Ohhh, let’s talk about wanting.
I don’t know about you but a significant portion of my life is spent wanting things. At times this is fantastic, because when I want to be a better writer, or a better mother, or a healthier person, this wanting is the wolf at my heels spurring me to run faster and try harder.
Wanting something different for myself – more elegant prose, more patience, more greens – is what kicks my motivation into gear. Being able to envision an alternate reality – a better reality- inspires me to take the steps I need to get there.
But when this wanting turns from wanting to be different, to wanting to have different (or more, or better), well. That’s anther story.
I was doing pretty well in this department until we bought this sweet little old-lady house. Because I love this house. It feels like a sweet old shelter dog that we have adopted and are going to lavish love on until its last days. I have PLANS for this old-lady house. And there is nothing I love more than making our home beautiful and warm, and welcoming to those who enter it.
It used to feel frivolous, this desire to create a beautiful space. I no longer feel silly about it though. We all need walls and floors and things to sit on and curl up in, blankets to warm us and dishes to eat off.Might as well make them beautiful.
The issue is space, and wanting to fill it.
Like this space. Currently occupied by one lonely piece of art – my favourite piece of art, given to us by my grandparents as an engagement gift. It is a young deer drawn by a famous German art forger. It used to hang in the study of my grandparents house, where we slept when we stayed over. It is the last thing I remember seeing before I fell asleep on those nights.
Anyway here it is, the sole occupant of this wall by our front door. But oh! Wouldn’t it be lovely if that sweet fawn were to preside over a rustic console table like this one?
Or perhaps its spare lines would be better complemented by a battered old library card catalogue?
I look at that space – among dozens of others – every day, and I want to FILL it. I want to fill them. With things – all the things!
But because I truly believe in having less, living with less, loving a life that is less, I have to rein myself in.
And I do it by asking 4 questions:
- Do I need it? This one is the worst, because the answer is almost always no. Ugh, no I don’t technically NEED a console table or battered old dresser. We never come in the front door, and neither does anyone else. It would stand empty, and its only purpose would be to fill the space. Do I need that?
- Can I make it? This is for things that pass the first test. For example we do need a kitchen table. And rather than buying something new, I am refinishing one I bought secondhand off Kijiji. Which brings us to number three…
- Can I buy it secondhand? If I need it, and I can’t make it, can I buy it secondhand? Furniture, clothing, some appliances – everything that can be purchased secondhand, is.
- Is this the BEST quality I can afford? For items I need, can’t make, and either can’t find or aren’t appropriate to buy secondhand, I try to buy the best quality I can afford, so I only have to buy it once. If I am buying sandals, I try to purchase well-made, beautiful, durable shoes that will last ten times as long as $3 old navy plastic flip flops.
What this list means for me, in this stage of extreme nesting, is that I am resisting those purchases that I don’t truly need, while making the ones I do, as beautiful as I can.
For me, beauty is a need. And it’s not just me. People all over the world in all societies since the dawn of time have sought to create beauty in the environment around them. I believe it is a deeply felt human need, so I don’t feel guilty for acknowledging it anymore. We need art, we need music. We need spaces that make us feel good, and warm, and peaceful, and reflected.
So I am shaking off the urge to fill space just to fill space, and instead thoroughly enjoying the process of filling the needs of our family in this house.
Thus, the front hall table is a pass. I don’t need it. And all of those months cramped into our tiny house in Squamish, didn’t I lust after just the sort of space I am trying to fill, now?
We do, on the other hand, need window coverings so that our neighbours aren’t subjected to the daily sight of me wandering around in various stages of undress, so I am turfing the table and instead investigating options to find fabric, or happen upon gorgeous well-made curtains.
I need a desk, to sit at and ruminate behind, so I am painting a door I found downstairs. Having a door desk has been on my love-to-have-it list since I discovered the demon world of Pinterest a few years ago, and with a filing cabinet under one end and who-knows-what under the other, PRESTO! Beauty.
I am trying to escape the wanting, by infusing the basics with beauty. Painting and sanding, and refinishing, restoring. Progress, but not for progress’s sake alone.