Pretty much anything you are getting ready for — painting a room, having a party, going out for the evening, planting a garden, cooking supper — has a preliminary stage that involves less not more.
If you're painting a room, you clear out all the bits and pieces and wipe down the walls. If you're going out for the evening you take off your clothes and have a bath or shower. If you're planting a garden you clear a space and remove the weeds. If you're cooking supper, you clear the table-top, if you're having a party you take out the dead flowers and sweep the room and clean out all the ashes from the fireplace where you've been burning packaging for the last month, and set everything straight.
The next stage involves accumulation — paint and ladders and cloths and brushes, fresh flowers and snacks and candles, make-up and tights and perfume and a pretty dress, seeds and plug plants and supports and slug killer and a fork and trowel, food and pans and seasoning and whatnot.
It's like a tsunami, there's that moment when the ocean draws back — and then it comes thundering in and covers the whole land.
And there are plenty of stories of wild animals heading inland as fast as they can in the moment when the sea draws back; because they know, and they get out of the way as quick as they can.
And it occurred to me that the art of simplicity has to do with seizing the moment; a chance of intervention. Weed it, wipe it down, brush out the ashes, throw out the dead flowers, take off your clothes, shower and go — like an elephant running for the hills.
The secret of minimalism is stopping after stage one of getting ready, freeze your life at the moment of intense quiet as the sea draws back, and let the tsunami of everyday living arrest like one of these sneezes that never comes out.
Well . . . that's what I thought, anyway.