Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Simplify, Simplify

Every day the word, "simplify," repeats like a chant in my head.

 Mom--who loved freeing our homes of previous owners' busy wallcoverings,
painting a single color throughout the house,
and replacing Victorian chandeliers with modern lighting--
is responsible.

Isn't it odd, then, that I chose a career in art and design
when Mom clearly trained me in the art of undecorating?
Even now, when I visit her,
she asks me to put away the extra things
 and remove the dried-up flowers
to "pretty up" the place.

+   +   +

I'm ambivalent about owning things.
The objects I admire most are newly-invented and streamlined--
sleek and modern furniture, lamps, the art of Matisse, Motherwell, and Martin.
 At the same time, I find pleasure in the sensuous detail of Rubens, Michelangelo, and Renoir.
 I adore Scandinavian interiors, ancient 12th-century abbeys, and storied cathedrals.

My photo stylist work puts me in touch with marvelous material goods.
Lovely furnishings slip through my fingers like sand through a sieve.
 I create with a wealth of things--but only for the moment.
 Once the photographer clicks the pictures, I "crack the set," move on to the next one and
the beautiful things disappear into corporate archives or are sold at prop sales.
Little of it comes home to complicate my life.

To my eye, there's nothing more beautiful than an empty stretch of countertop awaiting a new recipe.
A side table free of clutter, ready to host a visitor or provide chairside comfort.
A bookcase with room to grow more reads.
It's peaceful. Relaxed. Open to the future.
And I can pretend I'm leaving a small footprint on the earth.

Still, things accumulate.
Books, tools, gifts, electronics, clothing, dishes, the accoutrements for living.
What's a minimalist to do?

A friend in Seattle has minimalism down to a science
Her rule is simple:
When something new comes into the house, something old has to go.
Would that I could manage so well (and she really does)...

And so I beat on, a little boat against the current of consumerism...

My rule is simple:
I don't want a dumpster clearing out my house after I leave this earth. :)


mise said...

It's an excellent principle. Most of us own too much, and are hampered by our possessions and browbeated by the tide of advertising that would have us buy more.

ELK said...

oh goodness how these word resonate just now .. in fact .. I am off to simplify my kitchen a bit :)))

rosaria said...

Oh, you're so right! We ought to ask ourselves, will our children fight over this acquisition after I die?

We have too much of no value to anybody in our quest to surround ourselves with things that could stand for happiness.


I am not a true minimalist, but I do like things that are simple. I like to surround myself with things that are beautiful and/or useful. Happy simplifying.


Jen said...

I love your simple rule and I am so with you!

Ramblings by Carol Nuckols said...

I'm at the age my mother was when every time I went to see her, she said, "Don't you want to take something?" I'm still deaccessioning her stuff. And it feels good to get rid of things I don't truly love, use or even like. The fewer things I have, the lighter I feel.

B. Meandering said...

I'm not a minimalist, but I'm not a big fan of Victorian with all its details in everything(this town is on the historical register as a Victorian village). I do like a little clutter of familiar books, pictures, and other momentos that have good memories attached to them. I tend to group and cluster things so no surface is empty here. But if it gets too cluttered, I go through things and put away or give away.
I enjoyed your thoughts and ideas.

David N. said...

That last line hurt. Ouch. It feels sometimes like I need all this stuff. Like it's good stewardship to be prepared for anything we might need. But you're right - I don't want my kids dealing with enough junk to stock an entire resale shop when I'm gone. I guess I need to think of more ways to simplify.

Becky Avella said...

After three days of working at it, I just finished emptying my kids' rooms of accumulated stuff and clutter. My oldest daughter was doing "carpet angels" in the middle of her floor tonight before I tucked her in. I just wander into each clean, unluttered room and sigh a happy, peaceful sigh. I forget how much clutter drains me. Thanks for this reminder.

From another Becky who found you through Imperfect Prose. : )

Connie Mace said...

Donate." oh such freedom in this! love it.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Becky
This is such a timely post for me.. I've spent the last few weeks downsizing [for want of a better description] and I still have yet to do the garage.. It's left with me with mixed feelings.. every night I think of something I tossed.. and have pangs of regret.. yet... I feel liberated in many ways.. a feeling of relief to not own so much.. less to clean and worry about.. yet still I wish I hadn't thrown that vintage mirror that belonged to my mum.. haha.. Mostly I kept any keepsakes and small antique pieces.....'s a conundrum... I had a friend tell me that quote once 'When something new comes into the house, something old has to go.'... I do need to live by that.. although.. for the moment.. I won't try to fill the gap I've finally managed to create.. Sorry for the waffle.. but all this is very much on my mind at present..

PS.. that Turkey is for real.. Not Sydney though.. it's from last year's trip to Noosa.. cracked me up.. Turkeys everywhere..

Have a lovely day.. ciao xxxx Julie

Leslie said...

I love the look of clean and simple Scandinavian style, but I have realized over the years that my home looks much like MY mother's home. Comfortably cluttered. Sigh...

Heather said...

A principle that I hope to never forget. Our journey has taught us much and the one thing that remains is that material things cannot be taken with us in the end! Beautiful post!

Anonymous said...

A thought-provoking post. I'm not a materialist but I do like bits and pieces around me that remind me of family and friends. Moving house a lot means a big clean out now and then. We can't take it with us so travelling light is a good rule.

alittlebitograce said...

simplify is the word my daughter needs to learn. her bed is piled so high with stuffies that i'm not sure how she fits. :)

i really enjoyed how you explored the concept of simplification in such an artistic way. :)

Julie said...

i really need a little more simplify in my life! lots of clutter I can't seem to part with. You made it sound so appealing, I think I need to start removing! :)

Lindsay said...

i like your friends rule: when something new comes into the house, something old has to go.

Donna said...

I so agree!!!
I, too hear that word in my head, Becky...problem I need ot hear the word "motivate"!!!! ha!

emily wierenga said...

And I can pretend I'm leaving a small footprint on the earth.

oh becky this is an exquisite post... and i understand. completely. i loved every bit of it. i tend to be like your mother... but i also love sleek new and modern. i want to come and visit sometime, decorating artist friend. love to you. xo

Kati patrianoceu said...

Yes, I hear you! I am on a constant crusade to avoid clutter - for me it's because everything I own will soon find its way into a suitcase and have to be moved on, and it's not unlikely that some other poor soul will have the task of packing that suitcase! - but it's so hard because of all the things worth having, worth valuing, worth saving.....

Jeanne Klaver said...

I'm with you--we're starting on our basement next Tuesday! Honest, we are.

Ron said...

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free.... The Shakers have it right. Too much stuff clutters not only a house but also the mind and spirit. De-clutter!


Ron said...

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free! The Shakers have it right. Too much stuff in the home clutters the mind and spirit! Peace!

mimi said...

I love this post... beautifully and artfully written... this is a quest I struggle with too... I love things, but I love an uncluttered look and feel as well.I want things to look comfy and welcoming....but not cluttered. Things must rotate in and out of use so I don't feel smothered. One way to avoid over crowding is to not keep anything that you don't truly LOve! Maybe I should go clean out a closet now...

Vintage Linen Treasures said...

Hi Becky,
Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. It really means so much to me. It's so funny that some times kids get big, but don't quite grow up for a few years yet. Thanks again!
Patricia :o)

Ps: Great post! Love the last line. I don't want my kids to have to worry about all my "stuff" when I'm gone. Hopefully, I have a ways to go before that happens. So until then, I'll do a little more collecting, recoiling, adding and removing until it's all just right. I can't help myself!!! LOL

S. Etole said...

Clutter-free is freeing, but it's difficult to know what to part with because of "sentimental" value.

Donna said...

I'm there with you, Becky, but my problem is that my house Is already decorated and I love it all. Then I see some new treasure and buy it with the thought I will replace something else...problem is I don't! So it adds clutter. I just want to simplify too....ah, there's always next January for a New Year's resolution...ha!