Minimalism or Homesteading?
I am back to considering the clutter again. Like most of us I struggle in this area. I read books like Clutter Be Gone! and websites like The Minimalists and I strive to emulate these people, to learn from their wisdom and insights.
I know that my life will be simpler, the less STUFF I have in it. I know that objects from the past I am keeping for sentimental or emotional reasons are holding me back. I know things I have not used, that were a mistake when I bought them, and are an even bigger mistake now, just hold me in a cycle of guilt. But here I still am surrounded the things, by stuff.
So why? Why, when I desire clear space and free air, am I buried in books, boxes and belongings?
I think, maybe, the problem is that part of me is a homesteader. Homesteaders enjoy a life of self sufficiency. They grow and preserve their own food, they often make their own clothes, and tools too, if they have the skills. And all this takes up space. Tools for gardening, space to preserve food, jars and pans for preserving and bottling, material for clothing making, along with sewing machines, and sewing baskets, knitting needles and wool. Outside, the tool shed has its load of tools, nuts, bolts, nails and screws. A wood store is needed for the lengths of timber, roof shingles and plumbing joints that will be used one day. Very little is thrown away, instead it is carefully sorted and stored against future need.
It is a way of life I admire, and that a part of me wants to emulate. When I was growing up in the 1970’s there were many self sufficient communities setting up in the UK. Groups of people would band together, pool their money and resources, buy a plot of land in Wales or Scotland and set up a self sufficient community. They met with varying degrees of success, normally depending on the quality of their leadership, but I admired them, and in many ways I still do. To be able to turn your back on the modern world and get back to a simpler way of life. To have the skills and resources to make and fix things yourself, without having to rely on, and pay, other people to do it for you. To be able to handcraft top quality items instead of buying shoddy things made cheaply overseas, maybe in dreadful sweatshops. This is the way to live!
But I also want free space and free time. I want time to run, and as I move further towards long distance running, it takes more and more time. I want to sit on the beach with my loved ones and watch the waves. I want to travel in my little van around New Zealand. I also want to travel and run overseas. In my house I want fewer items taking up my space and time. I don’t want to spend hours dusting books or around things. I don’t want to have to sort through mountains of stuff to find the one thing I want. I don’t want items from my past dragging me down, or making me feel guilty every time I look at them.
And so I live in a weird compromise world. One where there are a few preserving jars in the cupboard, but not enough to actually make a difference. The garden has a few vegetable plants, but not enough for anything to actually give us a meal, the shed is cluttered with items that might be (and occasionally are) useful. There are boxes of things from the past hobbies or interests of all 5 of us, that we keep because we spent money on them, and who knows, we may take up that sport or hobby again in the future.
Off the top of my head I know there are martial arts gi’s stored in a bag in my bedroom; bows from when the girls did archery; some cross country skis from when we lived on a moor in Yorkshire, UK; watercolour paints from a previous hobby; the dog crate from when the dog was a puppy and books from all interests and ages, board books, homeschooling books, novels, cookbooks, kids books, books on building cob houses, books on knitting, sewing and quilting, books on heraldry, history and horses…
We look around at all this stuff and we say Too Much! This Has To Go! But then there is a rainstorm, and the roof begins to leak and Peter finds a bit of wood in his shed and fixes it. Later Jonty asks for fingerless gloves as his hands get cold with Raynauds Syndrome, and I find some wool left over from another project and start knitting. The cat gets bitten by a dog and needs an operation. Afterwards we dig out the old puppy crate to keep him safe while he recuperates. A friend borrows a book on heraldry. There is a glut of blackcurrants and I make jam using the preserving pans and jars. And on it goes.
And so I am locked in an endless struggle between minimalism and homesteading. Neither one thing nor the other. At times I long to sell all I own, buy a slightly bigger van (one with a toilet!) and take off. No clutter, nothing not needed. And at others I want to carefully sort everything, to build another shed to use like a homesteaders barn, to store the tools and equipment needed to be more self sufficient.
It is with a degree of irony I have to note that both minimalism and homesteading can be catagorised as slow living….
I hope, in time, I will work out what I do actually want.