The Simple Life

Advice and insight from a professional poet.



I am trying to simplify my life and am especially ridding myself of extraneous “stuff.” Can you help inspire me with a poem?
— Ella


I empathize with you, Ella, as I’ve been trying to do the same thing for quite some time. I’m one of those people who likes to save every ticket stub, receipt, and postcard — as if these things will somehow compensate for my poor memory — which necessitates memory boxes and scrapbooks that pile up year after year, and if I don’t have the time to put them into a scrapbook or memory box, they stay crammed in a corner of my desk competing for imperative with the pile of bills I need to pay. So, I understand, and even if your “stuff” is different than my “stuff,” we both could learn a great deal from Wendell Berry’s “What We Need Is Here”:

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

How true: We don’t need extra stuff to be content or focused, or even entertained. We don’t even need extra stuff to remind us what we have to do or where we have to go (and I write this staring at all the appointment Post-it notes I have above my desk), in the ultimate sense. The speaker in this poem is not advocating for forsaking all material goods and obligations, just for finding a balance. We already have what we really “need,” now we just have to make sure that the things we want don’t interfere.

I hope the poem inspires you, Ella. Good luck simplifying your life! • 3 August 2010

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.


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