I’ve been crushing on simplicity lately. Mostly this is an Internet Affair, reading about other people’s efforts to purge their homes of unneeded dreck. The best on this subject is our former girlfriend (Joshilyn Jackson)’s hilarious blog about getting her things in order and (not coincidentally) how her brain works. I am similarly disposed. I love the idea that I too could pare down my belongs to 126 items.
Graham Hill appears even more minimalist (though actually only by 30 square feet per human).
Both make similar points. It’s easy to be consumed by your stuff.
My brain is both obsessed and oppressed by the items in our house that require tending. Somewhere between a curator and lion-tamer, it’s up to me to notice that the roof is leaking, the doors are creaking, the toilets need cleaning and the pool is greening.
I realized, on Sunday, as I wrote down the plague of tasks crowding my brain, a catalog of plebian demands that ranged from medicating the dog to replacing moth traps, that I am married, not to my husband, but to my house.
That’s why they call us housewives! Am I the only idiot who never noticed this perfectly obvious and not at all accidental phraseology?
Apparently not, for when I repeated my ephiphany to several women friends, they too seemed gobsmacked by the sinister accuracy of this seemingly tame term. We hadn’t noticed. It was as if we’d signed a contract back when we were too delirious with nesting instincts to notice what we were doing. I can just imagine Snidely Whiplash asking, “But what did you think you were agreeing to, my child? How much more clear can one compound word be?”
Worse than my giddy dismissal of the terms of the initial contract was my collusion in acquiring the items that now cry for dusting, ditching, folding, or mending. I had Stockholm Syndrome except it was Ikea Infatuation. When the Pottery Barn catalog arrived at the house, there I was, panting over it like a teenage boy with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Both of my kids were dragged to Target, on safaris for Real Simple organizing bins, Shabby Chic sheets and lavender candles, all in the aim of creating a serene environment that once created, would be self-tending and permanent.
That was my mistake. Nothing is permanent. Entropy happens. Towels fray, sheets tear, upholstery wears and paint smears. It all needs redoing, and all the redoing falls to the idiot who fell for it all in the first place. When they talk about the great circle of life, they don’t mention the revolving door of daily drudgery a.k.a “Sisyphus does dishes.”
In other words, maintenance is a bitch. Whether its our writing or our roof or our dog or even our children, one must give up time and the illusion of perfection to embrace the fact that no one gets out of here without a few dents and scrapes. The old saying, in the go-go Eighties was “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Now it’s replaced by a more Eastern outlook, “True wealth is wanting less than you have.”I’m all for that, except when it comes right down to it, decluttering takes time and downsizing takes might, and in the interim, I’ll have to settle for imaginary flight to a place in my mind hosting “all you can pretend, all the time.” Which is why, I suppose, I am a writer of fiction in the first place. I wander my roost sighing at the facts, all entropic, all the time, circling like gnats or the belfry’s lost bats, seeking containment, a reorganization, into the illusion of story where every thing is meant to be, and it will, at least on the page, remain in its place for ever and ever.
When not moaning about her housekeeping failures, Sheila is trying to finish her third novel. She is the author of Diana Lively is Falling Down and Everyone She Loved