One of the questions I thought about a lot in 2014 is ~ Beds: why do we have them?
It all started when I came across this quote from Gandhi.
Gandhi is a hero of mine, a Teacher with a capital T for me, and I would stop and pay attention to anything he had to say. So I stopped and paid attention to this, focusing in particular on the bit about sleeping on plain floor with just a blanket cover.
Not so very much reflection immediately identified advantages. Five of us live in a roomy family house, and we are blessed to have enough space that we can each have a room of our own. But those rooms aren’t abnormally large, so once you put a bed in them, that dominates and determines – the space is now A Bedroom. And not too much thinking revealed the obvious reality that all you’d have to do is take the bed away and it would become an Anything-You-Like-Room. One by one, that’s what we did. So now we each have a room and it’s anything we like. Plus, because we all ventured to one degree or another into the territory of minimalism, those rooms feel spacious and airy even though they aren’t exceptionally big.
It’s the same downstairs. We have two family rooms, and this is one of them.
The other has more furniture in, because many guests aren’t comfortable without chairs, and although we don’t have a lot of guests because we live very quietly, enough people come to our home that it’s appropriate to have a certain amount of normal seating.
Having ditched the beds, we tried a number of solutions. The Badger and I got a pair of those self-inflating camping mattresses. On top we each put a double duvet folded in two, and we each have a duvet as a cover. Plus pillows.
This is comfy and feels cheerful and nest-like. There are two drawbacks. One is that the mattresses are covered with waterproof stuff, so trap all body heat and moisture and are consequently very sweaty (though nice when it’s freezing cold). In the day we air the duvets we sleep on, flinging them over the roof beams of the attic which is the Badger’s lair. Once aired, we fold them up; one duvet we lay over the Badger’s chair – a folding carp-fishing chair – to turn it into a comfy chair for day-time reading and relaxation, the others we stash away in the eaves space that forms our storage. Next to them is the hanging rail – you can just see the Badger’s boots peeping out at the end. Oh, and I see I’ve left our laundry airer out on display, which is not very pretty.
Anyway that’s the second drawback about the bedding – though it’s not as dominant as normal beds, it still takes up a fair bit of storage space.
Then this morning we had a conversation about being warm in bed. The Badger had been too hot on the camp mattress, but without it he hadn’t been warm enough (he has some characteristics in common with Goldilocks). We discussed this, and what we said circled around the matter of making the being or the environment the focus of attention.
It’s the same principle as heating living space. In the cold of the winter, there are two ways to go – one being a lot healthier and more economical than the other. You can heat the house – radiators, fires etc – or you can heat the person – warm woolens/micro-fleece, a lap-blanket with a hot water bottle tucked in there, wooly socks and slippers. And a hat. Hats are much overlooked. The body will do all it can to protect the stable temperature of the brain. It will rob the whole of the rest of the body of heat just to keep the brain warm. Therefore if you wear no hat in the cold of winter, you leach away all your body warmth through your head. You need less clothing on all the rest of you if you wear a hat. To a lesser degree, the same applies to wrists and ankles, where large arteries pass close to the skin surface. The annoyance of bulky clothing is substantially avoided by wearing a hat and wrist/ankle warmers.
We also discussed that a sheepskin under the torso offers breathable warmth and padding.
There came a point in the conversation where I began to ask myself the next big question ~ Why am I bothering with bedding at all ? To go to sleep at night, why don’t I just dress myself appropriately for the weather – microfleece trousers, microfleece high-necked longsleeved top, a hat, and wooly socks, then just lie down on a sheepskin with a cushion for a pillow and a microfleece blanket for snuggle value?
This would have so many benefits.
I could get changed into the night clothes early in the evening before I got sleepy and the night got cold, so I wouldn’t have the ghastly experience of taking off all my nice warm clothes to put cold ones on instead, once the night had descended into frost. I could lie down and sleep anywhere without inconveniencing anybody. I would have no bedding to store or air. If I felt like it I could go and sleep in Komorebi. I could change my mind in the middle of the night and go to sleep somewhere else.
But the really big advantage is that of needing no storage space for bedding. Let me show you why.
Here is my room. Look. You come up a small, half-width stair. At the turn, there’s a deep shelf where all the files are with things like liturgical resources, appliance receipts and the chimney-sweep’s records etc.
Then up the other half of the stairs to my nook - the kind of ante-room to the Badger's lair.
My big, bulky winter sweaters tuck under the thing with drawers. My other clothes mostly go in it, though I do have two hangers each with a skirt and jacket on, on the Badger’s hanging rail under the eaves.
Yes. I have Cabbage Patch dolls. I looked on eBay for dolls for my grandchildren, and unfortunately fell in love with them and acquired a collection of my own. I will part with them when I have the strength of mind, but at the moment they make me smile.
Another fun minimalist wheeze is clothing as decor - like this Herdwick waistcoat with amber buttons our Alice knitted for me, displayed on a stick that fell off the ash tree at the bottom of the garden.
I was storing my duvet for sleeping on by just flinging it over the banister rail, and rolling up my top duvet and storing it plus pillows in the space alongside the files. But now I’ve put a big buddha there, which I like looking at better than a roll of bedding. Of course, I can store my bedding in with the Badger’s (and I have today), but I’m very taken with the idea of a bedding-free life.
When the Badger is home I mostly sleep with him in his lair, but when he’s away I mostly sleep in my own room, or in Komorebi in the summer sometimes. Komorebi is comfy all year round because there’s a woodstove, but I like being near my family. I can feel their vibration even in my sleep and it makes me happy.
So anyway, I’m going to try wearing my bed instead of having a separate external bed, and see how I get on. I’ll let you know.