Simplify, Prioritize, Thrive 1


Don’t laugh at me, but I’ve read a book about cleaning.

The book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, was a somewhat life-changing experience for me, to be honest. Though now that my girlfriend’s parents have sold their house and offloaded a bunch of their furniture onto us in our tiny little box of a house, I’m pretty close to reading it again. Maybe even out loud this time.

One of the core principles of the book is getting over the fact that you don’t need all the crap you’re hoarding in your house. That dress you bought because it was on sale even though you had no idea when you would wear it but decided “something will come up,” for instance.

All of us have a bunch of extraneous crap lying around the house. Those things that we think we’ll eventually use one day, or that we think we’ll regret throwing out because what if we need them? What if I get an itch to paint my masterpiece with those acrylic paints I have stored in a shoebox in the back of my closet?

Or you could look at my Steam games list, if I weren’t too embarrassed to share it with you. There are a ton of games I bought in sales that I’ve played for less than an hour or never at all, simply because I saw they were on sale and I thought I would play them someday.

If I could refund them or sell them I would.

The same thing can go for games, books, office supplies, you name it. You’re probably not innocent of this, either. Everyone has a whole bunch of things that are just taking up space and imparting no value upon your life. Kondo’s advice is to go through your belongings, hold each of them in your hands, and ask yourself if it still “sparks joy.” If not, you don’t need it. Toss it or sell it.

I applied the lessons I took from this book immediately after reading it. However I am still a book hoarder and only get rid of books that give me bad memories. I even keep some bad books around just because, as a writer, they are reminders of what not to do.

But I still love the idea in principle, the idea of simplicity. I’ve brought up a quote from my dad before: “The more things you own, the more things own you.” And that’s exactly it. If we get rid of the things that just bog us down, that get in our way, that trip us up (literally or figuratively), then we gain a certain kind of freedom that wasn’t available to us before.

For me, this applies in other ways, too.

I’m a hobbyist. If I got procrastination from my mom, then I inherited my tendency to take on too many hobbies from my dad. In fact, these two traits combined make it even worse for me.

I write, read, and play video games, for a start. Those things on their own are fine. But I also harbor a deep desire to learn how to draw and code. I’m even still entertaining the idea of learning how to develop games in Roblox. I used to make miniature guitars out of balsa wood and sell them on etsy and, for a while, I got into the kick of making Pokemon figures out of clay. Even built a couple of characters to use as figures in Dungeons & Dragons.

Now I blog.

And that’s not even counting all the real things I have to do like go to work, cook, clean, and do yardwork.

So, sometimes, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, the best thing for me to do is step back and think critically about what I can eliminate. Which activities are getting me nowhere, which ones no longer “spark joy” and not just because I’m depressed?

Which brings me back to writing, reading, and playing video games. These three are basically staples, though I need to remember to limit the video games when school is in session. Occasionally I get a burning desire to draw, especially if it’s to do with a scene from a manuscript or a potential book cover idea, but otherwise most of these hobbies are extraneous.

It’s never enough to stop there, though. I have to write down my priorities, in order. School is always at the top, then my responsibilities at home. Work is one that can’t really be fit anywhere because, as long as you work a job with a schedule made by someone else, then you just show up when they tell you to. Then I have to figure out where to put writing, reading, video games, my relationship, drawing, learning to code, hiding my secret identity, blogging, website maintenance, and so on.

And sometimes, I have to hold one of these hobbies in my hand, ask myself how I really feel about it, and let it go.

How about you? Have you ever had to deal with the strain of balancing an overabundance of life’s temptations? How have you dealt with them? Impart your wisdom below.


About David Shank

David T. Shank is a writer, runner, and musician, in that order. His blog is hopefully an oasis among the vast ocean of negativity that is the Internet. He lives in Cleveland studying how to write good.


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One thought on “Simplify, Prioritize, Thrive

  • A.S. Akkalon

    I’m not sure I have any wisdom to impart, but this post resonated with me. I have too much stuff that doesn’t bring me joy, some of which I hold on to out of obligation, some of which I just haven’t got around to getting rid of. It does drag on your mind. I could go through it and get rid of a lot… but I’d rather be editing.