Sunday, 11 January 2015

Bed wearing

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.


Rebecca said...

I like how NOTHING about you is ever stagnant....

I can't imagine that working for me (wearing my bed), but I HAVE found a cover that is oddly "right" no matter the season. I always seem to want to have SOMEthing over me.

One day, I'd love to have closeups of the pictures/paintings on the walls of your family rooms. I'm nosy like that.....

Jen said...

wow wow wow! I love the whole idea of this - everything about it in fact....

I so wish I could do this, but there is no way my husband would agree, he freaks out each time I get rid of anything at all. He called me an aesthetic the other day. I pointed out I was wearing mutlicoloured stripy socks (bamboo - another fantastic breatheable warm, yet cool when needed material). So could not be call aesthetic at all.

I really am in envy of you Pen, and the whole way that you live. My body hates being in bed - the softness causes it to seize up somehow, yet I have fallen asleep on my yoga mat (during the relaxation bit) and not felt as sore afterwards. Although to be fair it was no where near as long a period of time.

I envy you so much that your whole family is along with your minimalism gig, my husband is a total pack rat, I would say at least eight-tenths of the stuff is his. And I hate all of it!

But I love him, so I suppose I can bear it. What does frustrate me is that when I clear a space so that I have a bit more room he promptly fills it with his stuff. ARGH!!!


Pen Wilcock said...

Rebecca - two of the pictures from our family room I've written about in a blog post here:

Jen - I find it's like humming a tune; after a while the people you live with pick it up, without really noticing. My Badger wasn't always the minimalist he is today!


gretchen said...

pen, your adventures in ever-expanding minimalism keep me on the edge of my seat. your thoughts and experiments inspire me to do more of the same myself. my very tiny bedroom now contains one small dresser for clothing, one small bookcase which houses my collection of miss read books and the hawk & the dove series, and one bed which is a simple mattress on top of two drawers which house the bedding. there is a very small closet and that's it. it takes me all of ten minutes to thoroughly clean and it really never gets messy since there isn't much 'stuff' in it at all. my husband isn't quite on board but he's getting there. as you pointed out, sometimes a good example is the best evangelism :)

Pen Wilcock said...

Ha! We are on an adventure!

I do believe anyone who has the chance to observe minimalism would surely be attracted to it - because it makes life so easy and pleasant.

I love the sound of your cosy little room with its stuff tucked up neatly like in a boat. :0)

And the idea of "ever-expanding minimalism" is hilarious! :0D

Pen Wilcock said...

I also wholeheartedly approve of your reading material!!! Thank you :0)

clevsea said...

I love that using clothing as d├ęcor. I've done that a little myself and that certainly is nice vest you have. The more folksy the better, I say!

Pen Wilcock said...


Hello Clevsea! How lovely to hear from you! Waving and sending you a hug! xx

Jenna said...

Pen, I've been experiencing the same deal with the storing of the bedding. I'm using two comforters each folded in half. It's been really cold here in the Mid-Atlantic so there's a flannel sheet and a crocheted blankie for the uppers. Makes for a lot of stuff to pick up and air. I'm thinking of having rails put up in my room to hang them over. Got shed of the bed--can't think of going back to that. Nice to see how you're managing your digs. :)

Pen Wilcock said...

Rails - yes, that's a traditional form of quilt storage, isn't it. And if the covers are attractive, it makes a nice feature, pretty wall hangings. xx