Well, I’ve had one of those nights. You know the ones where you just wake up at 3am, having only been asleep for maybe 3 or 4 hours, and… that’s it, you’re awake! There’s nothing you can do to get back to sleep, and every noise (usually in my case a certain someone snoring next to me or the random, singular bark of one of our dogs) seems to make the possibility of getting back to sleep seem further and further away.
So, I decide it’s official: I am awake. And no amount of flicking through Instagram or Facebook, or reading whatever blog I’m currently favouring is going to help get me back to sleep. It’s time to get up and be productive. I’m going to start the blog I’ve been mentally toying with for a while now… so here goes!
Lately it seems I’ve been thinking more and more about the clearing out all the excess stuff from our home. I believe some people call it ‘minimalism’. You know, those people who consciously decide to live with less stuff and invariably say it’s made them exponentially happier. It really appeals to me, and in my own way I’ve started to let go of some meaningless stuff in my life, although there’s a long, long way to go. But I do feel a little conflicted. Conflicted because I’m a vintage furniture dealer: I buy and sell cool stuff for a living. And, like all dealers, it starts with a passion for collecting. Collecting, well, stuff.
How can I be an anti-stuff minimalist when my passion and my job is all about stuff? Well I’m not sure if I can, so I’ve been asking myself “what is it about minimalism that appeals to me?” And the answer is kinda complex. Largely because I’m a very visual person. I’ve made my living from my aesthetic my whole life, so naturally aesthetics are very important to me. In my heart, I love beautiful, thoughtfully-created, well-made things. They make me happy. That’s why I collect. It’s also why I know I’ll never be one of those people who lives in a stark white box with just one chair in the corner (as beautiful and appealing as that can be). But still, I’m drawn to this idea of living with nice stuff, but less stuff. Having the stuff I love and have a connection with around me, but not feeling weighed down by the other stuff that just seems to get in the way. It’s about ‘Good Stuff Vs Bad Stuff’. I’ve been calling it ‘living beautifully, not burdened’… so I guess that’s my goal.
I think what first got me interested in living beautifully, not burdened was toying with the idea of leaving my career of over a decade in graphic design and advertising. I had a great job as a Creative Director, working on blue-chip brands, with a comfy salary, about a dozen designers to mentor, and plenty of creative stimulation. But I wasn’t happy. And I hadn’t been for a long time, and it was affecting other areas of my life. So I’d buy some fancy new stuff with my paycheck to make me happy. After all, that’s what good ol’ advertising tells us to do…
Then, seemingly all of a sudden, all that extra stuff I’d been buying just seemed to be in the way. Yes, some of it is really great stuff I love and makes me happy, but a lot just ended up being annoying stuff that made it almost impossible to enjoy good stuff. And it’s everywhere. Like, why does it take me 5 minutes to do a simple task like find ‘the good scissors’ in a drawer? Because, like the rest of the kitchen, it’s crammed with useless stuff that we just keep buying. And why do we even have other scissors stashed around the place if they’re not ‘good’ anyway?
These little hassles all this extra stuff creates only take an extra few minutes to navigate. But multiply that by every time clutter gets in the way every day, every week, every year… and all of a sudden that stuff is chewing up a lot of possibly the most important and luxurious thing we have: our time. It’s burdening us. And that’s not cool.
So that’s when I realised the difference: I need to be more thoughtful with what we have in our home. I only want useful stuff. Stuff that makes me happy because it’s beautiful, or that’s well designed and makes daily rituals better, or is sentimentally important to me. Because the rest is just stuff. And it’s probably – no, it is – getting in the way.
It’s also made me realise why I love great vintage furniture, especially mid-century modern pieces, so much. It’s almost always better made than any comparably priced things you can buy today, and someone has put thought into creating it. The designers thought about how it will enhance someone’s life as they use it – it’s thoughtful stuff. It’s not just beautiful, it’s enduring. It’s not just a cheap imitation of whatever’s in the magazines this month that we’ll all be sick of in 12 months time. So it’s never going to become ‘bad stuff’ to me… and that breaks the constant consumption cycle.
I know I’ll never live a totally minimalist life whilst I’m a collecting beautiful things for our own or other people’s homes. And I’m more than happy with that. But starting today, I’m going to stop and appreciate some of the great stuff we have, and let go of or donate some of the things that are just in the way, burdening our life. And after that, I’m sure I will sleep much, much better.
Ash von Braun
Happy tree-changer and vintage furniture dealer living in Dayesford, Australia.