Friday, 11 June 2010

Groovy Simplicity People & own simplicity update

I subscribe to Karol Gajda's fab blog called Ridiculously Extraordinary. Some of it is excellent but irrelevant to me, like his recent How To Work Anywhere project (irrelevant only because I've sorted that for myself already), but I had an update in my email inbox this morning with some tips for travelling light, that I thought was exceptionally good.

While checking this out and reading around, I discovered that Rowdy Kittens is doing a series of interviews with people who are blogging about living simply and minimalist living. This interview with Naomi Seldin is excellent, and the page has lots of links too. I like the interview about minimalist cooking with Jules Clancy too, here. Again, lots of further excellent links.


In my own simplicity frolic, this is where I have got to.

For my work and general use I have a Samsung NC10 Netbook, which is so light and portable I can work anywhere. One drawback with it is that it has no slot for DVDs/CDs, and I rather than watching telly to relax I like to watch favourite Films, mainly Into Great Silence, which is a peace-fix/life-fix for me.

So I was thinking about having a laptop again instead of my little netbook. However Tony had a desktop computer he no longer uses now he has a laptop from work, and it seemed wasteful to ditch that and ditch my netbook and fork out £300 for a new laptop. Instead we created a snug study corner in our bedroom, where I can curl up and watch a film at the end of the day. There is a telly in the house, but I like to be private in my nest to chill out.

The house now functions as follows.

On the ground floor we have two good-sized rooms, laid out for groups - the front room has three sofas, the back room has four chairs and a piano, and we have a moveable herd of 4 beanbags to enlarge the seating capacity of either room. This is because primarily the house is designed as communal space: for meetings, retreats, family gatherings etc - this hasn't all got going yet as we've lived here only 6 months and been creating links with a church, settling in and getting the first wave of building repairs done. But we do have a regular group for bible study, prayer, fellowship & discussion up and running, and we can accommodate any tribal gatherings of our family.

The front living room has a woodstove, so will the back one when we get the money and energy to sort that out. Both rooms have televisions, the front room has a DVD player too. So they are chillout meeting spaces for household and groups. The back living room also has a Bose CD player - excellent for minimalist living - you can carry it in one hand and it makes enough sound to comfortably fill a large church. Bass packs a punch: special technology. So it's great for retreats and funerals, leading worship etc too. Take it anywhere there's a socket to plug it in.

Besides those rooms we have a normal kitchen. We like to be simple in terms of equipment and gadgetry. There is a built-in cooker and hob that is very old: the cooker is a bit dodgy and we may replace that some day, but it does actually cook things if you turn it up high. The hob's fine. We have an electric kettle. We have an energy conserving fridge-freezer, with the special feature that the fridge is cooled by redirected cold air from the freezer rather than a cold back-panel, so veggies etc can be packed in without fear of getting frozen by the back panel. This in turn means we can manage with one normal size fridge for the whole household even though fresh food that needs to be refrigerated to make it last is the main thing we eat.
We have an automatic washing machine, with a large drum, a very economic and sturdy model. We have a handheld electric whisk, and we have this excellent thing for making smoothies and soup; and a juicer. That's it for electric gadgets.

We have quite a number of glasses (more than we need, but that subject needs gently broaching with the one whose glasses they are) and a good few mugs, because we often have quite a number visiting at one time. We have quite a lot of plates for the same reason (when I say a lot, I mean we have about 8-10 dinner plates, 8-10 dessert plates - not 20 or 30)

Having put 2 households into one, we had quite a few duplicates, and some of us are fond of the stuff we brought, so we got rid of what felt painless, and have just this week done another cull of stuff we were now ready to let go. The pruning and winnowing are ongoing.

We have several (5) chopping boards in various shapes & sizes, but that's because if several of us are preparing the meal together, using the boards as heatproof mats as well as for chopping, they come in handy.

I can still identify surplus baggage in our kitchen cupboards - some pretty china, a few too many grungy baking tins, duplicate rolls of tin foil etc it's taking ages to work through, way too many teaspoons, a couple of saucepans we don't really use - but we can get everything in the cupboards without creating avalanches, and we are pruning without acquiring. We kept the fridge-freezer when we combined households, selling on the big larder fridge and separate freezer, we sold one microwave and gave the other away - so I'm satisfied we're moving in the right direction there.

Something else we have that I keep forgetting to use, but is important, is our thermos gear. We have a big thermos jug, which means we can have hot water for drinks without repeatedly firing up the kettle. We have a big thermos stewpot which will cook up a pot of stew/curry/whatever with only 10 mins initial hob time. And we have a 2-tier thermos tiffin stack that will keep a meal hot without resorting to a microwave or keeping a pan of water hot under a plate. Memo to self: actually use these. Generally if I find I am not using something I just get rid of it, but in the case of thermal technology environmental and economic good sense imperatives apply.

A recent expensive acquisition was our pressure cooker. Excellent, and cuts down on packaging because I can cook the soaked dried pulses with a satisfactory result.

On the back of the kitchen is the studio, which needs some work to pull it into shape. We gave away our dining chairs and are using the dining table as a workbench, but it's not heavy enough for stained glass work, because stretching the lead is vigorous: it's not sturdy enough for woodwork and ceramics really either, so we've ordered a heavy-duty workbench and will freecycle the dining table when that comes. We also need a banker constructing for letter-cutting in stone, and that's been put in hand.
The ceramics kiln is a big item to work round, but when we re-design the room we'll get everything fitting in sweetly. And it's not a big room: maybe 8' x 9' working space.
There's a toilet off the studio, and one can wash hands in the studio sink, so that works OK.
From the front door to the kitchen a passage runs alongside the living rooms, also accommodating the stairs. There are two understairs cupboards. The tall one carries most of our tools, including the stepladder and the lawnmower, all the picnic gear, all garden and household chemicals, car wash and cleaning gear, spare multi-sockets,shoe-cleaning stuff & all that jazz. The smaller cupboard has the meters & fuse boxes, the tool box, wellies, the iron, the stairgate for baby invasions and stuff on its way out of the house to the tip. These are really important cupboards1

So that's downstairs.

On the first floor three of us have a bedroom each - so simple I am proud of them! Each room is plain and spacious, stuff kept to a minimum! In Fiona's room she has kindly accommodated my 2 robes and winter cloak for funerals and ceremonies, because I need those to not be creased by folding so I look presentable when I conduct a funeral; and I have no hanging space in my room. Also on the first floor Tony has his study, and outside it he has a Residual Junk unit, for his occasional use gear like his fishing bag and backpack. I will post pics of all this so you can see how we live.

Up another flight of stairs and you come to two attic rooms. On the way you pass by Secret Shame - an area where I have a fairly useless display unit displaying useless stuff that I just like. But hey - I will shed it in time.

The first attic room is our grandson's nursery: maybe 5' x 7'?

The second one is Tony's and my room.

Apart from the aforementioned Secret Shame, all my belongings are in here. We have a bed. Tony has a chest of drawers for his clothes and a child-size wardrobe (we tuck under the eaves so tall furniture is out) for his work suits. He has an antique chair he loves that doubles as a clothes horse. Under the bed we keep a folding clothes airer for when the weather is no good for drying outside.

I have a chest of drawers for my clothes: fancy clothes for parties and church, travelling bags, winter sweaters and shawls in the bottom drawer, everyday trousers (and cold-weather leggings to go under them) and tops in the middle drawer, underwear in the top righthand drawer, nightdresses and washbag in the top left drawer. My shoes live under the bed in a drawer.

I have two small bookcases for all my books and papers, and the computer is tucked into the corner as described. I rarely listen to music - I love music but prefer silence - but the computer is our music machine too.

I have a comfy chair and side table too. Mainly I sit on the bed to work and read and pray, but the chair is handy for when anyone comes upstairs for a chat, or for watching a film on the computer. One of the beanbags lives up with us in the attic, in either room.

We have a third chest of drawers. Bottom drawer for bedlinen. Middle drawer for temporary stuff - eg to tidy away wools and fabrics for sewing projects, or store items to be taken to another part of the tribe - top right drawer for items salted away for people's Christmas and birthday gifts, top left drawer for items waiting to go to charity shops.

Living like this enables 5 adults to live together in such a way that a medium-sized semi-detached house offers enough space for the household, for the occasional guest and an overnight baby, for gatherings; and feels very spacious indeed.

We all regard cleaning and tidying as essential but not absorbing or attractive as a pastime, and we have other things we want to be getting on with; hence we like to keep stuff to a minimum so that cleaning and tidying are quick and easy.

So that's us. I'll stop in case you're bored and post some pics in due course.


Buzzfloyd said...

Why is it shameful to have a handful of beautiful things that you love, when you have so little stuff anyway? There is nothing shameful about beauty or love, and a thing doesn't have to be useful beyond beauty to be worthwhile. You may decide to get rid of those things in time, but I don't see why there should be any question of shame.

Rose said...

I have so, so far to go to simplify it's mind boggling, but I am taking one little baby step at a time. I loved reading this post and how you have made things work for you.

Ember said...

Hi Rose :0)
Baby steps are a form of simplicity.
Hi Buzz
You are right as always! :0)