I love the romantic image of being free spirited, liberated and in wild flow, where beauty arises from chaos and ground breaking art rests on the borderline of sanity and dysfunction. However recognising whether the work produced has quality requires the discerning eye of a great artist, you have to care about quality. You have to curate, which comes from the Latin word cura that itself means care, and so when we are curating we are caring, which is what a serious artist must do with their own work, they have to care about it. It is also what we trust critics to do on our behalf, they care about quality and help us to discover the very best in any particular area of interest we might possess. It is how the artists take leadership and responsibility for presenting themselves to us in public, they do not try to wear every single item of their clothing every time they meet you, they will show you one exhibition at the time, each one with their own themes and character, they show you what is important to them at that time and each show represents a development from the last, they show you their progress and where they happen to be at that time, and they do so with careful curating.
And how do they know what is important to share with their audience, they have to take leadership in how they present themselves the world, they do that by knowing themselves, their area of expertise and are able to look at their own work with fresh eyes. They select from the work they have done since their last show, they organise their work around a common theme that emerges with time and they care for their work, they frame them, they decided the order they want you to see their working on the walls and they recognise the relationship between each one of them. They engage in an act of self-knowledge and awareness, they empathise with their audience and put themselves in the position of seeing their work for the first time, they curate the whole of the experience.
Whilst most of us do not have galleries to curate, we do all have lives that give us every opportunity to practice the same skills, even if we are the only audience member that we want to please. We do not have to look far for a place that need curating, most homes are not presented like museums and we do not want them to become one, however they should at least be sources of joy, limitless amounts of stuff does not necessarily make you happier. A simple thought experiment is to just imagine if everything you took into your home never left it, forgetting about basic cleanliness, hygiene and whether you have a sense of smell, just the sheer amount of clutter from never taking out the rubbish would overflow through the whole house within a matter of months.
Just the thought of it is probably enough to disgust you, however just because it happens slower, it does not mean it is not exactly the same thing is happening to your home. If you never get rid of anything you have brought, if you kept every book, newspaper, piece of clothing, shoes, Christmas card or letter, every piece of technology, and yet that is what most of us try to do, we try to keep anything that triggers an emotional memory, everything that makes us feel anything, even if that feeling passed long ago. We are like artists who paints five hundred paintings every year and refuses to discriminate or give an opinion as to which one they prefer, and insists you look at every single one of them and love them equally or you can look at none of them.
That is the price you pay for not discriminating and organising what is in your life, you can end up overwhelmed and unable to use what you do have or even know it is there. When it comes to curating what is in your life, there is no single external guide that can decide what you should keep or pass on to someone else who can love them more. In the art of tidying up, Marie Kondo tells us that she organises her home on the basis of what brings her joy or what is absolutely necessary (it takes a special kind of person to love cleaning supplies), and she engages with what she owns on a regular basis (by act of folding clothes or reading the books that she owns), and everything she owns has its own home within her home.
Whilst I have found her system useful, I would certainly not say it was compulsory, other people might like having large stockpile of entertainment, they make might take pride in large libraries, however considering that our homes are such a large component of most peoples lives. That is we probably spend at least half our lives at home, and many of us spend a fortune on rent or mortgage payments, it seems strange to me not to have any sort of system to deal with a space that has such an expensive price tag. Some people just buy as much property as they can and then fill it with as much stuff as they can, it is not criticism, it is just the default option if you choose to not curate your life in any way, and it is not compulsory to spend any time thinking about how you want to live your life and what you want surrounding you, but not making a choice is always a choice in and of itself. Even if you do not recognise you are making a choice, there is always the default position.
I certainly find that it is a source of joy for me to curate the things that surround me, I want to only have the things that sparked joy in my life and that I find useful to have that simple guide, to only process things that give me utility, and serve me every day in the pursuit of being able to either do the one thing that brings me closer to the purpose of my life or makes my life better. And I do not limit it to mere things, whilst our external life is important, our environment shapes us as much as we shape our environment, and an organised desktop indicate and organised life and mind, and the same is true for the digital desktop. I curate everything in my life including clutter on my laptop, if I had too many applications on there, no work would ever get done. It is always tempting to have a game of solitary, and even Instagram can look more fun than writing a thousand words (if you are wondering how much digital clutter you have, look up the screen time on your phone, if you are on Facebook for an hour a day, at least some of that is clutter).
I consider and curate what brings me joy, how I want to spend my time, if you do not make a home in your life for the people and things that bring you joy in your life, if you do not set aside time slots, your schedule will fill itself with things you do not care about. If you are prepare to make an appointment with your dentist, would it not bring you more joy to make an appointment with your child to play, a friend to have coffee with or a game of tennis, what we make room for, is what we do. I do not just consider this once, it is an ongoing series of decisions. If you decide you want to be a person who walks everyday, you have to give yourself the opportunity to do so, and curate your time accordingly. If you want to experience the joy of a day where you are at your best, where you have the your full energy and resources that are available to you, you have to decide to give yourself the sleeping opportunity of a full nights sleep. You have to make a decision about your own life, what you want in it, what you want to spend your time doing and even who you want to spend that time with.
There are even greater opportunities available to you, the act of curating is not limited to the external world, and indeed by comparison your internal world is infinite, both in respect of what you can curate and the impact that curating can have. We have control over our internal experience of life, there is a huge amount of depth available to us, there is more than just the surface events of our lives and things that happen in them. We can be mindful, self-aware and more conscious, depending upon how we curate our thoughts and what relationship we have with them, we always have the choice in any situation as to how involved and emerged we are in the action, and whether we are reacting or observing and leading. Which is dependant on what we feed our mind, whether we examine our lives and choice to learn about the world and ourselves, that is what growth as a being of consciousness is.
Every conversation, every book you read, pod cast listen to and time spent meditating, is an act of curating,but more than that, as we are ultimately what we do, and what we decide our thoughts are going to be. Whilst we have no control over our first thoughts, we do have full responsibility for our second thoughts, how we react or not, whether we are measure those thoughts against preconceived expectations, whether we decide those thoughts are consistent and in alignment with the person we want to be. We decide how and what we want to feed our mind, we decide what we watch, read, who we talk to and surround ourselves with, we choose what experiences we have by how we spend our time, which can include if we ever get to experience silence or unconditional love (which are available to those who decide to meditate), and most of all we get to decide whether our actions are in alignment with our purpose and character, and whether we are choosing the actions that result in a good life.