Monday, August 9, 2010
Hello again, my fellow TAA-dwellers. (TAADs?) The weather here in the Bay Area may be causing "the coldest summer in 40 years," but I am loving it! I miss my L.A. friends, I miss my kitty-cats (who're being watched by their auntie until I get settled in), and I do kinda miss my old TAA. But! Onward and upward! Even though I haven't been blogging much, there are still a lot of great articles on small space living that I've been obsessively reading, bookmarking, and mulling over. One such article is from a site dedicated to minimalism, about 100 common items that the author chooses not to own. The post has since disappeared, and I won't link to the main site because let's just say I disagree with a lot of what the author had to say. I expected an article about clearing out clutter and unnecessary objects in one's home, which obviously would be of interest to me and TAA. And in fact, some items on the list were reasonable; if you don't drink coffee you can do without a coffeemaker, if you use your gym membership you don't need to own freeweights and a treadmill, and if you're not a cheese enthusiast like myself you don't need to own a fondue set. But the majority of the list were things I couldn't quite wrap my head around. The author does not own a couch, a bed, a nightstand, an end table, a desk, a dining table, a TV, a DVD player, a clock! And from what I gather (though I may be mistaken), she is actively choosing not to own these things, though she could afford them and find room for them for the most part. She has a futon mattress on her floor, she uses her coffee table for eating and working on her laptop, and her printer sits on top of the box it came in. She declares that she has no art, no window treatments, no rugs, stating that she likes "bare walls/windows/floors!" When she mentions not having something like an end table, she says she "doesn't see the need for one." And that's one of the things that bothered me about her list: her tone. I got a distinct feeling that the author was very pleased with herself for living without the unnecessary junk the rest of us consumerist whores have sold out for. (But that's my reading of it; she did not say anything like that.) Her self-congratulatory tone really rankled me. The image that popped to my mind was that of a reverse-hoarder: instead of compulsively saving every item they can, the author appears to compulsively get rid of every item she can. Now, I understand the limitations one can have when owning things: maybe you can't afford an end table. An end table is pretty low on the list of priorities when you'd prefer your money to go toward rent and groceries. And I understand the limits of available space, as you well know. Maybe your apartment is so tiny that any additional piece of furniture would make things so crowded that your place turns into a fire hazard! And I also understand not wanting your possessions to start owning you -- "you are not your khaki pants," as they say, or in this case "you are not your couch." All of this, I understand. But your possessions can also bring you comfort and pleasure, and I think most of us strive to find a balance where our things bring happiness into our lives, but they're not the only things that do. I choose to own a couch because it gives me a comfortable place to sit and read, or watch TV, or have a conversation with a friend. I have an end table so I can put a lamp on it to provide reading light while sitting on said couch, and a surface where I can put my drink without worrying about knocking it over. I have art on the walls because it makes my eyes happy to look at, and because the works made by my mother remind me of her. These possessions make my life more comfortable and happy. And after I read the "100 Things" article, my knee-jerk reaction was, "This woman and her apartment sound so boring." From my perspective, her lifestyle is one of masochistic deprivation. Of course, I don't know her. She seems quite content with her lack of 100 things, and if that works for her, great. But her lifestyle is extreme, and I think many of us would be unhappy if we tried to emulate her. I'm happy with my stuff, and you should be too. And let's open this up for a little discussion, too. What are some items you've happily gone without? What are some things you need to live? What are some things you need to be happy? Here's an example to get you started: even though it takes up precious countertop space, I love my Kitchen-Aid to pieces. Sure, I could make do with a hand mixer, or I could give up baking altogether, but that would make me very unhappy. So my baby Bela (I named the Kitchen-Aid after Bela Lugosi -- long story) can take up all the space it wants; I'm never letting it go!