Drunk on Life

I have been thinking about minimalism a great deal lately, and it seems to me that it isn’t so much a case of getting rid of things as of distilling your life to its essence. Getting rid of things is not the point, it’s the process. All that stuff which is inessential (that is, not part of the essence) is an unlamented by-product of the distillation. I mean, when did you last hear someone fretting over the missing by-products of their whisky? Exactly.

When I look at my own life, however, I am afraid that it is far from being a pure essence. Any gunpowder drenched in the liquor of my daily existence wouldn’t give so much as a fizzle, let alone a really satisfactory BANG! Never mind proof or over-proof, you couldn’t get a dormouse drunk on this.

7schlaefer de 2009-2

But there is hope for me yet. Little by little, drop by drop, I am distilling my life into something stronger. I am peeling away the layers of things I neither want nor need – garments that don’t fit, holey unmatched socks, random paper-based stuff – and finding as I do that I am feeling freer and freer from other stuff as well. Things I have kept for years, decades even, because I felt I couldn’t let them go, I now feel perfectly comfortable about releasing.

It’s actually quite addictive. The satisfaction of seeing all the dross purged from one small area of my life is such an enjoyable feeling I can’t help wanting to repeat it.

Purifying a precious metal from its overlaying dross is a good metaphor for the process, actually. So, to my surprise, is a military campaign. I always think of military campaigns as being terribly grim and disciplined – and no doubt they are. My campaign is more a guerrilla-style campaign of freedom and joy. Like a guerrilla gardener or a guerrilla knitter, except they add where I remove.

Ffm traxler statue elche mit guerilla-knitting

I find myself prowling around the house, interrogating stuff with a critical eye. I lie awake at night considering potential targets and plotting my next move. Keep the best and toss the rest. And by toss I mean gift, donate or recycle. Or compost, in the worst cases.

I dream of being free of the bulk, the sheer physical thingness of my possessions. Of having the mental, physical and emotional space to devote myself to what truly matters to me. I plan, in fact, to get tiddly on the distilled essence of my life.

What have you been dreaming about lately? How are you getting there?

Lagom: the Way of Goldilocks

Lagom is a Swedish word signifying just the right amount or proportion of something. (Not to be confused with mathom, which refers to old things suitable only for perpetual regifting.)

“Just right” is just what Goldilocks was looking for, and, I’d argue, just what we should be looking for ourselves.

The story of the three bears 1839 pg 30

Bigger is not always better; less is sometimes more. But then, sometimes less is actually less. I loathe the idea of being smothered in my own excess, but I don’t want to strip away the things I genuinely enjoy and which enrich my life. I am in search of “just right” (but unlike Goldilocks, I am not looking for it in other people’s houses while they’re out)!

Lagom is a wonderful concept, and the best thing about it, in my opinion, is that it isn’t prescriptive. It doesn’t say “this much”. It says “just the right amount” – which is different for different people. To illustrate the point, let us consider interior decoration.

For some, this is lagom: the minimalist look of utter simplicity.

Mauerbach 20110923 0059

I like the look, myself, but I don’t think I could actually live like that. For more than a day or two, anyway. Where would all the books go?
For other people, “just right” is more elaborate, or perhaps even a bit luxurious. Like this.

Government House Trendy Sitting Room (8415287951) (2)

And for some people, “just right” could be described as creative chaos. Again, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there, myself. Not with all those swords on the wall. Not after the earthquake we had last night…

The problem is, of course, that it isn’t always easy to know what constitutes “just right” for you. Sometimes you’ve just got to whip out a spoon and try that porridge.

Generally speaking, most of us in the Western world have got rather full bowls. If you’re staring indigestion in the face, don’t feel you have to clean your plate. Consider spooning some out – into the smaller bowl, or out the window if it’s gone all cold and manky.

Whether you’re considering possessions, portion size or anything else, follow the Way of Goldilocks and ask yourself: Is This Just Right?
What’s lagom for you?

Denslow's three bears pg 5

If you were wondering who the old lady in the top picture is, she’s Goldilocks! She was originally a nasty old woman – and she wasn’t even called Goldilocks for her first sixty-seven years in print.