Tuesday, June 19

Simplicity Revisited

    We've just had the rare chance to stay at Josh's family bach for the weekend, our last chance before the next lot of tenants move in, and it's been quite blissful, interspersed with moments of dreadful. The dreadful bits have simply been the result of two kids who have not been getting enough sleep for about a week, and two adults ditto. So Maddy and Lewis have been whingy, grumpy, fighting, screaming etc, all that stuff that tiredness brings on, and Josh and I have been impatient and snappy and short-tempered with them. Not the best combo I know. But it is still a nice break, a release from the rat-race, and a chance to refuel. And it reminds me of why I first started this blog.
         I was seeking simplicity. We had been staying at the bach for a couple of weeks over summer - years ago now - and then had to go back home to real life. And I wondered to myself, why can't we have that feeling all year round? What stops us from experiencing our homes as places of rest and retreat? While the answers may be glaringly obvious(housework, jobs, cars, appointments etc), what I wanted to see was if there were ways we could, in fact, simplify our daily lives. More time in the garden, and outside in general, just pottering. Doing things that make you happy. A huge one for me, because I have not yet achieved it, is DECLUTTERING!!! Anyone who has ever come to our house can tell you we still have boxes piled high in the hallway and spare room, and so so many belongings out already. We have so much. The kids have so much.

           I'd love to be able to make it a habit of weekly removing stuff from our house. After all, every week we add stuff to our house. More groceries, with all the packaging and rubbish that follows. More warm clothes for those long arms and legs that keep peeking out of sleeves. This week, a salt and pepper mill set. We haven't had one for years, and I thought it was about time. And yes, they were a bargain, on sale at Farmers for $2.50 each, down from $15.00 each. But nothing else was given away so that a place opened up for them. They just joined the ranks of kithen utensils, the army that fills my drawers and shelves and overflows onto the benches. The relentless march of possessions.

       I've just read a great article in the most recent issue of the 'Good' magazine(if you haven't seen this mag, pick it up, pour over it and treasure it, it's full of lovely goodness), entitled 'Creating a Home with Soul'. The article's author, Sarah Heeringa, points out that we live in a country completely obsessed with home renovation. Half of the magazines and books published are on interior decorating, styling, DIY, and renovation. We are a culture fanatically seeking perfection in our homes, chasing trends and never content with what has gone before. It is simply another symptom of our affluenza, and to be honest, apart from the obvious solution of all going back to live in mud huts in communes(sounds so simple doesn't it!), there isn't going to be an end to it soon.
        Now don't get me wrong, I love me a good home-decorating magazine, my favourite for a long time being My Home & Garden, with it's pages overflowing with colour and character - usually - it's just that after inhaling an issue from cover-to-cover, I am left with the same feeling of discontent, and I look around at my fraying, sinking couches, and grubby carpet, and disjointed collections of much-loved ceramics, and I feel unhappy with my lot in life. I will invariably be lusting after several new possessions, and resentful that I don't have the funds to grab these, these, THINGS to add to my very cluttered house.

        Heeringa, in her article, talks about the Japanese philosophy of 'wabi-sabi', which considers beautiful those things that show the passing of time, through their flaws and imperfections. While this could be translated to the love of antiques, and the high prices faded French cabinetry and collectors ceramics can fetch, it shouldn't be. In essence, it celebrates imperfection, and encourages the viewer or owner of imperfect things to sit and perceive the beauty and dignity that a much-loved, cracked vase contains. It means NOT going out to buy new mugs when your old mugs are chipped, and it means NOT replacing your shiny modern coffee table with an expensive French antique. This is a hard pill to swallow. Why only the other day I was lamenting the fact that, wait for it, I had enough glasses and mugs in my cupboard! Which meant that I couldn't  justify buying the lovely dark blue glasses I had seen(on sale, obviously), but had to go home to my old, very normal glasses.

           Wabi-sabi. I must go home to my frayed couch and plain drinking glasses, and sit and percieve them differently. They are beautiful, because they are used and because they are useful.

            I must declutter, because I am clinging onto books, diaries, pictures and cards from my childhood, afraid perhaps that when they go, I will not remember my past as well, as if perhaps the path I have trodden to get here will fade into the dust. But when I let go of them, perhaps then I can concentrate on appreciating my home as it is. On looking at the rusted legs of my formica table, and the imperfect chairs that surround it, and respect what they add to our home: a sense of age, of comfort, of imperfection. So that others can come to my home, and feel that sense of belonging. That they are welcome there, despite their imperfections, and perhaps they can go home and appreciate their own environment, instead of leaving unhappily, wishing they had something of mine.

We can only hope.

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