Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Domestic detail

I know some of you, like me, are interested in small space dwelling — and in simplicity, frugality and sharing. It's been an abiding interest for me since I first came across St Francis when I was fifteen years old, and it's strengthened over the years as I got the hang of living it. I suppose it is, for me, the game of life. Playing. It's what I enjoy.

If that kind of stuff bores you, feel free to skip this post, but for those of you who likewise enjoy the domestic detail of simplicity, here are some photos of our house.

I love tiny houses — they intrigue and delight me — but they are only one way of doing simplicity. Another way (and, in all honesty, I think it may be even more frugal and cost-effective) is sharing, which is what we do. There are five of us — six, up until Christmas, but one of us moved out — but we need only one bath (we do have a shower too), one furnace, one TV licence, one freezer, one fridge . . . whereas if we all lived separately we'd need one each. Plus we source much of what we acquire online (for instance, I buy many of my clothes second-hand on eBay), so it helps that there's nearly always someone home when the postie comes by. I work from home, and the rest of us work some of the time from home, some of the time in other places. Actually, I believe in a home having what I call a house-angel (someone who is there). We can even act as a kind of parcel depot for our end of the street — many of our neighbours are out at work all day.

In our kitchen, we each have a stack of crockery on the shelves.

Mine is the top left stack. It's mostly enamel, because I have floppy wrists and it's lightweight, but also because I can cook with it and freeze food in it too.

Here are my things.

Two flat pie-dishes that make good plates, two pudding basins (good for freezing soup, that can then be de-frosted and go straight on the hotplate to warm through), a cereal bowl, and a tiny dish with a lid good for saving left-overs — and equally good for snacks. I have a knife and fork and spoon (charity shop purchases) that I keep in a sweet little jug made by a Hastings potter, Judith Rowe.

We have a big butler's sink, handy for handwashing.

It doesn't have a draining board, but we find a plastic tray works fine. On the left is our compost bucket, and on the right are our big Champion juicer and next to it our food processor — great for making coleslaw but has the irritating feature that every time you use any of it you need to wash up all of it. The juicer is an integral part of my daily life, though: every morning I juice three carrots and two apples, and add the pulp to my oatmeal (rolled oats, Oatly, a good pinch of seasalt). It's delicious.

Next to the kitchen is Alice's and Hebe's studio, from which glorious works of art emanate, but next to her store of glass (she is a stained glass artist among other things) Alice has let us stash Fi's shelves that we couldn't get up the attic stairs, and it's become a handy kitchen overflow store.

There are spare storage jars at the top, and the eggs we all share because I can get them cheap from the garden gate next to our chapel; then Fi's food is in the middle shelves, some spare bowls and Hebe's equipment for painting the lettering onto coffin plates under that, and my food shelves at the bottom

Here are mine. One.


I have a box of food in the freezer as well, and two shelves in the fridge. I'm lucky — I have the basket at the bottom of the fridge.

And then this one higher up.

I stopped eating bread through last year, but I ate a lot more nuts and dried fruit which are expensive, so I've gone back to it again to save money. I'll see how I get on.

Oh — while we're in the kitchen, here's our much loved Berkey water filter. See it? Just in the middle in the window?

We collect our water from the spring — we have a chalybeate spring just down the hill from our home, and the water is wonderful. The world is very polluted now, so we run it through the filter just in case.

Then above our freezer is that vital piece of kitchen equipment — a clock — and my oats and fruits and nuts on the left and our Tony's breakfast cereals on the right. The cupboard above is very high, and has things we don't often need — kitchen scales, a vase, and big teapot and whatnot.

Are you bored yet or do you want to visit my own little room? It is very small, as you know, but there is always space for changes!

I am childishly pleased with a recent change. After Marie Kondo came on Netflix this January, she inspired us all over again. I love her Shinto-rooted approach to life and home and belongings. She really is a delight. I'd been storing my clothes on hangers for a while, but finding them a bit oppressive — looming over me like vultures — so I wanted to pack them down à la KonMari (you know, it was Julie B, who comments here, first mentioned Marie Kondo to me).

I wanted boxes in a particular size to fit my shelves after I moved them bodily up into my wardrobe. Tony (the Badger — my husband) made both the wardrobe and the shelves for me. I spent a long time looking at boxes online and concluded I could spent one heck of a lot of money buying something that wasn't quite right. And then — ting! I had it! 

Down the garden in Komorebi, I keep the fox's food. I don't throw the boxes away but use them to put kindling in (fir cones, sticks and other gathered bits). So I hoofed out all the kindling into one big box, brought up the fox food boxes and stuck gaffer tape round the top and — Bingo! KonMaried clothes!

Can you see the boxes?

So very pleasing!

There they are. And down on the right is Sticky Buddha — once I realised wall decals are a cunning way of acquiring statuary, my room got a whole lot bigger.

Sticky Buddha is just next to the foot of my bed, which our Tony made for me at the end of the summer last year. It's brilliant. I like it better than being on the floor.

I sit on it to work, and sometimes sleep there. It has a futon mattress so it's not too soft, and a double duvet that means I can sleep on one half and have the other half over me and lose the faff of tucking in sheets.

Under the bed I store things. 

On the right hand side are the boxes (re-purposed packaging, see here) where I keep my socks and underwear, and behind them a lettuce box with my out-of-season clothes. On the left hand side I have a box containing the baby Jesus for Christmas events, and a box with my Supper With Jesus eucharistic things, and my little sewing box and my stationery and komono (bits and pieces) box. Perfect.

Then when I'm sitting on my bed working, if I look up there's Himself.

Can you see him properly? Here he is, look.

At the head of my bed, I have an exciting new acquisition, made for me by my friend Kath. An embroidery.

Can you see it properly? It has a wonderful quotation on it from Hildegarde of Bingen — "Feather on the breath of God" (it's what she said she was).

It is very, very beautiful.

I have other interesting things I could show you —like my curtain and my grocery shopping bag and my hankies and my shoes and my altar, which are all important in creating a path of simplicity — but surely that will do for now. You must be tired. Let's save them for another day.


Unknown said...

Beautiful. I love all of this.

Pen Wilcock said...



Sandra Ann said...

Hi Pen,

Finally I have some time to sit down and catch up with you :-) I am sorry to read about Pearl, she sounds like a very interesting person and friend, I am sure she is helping from you the other side. It will be four years this March since Aunty Maureen died and I have no doubt she has worked overtime this past year, with all the crazy health issues and then a house move to deal with!

I will never tire of looking or reading about your ways to simplify, purge and cull what is unnecessary. Despite being so unwell at the time it was quite cathartic to rid ourselved of extraneous stuff during the house move. We only kept what we felt was necessary and as a result this house is a breeze to clean and keep organised. Mind you the house itself has a good flow as well as some very helpful storage areas such as an understairs cupboard affectionately known as 'the tardis!', a linen closet in the bathroom and a whole wall of built in storage in Pip's room. The unit in Pip's room holds her paired down selection of books, games and Lego as well as extra bits that are only needed now and then. The wardrobe area makes a great den or reading nook and is a fab place to retreat to for peace and quiet!

I also love your words about 2019, most especially your take on death, so true.

Sending love and good wishes to you at the start of this new year.

San xx

GerriHultgren said...

Ohhh...I so enjoy this keep inspiring me in my efforts to simplify and downsize. I love your posts on your clothes choices and like you I constantly cull my closet and dresser. I knit my own sweaters in winter so I have a bit of a stack,but at least they're not fast fashion ,hehe. Keep them coming,I often go back to the older posts too.
We will move later this early summer to a much smaller place and I will downsize and simplify again :)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi San — I loved the photos on your blog of your new home! I thought it looked very calm and peaceful, and you did so well to struggle through those really significant health crises and achieve what you did.

I live the idea of making a wardrobe into a reading nook — brilliant!

Hi Gerri — How exciting about your move coming up! In general it has been a huge relief to me to be off Facebook, but I do miss seeing people's photos of things like that. I understand the stack of sweaters — some of my most treasured clothes are the items our Alice and Buzzfloyd have knitted for me. Home-made clothes are special.

kat said...

Hi Pen. How lovely to see that feather has found a suitable space - I'm so glad you like it.
I keep looking round my much, much more busy space and thinking, hmmmm, I really should do something about this - I can feel so much of it weighting me down, but it needs consideration. There are things which talk to each other and me about the past, and I feel they are important to keep; reminders of loved folk or loved experiences. But there are also things that talk to me about past aspirations never fulfilled and perhaps it's time to let some of them go in this new strange retirement life, rather than letting them persuade me of failure, if you know what I mean. I have managed to konmarie my knickers and socks, though that's as far as I got!!!!

:-) xxx

Pen Wilcock said...


"Consideration": aye, there's the rub.

As you, a fellow Marie Kondo enthusiast know well, each thing is to be honoured and thanked, held lovingly in one's hands for consideration. And some things are to be still part of the household while others move on.

It's like one's children; they live alongside, some move out, others stay — all beloved, all still in the world. As the dying guru said when his disciples wailed, "Don't go!" — "where would I go? We are all now here." Or "We are all nowhere". It depends how you spell it and see it.

The memories, the relationships, the treasure is part of us for ever, like Mary the Mother of Jesus who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

The knack, I suspect, is to stop throwing things away, and instead set things free to do their greater work in the world. Everything that is made has its purpose and its season — "to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven"; but snowdrops in August are a little worrying.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, the peacefulness of your home inspires me, especially as in giving my guest room the Konmarie treatment last weekend I've a pile of things in the livingroom and workroom I need to give consideration to. A weekend was just not long enough.

Ran into this, and thought you might be interested:


Pen Wilcock said...

Hello Rapunzel — yes, the releasing items into the wild is the slow part. Google won't let me load that email link.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the email link was just to an article about clothing recycling in the UK....


Pen Wilcock said...


kat said...

"all beloved, all still in the world" - yes, I like that, and setting things free, or perhaps giving them back to the world.
Snowdrops in August - hmmm, perhaps if they were embroidered? On a chair seat, in needlepoint? I have one upstairs ("here's one I made earlier") :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

I know that chair — I have seen it and I remember it.
It is really beautiful.

greta said...

somehow missed this post earlier. love the way you all share the space, everything so simple and meaningful. the clothing stored in the fox food boxes are the best! judith rowe's pottery is lovely. i did watch the short video. we have some cherished pottery made by our daughter (emily) who also uses the name 'ember'! it's those handmade things like pottery, embroidery or knitted sweaters that bring us so much joy.

Pen Wilcock said...

I entirely agree. Many of our things at home are made by people we know and love, or are from second-hand sources like eBay, charity shops and flea markets, to ease the burden of production on the earth, or else come from firms working closely with artisans and respecting the earth, so that what they make is ethical, maybe reclaimed, and sourced gently. My daughters love cashmere (so do i). I get mine second hand on eBay, but they buy new garments, seek out suppliers who are kind to the goats, allowing them natural lives and combing the hair out gently, not cruelly plucking it. If one has only a few things, there's enough time and space to think carefully and make wise choices.

greta said...

you are exactly right. along with the decluttering of our homes, we also need to declutter our time so that we can make those wise choices. when i feel rushed and distracted, i'm likely to grab the nearest, easiest thing whether or not it has been responsibly sourced. my mind needs to be clear in in order to make good decisions. oh, i did google taotronics and found your lamp on amazon. it's now on my wish list! it will be perfect in summer when we sit outside and want only a soft light to sit and talk by.

Pen Wilcock said...

TaoTronics is a good firm — I've been very pleased. with that lantern. The information on Amazon says it has a 110-hr battery, which is excellent. I imagine that will be on the dimmest setting, but even so, I have never had a problem with mine giving out on me, and I often have it alight for quite extended periods of time. I find its portability immensely useful. I often get up at about 5.30 when the rest of the household is asleep. Even though they sleep upstairs, putting on the downstairs lights can illuminate the house enough to wake people up — they all sleep with their doors open to let the cats come and go. Also, I find bright overhead lights unpleasantly intrusive in the early morning. So I carry my lantern downstairs in the dark with me, set it down in a corner nook in the kitchen, then put it on for just as long as I need to see — to make a cup of tea and so on. Then I turn it off and carry it back upstairs, and when I've had my tea I take the lantern into the bathroom and set it down on the floor, and close the door before I turn it on. So I have enough light to see, but it is quiet and restrained and doesn't jerk all my senses awake.

Phil Hollow G. said...

Loving the Buddha and the picture of Jesus is simply amazing. Is it an original painting or a duplicate?

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Phil — It's a poster I saw and bought online. You can get it in various places, including eBay:
I love it.

Lucie said...

Thank you so much for showing your spaces. I feel extraordinarily privileged! I don't even get to see many of my friends' rooms, and I love seeing how you have shaped your space to your beliefs and made it a living thing. I love the theory - but can't seem to get the knack to put into practice; and I suppose you aren't supposed to 'declutter' a spouses things?! So I am trying to declutter in other ways, like my thinking space; which in the end, is what we are aiming for, I think? xx Lucie

Pen Wilcock said...

I wonder if one can approach it in the same way as food — starting not with what to take out but what to put in? We did that with our eating habits when we thought they needed to be a bit healthier. We didn't tell ourselves to stop eating cake or cookies, but we made a rule to always make sure we'd had a nice lot of veggies or salad with every meal, and eaten some fruit and had some water or herb tea to drink (not just tea or coffee or hot chocolate). We still are by no means perfect in our eating habits, but these days our fridge is mostly full of fruit and vegetables and we are doing quite well.
Perhaps in the same way, it would be possible to start not with a sense of getting rid of loved belongings, but of how to make room for a priority — might that be a corner of the room to sit down and watch telly or do some knitting, ensuring that the sofa/chair was always kept clear for that? Or making the dining table pretty, with plates set out ready for the next meal, and a vase of flowers — so the plates had to be washed up so that could happen, and the table kept clear? This are just suggestions; they might not apply to your home and you might have other priorities. But I think in general a positive is easier to work with than a negative. Or maybe just hire a skip . . .