COLUMN: ‘Life’s too short to fold your underwear’

Folding underwear is seldom a big production in my world, hardly more exalted than a brief movement from dryer to drawer.

The real appeal behind this amusing book title is the instant, reflexive and light-weight assessment of time priorities it triggers. Life’s too short for a lot of things. But which things?

In this culture of efficiency, minimalism and mindfulness, we face competing priorities. We are simultaneously commanded both to speed up and slow down.

Efficiency, the source of accelerated activity, is king. The wheels of capitalism turn on ever-greater efficiencies. Efficiency is both seducer and tyrant. There is the seductive prospect of getting things done more quickly and having more time at our disposal, versus the relentless tyranny of time pressure, and the constant badgering of both the ‘urgent’ and the trivial.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, invites us to stop and breathe and live in the present moment. Cicero, a politician and lawyer in ancient Rome said, “To live long it is necessary to live slowly.” This goes against an efficiency based culture. Efficiency might feel like mastery but it doesn’t necessarily feel relaxed. Living slowly does.

When we live slowly, moments seem to expand. The clock measures them the same way, but there is the sense of being suspended in time. It’s not just about perception, it’s about a mental state.

It’s reflected in a culture that is already overly familiar with hurry, a culture that has introduced the slow food movement, the slow fashion movement, the slow professor movement and others. Living slowly means living in the moment, being awake, but not driven.

The length or brevity of life is a perpetual source of fascination that also produces dichotomies. We prize longevity, but fail to value seniors. Longevity is perhaps an illusion with no vision attached. We need to inform our dream of longevity with beautiful examples of it.

Recently, the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA) selected 96-year-old Iris Apfel to receive a new award – the International Style Icon Award. CAFA president Vicky Milner said Iris is one of the most beloved individuals in the fashion industry. The ‘exuberant’ Iris is still actively designing, collaborating on projects, participating in various campaigns and traveling.

There’s a vision for you, a reason to live long and slowly. One hopes for a larger vision for our seniors that could mean the end of warehousing them.

Life’s too short for a lot of things. But one thing seems clear. There’s no great need to get your shorts in a knot about folding your underwear.