Perhaps it was the post-Christmas haze, where the house was littered with yet-to-be-used presents and leftover gigantic tins of licorice allsorts. Perhaps it was spending a couple of weeks staying in houses down the coast where kitchens and pantries were sparsely furnished, yet we managed to survive with just four plates and three blunt knives.
Marie Kondo: queen of clutter
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Marie Kondo: queen of clutter
Author and lifestyle guru Marie Kondo has taken the world by storm with her philosophy on decluttering your life.
But I've been thinking a lot lately about minimal living.
We had a gorgeous house in Mollymook for a week. Two spaces, upstairs and down. Upstairs, living, kitchen, a bedroom, a small bathroom. Downstairs, a bedroom, a laundry with a shower, a living space. Two outdoor living spaces and a good-sized yard. Birds would come and sit in the gum trees off the top deck at wine o'clock to keep us company, there was a view to the lake. It was well furnished, and clean.
At the end of every day, days spent surfing and walking on the beach, spent fishing and eating, and laughing and playing cards, I would think to myself that I could live here. Live in a house that is half the size of the one where I live now. I love my home, don't get me wrong, I love it dearly and plan to die there, but there was something about this little house, that made me feel very at home.
Sure, I put a lot of that feeling down to the fact that when you're away you're not thinking about how you would deal with the little things. How sick you would get of dragging groceries up the stairs, how there was no actual wardrobe in your bedroom, how the barbecue wasn't really big enough to cook up more than about four sausages at a time.
But some days, as long as there's a place to curl up and read a book, a place to sit and have a glass of wine at the end of the day, a comfortable bed, somewhere to fry up some bacon and eggs, somewhere to hang your towel and swimmers to dry, that's all that matters ...
And it's just got me thinking about what it is that matters ...
And then when I stumbled across a few people who have embraced the whole idea of "being more with less" I got to reading more about it.
There's a whole movement it seems, devoted to the idea of living with 100 things. Some people go a bit crazy and live with less than 30 things. Others start in different places, trimming what's in their kitchen, or in their wardrobe, rather than trimming the whole lot.
A few people suggested counting all your stuff to start with but that idea scared me silly. According to the Los Angeles Times, the average US household has more than 300,000 items in it. Let's assume that figure translates to Australia. How would it even be possible to cull that to 100?
But what seems to unite them all is not the idea of having less, it's the idea of being more, of doing more, making room for more time, more freedom, more connectedness.
A lot of them discovered minimalism, for that's what it's called, after a life-changing event – an illness, a death, a relationship breakdown. Things that do make us think about what is the point of all of this, this stuff, this worry, this sadness, this existence. It's a realisation that stuff doesn't make you happy – although if holidays are anything to go by, a good book and a good bottle of wine won't make you miserable – it's relationships and people and friendships that really matter. What good would that book be if you couldn't talk to someone about it. Or not being able to share that wine with someone, and talk about your hopes and dreams and fears. That's living.
So there's a couple of options for me here, I thought. I could go hard-core and aim for the 100 things. And I might still do that. (Plenty of questions, like does underwear count as one thing, how do I incorporate the kids' stuff into it, do they get their own 100 things, is cutlery a thing or does every knife and fork get its own tally mark. Must keep reading, because there are answers for all these questions out there somewhere.)
I found a couple of guys, The Minimalists, who have a 30-day minimalism game, where on the first day of the month you have to get rid of one thing, by the end, 31 things go on the same day. That's 496 things gone. Yikes.
Or, which is what I ended up doing, I came home from holidays and started really small. A couple of drawers got cleaned out to the extreme. The kitchen drawer, you know the one, the one with the scissors, and the chargers, and the bottle stops, the little bits and pieces of kitchen stuff that doesn't really have a home anywhere else. It's just about empty now. And I found a lovely set of pearl-handled steak knives my grandmother gave me in 1991 which I had never used. They are on daily rotation now. What a bonus.
And then I hit a few drawers in the playroom (do I need a playroom?) and threw out 15 years worth of Lego instruction booklets – you can find them all online you know – several old VHS videos the kids had when they were babies. (Mind you we did keep a few favourites just in case the technology comes around again.) I couldn't bring myself to throw out any vinyl records, or the kids' workbooks from kindergarten, or colouring books they had finished in 2004. Some things hold memories, can you throw them out?
What intrigues me about this whole idea is the lure of how good it might feel at the end if I actually did it. I felt deeply satisfied, cleansed, free, after this little spree that really only filled about four plastic bags. Two or three drawers, imagine that multiplied to a whole house, a whole life.
Perhaps a little experiment is in order. Stay tuned.