Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Minimalist or maximalist?

Am I a minimalist or a maximalist?  I’ve been asking myself recently.
On the minimalist side, when reading blogs, I’m often drawn to those where people are writing about de-cluttering and simplifying.  The idea and concept of a good tidy out is something that makes me very, very happy indeed.   I find nothing more therapeutic than sorting through, arranging, and optimising my wardrobe, drawers, bookshelves and storage cupboards.  I find sorting through piles of things stressful, whether it be piles of paper on my desk at work, or the stock of DVDs in the cupboard that have yet again got in a mess.  And the piles of paper that my husband leaves in various locations around the house drive me absolutely crazy. 
Mental clutter is also draining to me.  I have to write tasks down, rather than carrying them around in my head.  And I have to get them done.  If something is never going to be done, I delete it from both the list and my head.  Otherwise it weighs me down.
But, and this is a very big but...I often find myself vehemently disagreeing with the ideas in some of the more extreme minimalist blogs.  The idea of a kitchen with nothing on the surfaces, no indication that you may get fed, no signs of life is absolute anathema to me.  The very expensive ‘perfect’ modern sleek kitchens in the showrooms along Wigmore Street in London (such as this Poggenpohl example), bring me out in a rash and make me want to run in there and get out all my baking kit and throw flour around.

Likewise with my clothes, I do understand that some people have the ability to live with a couple of pairs of jeans and a couple of t-shirts.  But I don’t, and forcing myself to do that feels as if I would be trying to be something I’m not.  I’ve thought about this a lot, and I genuinely don’t believe that I use clothes to compensate for some other failing, or to hide behind.  I just love them.  Ever since I was a tiny girl I’ve loved going shopping, and thinking about dresses and clothes.  At the age of 8 or 9 I wrote a story in which I described what the twin heroines were wearing in the greatest detail!
Decor-wise, I could not live in this (how depressing!):

And I absolutely love this kitchen from Real Living magazine with its open shelves and 'unnecessary' objects on display:

So – too much is too much, but not much is definitely not enough.   I suppose at heart I’m an organised maximalist.  I love things, I love houses that have evidence of life, I love surfaces that are decorated, and walls that are hung with paintings.  I love clothes, jewellery and shoes, and playing with these.  I love kitchens that are full of life.  To me, objects and things have a life of their own, and deserve to be treasured, used and displayed.
But like all things with life, when they are lost as part of a crowd, when they are subsumed into an amorphous mass and can’t be engaged with, they lose what makes them special.  So a surface with artfully arranged vases and items, however full, can be special.  A surface covered with unopened post, keys, discarded items, will never be.  A wardrobe full of beautiful clothes, arranged and properly hung, where each item is visible and fits into a coherent whole, where each item fits and suits, is wonderful, no matter how extensive.  Even a small pile of tattered, unloved clothes is depressing. 
So go ahead and analyse your possessions.  Keep only what you love, or know to be useful.  For some of you it may be more, for some, less.  Your kitchen may only have a few items in it, if you’re not a keen cook.  Others may have a kitchen like mine, which is full of equipment, but with all of it loved and used. 
Get rid of those piles of clutter, the unopened bills, the mental clutter of the never done items on the to do list.  Tidy the DVDs and get rid of the ones that aren’t watched.   And slowly you may reach your optimum stuff/space balance.
I’m not there yet, but I am working on it.  My next post will be about some work I’m doing on my wardrobe.   I’d be really interested to hear what you think. 

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