Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ruminations About Simplification

This picture speaks for itself! It is a picture of the excess in American life since the 1980's as demonstrated by the McMansion. The 'little' house in the center is a lovely perfectly proportioned two story family home. Perhaps the size of these McMansion's had something to do with our eventual mortgage crisis too. I think initially it was unbridled optimism and 'feeling' rich so to the middle class, a castle was possible, hence, the McMansion.

If you are interested in home and interior design (my 'other' passion), check out this website by Patricia Gaylor at and read about her take on the picture above.

Sitting down with a cup of tea and a new design magazine is pure luxury for me. I can't tell you how much I've spent on design magazines over the years. To justify the expense, I've chalked it up to my design education!  I think I've learned a thing or two about design as a result so I've never been intimidated when putting together my own home. It was great fun to transform this old country cottage into our home. The cottage has many rough edges that I softened with design but the old cottage doesn't try to be anything but a cleaner, brighter and a little more stylish version of its original self.

New life for childhood
family radio cabinet!
Since retiring, I've found myself changing perhaps because I have more time to ruminate. I've realized I'm happier with what I have and where I am. I don't want to shop for more things but rather find I am trying to reduce the amount of things we have or repurpose them. The family radio which was part of this wood cabinet has become the storage for CDs and the top is the entry shelf for keys, mail, etc. I changed out the fabric that covers the 'speakers' to match our decor and kept the wood as is. Its perfect and full of family memories. I remember Mom using the top for raising bread dough since the radio made it warm; and it was the spot for the nativity set every Christmas.

I like our small home that is the perfect scale for two and the right size for me to care for by myself. The cottage is cozy and all rooms are totally utilized every day except for the small guest room. I've had great fun decorating our home and amazingly our things fit the space perfectly. Choosing the interior colors, walls and flooring, window coverings and fixtures was fun and after three years I still love the choices. I have to admit that a big part of the charm of our cottage is the windows that extend the eye to the beautiful outdoors which visually expands the inside space!

Maybe the desire to lighten one's life is a function of age but I hope that others are finding the same sense of restraint. We Americans are so fortunate to live in our fabulous country of plenty but at times it can be overwhelming with choices and frankly, stuff.

I just finished a fabulous book called The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. Kristin, a Harvard educated professional woman living in NYC, met a young idealistic farmer on a writing assignment, fell in love and jumped into a total life change. She and her husband learned to utilize old things and to repurpose other things to suit their needs on a very tight budget. It is beautifully written and an amazing tale of a life that is not for the faint hearted. I always enjoy memoirs because they let me try on another persons life and lifestyle. I related to many of her observations and feelings while reading her memoir of life on Essex Farm which is now a successful venture. Kristin also writes a blog that you can read at...
The Dirty Life

What is it about old peeling red barns that are so appealing? Hopefully ours, this spring, will be a striking shade of geranium red! You'll see when it happens.


Kaye M. said...

That's quite a picture! At first glance I didn't even see the house in the middle! Yes, those McMansions really got alot of people into trouble.

Janet said...

We also see the huge homes around here and I just don't get it. I just see all the upkeep. Love the old radio cabinet. Useful, pretty and reminds you of your mom. Sweet.