Belongings: Indulge in the Simplicity

10 Jul

Last year, I attempted to start a series about the things I’ve learned through all this moving about, things that make family life easier–or possible–despite changing surroundings, as well as tips and tricks to keep logistical nightmares to a minimum.  I think I wrote a grand total of ONE entry in this series, which I’m still calling “Belongings” and picking up again now:)

When we returned home to our house in St. Louis last fall, after 8 months abroad, I really tried to be glad to be back, but I wasn’t.  The succeeding autumn consisted of a myriad of fantastic developments–namely, a lot of significant growth in several friendships–but also an onslaught of negative emotions that I couldn’t comprehend or really begin to deal with. One underlying factor that I have been able to identify was that for some reason, our house, small as it is, felt completely and totally overwhelming when it came to cleaning and organizing.  This was, of course, related to the fact that I was in the midst of first trimester ickiness and attempting to manage a very active toddler, and had many days without a car to get out and go somewhere (anywhere!) else.  I was frustrated by this–why is this so hard? I thought.  This house just isn’t that big, I should be able to keep it plenty clean and tidy and manage to get some kind of dinner on the table without it feeling like the biggest, most difficult task anyone has ever done.  But that’s how it did feel, and I blamed all sorts of factors and made lots of excuses, and ultimately avoided the work as much as possible, which only made me more unhappy about where I lived because it was chaos, and gross, and disorderly.  You can see where this is going: the cliche downward spiral.

I have a pretty strong feeling that most of you out there who have any sort of home for which you are responsible have felt many of the things I was feeling, so I won’t go into much more detail.  Except to say that I responded with a pretty much overall BAD attitude, coming to resent the house for being so burdensome, and even my husband and son for actually needing things from me (never mind how much I needed them too, wasn’t this all about me?)

“helping” me pack back in January

When we found out we’d be coming to Iceland, I was immediately excited about the possibility of living in a tiny apartment with only the stuff we could bring in our suitcases, much like last year in London.  I knew this would mean a return to a level of simplicity that is almost impossible to achieve except in these circumstances, and I couldn’t wait!  And I was right, because as soon as we got here, I felt like I could breathe a little more easily, despite all of my sadness for leaving home yet again.

There’s something just so beautiful and refreshing about a small space and limited stuff.  The way we live here and lived in London last year was not really sustainable in a normal, permanent dwelling.  So my advice to anyone who gets the chance to live abroad temporarily (or hey, even just house sit for awhile), is to soak up the simplicity.  Rather than bemoan not having a proper pie plate, find out if a springform pan will work; get creative with your accessorizing so that a bunch of cardigans, scarves, and camisoles stay interesting for 6 months; rejoice in the minimal clutter and the ease of having everything all on one floor; and finally, brainstorm on how to recreate as much of this simplicity at home while accepting the necessary level of chaos that comes with being planted somewhere for (more or less) good.

Living room (before we moved furniture to block breakable things that belong to the owners)

P.S. Can you tell I’m trying to self-help with this post?  t-minus 3 weeks before we fly back to the U.S.!


Posted by on July 10, 2012 in At Home, Travel, Writings


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2 responses to “Belongings: Indulge in the Simplicity

  1. Monica Green

    July 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Yes yes yes! We’ve been in Austria about 9 months and have another year to go – I think of it as my little Austrian life because of its simplicity and wonder how I could import some of it when we go back to the States next summer.

  2. crystal

    July 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Oh, Emily. I have felt all of those things in a million different ways, both pregnant and not pregnant, in ANY size house, with 4 kids underfoot all day every day all year long….really. You are definitely not alone in all of this, and it’s easy to resent your family or anyone else for needing you constantly. I hope your re-entry goes better this time around; 1st trimester ickies definitely would make any of it much worse! And be sure to take time out for yourself along the way….
    (If it gets too bad, come see my messy house and you’ll feel better about your own…..I’m certain. haha…..!)


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