Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Less is More

“The hardest part is what to leave behind, ... It's time to let go!”
-Winnie the Pooh

A couple of years ago Spouse and I visited the home of some people we know. It was our very first opportunity to see their house and how they lived in it.
Despite knowing them a degree better than Spouse did, I was nonetheless taken aback by the sparseness of their home.
Spouse was almost awkward in the shockingly empty setting.
They had practically no miscellaneous belongings, at least none that were visible.
There was a lack of photographs, few items of furniture and no identifiable clutter; pale walls and unadorned floors greeted us with a blank stare.
We were particularly surprised because the pair are financially well established and it was the last thing we expected from people who could easily afford the finer things in life.
Spouse and I agreed that it looked quite as though our hosts were about to vacate the house.
We spent a relaxing couple of days in the company of our kind hosts and as we observed the house and the way they ran their lives, something about our frame of mind began to evolve.
I am certain it must have because now, two years later we wish to go back, step inside the door and gauge our new reactions.
I think that they would be of a most interesting nature.
Our hosts were, as it turns out, one of our most significant catalysts for change.
Theirs was most clearly a lifestyle choice, a certain plan to own less and to be bothered less by the weight of various things.
The entire process that we embarked upon of removing most of our possessions and flinging out more items that we bring in was partly due to the short time we stayed in that house. We barely realised it at the time save for an offhand comment Spouse made toward the end of the visit. He mused that perhaps it was not such a bad way to live after all, once one grew used to the lack of frills and extraneous material goods that usually decorate a home.
In fact, Spouse considered, he almost understood it.
These days we more than understand it: for us there is nothing better than jumble-free corners, knowing where everything is and being conscious of the fact that one's life could be happily packed into a few boxes. On the latter point we are struggling but striving and- most essential- we enormously enjoy the project we have undertaken. That last bit is vital- the whole matter of whether to have more possessions or less revolves around that single point: happiness.
What now strikes us both is our initial impression of a slightly dressed house; not simply how much we have changed but that the germ of the idea began from our own reflexes and opposition to such a lifestyle.


Pappy said...

A beautiful realization. I wrote a poem that just seems to fit your post. I hope you enjoy it. Pappy

Not in Things.

Accumulating wealth won’t satisfy.
They are not ours these things we seek to gain.
But all are gifts delivered from on high.
And apt to leave us quickly as they came.

So we should love more,
pray more, share more
with our neighbors
as we’re blessed.

Thanking God for all that he has given.
Food and shelter as he sees we need it.
Teaching us the meaning of contentment.
Accumulating wealth won’t satisfy.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Excellent poem- thanks for sharing. This is an elegantly written confirmation of what Spouse and I are aiming for. Buying things doesn't satisfy us, so it's not like we're being too hard on ourselves. We simply don't enjoy the process of shopping, buying, taking care of the items, worrying if they'll break or be stolen or how we'll move them next time we want to go somewhere.
There are many more important things to be concerned with- at least, that's what works for us. I do believe I read this poem before on your blog and it reinforces my own belief that less really is more.
(And isn't it grand to be the first to comment? :) )

Delena said...

I came across your blog and love it. I can really relate to this entry. We had 37 years of accumulated "stuff" and now have moved out to the country. I had to downsize like you wouldn't believe. It was one of the most liberting thing we have ever done. We now live in 358 square feet carriage house. We also have a one room cabin with everything we need and it is so comfortable. It was a lifestyle change that our friends envy. They have big homes with rooms of furniture and ornaments that they just don't use.

julochka said...

very interesting thoughts on the birth of an idea. we never really know what will strike us and have an effect. it's often something much smaller than you think...

Pauline said...

Interesting last comment about initially being in opposition to that kind of lifestyle - how much of our lives are lived through habits that we don't even realize we've formed. I downsized from a ten room house to a single room cottage and still I have too many things. I think I will try to follow your example of lightening my need for possessions. Just think how much space I would then have to dance!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Del, it's always lovely to have a new visitor, and your simple life sounds fascinating! I understand about it being liberating- it's such a good feeling to be rid of more and more things. I'll definitely be checking out your page.

Julie, I wouldn't have expected that to have an effect, especially as we were so opposed to the style. It grew on us, which was a surprise and as you said, it's the little things you least expect that have the most impact.

Pauline, ten rooms to one: now that is a downsize :) We're aiming for a similar level but it helps that we're already in a small apartment.
I love the last line! Dance, dance.

hele said...

I love coming here. It makes me want to change and grow and let go.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hele, -and I'm glad you come by here. Your comments are always comforting and kind :) Letting go of anything is not easy- I'm glad I can help!

tangobaby said...

I learned to "travel light" years ago, when I moved from my married life to my single one. I never realized until then how much "stuff" I had accumulated and the physical and also psychic burdens that came with so many things I didn't even know I had.

I have moved several times since then, and my belongings become less and less each time. It actually makes me happy to live with less because I don't feel burdened by things I would feel responsible for. Traveling light, even in my imagination, makes life easier for me.

(On the other hand, I live with a collector, a person who is very nostalgic and derives a lot of comfort from things. It makes for some very interesting conversations about belongings, I can tell you.)

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Tangobaby, "I have moved several times since then, and my belongings become less and less each time." That happens to me too, and I'm glad about it. This is the first time though that we've done it consciously, determined not to bring our extra 'stuff' to our next place. It does make life easier in many ways.
If you have things you don't use they're more costly than it seems, especially if you pay to move them every time. And you pay for your living space and can't indulge in all the space because it's filled with possessions.
Oh, so many reasons...
And for your last sentence: interesting conversations, as you say! People are different and some feel better around collected things and that's fine too. We had a problem with the bulk of what we owned and so decided to do away with it. It worked for us.
I'm glad you've found a good balance :)

Nan said...

My house might be deemed spare by some, but in the terms you described the one you visited, it might not be. I wouldn't be happy without the warmth and homeyness of rugs. I like pictures on my walls. I don't have much furniture, but what we have is comfortable and welcoming for me and for visitors. Homes really do express who we are, don't they. And there are so many degrees of clutter and of spare. Fascinating post, as always.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Nan, Happiness is the most significant thing. If Spouse and I weren't happy with a more spare lifestyle then we wouldn't do it- we simply aren't happy when we're tripping over clutter or rooting through stuffed boxes or cupboards.
Homes are a real expression of people's character. I've always thought that. I bet your home is beautiful- because you want it to be warm and inviting and, as you said, comfortable.
You're absolutely right that there are different degrees, and that what is spare to some might be too much clutter for another. It's always interesting to think about.

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