We hear a lot about simplicity these days, particularly around the start of a new year but it should probably be an ongoing process of evaluating our lives and the things in it. Everyone wants to simplify their lives, declutter and organize but it’s really an ongoing process of determining what is important to us and how much space we are willing to give to it.
I recently moved to Singapore after spending the past 20 years living in San Francisco. We decided as a family that it was time to be closer to our extended family. Like anyone who prepares for a big move, I sorted through all my belongings, I asked myself which items warranted packing and which items had completed their service to me.
I, finally, let go of all the glass baking dishes that I had been given when I left university but couldn’t justify replacing. I gave away the soup bowls and candlesticks given as wedding gifts but never found a place in my life after I had children. One of the harder items to part with was a beautiful, handmade chess set from Morocco. I still love it, but I don’t love chess, so it also never found a true place in my life.
Simplifying, for me, is rooted in both the psychological as well as our physical world. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion where the first layer is always the hardest but the more layers you peel back, the more you realize what is truly meaningful to you.
It’s easy to ignore the self-examination required in the pursuit of simplicity. It always feels easier, in the moment, to push forward and postpone thoughts of grief over a beloved item that no longer serves you. In a way, you are saying goodbye to the person you wanted to be or thought you were. However, it is this same process that allows us to open up and makes room for us to grow, to embrace the person that we truly are, to assign meaning to new things that reflect who we’ve become.
As I look around at the items, I chose to bring with me, I realize they all tell a story or bring me back to a place in time. They also have functional value - the hand-blown vase given as a wedding gift but also made close to my hometown, the hand-carved, wooden salad spoons purchased from a market in Zimbabwe where I first realized how rich I was as an American, my grandmother’s porcelain china set that I ate from every Easter as I was growing up. These are the things that are meaningful to me and their symbolism in my life makes me the person I am. I see these items almost daily and they have become an extension of who I am.
I have been following the story of EDEN + ELIE for several years but, it took going into the studio and seeing the artisans at work, creating their exquisite, handcrafted jewelry for me to finally make a purchase. I understood how much care and thought was put into each piece of hand-beaded jewelry. I saw how truly beautiful each piece was. I heard the artisans’ stories and learned how much their work meant to them and to their families. Their work with jewelry took on new meaning for me and it made me realize that I, too, wanted to be a part of their story. EDEN + ELIE doesn’t only produce lovely, artisan-beaded jewelry, but they give meaning and purpose to individuals who would not have other opportunities.
Today, as I head off to my appointments, I’m reaching yet again for my new favorite earrings, the EDEN + ELIE Andromeda Studs in Moonstone. They go with everything and don’t get in the way of my busy life more than that, they are uniquely crafted, and people notice them. I love that I can start a conversation with others simply by wearing earrings that are meaningful to me. It brings me such joy to tell people that not only is it elegantly designed, handcrafted jewelry but, it was also made in a socially responsible manner.
As I reflect and write this, it strikes me that simplicity is about removing things that have no value, to allow us to focus on the things that are truly meaningful. It is about giving ourselves the space to think about the things that matter to us, both mentally and physically. By stripping away things that only distract us, we can more fully appreciate the beauty of a child’s smile, the feeling of a job well done or contemplate a beautiful sunset.
Things become precious when we choose to keep them. For me, one of those things was a small collection of quilting fabric collected from my early days of motherhood. It followed me in a box for 9 years, through 5 house moves, carrying hope in its unfinished state. It was the right time for it to finally be given new purpose.