyes to the natural beauty around me. Occasionally working somewhere else in the house instead of my workroom offers me a new perspective.

What do you do to live a more simple, more fruitful life?

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at She also writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California.


4 responses to “March 28 – Simplicity

  1. Since retirement I only have kept items that still have meaning for me. Very intentionally limiting what I choose now to keep. I remain motivated to not collect after a visit with a friend who has every surface in her house covered with stuff!

  2. I am with you on your simplicity journey. I did learn this summer that being on a cruise without WiFi and chores gave me the most unbelievable sense of self, of time, of what it means to enjoy the space around you. Keep in mind those cabins are tiny, and yet I felt refreshed even sitting in our cabin.

  3. Lovely post Martha. Nice beginning as I love the word “simplicity” Have been playing with the word in my mind / heart for several years. My life is generally simple and uncomplicated and I really like it that way. Was damn hard work to achieve. It helps to be present and to be surrounded by things that you love (ie antiques, candles, books). I have a small apartment in a very urban setting yet have created a “country cabin” where I can retreat into solitude with so much chaos around me on the city streets. I did this with an internal renovation and a reorganization of the plantings on my balcony. When I enter my apartment all I see is a blaze of greenery and that soothes me even with the sound of the monorail closeby.

  4. Great! I could use a bit of simplicity in my life.

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