The Simple Question


Minimalism, simplicity, de-cluttering, creating margins, focusing, down-sizing, right-sizing—all of these have been in the media, on the internet, and topics of conversation and contemplation in my house. “How much x do we really need?” That is the question for everything from food to screen time to clothes to sleep.

Two minor events today caused me to ruminate on this topic yet again—I looked at my watch and I separated 3 eggs and beat the whites stiff. To the early-adopter avant garde, looking at a watch is an archaic practice while beating eggs whites is a completely reasonable practice. One is a sign of simplicity and the other a sign of excess, but which is which is not as obvious as it may seem.

Beating egg whites is probably viewed as a good thing since we’re making our own food, instead of buying it prepackaged and over-stuffed with chemicals. Looking at my watch may be seen as a sign of excess and complexity since I had a smart phone in my pocket and five clocks visible from where I was standing.

My experience of these two activities, however, was just the opposite. Looking at my watch took much less time and by having a dedicated timepiece on my wrist, I can keep track of time without distraction (like that unread e-mail, or Facebook, or….well, you know how it goes.) A watch gives me the liberty to leave my phone on my desk or in my pocket. I can even <gasp> leave the house without my phone and still know what time it is.

Stiffly beating egg whites took me about 15 minutes. It took 4 bowls of various sizes, an egg separator, and an electric mixer. Why so many bowls? (I can see you scowling at me.) I only used one bowl to actually beat the egg whites in. It fascinates me that they increase in volume as you beat them—I wish I could take a chemistry class or two to better understand how the world around me works. The second bowl was for the yolks, also needed in the recipe. Bowl number three was a dirty bowl from the sink to hold the egg shells until I could put them in the bio bin. Bowl number four was a much smaller bowl for the egg separator to rest on so I could crack the eggs with two hands like the kitchen amateur I am. This bowl became necessary after I tried to crack eggs one-handed into bowl #1 while holding the egg separator with my other hand, but ended up breaking the second yolk and having to start over.

Once the requisite 3 eggs were duly separated, I could beat them, which was simple enough, but time consuming. Once they were stiff, I could clean up from this stage of the operation and move on, dumping the eggshells into the bio bin, rinsing bowls and beaters, and putting the remaining eggs back in the refrigerator. This one step in a fairly simple recipe was quite complicated for me today.

This illustrates that the question of simplicity can be a very complex issue to work through. Merely contemplate having to pack light for a vacation and you’ll figure this out, which is why there are entire books and websites dedicated to simplicity and minimalism—it’s complex.



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