digital woodsman
natural simplicity in the digital age

Hi, I'm Hans! Find me at or as @pikkabird on Twitter.

Exploding errors, or how to find peace

I wonder if decluttering, getting rid of things, is a symptom of anxiousness. When I feel uneasy about the state of the world and want to do something, I often want to clean out stuff first. Not just clean the house, but get rid of stuff. At the same time I often want to improve or replace my things with a better version, so I'm not immune to the search for happiness through novelty. Somewhere in the clearing and improving I hope to find contentment and peace, and space to do the things I wish to find out that I want to do. However, since my urge to clear out comes from a lack of peace, I'm not doing anything about the root cause when I'm just rearranging my stuff. Somehow though, I see myself anticipating a more peaceful future when I replace things, a car for example, with a newer more easily maintained item. Another thing is a feeling of wanting to finish things. Also to get rid of the burden of invisible things to do, silent to do lists.

I'm often on the lookout for the "right" thing, making the "right" choices. Whether it's about purchasing something new, or beginning a new project of some kind, I spend a lot of energy in finding out what the best choice or the best way is. I read up on things online, buying books on a certain topic, finding presentations online or downloading podcasts that expand my knowledge in the area.

It seems that I always want to be on top of things, not standing unprepared or uninformed. It's almost as I want to become "one-up on the universe" as Alan Watts put it.

All this points to one thing: Discontentment with the present moment. When I hope for change in the future, it is at the price of losing the zen of the now. We cannot save the one tree in the forest in ten years, we have to protect it today, in the now.

So, why is it then so hard to say goodbye to things? I believe it might have to do with a fear of losing your sense of value to the world. The things we hang on to reaffirm our value as they are an anchor to a place in time when we were seen and appreciated. Without the things we get naked and vulnerable. Why is it bad to keep the things then? I feel that we get lost in endless silent to-do-lists. We don't have to be strict minimalists that live in a sterile one room apartment with digital screens as our only decor, but to have our amount of belongings under control. We ought to be able to remember all things we have.

But... Another thought is that we like our surroundings to have detail, clutter in a sense, since nature is full of detail, and we have our roots on the noncontrolled nature. We enjoy surprises when we turn around a bend in the path. The same is true of opening a drawer or a closet. We don't want to be able to predict and know exactly what and where everything is. Therefore I believe that after decluttering and simplifying, we have to replace the pattern-rich environment with actual noncontrolled nature. Preferably live in the woods, but at least be in the woods every day, walking through the trees, picking edibles or materials. Inside if we live in the city we should decorate with natural patterns and materials. Make flat surfaces alive with patterns; wooden floors and wallpapers with natural motifs.

Try to live without silent to do lists, it is better with a loud and short to do list, as in exploding errors รก la Joe Armstrong :)