The Joy of Less

Kay Wong in Demark by Morten Durr

Kay Wong in Demark by Morten Durr

What happens when an international fashion designer, who for a decade has churned out season after season of catwalk collections, flogged them at fashion weeks and showrooms around the world; who's dressed A-list celebrities and caught the eye of Karl Lagerfeld himself; whose very survival depends on the consumerist compulsion for the more the better, the newer the better... what happens when she decides to not only stop making new clothes, but to stop buying new clothes? What is she left with?

She's left with what she started with a decade ago. A pure, unfettered desire to create.

Kay Wong by Paul Smith. How cool is this image?!

Kay Wong by Paul Smith. How cool is this image?!

Meet one of my favourite people on the planet, fashion designer turned sustainability 'artivist', Kay Wong. She's currently living a minimalist life in 'the happiest country in the world', Denmark. Kay bikes everywhere, eats an increasingly raw / vegan diet, and makes art made from discarded objects found on her walks back home - fragile feathers and fallen twigs, cobweb-weaved into wooden frames with yarn left over from her former life.

feather art
Feather Art by Kay Wong

Feather Art by Kay Wong

And so, as Kay sheds the layers of that former life, the thick, heavy layers of responsibility and trends and excess that she was carrying around, she finds herself having less but enjoying more. More time, more space, more lightness, more health, more creativity.  

That's the thing about moving across the world and starting from scratch again. You clear out a lot of clutter, physical or otherwise. Bits of me that I thought I couldn't live without, skins that I didn't realise no longer fit, they kinda just fall away. 

Leaving Hong Kong meant leaving my 'hood and my homies. It meant leaving the therapy practice that I'd spent years building up, along with the relationships and independence and fulfilment that came with it. The fact that we were uprooting to Hawaii certainly sweetened the deal, but the transition wasn't without some angst.

You see, the school Kay and I went to in Hong Kong has a reputation for producing steely, high-powered Devil-wears-Prada types. While that's a gross misrepresentation of most of us, the belief that I would grow up to do 'big' things did become ingrained. And so, a few days after arriving in Hawaii, back when Positively Psyched was but a foetus of an idea and my new stay-at-home-mum shoes were still feeling exceptionally tight, I found myself in a sulky strop when Rob got home from work. "Is this all I'm good for?!" I cry as I dramatically hurl my hair grip across the living room. 

Since then I've gradually broken in to my new life, and like Kay, find myself enjoying quite a bit more space. More space for all those 'unproductive' things like curiosity and doodling and podcasts. And ironically, I find myself feeling more nourished and inspired than I have in a while. 

As Kay and I go through this process of moulting together, albeit from opposite ends of the world, we've also been able to find more space for each other. Last week, Kay sent me this TED talk called The Joy of Less. After collapsing under the weight of her own success, Kim Coupounas asks us all the beautiful question: 

"What is that abundance, that joy your heart aches for, and what can you have less of to make room for it?"

Just as those of the animal kingdom moult at specific times in their life cycle, so should us humans periodically slough off any skins and shells that no longer bring us joy.  

I am not advocating a monkish existence here. I still intend to live a 'big' life. But 'big' to me is starting to be less about mass, and more about space; success less about what I cumulate, and more about what I am able to make space for.