Modifying one's environment to achieve
greater relaxation and productivity.
I decided I was not going to wait until I was "that old" to downsize my suburban home. I wanted to achieve greater relaxation and life productivity now, not 30 years to the future. I listened to my son tell the Thai tale of less is more. (Yes, I know this is Mies van der Rohe’s words – but it is a simple expression to describe the Thai/Buddha lifestyle.) Once the last child was in college I made the move. I decided to sort, toss and sell my home and the bulk of its contents. I traded 5,000 square feet for 1,000 square feet. Difficult task? Sure, both physically & mentally but I had "youth" on my side. When the key was turned locking the front door on my home of 20 years for the very last time, with tears bouncing off my cheeks, I was delivered another brilliant word of wisdom from my Thai experienced son. "Mom", he said with eyes piercing my soul and hands squeezing my cheeks, "you sold the house NOT your memories." From that day on I have never ever ever looked back.
And? My son was right. My suburban home, though beautiful & spacious, was a built environment full of “physical stimuli, physical structures, and symbolic artifacts.” (Kopec, 2006, p. 15) I experienced in this home the human-interactions that dealt with my performance, my health, my personal satisfaction and relationships. Though the house offered a great home life it was just too much. Overload and loss of personal control are the two psychological processes that are affected when we have too much stuff - more stuff than we need . Someone said, "you don't own a home, it owns you." Too much.
And? I have been in my two bedroom apartment for over six years. I love having less. I feel it every day - less space and less stuff is truly more life. My small space, built in the 1950’s, is efficient in design with no wasted space to clean. One bathroom, eat-in kitchen (that’s what you did in the 50’s), shared living/dining space and two bedrooms makes for an easy lifestyle. The key factor in this space, and the reason I selected it, is the exposure to daylight. This unit has large windows on the south, west, and north that floods every room with natural light. The north view is to a wooded common ground and according to Kopec, “greenery has been shown to reduce stress levels and facilitate attention restoration.” Also, I feel more “green” here – no wasted space and definitely less energy consumed. And, when “it’s broke” I call the landlord.
'Big home' free I now have more time to be me, to explore life, and pursue a peace of mind, piece too. My tiny space! My big life! Stress free living! Yea, I'm calling this home. (see blog entry 'Home or Not', 9.03.12)
Is less more? I have very little space and possess the near-bare minimum and have no baggage to worry about. Advice - forget the stuff, remember the moments, and transition to the next stage of life with grace, dignity, and ease - and on your own two feet. If you're not ready to downsize then at least modify your existing space by de-cluttering it. Tackle one room, one closet, one drawer, one under the bed box. Easier now than later. Easier when you don't have to than when you have to. Less stuff = more life.
It was and is still an America dream to own a home. (A struggling economy has been changing that though.) Homes that were built by the tens-of-thousands, with little consideration to the psychological effects of its specific built environment on its occupants, are plastered across this land. Isn’t it funny how so many people are so different, yet so many live in exactly the same cookie-cutter house? And these same tens-of-thousands of people 'decorate' with big retail cookie-cutter accessories. Are we talking crazy? Now there’s a study for the environmental psychologist.
Kopec, D. (2006). Environmental Psychology for Design. Fairchild Books.