There is no need to hold on to what's obsolete: One never loses what one tosses away deliberately. —Veronique Vienne, writer
Living better through letting go
We are all busy people—busy with work and projects, busy with play and dreams, busy with our communities and friends and families. We look at our homes and think “What a mess! There is no way I can get this clutter under control without spending weeks working on it full time!” We look at ourselves and think, “I’m a mess! What am I doing with my life? What do I even want to be doing with my life?” It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the seemingly vast distance between the way things are now in our lives and the calm, clear lives we’d like to be enjoying.
We know we don’t have everything we want. We know we have things in our homes and minds that don’t match the ideal we want for ourselves, but the idea of adding anything or taking on more to-do’s to change things is overwhelming. We view that dreamed-of excellent life as a thing we need to squeeze into the overcrowded chaos of the one we live now. The good news is that it’s already in there, just buried and hidden under a bunch of stuff we don’t need or want.
The quarterly celebration of Discardia—a new holiday—is the time to carve away all the nonsense that isn’t making us happy, and uncover what does. We don’t have too little; we’ve piled too much on top of ourselves. When we steadily scrape away the junk with one good decision at a time, our true selves begin to shine through. Discardia doesn’t require us to radically change course; rather, it is the simple practice of leaning the boat in the direction in which we want to sail. Little adjustments lead us to wonderful new places.
Letting go and lightening our loads create positive motion; when combined with a light touch on the rudder—a little leaning of the boat—we have the ability to turn our lives in better directions.
The tips in the book [coming September 2011], plus the supportive community of Discardia fans (whom, for convenience, I’ll refer to as Discardians) found in multiple online locations, will help you put your energy where it counts: in making your dreams real and in living a less stressful life full of awesomeness.
So what, exactly, is Discardia?
It’s a new holiday—invented by the author in 2002—with deep roots touching unconsumption, the slow movement, downshifting, and voluntary simplicity. Unlike many holidays, it doesn't involve obligations or expense or overblown expectations of specialness. It does not require us to interact with people whom we do not wish to interact with. In fact, it doesn't require us to do anything. Discardia is celebrated by letting go of what doesn’t add value to your life—whether physical object, habit, or emotional baggage—and replacing it with what makes your world truer to your essential self. The core concept is this: If we continually discard what doesn’t help us, we’ll be left with more of what does—more space, energy, and time to make our lives even better.
Such a positive shift doesn’t require taking a vow of poverty or scarcity but instead simply increasing the frequency with which we make choices that improve the quality of our lives. This transformation isn’t a magical change that will come about when the stars align or some hundredth monkey does the right thing. It’s practical and, for the majority of folks, it’s not even that hard. (Note: If you’re wrestling with a very serious challenge that moves you from the realm of clutter into hoarding, I recommend that you consider Discardia one of the other tools in your toolbox as you work with an experienced professional in that area. The International OCD Foundation and Children of Hoarders are good places to find more information and assistance.)
Discardia reminds us to think about what could we be doing or feeling if all this stuff wasn’t in the way. It also reminds us to spend some time shifting our lives toward more of what makes us thrive. Each of us has a different definition of what that exciting, fulfilling, less-stressed life consists of, but the path we take to make it real is one we can travel together. Our first step is to remind each other to think about what we want and compare that to what fills our lives now.
Whatever enters our lives might clutter it up. We have a choice about letting it enter and about letting it stay. Our choices make us who we are. If we are aware of who we want to be, we can make the decisions that steer us toward our better selves and away from things that bog us down.
A guide to the guide
The book provides a practical introduction to the celebration of Discardia. It takes a tour through the Discardian seasons with straightforward tips reflecting three key principles for building a happier life. Along the way, you’ll hear how Discardians around the world have changed their lives for the better.
Though the book is arranged around a Discardian year, I recommend reading it straight through the first time no matter what season it is when you first celebrate Discardia. Most of the tips aren’t bound tightly to the calendar and build upon one another. With the underlying principles under your belt, you can then dive into the appropriate section as reminders for future Discardia holidays.
You will also find an extensive list of resources at the end of the book, which you can use to dig deeper into some of the tools and techniques shared within.
This is not just another “throw out your crap” book. Discardia is a reminder and a framework for personal change. I want to give you the tools you can use to achieve a life that is ideal for you. Try them. Take the ones that work for you. Incorporate into this framework other good advice and techniques you’ve learned for simplifying your days, uncluttering your head and home, upgrading your life, and being true to your real self. Build the system that works for you from the good tools and techniques you find.
On any given day, work from the side for which you have the most energy by adding more access to what you love or carving down to less of what you hate to have in your way. You will find that a particular technique may be valuable to different people for different reasons. For example, you may be chatting with a friend and saying that you’re going to spend the next 45 minutes working hard through your to-do lists—ready, set, go! This may work for one of you because of the synergy that comes from being connected and supported; for the other, it may work because you’re less likely to procrastinate if you know that someone is paying attention.
Discardia is fun and flexible. Because the length of the holiday varies slightly on each of its appearances, it remains new and energizing, able to reflect the different rhythms of our lives. Enjoy yourself! It shouldn’t just feel like you’re flossing your apartment. Moving on from who you’ve been to who you’re being deserves celebration.
When is it?
Discardia takes place four times a year. Sometimes it's short and sometimes it's long, since, in an effort to uncouple the holiday from any cultural bias, it is scientifically timed by our world’s natural motions through the solstices, equinoxes, and their following new moons. The precise dates can vary depending where on the Earth you’re located, but I encourage you to discard being too fussy about that. Use the indicators in your own calendar or the dates I list here on the Discardia website or just celebrate it sometime during March, June, September, and December each year. For convenience, the dates for the next few years (with thanks to the calculations of Discardian engineer, Seth Golub) are:
September 23–27, 2011
December 21–24, 2011
March 19–22, 2012
June 20—July 18, 2012
September 22—October 15, 2012
December 21, 2012—January 11, 2013
March 20—April 10, 2013
June 20—July 8, 2013
September 22—October 4, 2013
December 21, 2013—January 1, 2014
There is also a public Discardia iCal calendar linked in the sidebar.
The daily art of living a Discardian life year-round
Celebrating Discardia once will make your life better than it was the day before. Celebrating it four times a year, every year, will begin to have positive, long-term impacts on your happiness. That’s plenty of benefit for very little effort! If you really want to start feeling the wind in your sails, though, try being a Discardian every week or, better yet, every day.
❏ Throughout the book, you’ll see this icon, which highlights timely directions you’ll use on a daily or weekly basis, such as best practices for starting your day at work.
Open your eyes to the blockades you’ve put between you in this moment and where—and who—you really want to be. When you see those barricades, knock them down. Build bridges to your creative, happy self. Quick fixes can add up to deep changes.
I have been living the Discardian life for nearly a decade now and it has brought me more delight, in more aspects of my life —from the mundane to the most important—than I would ever have predicted. This approach to living has enhanced my work, whom I spend my time with, how I spend that time, and the myriad details of my daily surroundings. My enthusiasm for Discardia comes from knowing how much happier it has already made me and feeling the certainty that it can make us all—you and I—happier still.
In the book I share what I’ve learned in great detail, but I want to tell you something right now. Regarding the daily art of Discardia, there are two big habits you can use whenever you’re faced with a choice or an opportunity:
1. Continually opt for that which will most avoid hassles and unpleasantness in the long-term; and
2. Continually make what you have to do more comfortable and enjoyable.
This is what makes the difference. Keep an eye out for a change you can make to improve things; then—here's the important bit—do it.
Can we have it all? All the good stuff and none of the bad stuff? Probably not, but if we have ever more of the good and ever less of the bad, that's a fine thing.