There were four minimalists, all good friends, who liked to meet up so they could encourage one another in the way of simplicity.
They all valued hospitality as beautiful and precious, so they took it in turns to meet in each other’s homes.
The first minimalist lived in the house where he was born. He had inherited it from his parents. Nothing in it had been updated since the 1940s, and he loved it just the way it was. Though the furniture and fittings had grown old and shabby, he kept everything beautifully clean. He had quite a bit of memorabilia – photos of his parents’ wedding and his childhood years, a rack of pipes his father used to smoke, the piano his mother loved to play, and the tea set that had been her pride and joy. He was satisfied with everything he had, and never bought anything new. When his friends came round, he would make tea in a teapot, boiling the water in the battered stovetop kettle on the old gas stove, and using loose tea leaves. He regarded teabags as somewhat wasteful and unnecessary. Afterwards he tipped the dregs onto the rosebed in the garden.
The second minimalist lived in a small rented flat above a shop. He had no car, so it was important to him to stay near the town centre where he could easily access all amenities on foot. Home ownership contravened his principles. He wanted to pass through life as untrammelled by possessions as possible. The flat came furnished with a bed and wardrobe, kitchen appliances, and a three piece suite and coffee table. Not all of it was to his taste, but he reminded himself to be satisfied with whatever had been provided. When his friends came round, he put £1 in the meter and boiled water in an electric kettle and made tea in cheery mugs he’d bought from the charity shop – a teabag in each mug, milk poured as it came from the carton in the fridge. He would never have used loose tea, because he would not have liked the unnecessary clutter and expense of a teapot and teastrainer. He kept the teabags to re-use later, and composted them in the wormery he kept under the coffee table.
The third minimalist lived in an off-grid cob house in the middle of a field out in the country. He had made all his own furniture, upcycling old floorboards and scaffold boards, broken chairs and surplus drawers. When his turn came to offer hospitality, he hitched the pony up to the lovingly restored governess cart and went round to collect his friends. They would arrive to find the kettle singing on the home-made rocket stove, and sit in his cosy living room while he gathered herbs from the garden to brew tea in a large and beautiful ceramic teapot made by the potter who lived next door. Afterwards he poured off the dregs as plant feed onto his indoor tomatoes before tossing the leaves onto his permaculture system veggie beds. He took his friends home well before dark, as a pony and trap can be vulnerable on the roads after dusk, even with a solar lantern hung fore and aft.
The fourth minimalist lived in a shed in his aunt’s garden. He served his friends water from the outside tap, in well-washed yoghourt pots. They sat on the floor except the one with arthritic knees, for whom they dragged in a large log for an improvised seat, with the addition of a folded sweater as a cushion. Here they chatted until twilight, when they all went their separate ways because their host needed to go dumpster diving.
They learned a great deal from each other, and their mutual friendship greatly enriched their lives. What, after all, would we be without the people we respect, whose values we admire, and whose company is dear to us?