American Spark


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Is Your Toaster Killing Your Creativity?

How our Creative Life is Crushed by Materialism

“Like everyone else, I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct. If I saw something clever like the coffee table in the shape of a yin and yang, I had to have it. I would flip through catalogs and wonder, ‘What kind of dining set defines me as a person?’ I had it all.” -Chuck Palahniuk

             Materialism. In the U.S., it defines us. Being a consumer is such an everyday part of life that we hardly think about it. We even have whole holidays centered around it.  Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Labor Day. Memorial Day. The list continues. To borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo, Do all these things we buy really spark joy in our lives? For us, let’s take her idea a step further and ask, Do these things spark creativity in our lives?

 The Creativity Killer

            How many of you complain that you can never get anything creative done at home because you’re surrounded by distractions? The dishes need cleaning, your bedroom has more clothing options than Target, and there’s clutter just everywhere. In another article, we talked about writing residencies . Why are they so appealing? Because they remove distractions and simplify. You leave behind all the stuff that consumes your everyday life so you can focus. 

             We pay money for things that we think will make us happy. Instead, all the clutter just stresses us out and boxes in our inventiveness—our muse. Then we pay moremoney to hide from all that distracting stuff that we bought. How backward is that?

            There’s good news, though. You don’t have to run away to a secluded retreat to find peace. Minimalism is on the rise as more people realize the things we own don’t really bring happiness.

The Minimalist Solution

             Minimalism is a boost to creative flow. For most people, the less there is around you to occupy your mind, the more opportunity you have to look inward to drive your thoughts than outward. But maybe you’re the type of person who thrives best in a mess—a writer who flourishes when surrounded by encroaching piles of books—that’s ok, too. The point of minimalism isn’t to get rid of all your stuff, it’s to get rid of distractions.

            A lot of people get scared when they hear the word minimalism. They get visions of all their possessions being thrown away by the wheelbarrow, a minimalist expert going through their closet telling them they can only keep 33 pieces of clothing. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The core point of minimalism is owning only what you actually use and enjoy. All the extra is just stress-inducing, creativity-killing clutter. Take a look around your home. What is getting in the way of your creative project? Do you feel claustrophobic? Do you see things that you want to put away or organize and you just can’t get started on your novel or song until it’s done? If so, then it’s high time to do some minimizing.

How to get Started

            If you’ve decided to minimize, you’re in luck. From Marie Kondo to the 333 Project to tiny homes, minimalism is on the rise everywhere and there’s no shortage of tips to get you started. Remember, no matter what tactic you take, the point isn’t to forsake the material world entirely like a Franciscan monk. Some material things can be good for you and really do add value to your life—but there’s a tipping point where things stop being useful and start being distracting. That tipping point is different for everyone so, minimalism looks different depending on who you are.

            When you do start downsizing, consider donating things to charity. If something is no longer useful to you, let it be useful to someone else in need. Instead of owning 30 dress shirts, give a few to the guy who doesn’t own any so he can look sharp at a job interview. Minimalism can help foster both your creativity and your community.  

            Finally, if you’re still on the fence about letting go, consider some wisdom from an unconventional 90’s philosopher: “You buy furniture. You tell yourself this is the last sofa I will ever need. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.” - Tyler Durden, Fight Club


Liam Brodentel