Friday, 28 May 2021

730 things — Day 78

All the people who write about minimalism agree it's not an end in itself — it's done as part of a strategy to reach a desired objective.

Of course there's always someone who sees things differently, isn't there? In this case, that would be me. I'm not sure I exactly have a goal in view. I just think living simply and small improves absolutely everything and gives you space to breathe — a maxim I live by is "If in doubt, simplify." Works every time.

But I do agree that life proceeds more effectively if you have some idea of what you'd like to achieve. Making lists and vision boards can be good.

Do you want to live in a family home but one that’s tidy and orderly? Are you on a path of voluntary poverty? Do you want to clear debts, or travel, or pursue a nomadic lifestyle? Do you want to live in a van? Are you growing old and working on relinquishing ties to this world and earthly possessions? Your strategy will start with your objective. You need a plan, and a system, and a sense of where you’re headed to know what to keep and what to reject. And I think minimalism is most effective if it's implemented steadily and gradually, taking things one step at a time, focusing on one area and getting that sorted out before moving on to the next.

When we moved back to Hastings from Aylesbury, I knew exactly where our home should be — there were only three roads (forming three sides of a rectangle) I wanted us to consider. The house that became our home was in the favourite of those three roads.

This is why we chose it:

  • It backs onto the park. Ours is not an expensive road — it has Victorian semis and 1940s ex-council houses and a few from the 1930s and 1970s, ordinary family homes of modest size with medium-sized gardens at affordable prices. Most of the houses built onto the edge of the park or woodland are far more desirable (ie expensive) and in more upmarket parts of town. There's a downside to that (other than being too expensive): public transport routes are economically related — the buses go where the poor people live. The more upmarket houses are usually on residential routes where having a car is essential and buses are scarce or non-existent. We all drive, but wanted to move away from car dependency. And the park freshens and sweetens the air, allows us to live with many birds and wild animals visiting our garden, and offers us beautiful walks right on the doorstep.
  • It's a mile up the hill from the sea. I think we would do well from now on to factor climate change into our thinking and planning. Sea levels will rise and the weather will be more turbulent. The days when it was sensible to buy a house on the beach have gone, unless you're sure you won't live long and have no one to inherit it.
  • It is in a quiet road that gives onto a main road. This is a brilliant combo. If your home is on a main road, the traffic noise is incessant so you can never have the window open, and the exhaust fumes aren't much fun. If you choose a quiet residential street and live far enough down it (say, 7 minutes walk, as we do) to be to of the noise and fumes, the quality of life rises but the amenities (shops, bus stop etc) are easily accessed.
  • It is on level ground. We live in a seaside town, where many of the houses are built on steep hillsides. This makes maintenance a huge challenge in both house and garden. As much of the housing here is Victorian, the buildings are tall. If you're also built on the side of a steep hill, it may mean you have to pay a few hundred pounds of scaffolding every time you have the gutters cleared, and getting furniture into the house up steep flights of concrete steps adds hassle. We looked only at houses on level ground with side access.
  • It has good vehicular access but is not on a through route. We have no off-road parking or garage (which made the house more affordable to buy), but there is unrestricted street parking outside, so deliveries and trades vehicles are no challenge. However, because the roads where we live back onto the park, they offer no short-cuts or through routes to anywhere, so we don't get through traffic, which keeps our street relatively quiet.
  • It has accessible amenities. In addition to the wonderful park with its many trees and wild areas, which our house overlooks, just a few minutes walk away are several shops included a budget-price supermarket (which incorporates a chemist), a post office, a hardware store, a toy shop, a furniture store, a local butcher, several cafés, three hairdressers, a funeral director (!), a bingo hall and betting shop (no thanks), several charity shops, an estate agent and a solicitor. There used to be two banks, but they closed, which inconveniences us very little as we mostly bank online. And there's a working men's club, a couple of pubs, a chiropodist, a library just down the hill, a vet, two doctors' surgeries, a dentist, several churches — everything you could want. A short walk through the park takes us to the next set of shops, which includes our accountant's office and and array of other possibilities, including an excellent baker. Just up the hill (perhaps twenty minutes walk) is an industrial estate, where our town's sorting office is located (for held postal items — useful to go there sometimes). The train station is twenty minutes' walk from us, and there's a key bus stop at the end of the road. What's great about it is that it's a place where through routes cross over, and the bus depot is just across the road from our house, so all the buses to everywhere you can access by bus from our town start their journey at the end of our road. Every couple of minutes a bus goes down to the town centre via the railway station. If you live where we do, you don't need a car. 
So, choosing the right house in the right location was a massive component in our simplicity strategy. It allows us to live far more frugally, and it takes account of our changing needs as we grow old. We don't need to run a car and as long as we can walk at all, we'll be okay here. Those of us who go out from home to work can reach their main site in less than half an hour on foot, or take one of many buses if they prefer. Our other two family members live ten minutes walk away in either direction (and we have one more who lives sometimes here, sometimes entirely elsewhere). 

This is just one example of how being clear about what you want, and then developing a strategy to achieve it, is effective. Knowing we wanted to follow a path of Earth-friendly simplicity, living in a shared house and working on occupations that felt authentic for us as people, formed the basis for our house search strategy. 

My two items to go today — a pair of trousers and a pair of leggings. The trousers were too short and polyester (disastrous choice, a complete mistake), and the leggings were always a little bit too tight. Goodbye to all that. Both in good condition, so they went in a clothes bundle to a Freegler.

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