On October 26, 2022

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

By Dom Cioffi

I was a collector as a child. At first, I collected stuffed animals and picture books. Then I moved on to army men and Matchbox cars. Later, it was baseball cards and record albums. Along the way, I found a bevy of other items that I felt I needed to hoard into collections.

After I grew weary of a particular collection, I’d store them in boxes in the family attic. This is where they stayed until my father passed away years later and our house was sold. And that’s when I realized how taxing it is to maintain an assortment of collectibles.

Over the years, as I moved from place to place, I would complain about the dead weight of these collectibles. I mean, I never took them out of their boxes to look at and I never bothered to get them appraised to see if they had actual value. I just moved them from one storage space to the next and forgot about them until it was time to move again.

I’m not positive, but I think my aversion to acquiring new things is partly due to the burden of holding onto these nostalgic items.

Like many people, as I’ve aged, I’ve become less and less interested in “things.” I much prefer experiences. I explained in a recent column how all my gifts last Christmas involved tickets to events throughout following the year. I liked that approach and will likely duplicate it this year. And I’ve already announced to my family that I do not want any physical gifts for myself this holiday. Instead, I would prefer two good vacations where we’re all together.

As the years have passed, this preference for less and less has grown inside of me. While I used to dream of a fancy sportscar and a boat and house full of gadgetry, I now actively look for ways to rid myself of anything I don’t need.

My penchant for weeding out items I don’t need has been a windfall for places like the Salvation Army and Goodwill. It seems like every three or four months I’m loading up my truck and making a delivery to one of their drop-off locations.

I’m always a little tense when I make one of these drops, fearing that something I’m leaving behind will be needed in the future. But nearly 100% of the time, I’ve forgotten about the items within minutes of driving away.

I read once that the founder of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs, wore the same outfit every day (jeans, a black turtleneck, and sneakers) because, after a visit to Japan in the 1980s, he learned about a strategy of simplicity to fight something called “decision fatigue.” The idea is that you’ll navigate your days better if you have fewer things to think about.

I’ve always liked that idea and have adopted it to a certain degree in my own life. While my style is more “robust” that Jobs, it does follow a pattern that makes getting dressed fairly easy.

When I look around my house these days, I realize that I really don’t have much after you negate things like furniture, some tools, and housewares. I have my clothes, my electronics, and my truck. I admittedly have a few more guitars than I need, but that’s also something I am actively looking to minimize.

With that said, I still have those boxes of collectibles in my attic. I’ve thought about bringing them down one by one to either throw out the contents or bring them to antique shop to sell, but something inside of me keeps delaying the act. I guess I figure they will only increase in value the longer I leave them there.

However, I have made a vow that when the day comes to finally move from our current home, I will not be bringing the contents of those boxes with me. I know it won’t be easy to part with many of the items, so I plan to photograph everything just to have a personal record to look back on.

Leonardo DaVinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Ultimately, I guess I’m trying to be sophisticated.

This week’s feature, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” is the epitome of simplicity, not only for the simplistic stop-motion/live-action hybrid animation style that’s utilized, but also for the simplistic message that the unique leading character offers.

Marcel is a 1-inch tall shell that lives with his grandmother (also a shell) in an Airbnb. At one time, Marcel had a large family around him, but they mysteriously disappeared and Marcel is intent on finding them. That’s where the documentary filmmaker comes in who decides to make Marcel’s plight public.

This is a unique and endearing little film that initially seems fluffy and mundane, but the more you watch, the more enamored you become of Marcel and his story. And given this film’s popularity, it could be a shoo-in for an Academy Award. Give this one a shot, if only to feel how charming and insightful simplicity can be.

A “B+” for “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” now available for rental on Amazon Prime.

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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