Leo Babauta has just posed a great question on his Zen Habits blog:
If [your life] were an empty container, with limited space, what would you put in it?
This was timely, as I’ve been pondering recently on this concept of time, space, energy all being limited, and the necessity of accepting that. It started when I finally ran out of space for more new books, and when I noticed that when I emptied the dishwasher several mugs were always left standing on the worktop because the designated spaces were full. There comes a point where choices have to be made: I need to donate some of my fine collection of mugs, even though I like all of them: it’s too inconvenient having the workspace cluttered by them. And just how many unread books is it realistic to have?! Unless I want to cull them, it’s time to have a firm rule that no more are bought unless I’m going to read them immediately.
That made me think more generally about this principle: is it wise to try to do more than I have time and energy for – whether that be social engagements, food, favourite blogs, trips away, craft activities, housework or regular commitments? This question has been around for a while, as I seek a simpler life. My progress has been very limited, and I think this is at the heart of it: the tendency to think that just one more mug/book/commitment/website/interest won’t make much difference, until I begin to feel overwhelmed again, panic and either go for distraction from the mess or try to go to opposite extremes.
Leo describes the tendency of life to become more complicated and suggests standing back and asking the question at the beginning of this post. Obviously the answer is going to be different for each of us. I might consider which of the things I’ve listed I would want to put in my box – what do I want to be the basic pattern of my day/week/month? Of all I do or could do, what is most important to me?
I find this image of the empty box, with the boundaries that limit its contents (such as time, energy, space, money, necessary tasks), a good starting point, inviting me to visualise picking up the aspects of my life that matter most and deliberately place them in the box and, conversely, also deciding what has to be laid aside and not put in the box. A good assessment tool to revisit from time to time.