Weekend in the country up in Woodstock, and it’s heavenly. We’re staying at a little cottage we found on Airbnb – it belongs to a very sweet older retired woman who lives on the property. The cottage is bright and simple, painted white with natural wood floors and furniture, nonchalant plants, books and clay pottery here and there. It’s total heaven. Why can’t real life be this simple? Every time I come to a place like this, it makes me wish I could simplify my own house, down to just the necessary details. My house feels stifling sometimes. I’m addicted to housewares and decor, so I’m always bringing home some kind of knick knack, or trash picking a piece of furniture that I swear I’m going to reinvent, but that sits in the basement for years. I shop at places like Ikea and feel such a strong need to buy the latest piece of modern whatever. The house is full of patterns that don’t necessarily go together but that, on an individual basis, I can’t resist so I buy them. I think of myself as someone who likes bold colors, crazy pattern, and vintage modern furniture. I agonize over every purchase because it has to be the perfect thing in itself. Then I come to a place like this that is so basic – everything is painted white and all the furniture is natural wood, one open kitchen shelf with six mugs, six glasses, and a few spices, a small antique table, some peg hooks, and mostly empty surfaces – and I’m instantly relaxed. There’s not even a tv here, so Greg and I just spent the entire evening last night reading and listening to music. Why can’t I do this at home?
It’s funny because I do think that slowly my tastes have been evolving over the past ten years. I’m more drawn to simple and natural organic design than sleek modern pattern and color. But how do you actually make that transition in your home? It would involve getting rid of so much – so many possessions that I spent time sewing or paid good money for, all down the drain. Then there’s the self discipline involved in keeping things simple and keeping surfaces clean. When I see a set of curtains that catches my eye or a table or a bedspread, I need to resist the urge. I need to be comfortable with clear surfaces and not immediately feel the need to fill them with more chatychkes. That’s hard stuff!
Maybe part of the issue is that it’s easy to appreciate something when a) it’s not yours and b) you didn’t have to make any of the decisions. Like some of the stuff in this cottage would not have been something I would have consciously chosen if I were out at a store, but in here they work and I love them. I have a friend whose house I’ve been to a few times and I love that it feels so natural and nonchalant. As if she just pulled it altogether by spending $200 and one day thrifting and that’s that. Her house is a rental and it has weird kitchen tile and an old seventies bathroom with a door that doesn’t even close all the way – things that in my house would drive me absolutely berserk, and yet she makes it all work so that i even *like* it. When she serves wine, it’s in tiny little old fashioned juice glasses, and at dinner you get a cloth napkin from a mishmash pile of them that she obviously sewed herself. It all feels so effortless, in a way that my house feels I’ve put SO much effort into but still doesn’t quite feel like home. And again, maybe it’s just easier to embrace things when you don’t have to live with them day in and day out. But I think there’s something to be said with a house that doesn’t feel so precious, that feels like the person is just doing a fantastic job with the resources at their disposal and then moving on with their lives, not agonizing over every single piece.
Coincidentally, Greg got me this book about tidying up for my birthday, which was the perfect book to read in this environment. It’s not the most revolutionary thing I’ve ever read, but it makes a case that discarding most of your possessions can open up huge opportunities in your life due to the emotional weight that’s lifted. With the baby coming, we’ve basically been trying to slowly do this, but this book combined with this trip might actually help speed up the process a bit.