The other day I was tidying up my basement where the kids play, and eventually ended up migrating over to the storage side and organizing a few things I’ve been meaning to get around to. A few bins and boxes from our move 4 years ago, along with several seasonal items scattered in a closet needed attention so I thought I’d finally finish the job.
I was done in about 2 hours and my basement looked great! I had this strange sense of calm about what I saw: a limited amount of stuff put properly in its place. The key word here is “limited.” Nothing superfluous remains in our personal collection of junk. No more stored outdated home decor. No more “favorite” things we can’t part with. No more bloody V-tech toys. And this new landscape of pared-down simplicity is exactly what this last move was all about. It was about living more simply.
Because before this move, my husband and I were seriously afflicted. We were engulfed in a world of materialism and consumerism as the community around the home we built in a newly developed area began breeding strip mall after strip mall after chain store after chain restaurant. And it scared me. A lot. Scared the bejesus out of me. I was living in the middle of some really strange energy I had never felt before. I grew up between a country home on 10 acres with animals and an uber-retro city once built around 1950’s values.
It felt as though everyone was searching for something more than what they had. It’s the only way I can describe it. Nothing was allowed to wear out. All these beautiful new homes looked like advertisements for whichever company was of the taste of the homeowner. And I sat there in my Big New House with a 17,000 square foot finished basement like a deer in the headlights. I didn’t want to decorate. I didn’t want to shop and God knows I didn’t want to clean 4 bathrooms. And to make matters worse, I went through 2 of my 3 kids’ 1st birthdays there. Since we had all this room, we could invite EVERYONE! This left us aquiring so much plastic crap I couldn’t walk 10 feet in the 17,000 square foot basement.
Then the fantasies about our Old Little House started. I would think about how little I was able to store in our tiny pantry, so I bought more fresh foods at the fruit market. I remember how I could drop my clothes down the clothes shoot and avoid the Laundry Monster if I felt I’d rather put the kids in the stroller and head to the park. I remember how I could, with a newborn and a toddler, clean my entire house from top to bottom in a couple hours. We could walk everywhere. The local fireworks were right at the end of our street on the fourth and that was a treat in itself.
And I forgot all the reasons I ever wanted to leave the Old LIttle House for the New Big one.
In the New Big house, we had to drive everywhere. And once we arrived to wherever we were going, we were always in a crowd of unanymous faces. No one seemed compelled to invest in one another. No one seemed to share a common goal, other than to please themselves. It was all so foreign to me. And the very worst part about it besides the fact that acres and acres of wildlife habitats were leveled for all the New Big houses people were lining up for, leaving all the New Big houses without any leaves to rake in the fall, was the fact that there were no “old timers” around. The Old Timers are what make life interesting, if not more learned.
Question: What happens when you put a whole bunch of 30-somethings all together in one community?
Answer: A whole lot of competition. And “I wants.” Greener grass and a whole new batch of little dance studio superstar brats.
And I was part of this whole cult. I wanted that New Big house more than anything. I wanted that first floor laundry. I wanted all those bathrooms. I wanted to pick out the materials to build this house. It seemed near impossible that at 25 I could be living in such luxury, considering in the community we came from, the same dollar value bought us just another small house with leaking faucets and squeaky floors. All that space for my family! What fun we could have in all that space! The holidays! The birthdays!
The traffic. The construction. The parking. The brick views on all sides of my house. The house cleaning. The landscaping. The amount of crap we bought on our family outings because there was not a whole lot to do besides eat or shop. Or drive to the one community pool housing a million people.
My kids had more clunky, plastic toys than Geoffrey himself and played with none of it for more than 5 minutes.
Now, after the BIG PURGE, we have one bin of Barbies, one bin of dress-up, one of building objects, and one humongeous bin of stuffed animals. And, an ample amount of art supplies.
We ended up with a comforatble, not-so-tiny house back in the old hood. It cost us a little more than we were searching to spend, but in value we have gained a better life. We have an outdated kitchen, no blinds on half our windows (yet), tons of leaves to rack and seasonal yardwork, one full bath for a family of 5, and all kinds of other quirky little booby-traps every where, but there is an element of living more simply than we ever have before. We bike and walk a lot. We enjoy our beautiful yard full of mature foliage, we buy less and make do more. Here, it is more admired to be driving a used car you own than a new one you don’t. Though the economy has certainly opened our eyes to watching our dollars, we have taken great pleasure in the feeling of paying cash for things. owning cars, budgeting grocery trips.
We love what we have. It has been effortless here for me to decorate and turn this place into home. I just put out the things that I love. The pictures and books and knick-knacks that have meaning to us. Maybe it’s a little ecclectic for some people’s taste, but for some reason, it fits just perfect in this ecclectic little town full of meaningful things and interesting people.
Yes, perhaps we could have morphed into this very same mentality living in the New Big House. But somehow, I doubt it. Avoiding materialism in the middle of a shopping mecca is like watching your weight at the ice-cram parlor.
What’s the point of being there?