Right now, I am straddling three homes. My in-laws’ house (where we sleep); my family home (where I spend a lot of time, and where my stuff is stored); and the house that I am building, which is taking much longer to complete than anticipated (new estimated completion date is April 2016, please God).
First world problems considered, living away from my own home has been a little difficult. I’m sharing a place with people after I’ve lived independently; and my stuff is sharing a place with my mother. Once in a blue moon, she rearranges the contents of my boxes to a system that better suits her (which makes looking for things hard). Sometimes she piles things fished out of those boxes into a corner to ask a question about them (eg: do I really need these Parisian slippers?), then starts bemoaning all the clutter in her house when I fail to notice said corner, or she forgets to ask me about it. It’s difficult, but it’s so very typical of our relationship. (Also: she was the one who insisted I not pay for storage).
These difficulties aside, I’ve noticed that living away from my own home has also liberated me somewhat. Living with my Anglo-Australian in-laws has added an element of simplicity to my life that wasn’t there before. Lebanese people don’t do things simply. They do everything – meal times, celebrations, home decor, ordinary conversations – in a louder, more ostentatious way. It’s something I’ve noticed among a few migrant communities, as if building their ‘wog mansions’ and filling them with furniture and statues compensates for their poor upbringings in the mother country.
My mum has always despised clutter, but she’s also always made the best use of space and storage. Now that I have very little space (we’re confined to a very tiny bedroom, and I’ve become quite adept at squishing things into any places I can find for them), my hatred of clutter has intensified and extended to so many areas of my life. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon this post by Sarah Wilson, where she talks about the things she doesn’t own. Wilson’s post led me to Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits, and after religiously reading a few of his posts for a week, I resolved to change my life.
‘Change my life’ is probably a strong, ambitious term. But it’s reflective of an ongoing internal monologue that revolves around having less stuff, to enable me more time. I don’t like being flustered or forgetful, and yet, even before becoming a mother, I started to notice that having more stuff meant being busier. Life became about cleaning, filing, tidying and storing, or at least, thinking about it. I stopped being mindful, my mind was always ahead of me and my focus was non-existent.
These days, when I am living in cramped conditions and when I realise I have hardly had to access most of the stuff in storage, I am firm in my resolve to implement some basic aspects of the minimalist philosophy to my life. I’m inspired by people like Leo and The Minimalists (whose book I purchased last year, and which is currently making the rounds among friends), and by the prospect of having more time to do things like read, play with my daughter and make lemon bars.
But mostly, I’m motivated by the concept of consuming less. It’s a good place to be on the cusp of a new year. If you’re interested, I’m sharing how I am putting some of this resolve into action in an upcoming post.