Go mbeannai Dia duit.

About Me

My photo
Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Living Plain.

'Tis the gift to be simple,

'tis the gift to be free,

'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

It will be in the valley of love and delight. ~ Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr.

When I was about 16 & finishing up my Queen's Guide badge I was doing some volunteer work for a lovely lady called Mrs Love.  Mrs Love stood 6'6" in her stockinged feet. [Mr Love was about 4' nothing ~ talk about the long & the short of it.]  In the midst of an affluent Sydney suburb Mr & Mrs Love lived in a poky  fibro house with a wood stove & 90 years worth of clutter.  They were a fire hazard waiting to happen ~ to say nothing of health & safety requirements.  They owned, between them, about 6 pairs of glasses: a pair to look for the pair so they could look for the pair they wore but had put down somewhere ~ if only they could remember where!  In their house the search could take months of wading through a tide of *things*.

Now there is nothing wrong with things.  I own plenty myself.  I need these things to make my life function at all but it becomes a problem when things own us & our things run our lives.  [The cats are excepted.]

So while Ember has been speaking on profound matters my mind, per usual, has reverted to the trivia a la Mrs & Mrs Love.    Over the course of a misspent life I have spent a lot of time in other people's living spaces & have reached a number of conclusions.  I hate ugly.  I really, really do.  This is not a matter of personal preference.  It is a mater of cheap & nasty ~ or expensive & ugly.  Cheap does not have to be nasty & beautiful does not have to be expensive.  What amazes me is the amount of useless things people surround themselves with, that serve no purpose but require care just the same.

This has made me think about what it means to *live plain.*  We all need a certain amount of stuff ~ & what that stuff is depends to a certain degree on who we are & the sort of things that make us happy.  Me, I'm drowning in paper: books, books & more books; typing paper, writing paper, drawing paper.  I am probably single~handedly responsible for the demolition of a small Brazilian rainforest.  To say nothing of Dearest's stamps & on a bad day I threaten to strike a match & have a lovely fire instead of all this stuff!

Now I am a long way from my ideal but I aspire to something the Ancient Celts understood ~ & the Shakers &  the Japanese & most monasteries: less is more.

 Clean, simple lines, &  lack of ornamentation put to practical use.  If what we use everyday is also beautiful our homes are simply decorated already with what we use.  The lines of the Celtic wine jug are clean & unornamented but there is a dash of whimsy in the handle & spout.  Shaker furniture is notorious for its simplicity & beauty.

Most monasteries practise some sort of aesthetic austereism ~ but they are rarely ugly. Now I understand money usually determines what we can afford to buy but I rarely simply buy the cheapest thing going because how something looks is important to me.  Even our kettle!  I know.  Strange woman that I am. 

We have wooden walls & huge windows throughout the house & this makes decorating easy ~ & simple is plain.  Just about anything looks good so whether I throw a patchwork spread over a bed or a bright monotone comforter it's going to look good.  This is helpful as I tend to like quirky things & quirky rarely suits your usual type of house.  I don't do many nick~knacks because I don't have time to look after them & I am aiming for a streamlined, clean, uncluttered feel ~ even Japanesey because the Japanese also understand the art of the understated.

Being able to let go, to not *need* is important to me.  It is important because there is nothing in this world I can take with me into the next.  It is important because it frees up our limited resources for other things.  It is important because we can be content with what we have ~ & grateful for it!  It is important because it declutters the soul.  It is important because it leaves room for the things that truly matter.


The HoJo's said...

Having followed Mama O's link to the minimalist site it has reminded me how relaxing it was when all our posessions were in a container, bobbing along in a boat! all we had was a few items of clothing and essential paperwork (and shoes, shhhhh) I know I couldn't go down to 100 things, but as the children get bigger and their clutter reduces (who knew)I long for space where there is less 'stuff' around (wardrobe excepted, I keep things for a long time, I love precious items of clothing that were a gift and treasure them like other people do ornaments or their car or golf clubs.

There is a certain amount of peace in lessenng clutter, I am making small inroads in paperwork this week, no emotional attachment there, a cheats start maybe, but a start nonetheless.


Linda said...

I read Ember's plain beautiful it was very good.

I have lost my attachment to a lot of my things only recently. I hope we get time of the January holidays to actually take some away. I'm not sure in my case it is a good thing, but hopefully will allow a new phase and a happy one. I wasn't one that wanted to move on from having small children.

Jan Lyn said...

So true. Simplifying always helps me to focus on what really is priority-the soul. You have done a great job describing my in-laws in Mr. and Mrs. Love and their home. (I say so affectionately and must laugh!)
I've got my main floor plain and declutter so well, but our lower level here remains a mess. It's on my 'some day' list along with the basement.

Gerry Snape said...

Having to clear the loft for extra insulation, Was a great help! For a start I found that super pair of boots that Aunt Helen left in the coal house when she died...brand new... and I thought that I had thrown them out. What joy! They are now brushed up and fit for our worst of winter weather. By the way she died in 1987 and I had already worn them for quite a few years and even passed them on to the blessed daughter in her college days!! Love it!

Duchess said...

Less is definitely more...especially out here where more means more dusting and I've got no time for that! (dust is a country accent by the way)

I was picking some things up after our function last night we had catered for and as it was at the Little Shop on Rose, my eye spied, hiding under a patchworked pillow, a very plain and very simple old and original timber snow sled. I've got my eye on it. What is it about the old timber hand made things? (I think it would look good hanging up on a wall!)

seekingmyLord said...

You know this subject speaks to my heart, but I am a realist: Less is less and more is more. I simply would be happier with less at this point...particularly in the Princess' room.

As you know, we are going through a lifestyle change and in the process of that we are rearranging our home too, so that it works practically with that desired lifestyle better. I feel called to do more with what we have and do it all with less. I have been stripping away to "simplicity in necessity." Just doing with what we really need and enjoying that. Sounds like another subject on which I shall blog soon...maybe.