I wrote about digital hoarding back in 2018 when I took stock of all my digital content and then again in October when I spoke to the following idea: just because I wrote something didn’t mean I had to keep it forever. Part of the reason for admitting my mistake and moving back to the comfort and simplicity of Blot had to do with those artifacts from my online history with which I did not want to part.
Being intentional about what I keep does not immediately equate to being brash with the removal of clutter, it means thoroughly thinking things through no matter what stage of the process you are in. So too with physical clutter. The solution that so many are enamored with right now is the phenomenon of decluttering, of strict removal of the items that create chaos in daily life, but if you don’t also grapple with the problem of why these things have gathered and become clutter in the first place, you are bound to repeat yourself or live a life in a constant tennis match between crazed decluttering and the guilt spiral.
I will admit that I have been struck by and addicted to the bug of decluttering, so much so that it got in the way of living the life I wanted to gain by ridding myself of excess in the first place. The above link stated, “The problem isn’t a shortage of decluttering tips— the problem is the attachment to stuff.” That hit me in particular because I have read books about minimizing, including books by The Minimalists, that have steps to follow to declutter. Perhaps decluttering tips are helpful to get you started down a path, but in the end, it is up to you to internalize what makes something worth keeping, what makes it an artifact from the past that may still define or translate well to your present.
In the modern versions of Engineered Eloquence, I have used a rook or castle for the site icon and logo, instead of an image of myself. This, too, is an artifact of the past, albeit a highly visible one with a marketing purpose. It is also an artifact that I have never thought needed an explicit explanation, but given its visible nature and my own penchant for keeping it around, I thought it best to finally put my thoughts down, along with the reason I have downgraded its prevalence in this most recent iteration of the site, but not getting rid of it entirely.
Engineered Eloquence was born out of my desire to make a more concerted effort to document my thoughts and life. In 2009, I started using Tumblr as a blogging platform and all of that content continues to exist here, although hidden to some extent. I chose the name due to the engineering-minded deep thinking I hoped to do in the content. An eloquently engineered site with content to match with iconography to match that idea.
Note that I don’t really play chess, but back when I chose it, I was looking to create a metaphor for eloquence, engineering, and design in a structure that I found beautiful personally. So a Rook, yes; a turret, perhaps; key, though, a place on a castle with a strong design that could see over the forest, see past the chaos for a more holistic perspective. Eloquent engineering in a form that I admired and one that would be dead simple to create myself and universal enough for others to recognize.
I feel like I hit the nail on the head and have never changed my mind on that. The icon continues to express what I wanted it to way back in 2009, it continues to hold value and meaning in my present, just as much as it did in my past. In the most recent version of the site (the one that I created on GitHub), the header was bold, expressive, but it was also hard to recreate as text to simplify the site structure and site size (images are among the only assets on my site that might slow down performance); and it overpowered the content to some extent. I thought it was time to rethink the notion that this particular artifact needed to stay in so prominent a position. Nevertheless, I keep it around—now in the footer—and continue to use it as the icons for the site’s backend.
In reality, this is a thought process for each item in a declutter and getting to the bottom of needless attachments. The problem isn’t the stuff, it is our connection to it, our dependence on it, and our inability to disconnect from it in both the short and long term trajectories of our lives. Having a big house isn’t a problem if you take value in it, it is a problem if you buy it to fill it with things of little value to you. There are many artifacts from the past that I have moved virtually and physically to new locations out of an undue sense of obligation.
As I approach unpacking that sense of obligation, I find that I most often land in the the Practical archetype, one of the four such archetypes noted in the phenomenal decluttering book, New Minimalism: Connected, Practical, Energetic, or Frugal. I won’t go into each one, but they are relatively self-explanatory. (Oprah has the basic rundown if you want more information or go check out the book.)
I have been able to detach and declutter much of my personal items (though that doesn’t equate to a decluttered household), getting down to a single box of goods that I have difficulty parting with, which is the reason I speak to my digital life so often as that in need of attention. Our digital lives continue to take up more and more of our mindshare, including bookmarks, photos, files (across multiple cloud storage providers and physical media), email messages, digital books, online accounts, apps, and even the devices that hold all of the above. But in the long run, the sense of obligation to our things is personal, the reason behind it is personal, and the final decisions about what still holds value is personal; prescriptive approaches that claim solutions are never going to be able to address that.
Posted: December 10, 2020
In 2022, I am participating in two leadership training programs. This should be a social experience, so I am writing about it. Check out the full list of posts in the series here.