Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Simplified Life

I once knew a man who kept reducing the stuff in his life until he was living in just one room and he said he had never been happier. I think of him often today. He lived on fish he caught in a nearby stream and from money for cashed in beer cans picked up from the side of the road.

I've made enormous inroads myself in this twenty-year project of simplifying my life. I've worked my way from a veritable marital mansion to a three bedroom townhouse to the Toronto bungalow (now sold effective May 31) that I live in today - on one floor and I rent out the other.

I am listmaking and starting on the packing and I am very surprised at how little I do have now. Lots to sell/donate/give away. Not much to store and the no attachment thing is hitting me delightfully. By contrast,I am surrounded by neighbours who are getting on in years and still clinging to the detritus and clutter of forty or fifty years of family life.

I have decluttered a few times now and everytime I do it I feel the effects internally. A huge load has been lifted. I paint my rooms in wild colours - it took me years to get the nerve to debeige and dewhite and depastel and my priority room is the kitchen/dining room where I meet with clients or entertain a full table when the inclination strikes me. I have as yet no place to move to in Toronto, I am blocked at every turn in finding a small apartment to rent in the downtown area I would like. I pay attention to this message. It is not meant to be. I have offers from family and friends of accommodation. I am curious as to what this "homeless" feeling is. Even though I do have my home in Newfoundland to go to in late Spring/early summer. But no home soon in Toronto where the bulk of my business is. I sense change in the air.

My decor is a vast collection of old and new movies, CDs and piles of books. I've reduced the higgledy-piggledy art gallery that used to clutter my walls. Laid a lot out on the sidewalk for others to pick up and enjoy. I find one picture on one wall sufficient now. I look at it more closely, study it. One from an artist in West Cork delights me particularly, full of the fall colours that entranced me in that part of the world. I did not pay attention to this before, it was distracted by others. Clutter to the eye. I have learned to take my time now in the AGO (the Art Gallery of Ontario) and just visit one painting at a time for a few hours and leave.

My house in Newfoundland is similarly simple. Decorated with books and bags and bags of lovely wools and knitting needles. A place for the soul. All sheets are old cotton picked up at Goodwill. Old embroidered pillowcases. Old soft towels. White muslin and old lace at the windows. Long table with benches in the diningroom and it can seat 12 comfortably.

My decor are family, friends and books.

(Picture is of the house in Newfoundland, thriving and stretching under a fresh coat of paint.)


  1. Jenny and I are very keen on decluttering, but in practice this is limited to chucking out as much as we are acquiring. There is still the constant temptation to pick up things we don't really need but make us feel good in some way. It's a blessing in disguise we can't afford a bigger house or sure as heck we would just find things to fill up the extra space. In pre-Jenny days when I lived on my own in one room I was a clutter-free maestro but it'll be a long time before I/we get back to that splendidly streamlined state.

  2. That's how I started too, Nick. Anytime I brought something in, something had to go out. Particularly with clothes. The tshotkas (sp?) were the hardest, the gizmo collections (or dust collectors as my mother used to call them!).I took pictures.
    Zen is a state I covet and so admire in others and it starts with de-clutter.

  3. Having consulted my dictionary, it comes up with tchotchke (or tsatske) which it says can either mean a trinket or a pretty girl/woman! I don't think Jenny would allow me to build up even the smallest collection of the latter....


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