For years I used to admire the concept of minimalism. Whenever I entered a room that was uncluttered, functional, aesthetically pleasing and devoid of “things” I longed to live in such rooms myself. I even described myself as a minimalist for a while, hoping that the label would imprint itself on my brain and change my ways. I still sigh longingly when I find myself in a minimalist environment, for I yearn for an environment in which chaos does not prevail.
Try as I might however, I cannot bend myself into the shape of a minimalist. I love “things”. Not for their material value, but for their sentimentality, their ability to ground me during times of uncertainty, their feel, their stories, their normality. Having a Labrador with a rudder-like tail means that “things” come and go, and most weeks I find myself scooping up broken pottery or glass. Although I often feel a tinge of sadness to see one of my treasures consigned to the bin, I do not set any store by it. My “things” are earth-bound, and as such they do not have intrinsic value.
The real negative when you like having curios around you is that it’s a great effort keeping your environment tidy. When I get to the point where I cannot cross the floor of my lounge without risking breaking my neck, my heart sinks and sometimes I just sit on top of the chaos for days. I’d like to blame the mess on Trudy, but in truth we’re as bad as each other. While she’s emptying her toy basket all over the floor I am hunting for an important piece of paper and in doing so strewing possessions here there and everywhere. If ever a television crew needs someone to recreate a first-class burglary scene, then I am the woman to do it!
I know when it’s time to take action because my visitors are forced to sit on foldable picnic chairs as there is nowhere to sit. (Chairs will have been turned into tables at this point). This means an emergency blitz is called for. Blitzing my flat is a necessary part of my life and I probably have to undertake this unenviable task four times a year. It can take weeks to sort through what I wish to keep and what I should have discarded three months ago. Usually the black bin bags contain papers and magazines, but occasionally I sift through my “things” and manage to fill a bag destined for the charity shop. There are some possessions which just become old hat and no longer have a place in my life.
Order is something that bothers me when I do not have it. I get annoyed when I lose things and resent wasting time searching for proverbial needles in giant haystacks. Having a sight impairment makes losing things commonplace. Here I can name and shame Trudy for her part in separating my gloves, hiding various items of clothing, walking off with keepsakes and sometimes eating up bits of paper and creating an interesting carpet Collage. But I contribute to the chaos too. My recent bout of depression necessitated the most mammoth blitzing my flat has ever seen. I stopped performing everyday tasks such as washing up, recycling junk mail and putting away laundry. So my flat quickly became a living rubbish site, which would depress the most optimistic person. It became unbearable to the point where I would find excuses to be elsewhere. I started hating my flat, and wanted nothing more than to find somewhere else to live.
At this point where chaos was not fun any more, I had to take matters in hand and regain some order in my life. In my head I had a clear vision of what I wished my environment to be like, and I began to work at creating an infrastructure which would help me maintain everyday organisation. So I bought storage boxes and bags, files and folders, and began painstakingly sorting through the heap of chaos. As the piles of papers dwindled and a path appeared in the centre of my lounge, my spirits slowly started rising. I’m trying to find a set place for everything, so that even if I have days where the burglars revisit, I can put my “things” back in their proper place once my unwanted guests have been chased away.
Some people might wonder why I don’t just get rid of all my “things” to make life simpler. Occasionally I have done so, but inevitably my environment fills up again with oddities and quirky ornaments that make me smile. Despite not being able to see colours I have a very vivid colour-based imagination, and this manifests itself in my environment. I do not worry about things matching or co-ordinating, as long as they have meaning. I do not like having “things” for the sake of having them. In fact I could name all my assortment of objects and explain what they mean to me. My environment is an expression of my life so far. I have things which were given to me as a child, souvenirs from local and far away places, as well as objects which have been loved by others before me.
Once or twice an onlooker has summed up my environment as “junk” – and it may well appear so. But as human beings we all have different likes and dislikes, and to me my junk is very precious.
So I’ve come to realise that my yearning for minimalism is actually a yearning for organisation. A tidy (albeit lived-in) environemt frees up your head and creates a healthy springboard for your day. My new infrastructure has not been tested yet, but I’m hoping it will withstand the next onslaught of burglars not to mention the everyday habits of resident human and Labrador.