I am attracted to minimalism. Photos of wicker baskets on spacious shelves make me happy. Clean lines appeal to me. I even like the term, 'white space'. When I read of someone living the pared down lifestyle, baking their own bread and making wooden toys for their children with their own hands, I feel wistful. But when I try to adopt that lifestyle myself? Well, let me just say it does not go so smoothly.
Maybe it is because simplicity appeals to my head and to my aestetic self, but not my down-and-dirty day-to-day life self. Like silence, that in concept seems to have so much merit, in practice I am uncomfortably at odds with it. So, I fill that silence with conversation, that closet with clothes, that empty page with the written word. I am the master of the collection, and of the run-on sentence.
It isn't that I am all wishing and no action, either. I faithfully declutter, donating to the local thrift stores every couple months. I empty, and purge and organize. I try to live by William Morris' words:
"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."
Ah. I love those words. They are like a tall drink of water for my soul. My closed-eyes sitting on a mountain yoga soul. My artist soul. But my reality is generally not so poetic.
Let us talk of real life for a moment, and not of dreams and wishes. Somewhere along my journey of getting to know the part of me that believes in breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, baby-wearing, and co-sleeping, I stumbled into the idea of voluntary simplicity. It seems that there are people out there living contentedly within their own modest means, sewing and baking, homeschooling and gardening, spending less and having less all around. How deliciously counter-cultural! Rather than getting caught up in the race to have the biggest or the newest or the fastest, some people are realizing that it can be enough to simply have enough.
Swept up with this idea, I did what can be expected of me in such a situation: I researched the @#$! out of it. I visited blogs, purused websites, checked books out of the library, and read, read, read. I had so many questions: How did this work? How could you make such a lifestyle change? What were the benefits? What were the risks? Can you live this way in the city, or does it require a hideaway in the woods? Do I have to keep goats? (This would be a deal breaker.)
So much of what I read reassured me that simplicity, at it's core, is an attitude, not a rigid set of lifestyle rules. Authors encouraged me to just start somewhere, and grow from there. Well, baking bread was out, and although I have a hand-me-down sewing machine from my mother, I am a little afraid of it, so that was out, too. But what about TV? So much of what I read recommended eliminating or seriously cutting back on your screen time, especially television. Hmm... That might be a possibility. If we got rid of the TV all together, there would be no more fighting with Nik about whether or not we would be turning it on, that's for sure. But how would I convince my husband...?
Just then, the phone rings. It's my dad. He bought himself a new flat screen TV on his holiday shopping trip. Do we want his old big-screen CRT? Thank you, Lord. I am laughing on the inside.
Skip to the end. After some discussion, I find myself watching as my husband expands our entertainment unit to make room for our new big screen TV. He is happy as a clam. I am feeling like a simplicity school drop-out. So much for my mountain yoga soul.
But as the weeks went by after that, I realized I was putting way to much pressure on the "No TV" change. No TV will not automatically equal more nature walks, more wholesome food, hand crafts and inner peace. I guess I can't build my best life by just cutting things out of my current one. There is probably a little more to it.
So, I am still on the journey. I am learning to knit. I am drinking more tea. And that big screen TV is spending a lot of time turned off, while I build train tracks with my son and mix up brownies in the kitchen. Maybe one day, I'll even crack open that sewing machine.