When we moved to our new apartment this fall, I fell for a trap I didn’t know to look out for. Immediately, I let myself succumb to an urge to pick perfect fixtures and fill the 14 foot walls with stuff. I wanted shelves, huge art for the tall walls, and a new bed frame. Rugs, a bigger couch, mirrors, and house plants! New and antique and modern and chic. More and more to fill in the walls.
As I watched our old, used fixtures move in, they felt out of place in such a lovely space. I couldn’t get over the mixed wood grain between our floor and table. Nor the way our futon reminded me of a 70s college apartment. The furniture we had before felt too chunky and the mismatched items passé. I created for myself a cliché mission: to do what I could to prove we “fit” in this chic loft through what we put in it.
I fell for two of Fumio Sasaki’s reasons for item accumulation 1. conveying my self-worth through stuff and 2. what I owned became (for a short time) what I believed myself to be. In his book on Japanese Minimalism, Goodbye, Things Saski shares, “the more we accumulate and the harder we work to build a collection that communicates our qualities, the more our possessions themselves will start to become the qualities that we embrace. In other words, what we own equals who we are…when we consider things are equivalent to our own qualities and start believing that they are in fact us, our number one objective will become their maintenance and management” (page 3).
The truth is, I felt out of place and undeserving of what the move meant. We had upgraded to a two-bedroom and were the first to live in the newly renovated building. Everything was clean, fresh, and well- bigger and frankly- better. We are located in a town outside of the Piedmont Triad and the Research Triangle. Nestled in-between, we enjoy city access, without paying city prices. And so, the loft felt like luxury! I felt a need to overcompensate for my discomfort by filling the space with items that would “prove” our living in luxury. Fueled by insecurity, comparison and judgement, I resented what we already owned because it lacked the class I believed we should have achieved to live here.
Simultaneously, I started on my eco-minimalist journey. In reducing how much I had, I hoped to “upgrade” to what I thought the space needed. What I learned as I decluttered, sold, and gave away my unused items is I actually didn’t need as many places for stuff because, well, I didn’t have enough items to put away. In our old apartment, I tried to overcompensate our low-cost surroundings with trinkets and frames. Here, I see the beauty in appreciating the simple home. Not because of what we have filled it with, but because I now find value in useful items and seek with intention what we do with space.
Today, I love my home because each item adds value and leaves my mind feeling settled and at rest. I love that we got creative and reupholstered our thrifted dinner table chairs to compliment our walls. I love the negative spaces and open walls. Now, I love that looking out the window and dancing in the sun streaming in is better than the art I could have hung.
I learned to be mindful of my surroundings and slowly acknowledge what the space truly needs. Slow and simply living in the home reminds me of its purpose. Not to prove ones worth or wealth, but to shelter and hold us, to give us space to rest, to allow for flourishing of our creativity, and offer union with loved ones. All not because of the items we fill it with, but because we cherish what moments and memories we have in it.