Reading Series: Living with Complexity

I moved out of my apartment this weekend and remembered how much I hate moving.

It’s a task that seems utterly insurmountable to me. The combination of packing things so they don’t get damaged while in transit, organizing items into groups of what is going into storage and what I need access to over the summer, figuring out the logistics of what to move when, and out of the apartment in a timely manner overwhelms me. I want to do is curl up on my bed amidst the accumulating piles and take a good long nap.

Thankfully my boyfriend was around to keep me moving forward on the packing track. We finished before sundown, and I slept for 12 hours that night.

But how many times during those two days of moving did I verbalize my desire to throw out all my stuff? I was convinced that by simplifying my possessions, the moving process would be less complex.

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I should have known better. In the weeks leading up to my move, I read Living with Complexity by Donald A Norman. Norman’s conception of complexity feels right to me:

Complexity is an inescapable part of the world we live in. But complexity need not turn into complicated confusion. Complexity can be tamed through proper design. Why the cry for simplicity? It is an honest reaction to the confusion and complication of life; but although the intention is admirable, the proposed solution is mistaken.

Complexity isn’t a bad thing.

I had never thought of that before reading this book. The minimalist lifestyle is all over Instagram, hypnotizing me. If I could trim down my collection of possessions so they could fit into a tiny house, then my life would be simple. Moving would be a breeze. I would have more time to do the things I love, right?

Simplicity is alluring. But simplicity does not eliminate complexity.

Complexity is a fundamental part of life. Moving is complex because my life is complex. Sure, if I didn’t have so many things, moving would take less time. But I would still have to consider how and where and when to move things. I am a student, a writer, a creator, a reader, someone who likes to cook and bake, a runner. I have to juggle the physical accumulations of each of those identities when I move. Better organization systems and removing unnecessary items can keep the complexity in line, but simplifying for the sake of simplifying will not magically make things easy.

Embracing complexity, I have found, is a good way to put moving into perspective. It’s not just mountains of junk I’m loading and unloading, it’s the conglomeration of a complex life.


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