One of the nicest things about the whole decluttering thing is the great sense of satisfaction that you get. These days, I even whistle as I cycle past the large houses in my neighborhood. There was a time when I, too, dreamed of having one of those ‘when-I-grow-up-I’ll-have-a-so-and-so-house’, built of wood with turret rooms, a veranda, lemonade tree (just like Pippi Longstocking) and a walled secret garden. Well, that’s one dream that never came to pass, but it doesn’t matter one iota. Because at some point, it became very obvious to me that, while it would have been incredibly wonderful of course, it would also have been a huge hassle.
There’s an article I once read in an interiors magazine called Linda Wonen about living more simply. It was written by journalist Marianne Zwagerman, who had it all: the beautiful farmhouse; horses and stables; other little animals running around; a driveway; an open-plan kitchen-living area; meadows; and – what really made me jealous – a vegetable garden with a greenhouse.
But the dream-come-true actually proved to be a pitfall with a vengeance. Zwagerman had to work six and a half days a week to pay the mortgage, and every spare minute was spent on chores, gardening, tearing round on the lawnmower, taking care of the animals, cleaning the pool, flattening the potholes in the arena with the tractor, lugging bales of hay and so on. “I thought that free-living would provide the ultimate freedom, but that was a huge mistake. Possessions and property eat up all your freedom.”
You can still feel very rich when you don’t have much (more), and this is one the benefits of taking a different approach to possessions. My dreams shifted from turreted rooms to leisure, travel, finally getting to read that large pile of books and studying a course in something.
In the end, Zwagerman sold her fabulous estate and now lives on a small houseboat. And is finally happy. “Forty square meters,” she writes in her article. “It seems more than enough to live on. I live like a millionaire with a view of the lake.”
PS: I myself am still living with quite a lot of things, despite my decluttering project, which (next week!) has lasted 52 weeks. How can that be? Next week will be my last blog on this subject, and I’ll be balancing out a ‘year with less’.
Astrid, together with Irene, is the founder of Flow Magazine. She lives with her partner and two children. Each Tuesday, she writes about the sense—and nonsense—of decluttering.
“Week 51- Satisfaction”