Do you enjoy going to art museums? I do. I studied some art in college including a semester in London where every other class was spent at the Tate Modern.
(How lucky was I?)
Recently I realized something, though. I can use what I’ve learned about analyzing art to live a simpler life.
Let me explain…
When we go to a museum we are spending time admiring artwork in the moment. Owning a priceless piece of artwork is not within our reach so we enjoy it without owning it. We can feel how it makes us feel and appreciate the beauty of the artwork without wanting to take it home.
Why couldn’t we do that in other places?
Retail stores are designed to make us want to buy stuff (obviously or they wouldn’t last long).
When we see something we like in a store, along with the price tag there is a promise that by buying this item we will be able to recreate that same initial enjoyment every time we see it, wear it or use it, and conversely, without buying the item we will be without that joy. The truth is that most things that are bought on impulse turn into clutter.
As I’m writing this I can see a pencil (like these ones) that I bought many years ago just because it looked “cool”. Have I ever actually used it? Maybe once or twice—probably out of obligation. This pencil hasn’t provided me any joy over the years that I’ve owned it (maybe it’s time to get rid of the thing?), yet I bought it for that very reason.
So instead of adding to my life or creating joy, it is simply clutter, taking up space in my pencil holder.
If this pencil were beautiful and I enjoyed looking at it everyday then I would consider it a good purchase even though it’s not functional, but I don’t think it’s particularly interesting or beautiful anymore.
If I had treated this pencil like I do a painting in a museum I could have walked away without buying it yet I would have still enjoyed it’s beauty.
Thinking about items as pieces of art to be admired turns out to be a great way to avoid impulse purchases that just turn to clutter. By focusing on admiring an item we can stop focusing on whether or not to buy it. We can learn to enjoy things without owning them!
When I see something I like, I ask myself these questions:
What is my initial reaction to it?
What do I like or dislike about it (color, shape, etc)?
How does it make me feel?
How did the artist (fashion designer, pencil maker, etc.) use color, lines, and texture in interesting ways?
Instead of this question:
Should I buy it?
In what ways have you learned to enjoy things without owning them?