I recently came across a great blog post titled What Would Happen if You Stripped Your Life Bare? on Love Minimalism. I think it must have been one of Courtney Carver’s P333 links on Facebook (a great way to find new blogs, and perhaps the reason some of you are here reading my blog today – hello, welcome, and thank you!)
Love Minimalism’s Faye talked about reading Dusti Arab’s ebook Conquer the Clutter and considering what her life would be like if she stripped her home bare. Dusti says that all we really need is a roof over our heads, clothes, hygiene items, some kitchenware and a bed. That’s the bare minimum for health and safety. A table, a sofa, storage cabinets, a TV… all are non-essential, although they may make our lives more comfortable.
Now before you panic and argue that you love your stuff and you’re not giving it up under any circumstances, think about your house if somehow you did only have the true essentials.
From Faye’s blog post:
“Imagine your house bare of everything except those things above.
Aside from the massive space you would suddenly find yourself living in … what would happen to your life?
You’d need to do something with your time, so what would you do?
You would probably end up buying things, so what would you buy?
What kind of life would you build if you started all over again?
Would it look anything like what you currently have, or would it be something completely different?
The beauty of this kind of exercise is it temporarily frees us from everything we have and allows us to imagine something completely different.
Who would you be? Would you still be the same without all of your things?”
I thought these were some really interesting questions.
I was looking at pictures of our house when we first moved in and it was brutally empty. If we didn’t have this much space we wouldn’t need so much stuff (and if we didn’t have so much stuff, we wouldn’t need this much space). I’ve often said that we don’t really need 800 sq ft plus a basement – that we could live quite well in 600 sq ft or a little less. Lately that notion has been challenged by starting a business, storing a lot of business supplies in our home, and having hubby working at home at least half of the time. The dining room and extra bedroom have become essential for storage and work space, and the basement has been very full. Without those spaces we would have been overwhelmed by this business, or we would have been forced to rent storage space. We’ve lived in less than 400 sq ft, so I know what that’s like, and it wouldn’t be right for this season of our lives.
I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my Things around me. Go a little crazy, probably. I’ve lived with very little before and it’s not comfortable. When I moved to Japan I really only had the barest essentials* and although it was exciting, it was also quite unsettling and uncomfortable. Maybe that unsettled feeling was compounded by being unsettled by culture shock and leaving home for the first time, as well as living alone in a space intended for a family. I guess I would go out a lot and try to find things to do, and lots of things to buy. I wouldn’t necessarily buy the same things again, but I would probably buy things in the same way, a little at a time, finding and buying things that are good enough but often not quite right because I am impatient and I don’t like big empty spaces. I wouldn’t splurge. I don’t think I could furnish a whole house in one shopping trip, as tempting as that sounds sometimes.
I sometimes think about what it would be like to do over my experience of moving to Japan. I wonder if I would have a different attitude and approach if I went there now. I’m sure I would, since I am 16 years older than I was then! If I went back and found myself living in the same circumstances I don’t know that it would be completely different though. Of course I would have the internet and the opportunity to blog, which really would change everything (I didn’t even have regular access to email when I moved to Japan in ’98) and I would pack very differently if I was going there now with the experiences I’ve had there and since. Yeah, hindsight is 20/20!
But I think my basic nature would still win out – a preference for home over out, a need for a certain amount of stuff to feel comfortable in my space, a general tendency to wanting more and better.
I wonder about how life would be different if I lived in a really vibrant city, some place really densely packed with things to see and do. I have heard many New Yorkers say that they don’t need a big living space because the whole city is their living room, the parks are their yards. They outsource many aspects of their lives and use communal resources. I wonder what kind of “nest” I would create for myself in that kind of context. I am so used to living in areas outlying major cities. Even in Japan I was stuck out in the boonies. I’m always a good hour away from the major cities I have lived – what’s up with that?! I guess I was closer in when we lived in Seattle, but maybe not quite as close in as I would have liked. And I might not have been quite in the right mental space for that city experience. Or maybe I never will be. Maybe I’m just a suburban girl…
Where would you start if you were starting over with only the bare necessities? Looking around your home right now, would you end up with the same stuff, assuming you could get it back? Or would you choose entirely different things? Does stripping your life bare sound like an exciting opportunity or a nightmare?
By the way, I started this post a few days before my last post about the WA wildfires. While I was writing it I was thinking about 2 people I know who have recently been forced to start over again after fires. They had no choice but to start from scratch with what they could salvage from the debris of their homes and the charity they received from the people around them. I don’t think anyone would want to be in their shoes. Hopefully living with less allows us to be more generous with our possessions, time and money when people need help.
Thanks for stopping by!
Bye for now,
*I moved to Japan with 1 suitcase weighing 30kg and 1 small carry on bag. My apartment was outfitted with 7 things – a futon/comforter/pillow set, a phone, a fan, a fridge, a gas cook top, some curtains, and 3 ceiling light fixtures. No, apartments in Japan are not rented with any of those things included – they were provided by my employer.
All the other basics (a kettle, plates, cups, a broom and cleaning supplies) were given to me by a kind teacher. I had to buy everything else, starting with spoons, sheets, a table, and something to store my clothes in.
It was a crazy experience.
ha! I see that little table and 2 stools which was the first furniture purchase I made in moving to the little house on the big island. :) Great thoughtful post.
I think you had a wonderful experience in Japan. If you had gone flatting in Auckland it would have been just as crazy an eye opener. I have seen some student flats – pretty horrible. As for the fires I think it would be just terrible. However, as you say, life goes on and people are kind. Sometimes it brings out the best in people. As Lynn says, something good always comes out a tragedy. It doen’t always seem like it at the time but when you look back you can see it. Allan was a bit of a hoarder so not only did I have my parents things I had his parents things as well. It took a couple of goes with the large rubbish bin to get rid of it all as most was old and useless. In fact I still have quite a lot of rubbish. Guilty of sentimentalism. I think a car is for getting from A to B and a home is for security. Guess I am just not a material girl. I am planning my next holiday.
Thanks for mentioning my post. Hindsight is always 20/20 – this has been so true for me on so many things! I guess learning is all part of the joy of living :-)
Thanks to you for writing such a thought provoking post! and for coming over to read my response :)
I didn’t even recognize your house! You’ve done so many wonderful things with it. I was a few pictures in before I even realized it was your house… Crazy.
well only the second photo was this house :) the rest were Japan. But yeah, our house looks really different from that photo!
See I think I thought that kitchen one was in your house too. Didn’t it used to be a different color?