Minimalism At Home

Photo by Darwin Vegher on UnsplashPhoto by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash

In one sense, a home is a personal museum.”

I was in the middle of cleaning out my closet and coming into contact with items from my past when I ran across this piece from Annie Midori Atherton. Although I was in the process of letting some things go, I was also recapturing the memories and magic of other things that had been stashed away. I had 3 apple crates full of CDs blocking my ability to walk into the closet and access other items. When I gained th ability to play the CDs, it didn’t just expand my musical selection. It also led me to objects that had significance in my life. Not just for their songs, but for their physical presence and their art.

I’m reconsidering these mementos and many others as I try to clear out space in the small apartment I share with my husband and toddler. But I can’t seem to give them away. So they collect in the corners of rooms, evoking the randomness of a thrift store—and not the twee, curated kind. I don’t necessarily love the look of mismatched junk congesting the nooks and crannies of my home, but the clutter satisfies a deeper emotional need. Collectively, it represents every stage of my life, the lives of relatives who have died, and now the life of my not-quite-2-year-old daughter. It connects me to people and times that would otherwise feel lost.

For the last few years, I’ve been trying to minimize. As I’ve become more dependent of my computing devices to deliver media and experiences, though, I can’t help but feel that something has been lost. Seeing everything through a screen can be a bit like only experiencing nature through a window to the outside. Not that there isn’t value to that sort of experience. I once heard an Orthodox priest from the city of the salt lake describe venerating an icon as being like kissing his child through a window. Of course, given the chance, you would much rather be with the subject of the icon in the flesh or kiss you child on their head. In addition, we Orthodox Christians believe that there is a mystical connection between the icon and its subject that doesn’t exist with ordinary objects. Still, the analogy holds some value, as the objects we can associate with people or places carry more imbued weight in person than they can mediated through a screen.

Most of my relations, my father included, did not lead particularly big lives. Their names are not carved into buildings or attached to scholarships. Only a handful of people think of them still, and one of those people is me. But their personal possessions remain and say: Someone was here. As I go about my day, folding laundry, or thinking through what needs to be done, my clutter reminds me of the people who have filled my life and, now, my apartment.

Like Atherton, I have objects that belonged to my grandparents that carry special meaning (like the carved wooden elephant from India — where my grandmother grew up — that I am looking at right now). While I still value minimalism as a concept that can bring a focus to what is truly important and keep us from getting too materialistic, I am trying not to be rigid about its implemenation.

Made with in North Carolina
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