Editing: the 21st century life skill

Sometimes you just want to throw everything out. It's probably a good idea. (Mostly.)

(As a guy who has the word "editor" beneath his name on his business cards, the headline to this post delights me to no end. But I digress.)

Spring is in the air, it's pushing 80 degrees Fahrenheit here at SmartPlanet HQ and my only desire -- aside from closing the laptop lid at five o'clock and high-tailing it to the latest place I can get an ice-cold beverage -- is to throw everything I own out.

The impulse happens infrequently, but with surprising regularity. (What is it about us Americans that makes us buy so much stuff? Is there a biological, survival-derived reason we can't bring ourselves to rid of things we don't use? Why don't we have an equally strong desire to purge? And don't even get me started on A&E's Hoarders.) As an urban dweller who rents and does not own, it's in my best interest to keep the load light. And yet each time I move, there are untold number of boxes full of stuff I haven't touched in years.

When spring comes around, and my windows are opened to let the warming breeze in as I edit SmartPlanet stories, there's some sort of trigger deep in my brain that says, "Get rid of it. Get rid of it all."

(The stuff. Not the stories.)

A TED 2011 presentation I stumbled upon this morning, by way of personal finance site The Billfold (given my recent attitude, they had me at "militant minimalism"), really hit the point home: all that stuff is holding me down.

It's not just a matter of money. It's a matter of productivity. It's a matter of efficiency.

"We've got to clear the arteries of our lives," Graham Hill proclaimed from the stage, as he displayed statistics showing that Americans have more stuff than ever, despite three times as much space as the previous generation. (Hello, personal storage industry! Hello, credit card companies!)

Hill -- kite surfer, part-time vegetarian, sustainable designer and founder of eco website Treehugger -- has a point. I'm a bespectacled New York editor, not a trail-conquering Colorado outdoorsman, but I get it. And there's something about the record levels of pollen in my lungs that has me focused on clearing out my blood vessels, so to speak.

His three tips:

  1. Edit ruthlessly. "We need to think before we buy."
  2. Think small. "We want things that are designed for how they're used the vast majority of the time, not that rare event."
  3. Make multifunctional. "We want multifunctional spaces and housewares."

"Consider the benefits of an edited life," he urges. Freedom, time, money, happiness: less is more.

Here at SmartPlanet, we write about people, companies and places across the globe striving for advancement, often though the lens of efficiency -- in the name of profits, productivity and simple logic. Sometimes it requires technology; sometimes it only requires attention. But it always makes good sense.

It's not a bad frame of mind to approach one's life. Even if that means I have to give away that extra SmartPlanet sweatshirt.

Photo: davidd/Flickr

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com