Ajibola Lawal
Jul 15 · 3 min read
Lu Yongzhong

My friend, Aliyu sent me two videos from GQ British, in which they had very interesting conversations with accomplished designers. Even though I interact with a lot of media (as is par for the course in our lovely Information Age), I find that only a precious little ever leaves an impression on me.

Lu Yongzhong

Of that very little, an even smaller percentage of that ever gives me pause to think, and really rethink my life and current way of doing things. However, these two videos — watched 24 hours apart struck a chord. In taking in the videos interviewing Oki Sato and Lu Yongzhong, it was almost like the words exchanged were a distant murmur and my mind could only focus on the ways in which their living and working spaces were set out.

Oki Sato

In one word, they were both… clean.

I very carefully chose the word — “Clean”.

I did not use sparse, and definitely not minimalist, but clean.

I do not know if there is any other way to look at it. I watched both videos back to back over the next couple of days. I cannot tell you the exact moment when it was apparent that this was what struck me about the videos. It began as a seed humming in the background as I watched Li speak about his take on Design, and then it became something real, for me when I watched Oki.

This feeling of neat order, of a deliberateness in space and position became precipitated in that one word. Along with the dawning of what it was, came a feeling of indictment as well. Because, as I realised what it was, and that I indeed wanted it. Another word rose in my mind — Clutter. What I wanted, and what I am right now, stood in stark relief.

To put it simply, my life is full of clutter. It’s a hard thing to admit, and an even harder thing to write down, here in this place. But that’s what it is. I welcomed the thought, and I followed it down. What was instantly staggering for me, was the pervasiveness of the Clutter. My workspace. My rooms in my homes. Even my Freezer.

Here’s another simple but difficult thing to admit: at the very basics of it, I am a hoarder. And this is why I have so much clutter.

Looking at it critically, I realized very quickly, that it my hoarding-clutter situaiton is a many splendored beast of several parts:

  • Some of it may come from a place of reluctance to waste, which may be tied into a difficulty with letting go.
  • Another part of it, may simply be Fear. Fear that, when I need the things that I hoard and I let them go, they won’t be there.
  • What I suppose may be the last part of this that, I hold on to clutter because objects are totems of memory for me. There’s the empty bottle of Bvlgari Aqua from Tola. There’s a random seashell from Banjul. There’s the hotel key card from Athens. There’s calling card of a Taxi man in Nicosia. There’s the Orange scarf from Otas. And I worry that if I let all of those things go, I will forget their associated memories and I will get lost adrift in the world, with no memories to anchor to.

I am sure you assume that having realised this flaw, and been able to break it down to its component parts like this, I am going to become a whirlwind and declutter my entire life. I am here to tell you that your assumption is wrong. I first started to write down these thoughts a few weeks ago. Somehow, I decided that rather than become a whirlwind, and regress later, I would take a steady albeit slow process of gradual whittling down to the bare essentials.

Thus, it has been slow process of giving, and letting go, in what is hopefully an enduring exercise.

I suspect that, a part of me sees putting this out there, as a way to accelerate the process a little bit. We’ll see.

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