One extreme disadvantage to living in a broom closet is that when one begins to amass stuff, one is painfully aware of every blessed item. Less really, really is more in the whole 12x12 paradigm.
Saturdays are yard sale days. And yard sales are hard to avoid when you are pushing the stroller through the neighborhood to get the groceries, return the library books, visit the park, and so forth. And what mother can resist the plaintive cries of her firstborn for the plastic badger that folds out into some kind of fish? And only costs $0.25? This is where the trouble begins. Because that plastic-badger-that-folds-out-into-a-fish is going to attract friends. It is going to tumble out of the cupboards sooner or later with its entire plasticine posse when I am trying to set the table. Or gouge me in the eye some evening before I discover that my tidying genius of a son has secreted it beneath my pillow. Or emerge, stinking and covered in moldy hummus (Anainn is a very innovative dipper-of-things-in-hummus) from under the rug.
All of this flashes before my eyes as I pay for the thing with a $20 bill (every scrap of my smaller currency having been sacrificed to bus fare this week). These visions cause me to respond to friendly overtures by the yard sale crowd with nervous titters and twitches that do not bode well for future play dates in the neighborhood. Leading to a greater need for plastic playdate substitutes. It is a vicious, vicious cycle.
And then, arriving home, unpacking the groceries and library books, I find that if we are to scrape out a space to sit and have lunch---let alone lie down and sleep!--we are going to have to winnow down our possessions. I find this a lot. Probably three times a day. It is very good for cultivating a non-attachment attitude and not-so-great for cultivating serene children. ("What do you MEAN I have to give my stuffed puppy away? I just gave my stuffed panda away FIVE MINUTES ago!" "Yes, dear, but it's your second-largest toy, and I need a place to set the baby down so I can change his diaper.")
I've found my studies in permaculture very useful here. Permaculture is the study of ecological systems. In a nutshell, when faced with any dilemma, the true permaculturist asks herself WWND (what would Nature do) ? Nature, it turns out, puts great stock in multi-functionality. Take a tree. A tree is a tree, yes, but it is also a home. And a provider of shade. And a unit of informational exchange via the mycorrhyzal network. And a water conduit. And a prop for vines to twine up. And a soil bank. And so on.
So I have made rules for our possessions. They must be, at the very least, dual-purpose. For instance, my camping pot is too small to be functional in day-to-day cooking so it doubles as the toothbrush jar. The cream pitcher that has known far too few tea parties is pressed into service as a flower vase. The futon cover becomes a blackout curtain once the bed is folded out for the night. The refrigerator, through the profligate use of magnets, is also my bill-organizer, writing desk, calendar, and inbox. The high chair is the dish-drying rack when the meal is through.
Which means, I suppose, that a badger-cum-fish fits the bill. Barely.
This does set my few "luxury" items into stark relief and helps me to better appreciate them. A guitar is just a guitar. A painting is just a painting. A belly dancing DVD is just...silly (but it's so much FUN). And it is liberating, in a way, to be this interactive with my possessions. I can assure you that there is nothing I own that I am not aware of. The few books that now constitute my core collection are GOLD.
my favorite thing about my house today: fresh snap peas and amazing salads from the garden. the daily lesson in de-emphasizing things and re-emphasizing the flow of life.
least-favorite thing: have I mentioned that it is SMALL?!