what steve jobs’ perfectionism has taught me

Posted on July 17th, 2013

It truly is an oddity. It’s become a talking point among friends. A joke at first.  I can’t buy a couch. And it’s come to hold up a mirror to a few fundamental sadnesses about life.


Cold comfort: It took Steve Jobs 10 years to buy a couch.

Indeed, I’ve never owned a couch. I’ve inherited old ones when I’ve moved into the various rentals I’ve traipsed between over the years. I bought my first apartment late last year. I’ve been sitting in it… on the floor. Actually, on my yoga foam roller on a bit of old carpet a friend passed onto me. I work from this set-up. I meditate here. I eat my meals from the one – yes one – chair I have (I sit on the floor, eat from the chair). I’ve lived like this for seven months. And, yes, I know it’s sad.

I struggled to know what it is that stalls me from buying a couch. Or a dining table. Or chairs. I’ve been trying to find a sustainably made one that ticks off all My Simple Home boxes. My criteria is tight; I’m a painful perfectionist who can’t buy a pair of undies until I know the manufacturing history and carbon mileage of them and determined that they’re the best design on the market such that my rare purchase of a new pair of undies (I own eight pairs currently) is not wasted.

But that’s only part of it. It’s this too: to buy something so… committed (THERE, I SAID IT)…is a big deal. Couches are commitments. Right now, I can pack up and take off with a moment’s notice. In fact, I’m about to next week. I don’t own a fridge either (I bought a place with an inbuilt one). With a couch (and a fridge) you can’t fly. At least it feels that way.

So since it’s a big deal, and reflects more than just seating apparatus,  the potency of my couch-buying decision is magnified. And, of course, the more potent, the more I freeze. I can’t make a decision because it’s come to matter so much.

We stall on decisions when there’s fear. Indecision flags fear for us.

And so it reared it’s head: commitment niggles me. When things niggle me, I bubble-wrap them in perfectionism. No one can accuse me of being scared of commitment when I can just turn around and and say I’m merely being a perfectionist. And so my fear can continue, unchallenged a little longer. I’m seductive like that.

And then I came across the above picture of Steve Jobs in his lounge room. A concerned friend sent it to me.  It could be me. That’s my lounge below.

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My simple home: what I don’t own

Posted on May 16th, 2013

I’m going to take a step or two back. And explain the “simple” in the My Simple Home experiment. I’d like to be clear.

Image by Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch

Image by Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch

You’ll notice the series is not called “My Minimalist Home”. Minimalism is a righteous aesthetic, but not always practical. All those ardent minimalists out there can be painful. And their all-in-one gadgets can cost a bomb. I really enjoyed reading this Slate article on how minimalism isn’t sustainable….and how the original minimalist zealots have backed off on their message to something…simpler. You might like this fresh perspective too.

I don’t call it “My Green Home” either. Sustainable timber and chemical-free options are great. But generally green home features and rants suggest more buying…More Stuff, albeit derived from new-growth shrubbery. It’s consumerism dressed up in hemp clothing.

You’ll also notice I don’t speak of “Decluttering”. Decluttering denotes chucking stuff out, and often perfectly good things that are then replaced by a less cluttery version of the original. And complemented by a visit to The Storage Shop to buy a whole heap of containers and filing solutions. Which is More Stuff.

Instead, I’ve gone the simple slant. Simple is minimalist, green, decluttered, low waste, practical, economical and all the rest of that good stuff rolled into one. Well it should be.

Simple has as its mantra one word: less.

Go to the shops less. Buy less. Consume less. Recycle less (recycling should be a last resort). Less furniture. Less gadgets. Use up what you have first. Improvise. Make do. Use the same thing for two purposes. Need less.

Recently Leo Babauta listed what he didn’t own over on mnmlist. I’ve decided to do the same, as prompted by his Read more

Sunday life: in which Oprah’s declutter dude Peter Walsh visits my apartment

Posted on September 26th, 2010

This week I declutter my “sentimentals” and my “collectibles”


What did we all do before we “decluttered”? We tidied. We picked up our crap, dusted under it, then put it back down again. We also used our crap. In my house we collected toothbrushes, icecream buckets and old singlets, which were used for cleaning our BMXs (the hub ballbearings would soak in kero in the buckets, the toothbrushes and rags were for extracting crud from the chain). And Dad used the old inner-tyre tubes for just about everything – fixing fences, espaliering the tomatoes and occy-strapping things to the ute.

Nowadays we buy more new stuff, and we don’t have time to get creative with re-using the old stuff. So we have more crap. And less room. But more importantly we’ve developed a raging intolerance for this clutter and a need to clear our lives of everything that could be bogging us down, physically, emotionally or spiritually. Decluttering has become a euphemism for the enema we’d like to take to our relationships, our schedules, the floors of our cars. In the US “storage solution” stores are experiencing exponential growth, while hoarding memoirs are emerging as the new “mis lit”. I tell you, decluttering is a dirty big business.

In this column I’ve subjected myself to many declutterings, consulting some of the world’s experts on the subject. I’ve overhauled my book collection, my email inbox; heck, I even did a colonic. But this week I went the next level.  I decluttered my “sentimentals” – photos, heirloomy knick-knacks, my grandmothers’ Jesus statues and the box of school certificates I’ve kept since kindergarten (for “good book work” and “trying hard during health hustle”).

Which is how Peter Walsh ended up in my loungeroom on Tuesday morning. Read more