19 Jul

My journey from chaos through minimalism to enough-ism – part 1

Stuff. We all have a lot of stuff and occasionally want to get rid off it, but it’s hard to throw or give things away. But sometimes you just have to. Find out what was the one things and how the way of life of Vappu Aneri, our second guest blogger, changed.

The founder of Hellin and our second guest blogger Vappu Aneri.

As a young adult I had a persistent, re-occurring dream. In that dream I was in a hurry, and I supposed to pack all my belongings with me but they didn’t fit. No matter how much I stuffed and crammed the bags, they were overflowing.

I always woke up in the middle of the dream and thought: Why didn’t I just leave the stuff behind that didn’t fit? The next time I had the dream I wasn’t any wiser. I couldn’t leave anything behind and the clock was ticking.

I have always been fairly minimalist at heart. As a kid, I enjoyed cleaning my room and the stuff I felt I didn’t need anymore went to the storage room behind our garage. Later on when I moved out, my studio apartment was sparsely furnished with a small table, bed, desk and a bookshelf. I had no rugs and I preferred simple paper blinds in the window.

Vappu had always been very organized, but when moving together with her future husband she couldn’t control his stuff. Photo by Vappu Aneri.

At times I was very organized. For example, I folded my underwear and arranged them by color. By organizing stuff I got a small sense of being in control, but in reality, I felt nothing like that.

I still didn’t really know what to do with all the things I didn’t need anymore. Should I throw them away or store them in the attic? Out of sight, out of mind?  Yes, that was my solution.

My organized way of living ended when I moved together with my future husband. I couldn’t control his stuff! The piles of CD’s, his closet looking like a tornado, the magazine clippings and the desk drawers full of things in them I had no name for. Once, while cleaning together, I opened an envelope I took from a pile of random things. I pulled out something soft, fluffy and green. “What’s this?” I asked, confused. It was the fluff from the inside of his sweatshirt. It had come loose in the dryer at the first wash and he had collected and stored it in an envelope!

Our apartment was just “normal messy”, not a complete pigsty. I hated cleaning it though, because the result was never satisfying to me. We had too much stuff.

When I started art school, to become a visual artist, our home became also my studio. I painted huge paintings. And when my mother died and I became pregnant shortly after I went weird with grief and hormones. I bought tons of second-hand clothes for my daughter. Not only baby clothes, but bigger sizes as well. They were colorful and happy clothes for a happy life.

Vappu’s home was overflowing stuff when her daughter was born. It was distressing. Photo by Vappu Aneri.

I painted our bedroom purple with one gold patterned papered wall, our living room got a green and turquoise flowery wallpaper. But when I was hit with nausea from pregnancy, the purple color was sickening and everything seemed gross and dusty and smelly. I wished I could live in a sterile, white, fresh bubble. Yet I suffered through it.

When my daughter was born our home was overflowing with stuff! For example, not even a plate could be placed on the kitchen table before cleaning it first. Our home was beyond my control and I was not happy spending my days there with my baby.

Vappu got rid off everything! Unnecessary recipes, bank statements, postcards, notebooks and so on. Photo from pixabay.

Although it was chaotic in our home, I still bought clothes for my daughter. Perhaps she’ll wear this in a few years’ time, I thought. (Fortunately, she is a super sensitive girl and prefers a simple style!)

But when and how did I realize that if something had once come into my possession, I was not obliged to be a guardian for it forever?

It started with a book about clearing clutter, which we both read and got inspired six or seven years ago. I painted the purple walls white and after stripping away the green and turquoise flowers from the living room, I painted the walls with grey. I gave away and sold things, and organized books by color. I emptied my closet from all the clothes that didn’t fit or I didn’t wear anymore.

Although Vappu made a total change in their apartment, something toxic stayed. Photo by Vappu Aneri.

I went through everything I owned: the jewelry, the craft materials, the dishes, the vitamin and supplement jars. In addition, I got rid off all unnecessary recipes, bank statements, postcards, notebooks and so on.

At some point I realized that my dreams of packing stuff had stopped! I had thought the dream was about emotional baggage, but perhaps it was more. I had felt the same guilt about letting go of toxic relationships as much as physical things that weighed me down.

After the total change, I was strict about anything new that would enter our home. There was no piece of furniture or memento, book or artwork that didn’t go through my evaluation. Is it needed? Is it wanted? Is it beautiful? What is it for? These were the questions I asked myself.

There was always a risk that it would stay, and bring friends too. One way of stopping this was a bag where anything no longer used or wanted would go, and when the bag was full, it was immediately taken to a charity thrift shop. I taught my girl to donate the things she didn’t use or want to others.

But in winter 2012 after the window renovation, I started to be nauseous and run to the toilet to gag or throw up. I wasn’t pregnant, even though I really, really hoped and believed that it was it.

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.

What happened after Vappu discovered there was mold in their apartment? What is enough-ism? Vappu’s second blogtext is going to be published tomorrow.

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