So I promised a post about setting in a bit and nesting in this brave new world, but when I thought about what I wanted to write about I realised that it’s really hard to write about personalising a space and creating a home without focusing on things, possessions, the material content of our lives. And I know that many people are uncomfortable with the idea that things should have such importance. So I set myself a challenge: to work out what it really is that makes a place feel like home, and to be honest about the answer if that turns out to be just stuff, rather than to try and wrap it up in some transcendental bullshit.
I realised that possessions have a place, in so far as our lives are a series of interactions with things, and those things that facilitate our interactions with them enable us to live more comfortably. And comfort is one characteristic of home. There is nothing wrong with wanting nice things and better things. Growing up in a home where my parents worked hard and did little in the way of relaxing, we didn’t surround ourselves with comfortable things, only practical ones that performed the task for as little expense as possible, compromising functionality and cost. It took me a long time to find a balance between this approach and just spending all of my hard-earned wages on whatever unnecessary clutter I fleetingly desired.
If I believed that life was simply about ease then I probably wouldn’t love walking and cycling up steep hills or knitting complex and time-consuming patterns as much as I do, so this isn’t a simple calculation of comfort = c/effort! However, well-fitting shoes, a smooth-running bicycle, thoughtfully-engineered needles, and a favourably-textured yarn all render comfort to these tasks that I undertake for the motivation of pleasure rather than duty. (And I imagine that these tools would be desirable even if they were chores instead of hobbies!)
And this is where one value of things comes into play: as tools. So a mug shaped to be easy to hold, with a pleasing texture makes for a more enjoyable and appreciated morning coffee (and compensates a little for the blandness of many of the coffees I have been trialling from local roasters). Likewise, music sounds better from a speaker than it does from a laptop, and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t enjoy a nice pen (although our ideas of nice may differ).
To be honest, I do find a lot of this “perfect life” theory to be an exercise in futility, and just a more self-righteous version of consumption = c(happiness) (as long as you consume “properly”) – because for all the elevated rhetoric out there about “curating”, I was brought up to believe that we are what we do not what we have - but things also act as memory-aids to recall emotions and relationships. They can also contain data and act as memory banks in themselves. Like the Hebridean, Shetland, and Gotland wool blankets I packed alongside a British Breeds fibre sampler, anarcha-femiknits (sic) cushion cover, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift stash, Sabah Tea, Orientalism, Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, Highland Park, and multiple external hard drives containing identical back ups of 24-hour Party People, In The Loop, Luther, Trainspotting, and other cultural treasures like Belle & Sebastian, Burial, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Fatboy Slim, and The Smiths… We possibly brought too many Žižek books and headtorches!
Many of these things are related to places, events, people, and ideas, and their presence is comforting for the connections they represent. In fact, one of the first purchases I made when I arrived is this mug:
It’s an illustration by my friend Julia of a grumpy-faced woman in a yoked jumper, and makes the most apt pot on my desk for drawing pens and pencils. Every time I look at it I am reminded of Julia’s friendship, talent, humour, diligence, and her abundantly creative, loving household in a fascinating historical city (I didn’t even know people ate cookies for breakfast until I stayed with them in January…). And inspired to knit more! I could use any mug for this job but one that reminds me of all the ways I should be more like Julia seems to hold a value that goes beyond simply containing pens.
And so I intended to write about nesting but instead ended up discussing the virtues of a friend. In some ways that feels like an appropriate conversation loop, whereby our possessions don’t have any intrinsic value other than a connection with the places and people we love.
Although I am sorry if I didn’t answer any specific questions via my convoluted navel-gazing!