Friday, 24 March 2017

Minimalist home

Halfway through Lent, and we are persisting with our pruning of possessions.

We’ve been surprised to discover in our household’s pursuit of minimalism, the extent to which its benefits are not apparent in advance. The clarity and peace are phenomenal, and affect life broadly.

We’re also surprised over and over again by the way getting rid of a tranche of stuff leaves us thinking, “Right, that’s it; I couldn’t possibly live without my remaining possessions, only to find ourselves thinking quite soon afterwards, “Why did I keep this? I don’t need it.”

In our Lenten clear-out, at one point one of us went up into the attic to fetch something down. There she found a couple of boxes belonging to her. Mystified she looked inside, and there found a collection of belongings she’d completely forgotten existed. “Oh, there’s my grey coat!” she exclaimed; “the one that was always too tight. And there’s my sunhat that I never wear because the wind always blows it off my head.” And so it went on. Another couple of boxes out of the door.

Then there were the boxes themselves. We rarely throw out cardboard packaging – and we have quite a lot because we do most of our shopping by mail order. Packets, envelopes and smaller boxes we tear up and use for kindling. We also put cardboard on new veggie plots to keep the weeds away, and that can go into the compost heap when it’s done its work. But large, strong boxes we stash in the attic – and the useful smaller sizes, like shoeboxes (some of those are re-used for Christmas shoebox appeals).

Then, O joy! In the notices at the beginning of the service where I was preaching last week, the steward appealed for cardboard boxes. He said the Young People wanted to build a wall. Perhaps Trump mania has reached Calvert Methodist, or maybe they just want to keep the politicians out? Anyway, they wanted cardboard boxes in large amounts and the bigger the better. We were right round with a carload by sunset. I don’t like to waste them, but I do like them to move along. Usually someone moving house sends out a call for boxes on Freegle – that’s where they generally go.

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy a peek into some of the unexplored corners of our minimalist home; so one evening while some of us were out at choir I wandered round with my camera.

In one room, someone had already put her bed out ready for when she got home.

In another room, everything was quiet and peaceful. I didn’t put the Big Light on because I didn’t want to wake up our friend asleep in the armchair. Can you make out his ears?

Another corner of the same room.

And the nook where the Badger and I sleep.

That overhead light hanging down is a lovely Taotronics lamp, and the white stick thing on the right is my bedside lamp  it folds down and keeps the light out of your eyes for resting, and folds up to shine down on a book for reading. They're fab  we can charge them during the day when we have free electricity from the solar panels, then they last for a few hours at bed time. Which is handy because we have no electric sockets in our sleeping nook - just in case it's really true that electric current interferes with our brains.

We have a table the Badger made at the foot of the bed, and the wall-hanging his mother embroidered on the wall above.

So we continue our pruning and chucking – amazing where all the stuff comes from; you can see we don’t have much. This week we’ve lugged bags of loot to the charity shop. Good stuff, too.

I didn’t photograph it all. Here’s a representative mini-selection; True Junk (an empty perfume bottle, originally – when full – bought second-hand from a private seller on eBay) and an item of bric-à-brac. Out they go!

Meanwhile, outside in the Real World, the spring is advancing. Our front yard is in bloom.


gretchen said...

love your photos! you are certainly coming along. my forty-bags-in-forty-days challenge is also progressing. it's exactly as you said. we get rid of stuff, think 'well, we're done' and then wonder why we still have stuff we can give away. it's astonishing how little we need to have on a daily basis to live a quite comfortable life ~ a roof overhead, a place to sleep, simple food on the table. the poet charles bukowski said something along the lines of 'the less i needed, the better i felt.' amen to that!

Pen Wilcock said...


Amen indeed. x

Elin Hagberg said...

I still need to get rid of things but we have sorted out quite a lot of stuff now. Most are going to a charity shop. I am doing a mini version with my daughter. She really does not want to get rid of stuff but I have put some of her stuff in a box now. She will be allowed to bring back 5 "free" items but after that she will have to trade toy for toy. Both kids have tons of stuff and mostly good toys that will not break that easily so we won't have much of a cull that way. I am thinking of asking family to not give them toys for their birthday at all. I know they will not necessarily like it but I hope they can be sympathetic.

Linda said...

I enjoyed your post :) and thought I would share a little story. I picked up a couple of hitch hikers a few years back. They were a couple in their mid 40's. He was a photographer and she did old fashioned lace work. This couple did not live in a house, did not own a car, in fact they didn't live anywhere, and owned only what was in their backpacks !!! unbelieveable. They warn't scruffy, or sitting around with a sign saying..'spare change'. No they worked for their minimal needs this way: Once someone gave them a ride, they would get to talking and if it worked out and the driver had some sort of need of a family group photo etc, they would stay with the family/person a few days, even up to a week, helping out etc in the home and around the property. I suppose they were fed and watered as well :) Payment for the photo shoot was based around the green dollar principle, mainly what ever they needed eg. a good pair of Marino hiking boots etc etc. Occasionally it was cash. Everything they owned had to fit into their back had to be only what they used and needed. Any books they read were given away after they finished with them etc. They told me they had traveled around the wold exactly two and a half times !!! over a course of 20 something years !! I can't even begin to tell you what an impact it had on me at the time, meeting people who were professional travelers and who chose to live life their way and quite differently. Life is always full of unexpected encounters ! ~ Linda

Pen Wilcock said...

Elin ~
It's a difficult one! Do you have an attic or empty storage cupboard in your home? Sometimes it's less painful to just tidy away in a box those things they no longer play with, then over time they can just mysteriously vanish if they are forgotten. It seems that being asked to make an actual decision to part with their things creates anxiety and sadness. We have cut back on toys with the grandchildren. We now give them each one very nice toy for a birthday or for Christmas - plus a card, cake for tea, etc. This one toy is the gift of the whole household - so, two grandparents and four aunts. That still gives them the excitement and anticipation - plus the knowledge that it will be a really nice toy; at the same time, it is only one, so won't fill the house with clutter.
A good approach is toys that get used up - art materials, or science experiment kits, or seeds and compost done into a nice set, perhaps. or those paper flowers (Japanese?) that unfold in water. So they get a nice gift but one that auto-destructs.

Linda ~
20 years! That's amazing. Very confident, resilient people - individuals of vision and conviction, to continue such a lifestyle for that length of time.

Sandra Ann said...

One word for those pictures, serenity :-). I love the story of the minimalist travellers that is very admirable x

Pen Wilcock said...



Mother Abyss said...

Intrigued by the decadent, frou-frou chandelier...

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah - she was born to live in a chateau!

Elin Hagberg said...

Thanks for the suggestions on toys Penny.

Yes, we have some storage space that could be used for this purpose. I get rid of things that are broken or completely forgotten the way you suggest but my daughter has a very good memory so I have been called out on throwing things away too many times for it to be an ideal solution.

I don't want her to be "punished" for outgrowing her toys by having stuff taken away. I try to work in several different ways. I encourage her to give things she doesn't play with to her baby brother and I do point out that if she feels like she wants to play with them again she can ask him (so far so good, he is a baby and I can answer for him and my answer is always yes unless she takes them right out of his hands). She has taken this to heart and he is given random toys at different times which I think is good because I want to teach her to be generous.

All future gifts that I intend for them to share will be given to both of them from the start. However, I could of course not give her stuff while she was the only child with the caution that they would only belong to her until a sibling came along when we didn't even know if we would have more babies.

I have been the big boss and decided that her play kitchen will be stored in the real kitchen from now on and that baby brother can play with the kitchen things which she accepted after some angry looks and exclamations of "why!". She now plays with it more too because it is the only thing to play with in the kitchen and baby brother will soon be kitchen age and can take over playing with it then. I would not consider her too old for it though, just at the higher end of the bracket. My plan is to do the same with the big legos once baby brother is old enough to be interested in them. When asked now she said she wanted to keep them in her room until he was old enough so that will have to do for now.

I agree that picking every single thing to go is too hard for a soon to be 5 year old but she is also sensitive and with a strong sense of integrity so me making decisions without her knowing it would make her very crossed. Therefore I went with the box idea and I told her that I will take away all toys I haven't seen you play with in a while and they will be kept in the books for a couple of weeks now and then you can take some of them back. Now they are "taking a vacation".

The "taking a vacation" thing works well with her. The tablet has to go on vacation due to over use by the child herself, noisy toys sometimes must go on vacation because mom can't handle them, messy craft things too because of mom and dad and our lack of energy for cleaning and things that make the child behave badly must sometimes also go on a vacation. Mom sometimes let her things take a vacation too.

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, that's brilliant! So practical and considerate and kind! And I love the idea of the tired tablet and rowdy toys needing a holiday from all their exertions - quite right and well-deserved! xx

Lynda said...

My kitchen, bathroomn and bedroom are very minimalist...quite bare (don't like stuff on benchtops), but peaceful (which for me means lack of colour). My loungeroom is a bit more cosy, due to bookshelves/books, cushions, throw rugs, etc, but still minimal colour. I had planned to keep the loungroom minimalist too, but I'm not sure what happened...

And we won't even mention my jungle of a garden... :)) xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Jungle gardens are the best - a sign that the Lord God has been given a free hand! x