Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Pitfalls of Being A Minimalist...

As an adult, I've always lived in small spaces. Combined with my penchant for orderliness, they were all always tidy as well. Even as a child, the spaces my family and I inhabited were probably no larger than 1200 square feet inside, and most were probably a bit smaller. In our last kitchen, for example, it was entirely possible to stir a pot on one side of the room while rinsing a dish in the sink on the other. The open concept everyone on reality television seems to crave? Forget about it. We had an open living room with an L shape that culminated in a small dining area.

 At the other end, this gave way to a narrow hall off of which were two bedrooms on one side and two side-by-side bathrooms on the other. The government-built house was concrete block with a carport and generous yard, side, front and back. We had trees, hedges, flowers and fruit. My mother planted roses, peppers and papayas. At one point, we even had a pineapple or two. It was there that I learned to love the scent of gardenias.

  As a teen, my room became a refuge, a place to read, study, contemplate and escape. Small, its tiles were battleship gray. With barely the space for a twin bed, tiny desk and a battered dresser left  over from earliest childhood, my Dad put shelving on the wall to hold books and other items while a fish tank and portable television adorned the dresser top. An old toy chest served as the home of a stereo that came the year or so before I left home. Had there been space for a small refrigerator, I doubt either parent would have seen me. More than a few roiling arguments at the dinner table might have been prevented, too. Originally gray, my mother and I and a friend eventually painted this room a much more cheery yellow. After moving house four times before the age of ten, I was glad to put a stamp upon something of my own. The eight years that I lived in that house were, until adulthood, the longest period I remained in one place.

My college years saw me move from dorm to dorm to apartment and back again, with visits to my then-widowed mother's residence growing less frequent. Along the way, I was treated to  a litany of complaints over the four boxes of books I insisted on keeping, along with a large suitcase and a footlocker, circa 1942, that had once belonged to my Dad. After living in a bedroom, my move to a 450 square foot apartment, all my own, felt expansive, if not luxurious. Friends gave me a bed, some dishes and other small items and my mother shipped me towels and essentials, all cleared from her kitchen. Other than clothing, a portable television and a small computer, this was it.  I adopted my first cat, and went to work at whatever job I could find while setting myself up as a freelance writer and editor.

My eight-year stint in that apartment, and all of the ups and downs that went with it,  taught me a great deal. Money was tight, but I saved. During evening shifts and after classes, I read everything the local library had about women and personal finance. When things took an unexpected downturn, I worked two part-time jobs until one employer closed completely, then took seasonal work. It was then that I read of the movement toward greater simplicity that many were embracing. While I noted that several authors had both the money and time to do this, it was not lost on me that certain elements made sense both individually and collectively. Though the Internet and social media as we understand them now did not yet exist, discussion groups sprung up in libraries, meeting rooms, bookstores and other neighborhood haunts. Blogging remained on the horizon and climate change was years away from mass media radar. I began to understand minimalism not as a form of deprivation but as a choice based upon priorities as well as
aesthetics.

Born to a woman who once wore a tee-shirt with the slogan, "Shop till You Drop," emblazoned across her chest and who followed this bit of advice assiduously, I felt out of place when others would discuss their latest "finds." I've always hated malls and unless in search of something specific, tend to avoid retail establishments entirely. My achilles heel? Books. Fortunately, libraries abound where I live, as does a good used book store. My dislike of clutter and living in just over 700 feet of space in the last seventeen years    mean that I regularly weed closet, shelves, pantry and drawers. Since getting my chair, a bit of extra space anywhere has become not only a management issue but an important navigational asset, something few people seem to think about from what I've seen. I'm happily able to say at this point that there is less coming in as well as less to go out. The
only downside? Misunderstanding as in the friend who recently demanded to know whether my latest efforts which culminated in the departure of a small chest, an old bedside table, a small bag of odds and ends and a box of books to be given to the library friends group meant that I aspired to do myself harm or shuffle off this mortal coil.

Startled, I paused long enough to remember that this person lives in a house with much more closet space, square footage and garage and office space once dominated with the accoutrements that come with four males, three of whom grew up in the house. I didn't bother asking her if she had ever heard of the concept of Spring cleaning nor mention that
another friend who also raised sons is just as anti-clutter and tidy as I have become. To
each their own, as the saying goes. There are many things in my small space that I love and find useful. Life, however, is not about what I own or what owns me.
Until Next Time...

18 comments:

37paddington said...

I love the minimalist's lack of clutter, the visual order but sometimes in my home I am a far way from that. Like now. Great post!

Elephant's Child said...

Sadly I am not a minimalist. Nor is my partner. Books are my downfall, and he cannot let ANYTHING go.
He likes shopping too - which I loathe (with the exception of books and plants). Minimalism always looks cleaner to me. And is certainly easier to get that way.
I am actually impressed at your friend asking about your suididal ideation. A question which should be asked more often. She was wrong (fortunately) this time, but cared enough to check.

Martha said...

This was such a great read! That is interesting about your friend. I guess when you're used to more space or when you're not bothered by the abundance of things, it seems odd that someone would get rid of stuff so easily. But I totally get you. I lived a good portion of my life in a very small space, especially the first 24 years of my life living with my parents and two brothers. That helps you to streamline. But no matter how big or small my space, I have always been a minimalist. I cannot stand when there are too many things in the house. Simplicity is important to me and a few times a year, especially during 'spring cleaning', I donate a whole bunch of things that are not needed. Now we're planning to move to a smaller place and I couldn't be happier! I don't like big homes; small and cozy is and always will be my preference. Less chores, less maintenance...less stuff! :)

Linda said...

Firstly, I would like to thank you so much for your visit and kind comment on my blog today. I am so glad that you found some enjoyment and were able to smile. I am also a minimalist and hate clutter, preferring things to be clean and orderly, so we have much in common. And I totally agree with life not being about what we own or what owns us! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Warm hugs and greetings from Montreal, Canada.

HBF said...

I love the use of the word "weed" to refer to cleaning out spaces and unnecessary items, such a perfect word for the ritual practice I do say. I don't have much more to say at the moment other than I enjoyed this post and I appreciate your perspective and I'm sure glad I'm not the only one that is compelled to go through things and donate a pile of stuff every so often. Do your thing, I say, do your thing!

Birdie said...

We live in a world that tells us to buy. And if we do we will bring happiness. And I fall for it. Well, I used to anyway. Only when I am not being Mindful do I get sucked in.
I am starting to find the less I have the more I am content. Of course I have things that I absolutely treasure. Things my kids made and their report cards and certificates. I LOVE their journals that they wrote at school when they were in early elementary school. I have things that belonged to my mom and grandparents which are valueless in monetary value but I wouldn't give them up ever.
I hear you on the books. I have way too many. But books are friends. They are like music and the ones that I have kept speak to me in a deep way.

Jenny Woolf said...

I am not by nature a minimalist, but I am seeing the benefits of decluttering, although even that is a bit of a strain sometimes. The fact is that when I get rid of something I don't miss it for ages, but then suddenly it seems to be the only thing I need. Whether it happens often enough to build my life around it, though, is another question! I suspect not.

e said...

Thank you! My flat isn't always perfect either but I straighten everyday so things don't get out of hand.

e said...

I certainly wasn't thinking of suicide, more Spring cleaning, but you're right, she does care and that's important. Thanks for visiting.

e said...

Thanks! too much stuff actually makes me anxious. I hope your upcoming move goes smoothly.

e said...

Hugs back to you Linda! You seem like a gentle soul and I always enjoy your comments on other blogs.

e said...

Hugs to you, sweet Hannah, and I will!

e said...

Keeping what you treasure is important. Thanks for visiting.

e said...

Thanks for popping by. I don't build my life around lack, always more time and less stress and more room for experiences.

A Cuban In London said...

I am a minimalist sort of person. If I lived on my own my style would be no-style. I have no sense of fashion or furniture arrangement. I'm lucky to have a wife who takes care of that part.

Greetings from London.

e said...

Dear Un Cubano de Londres,

Being a minimalist does not detract from a sense of style, it simply means making sure that what you have is either something you love or that which is useful. I have a settee, two chairs, lamp a small dining table and chairs and a hutch in the front room and utilize all of them, and the space is organized and without clutter. I also have pictures on the walls, so not as spartan as people think. Thanks for visiting.

the walking man said...

987 sq. feet counting the basement and at best 4 rooms get regular use. If I didn't own this piece of the slum, I'd cut it in half and move it to a corn field and do just fine. "So what's my budget to find your dream house" "$987,000" People are out of their minds. A relative owns a 9000+ sq foot house--for 3 adults. Why? "meh"

Steve Reed said...

Reading this post reminds me that I have an old picture of my cat, Angeles, sitting in my guest room at Square Plaza, on top of your belongings, which at the time you were storing there. There was a fridge, a TV, some boxes and that was pretty much it! Minimalist indeed!