It was mold that forced Vappu Aneri’s family to radical changes, get rid of almost everything. How does Vappu feel about stuff nowadays and what is enough-ism?
In winter 2012, after the window renovation, I started to be nauseous and run to the toilet to gag or throw up. A few months later the realization hit me. Our apartment was toxic. Our daughter had a terrible, persistent cough and nose bleeds and I was plagued with sleepiness that was reminiscent of narcolepsy. Not to mention the strange nausea and vomiting. It was mold.
And soon, one day, we found ourselves hastily grabbing our toothbrushes, phones, wallets and a change of clothes in a plastic bag, and leaving our apartment, never to stay another night there.
So we headed to my childhood home, my father’s house, and ended up living there for 10 months. Because our relationship with stuff had changed, it wasn’t a shock when we realized that we couldn’t keep our old stuff or clothes.
There were only a few things we kept. A woven rug my grandparents had made for our wedding, a notebook my mother had written about me when I was a child, notebooks I had written for my daughter and some toys I had made for her.
We truly had to start from scratch. One could imagine it being a lot of fun – but it was tedious. When you absolutely have to find some things fast, and you would prefer to buy mindfully, so that you will have things that are durable and that you like, then suddenly shopping becomes a chore.
And keeping things very minimal wasn’t always simple. I felt like I always needed to get new underwear, a top or socks. When you have very few clothes they wear out fast. Wouldn’t it make sense after all to just buy more at once?
But how things are now? After one small apartment and some unexpected turmoil later, we settled in a larger apartment. Now I have a home studio, one big room as my office and work place for my clothing brand, and our daughter has her own room too. Her drawers and cabinets are full of kid treasures.
I realized that things are transient.
When things no longer serve a purpose, I let them go. Second-hand has its risks as far as mold, but it’s cheap and I started to think stuff as being on a loan. If I didn’t keep it, I just paid a small “rent” for trying it for a while, and I don’t lose much if I sell or donate it again.
A little mess doesn’t bother me now, because I know there is a place to put the stuff in when I’m ready to clean up. I can’t live my life without stuff, but I’m learning to live with just enough. I keep a half empty shelf here and an empty drawer there, and I like to know what I have and where it is. I like that everything has a place where it belongs. If it doesn’t, cleaning becomes just moving piles around.
We are actually location independent for our work and we could live anywhere, but we are not nomads at heart. Even less so after having a kid who likes staying at home more than anything.
So home needs to feel like home. It needs to be functional and cozy too. Right now it’s functional for me not to own a washing machine, but do our laundry in a shared laundry room.
I needed to get quite many pieces of furniture for our new apartment, as it is more than twice the size of the previous one and I don’t really like an echoing home. It’s furnished with a mix of freebies and second-hand finds, rugs, curtains, photographs and artwork on the walls.
There are more than thirty pieces of clothing in my closet, and my daughter’s room sometimes looks like a whirlwind blew through it. We sometimes clean it together, throwing out trash and she gets to tell me what is trash and what is important. And what is not trash but she no longer needs. And what used to be important but is now trash.
But children’s stuff is endless, they grow out of things and break things. New things are bought, but the old ones tend to stick around longer. Not to mention the treasures they bring home and decorate every room with. Yet, it would be a sad lifestyle to deny them that in order to have a visually flawless home. As an artist, I appreciate seeming flaws as possibly beautiful, and certainly interesting. And as said previously, it is transient.
We all need some things, but the things we have should not have a hold on us. The constant wanting of something, planning for what to buy next, browsing magazines and blogs even when we know they will only make us unhappy with what we already have and want something new – it takes a toll on our happiness. It’s impossible to be happy in the moment, right now, when we constantly want something.
Our life will not be better after buying the next new thing. Because then it is no longer new, the excitement is gone, and there is always another new thing calling for us with false promises.
Finding a balance between almost nothing and overwhelming excess and arriving at just right amount for you – I call it enough-ism. It’s a lifestyle that needs practice, introspection, self-control and self-knowledge. It cannot be forced by merely removing physical stuff. The process needs to involve our deep needs and desires and understanding why we act the way we do. It is changing your mindset and approach as much as clearing physical clutter.
It often starts out with removing physical clutter and re-thinking your shopping habits, but the simplicity mindset expands and you may soon find yourself wanting a simple diet, simple hair care, less stressful work, less time spent worrying. Simplicity is not a one-size-fits-all solution though, but rather a custom made lifestyle.
Why would I rather miss my station than leave behind the stuff that doesn’t fit my suitcase? I don’t.