January 17, 2017

Stuff: Potential Obstacle In Any Home

Henry David Thoreau's cabin had few obstacles to living "deliberately" while confronting
"only the essential facts of life".

A home is a very personal thing. Each of us sets up our homes differently to reflect where we are in life at the time. But the important things are usually fine tweaks to a well established set of things that culture deems to be necessary to attaining the good life. But are those possessions freeing us, or are they obstacles to addressing more important considerations, the "essential facts of life"?

In consumer cultures the list of home essentials has been growing for decades. Unsurprisingly, houses have been bloating at the same time, just to contain all the stuff. During that period, my own list of what I consider to be essential at home has been shrinking as my desire for simplicity and freedom from the stifling weight of stuff has been growing.

Henry David Thoreau considered the ownership of material possessions beyond the basic necessities of life to be an obstacle. That has certainly been my experience. The best bits of my life so far are the ones where I have been living in stark simplicity.

Things like camping, extended backpacking trips, living out of a van for extended periods, and staying in a spartan monks room as a student all made me wonder about all the other stuff that we are told are necessary for the "good life". If I can survive happily with very little, what is the rest for?

I had to wonder if my possessions were a life enhancer, or obstacles. I decided most of it fell into the "Obstacle" category, and have been busy identifying and removing them from my life ever since. Add in reducing my ecological impact in a time of increasing scarcity, and there was no going back. I couldn't see the down side.

Still, no one can tell anyone else what they need to live the life they want. And Thoreau is not the only one inviting us to "simplify, simplify, simplify". In response to my last post here, readers offered up their take on the simple home, and the simple life.

I couldn't of said it any better myself. Go to the post to read even more good ideas.

"Enough is a roof over our head, love, nourishing food, clean water, simple attire for modesty and something to stimulate, like a conversation, art, craft, book etc...everything else is the custard on our cherry tart."

"I think a simple home is one that feels perfect to you. A place to lay your head safely, be warm and comfortable and have those you love around you, equally in comfort. A place where the things you have in your home are things you own and that don't own you. Items that are either useful or beautiful (or both!)."

“I’ve recently been house sitting for a friend & only took the bare minimum with me. I completely agree, I barely missed anything & actually felt freer and lighter without all my possessions.

When thinking about setting up a new house, it is also helpful to look at all the amazing stuff on Craigslist/gumtree(Australia)/thrift shops/giveaways. There are more than enough things already out there in the world, so even for things you decide you really 'need', it is almost never essential to buy them new - support businesses & practices you don't agree with.”

"I tend to be much more functional and less aesthetic in my home. Simple, easy to clean and maintain. I lean toward higher quality and good maintenance so things around me don't wear out, get sent to the landfill and have to be replaced. I also want stuff that I can move around from one room to another. I like open floor plans."

The take away? Warning! Stuff is a potential (and likely) obstacle in any home. Proceed with caution, and simplicity. Thanks for the excellent feedback everyone. It's not too late to join the conversation. Add your thoughts here.

January 13, 2017

Setting Up The Simple Home

You are setting up a new simple home. What would you put into it to make yourself comfortable?

At the end of August a member, and frequent commenter, on this blog reported a piece of tragic news. Those of you who read and/or participate in the comment section of Not Buying Anything will recognize the following somewhat disturbing comment from our friend, Madeleine:

"About 3 weeks ago a large part of my home was destroyed by fire. I can honestly say that as we ran from the burning building things like saving our favourite 'stuff' or even photos did not cross our minds. All I thought of was getting the children and animals out. And as I watched the fire and waited for the fire truck to arrive I felt so grateful we were all alive. It is hard not to be able to live in our own home for a while, but other than the truly useful - pots and pans, towels and sheets - there is nothing I'm going to miss."

A while later Madeleine left another comment in response to my post "That Is Enough".

The idea of 'enough' is one I have been pondering a lot over the past few years, and am certainly thinking about it every day as I begin to replace the useful items lost in our recent fire. How many dishes is enough? How many wooden spoons, towels etc? I would like enough to do the job efficiently, and not a bit more. 

So how does one set up the simple home? Valuable information like this could be used by those starting from scratch whether a young adult leaving home for the first time, or if one is downsizing, or moving across the continent, or recovering from a devastating home fire in which everything was lost.

Linda and I did exactly this when we moved from Turtle Island's (the original inhabitants here used this name before Europeans came and relabelled the area"North America") west coast all the way to the east coast. We gave away everything we owned, except for the few things we could fit in our travel van.

In starting over, we had the same feeling as Madeleine - we wanted to set up our simple home efficiently, and with not a bit more than what we needed. What we found was that we needed to acquire very little to quickly become comfortable in our new home. We also found we did not miss anything we left behind.

I am planning on working on another post outlining what we did buy to settle here in our new Nova Scotia home. But for now, I turn it over to the NBA comment crew. If you were starting over, how would you set up your new simple home? What would be important to replace, and what could you live without?

While Madeleine is currently taking a screen break (and rightfully so considering what her family has been through, and the continued challenges of getting back on their feet), when she returns we can direct her attention to this post in the hopes that we can all contribute to helping get her and her family back on their feet in the most simple and efficient manner possible.

So that is the challenge, should you choose to accept it. What do you think? How much would be just enough, and not a bit more, for your ideal simple home?

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