Lifestyle Minimalism By Rosemary Bointon You know those magazines where they show houses that are have just one or maybe two pieces of furniture in an empty room? It’s a lifestyle thing – minimalism. Having less and less things in your house is becoming more and more popular. I’ve always wanted to be a minimalist. And now I’ve achieved it! Our newly renovated flat is ready for us and aside from the built-in kitchen and bathroom, we only have four items of furniture: a standing desk/table, two stools, a printer and a bed. Nothing else. We love it! Living the life you see in a magazine I have a confession to make: we are only minimalists by accident. Our furniture is 1000 miles away. But it’s exciting to come home to a pristine empty space, all a shade of white except for the new wooden floor. It’s soothingly luxurious, sweeping away the stress of the day with its peaceful vibes. It’s so easy to keep clean and tidy too. And it needs to be. It’s been snowing outside. Well it was more like slush. Really mucky. When we came in the front door after going for a walk, we did the obvious: we took our boots off. Uh-oh! Now, where do we put our muddy boots? How does anyone walk the minimalist walk in muddy boots? The search for a minimalist solution to dirty boots Our idea of minimalist theory told us that things should have a place so that you can easily find them and that place preferably should be white or maybe pale grey. The colour of mud is not the colour accent that minimalism generally aims for I believe. Boots and shoes should adorn a white shelf. Or maybe they should nestle inside a grey cupboard. That’s the version that you see in the magazines. We don’t want to see mucky items hanging around, dribbling puddles of mud. Now what’s the minimalist way to minimise mud? The war between the minimalists It almost seems like ideological warfare. In one corner of the building, there are those who can bask in the smugness of no clutter to be seen. They have work surfaces with nothing on them and every furniture item has hidden storage. It’s clean and uncluttered. Doesn’t seem like there’s much room for muddy activities there though. And in the other corner, there are those who argue that it’s not just about an image in a magazine. Minimalism is not only living an uncluttered life. It’s about wasting less of the world’s resources, and indeed, wasting less of our own resources. For them, minimalism is about minimising your impact on the environment, about creating a warm and comfortable home with imagination and the clever use of what you already have. Seems like a lot of hard work to achieve a minimalist nirvana this way. And I still don’t know what I’d do with the muddy boots. So how do we walk the walk? It looks like I’ve got a lot of thinking to do to decide what the best minimalist solution for my muddy boots would be. Minimising what we use means each item we choose has to perform for its living. It has to look beautiful, make our lives easier and be practical. That’s a lot of thinking! But it promises to make our daily routines more satisfying, make our lives better and make us into better people. It can lead us into a world where we think about our values, what we stand for, how our actions might contribute to the good of the planet rather than exploiting it for temporary gratification. Putting the boot in Too highfalutin when all we’re talking about is what to do with some muddy boots? No. It means that I should be asking myself questions like these: Should I support a talented artisan or preserve my own resources by buying cheaper mass produced even though the quality is not so good? Should I consider the effect on the environment of transport costs included in the price of a mass-produced item or go for a more expensive locally made item where total transport costs are much lower? Should I buy something made of non-biodegradable plastic or should I go for natural, renewable materials? Arguing it both ways. What kind of minimalist solution is the real deal for you? I aspire to that organized, clutter free look. A heap of dirty boots by the door isn’t the look I’m after. And I don’t want to be tempted to clump into the bedroom with those dirty boots to hide them from sight in the wardrobe. Looks like I need a box or a cupboard by the front door. (But do I need one or just want one?) But I also aspire to the thinking that minimalism can go so much further than just style. If we abide by its rules, we can help the planet. Our choices all make a difference. They can help sway economic activity, help to prevent climate change, the destruction of forests and ocean warming. Minimalism can help our world to survive. And, if I don’t buy a cupboard, think of all the money I’ll save! Which way should I go? Does recycling help us to walk the minimalist walk? I am really tempted by the thought of minimizing our environmental footprint. Maybe I could do some form of recycling. I looked at pictures of boot storage made from old pallets – you know those rough wooden structures that they use to stack things on. Maybe I should do that – it looks like a great idea. But wait a minute. If we’re talking about using up less resources, does this really work? Let’s see. First, I’d have to find an old pallet and go and pick it up in a car. Then I’d have to sand it down so that nobody gets splinters. Couldn’t do that without a plane or an electric sander, so I’d have to go out and buy one of those, a whole load of sandpaper, some varnish, thinners and paintbrushes. It sounds really messy, not to mention the noise pollution. And I’d need a cupboard to put all that lot in when I’d finished. I’m going to have to admit it: I prefer my minimalism ready made for me. Maybe I should support an artisan and get them to do it for me. That’s an expensive route though. What about going mass produced? Does that make me more or less minimalist? A temple to minimalism? We all know that minimalism is the logical extension of Scandinavian design thinking. So, my husband and I rushed off to IKEA, the ultimate emporium for those on a budget who aspire to Scandinavian design. Not so much ready-made minimalism as flat pack minimalism. Of course, we aren’t the only ones. IKEA was packed out and the car park was overflowing. So many people seeking the satisfaction of nice design and clever ideas in a budget package. So many people willing to face the stress of shopping to achieve it. Watching all those people, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the whole minimalism thing was a way of getting people to chuck out all their existing possessions and to spend more money on new furniture. Maybe minimalism is another form of consumerism. Let’s be seduced by minimalism It’s hard not to be seduced into consumerism by the style and glamour, hard not to believe life would be better with a new desk, a practical wardrobe, a new sofa – or in our case, a storage solution. It’s not just consumerism that drives people, though. Indulging in a bit of eavesdropping in IKEA, I heard people trying to work out practical solutions about what would work best for them, make their lives more comfortable, give them joy and satisfaction from their environment, indulge their love of beautiful design. And if we can do it in a way that least affects the planet – so much the better. A tall order and not so easily achieved. Whilst I cogitate on the demands of living up to the standards that I aspire to, I’ve delayed a decision. Instead, I’ve bought a microfiber cloth to mop up the mud. Those boots are made for walking along the road to minimalism Take the pleasure of considering your needs before you start, feel the pleasure of decluttering, the satisfaction of delivering your unneeded possessions to a charity shop. Feel the daily joy of looking at a well-chosen item. (I just love opening the drawer and seeing my plain and simple cutlery – the design gives me such pleasure.) One step at a time, we can improve our daily lives. It might just be a bit of decluttering, or a small reorganisation. It might be considering the effects our daily choices on the planet and choosing different cleaning products. For others, it might consist of the creation of a comfortable home where they feel stress free. For the amazing among us, it will end in seismic changes to their lives – an alternative life style out of the rat race, with a clear conscience and the tiniest environmental footprint. Get your boots on: it’s time to start walking down the road to a more thoughtful life of minimalism.