This is inspired by an article by Graham Hill in the New York Times about Living With Less. He wrote about a former life where he had more and was filled with discontent. He compared it with a life with less space and possessions but with increased happiness.
My parents housed our family in an exclusive community of millionaires. Every house was over six hundred square meters and the normal lot size was 800 square meters. Most houses had two floors and often had servants quarters, a garden, a pool and a guest house or room. As my sisters got married off, I eventually got the room and dressing room to myself. 60 square meters of space for myself. It was a great space. We needed hired help to maintain it.
After my father s passing and my mother s illness, we moved to a home half that size. The biggest adjustment was having much less possessions and space efficient ones. The change came with savings. This was useful as my mother s health care needs inflated. The change also required me to be more selective in all things: time, stuff and people. It felt like the smaller space excluded the non-functional and the non-essential naturally.
My mother eventually passed away. So it was time for a smaller home. This home was one fourth the size of the previous one. Instead of an exclusive garden, we had a shared one with our community. Instead of four antique cabinets, We could only fit one in the townhouse. The center table seemed a waste of space so out came the wooden chest with inlaid mother of pearl that could be used as table, treasure keeper, decorative center and a reminder of my past homes.
(The image is a street in Copenhagen with townhouses where Hans Christian Andersen once lived – Nyhavn waterfront from Forum Pizarro)
I was forced to follow the Marie Kondo s ultimate test for keeping things. It was a stressful and long process of asking the question “Does this item delight me? ” before finding a place for any object in the house. The question sparks memories and dreams and consumes more time than you expect. But the Konmari Method ensures you don’t grieve over items you remove from your home. Combining her method with the Giving Year resolution has made living with less pleasant, refreshing even invigorating. It has also infused my home with increased functionality and meaning.
For Mr. Hill, his smaller space has improved his carbon footprint and unleashed the global social entrepreneur who travels. For me, my smaller home has inspired me to write. Hence this blog. It has led me to a more interior path directing me to reflect on what truly matters and how can I maximize these areas. “Fancy” food , destination dining and gyms gave way to barbecues, home cooking, nearby family restaurants and local Zumba classes. Time with friends is scheduled and no drop in visitors as we may just lock up and be gone for a day, a weekend or a week. Rather than traveling widely, I travelled locally and discovered all the things that delight foreigners when they visit our country. Most of all, having less made me appreciate the small little things that build a rich and beautiful life: really fine pastry, exceptional coffee, meaningful conversation, strong relationships, useful herb garden, grateful attitude, prayers in my pockets, grace in others and myself; and always time well spent.
The featured image is a Townhouses Painting from Breathing of my Heart.