Thursday, March 9, 2017

Renovating and Consuming (Part I)

Ever since buying my house - I have returned to consumerville.  I haven't actually bought anything, but in an effort to look for inspiration, I have been scrolling through pictures, 'pinning' images and searching high and low for the perfect floor tile, bathtub and fixtures. And I contemplated going to the home and garden show last weekend! What a 180 from here!

Bathroom in Montreal

Initially it felt fun, creative and inspiring to search images that made me swoon. I would close my eyes and visualise doing the work to create these designs in my bathroom and seeing the transformation take place in front of my (closed) eyes. Hairs on my arms would rise, a smile would break out on my face and a tingle of excitement would stir in my stomach. And then the feelings would dissipate - like any good junkie, I would search for those fuzzy feelings again - and back to the inspiring photo swipe. It's a vicious cycle.  

Hello Inspiration!
But what I failed to notice is that the initial photo caused the fuzzy feelings, and it still caused them when I looked at it for a second time. Sure the size of the subway tile they installed wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but I didn't need to search another inspirational image to feel the fuzzy feelings. Because with every new image, the fuzzy feelings weren't as strong (the first high is always the highest right?) Every incremental images had diminishing "fuzzy" returns... But really what's the harm in looking at one more image?

Starting to all look black and white

Then I found myself up at 11pm at night rapidly scrolling through images of bathrooms I had seen many times before, numb to any excitement, just waiting for the perfect image, the one that would bring back the fuzzy feelings... I was in compulsory consumption mode... but it sounds a lot like withdrawal from an addiction. 

The issue is that this addiction is at my fingertips. I don't need to know a guy who knows a guy who has some special stuff, and I'll meet them at the corner with shoes on the power lines and then I'll pay cash in small bills... No, that effort is why I'm not addicted to illegal drugs. But this, this is free, and readily available. I can scroll on my elevator ride to my office, while waiting in line, while sitting on my couch at the end of a long day. 

"maybe black tile on the walls?..." *start search over*
Additionally, google searches are reinforcing.  I like one bathroom with white walls and then I am offered 1,204,394,349,486 permutations of a white bathroom walls. No green walls, no blue walls, just white walls with very small, but ever important variations. So the images that are at my fingertips are all pretty much the same, and are taking up a disproportionate amount of my free time. I have yet to book a bin for demo day, but I definitely know the size, colour and finish of my bathroom floor tiles. I don't know if they are available in Canada, or how much they are, but I have narrowed down that one, ever important item. In my mind. 
Or maybe black floors and walls...
But how do I get out of this cycle? Because I want to be prepared for when I do renovate, I want to know my options, and have a good vision/plan to follow. So I've started to read. Read articles about people DIYing their bathrooms, the successful and not so successful adventures, their advice to newbies, their budgets, their timelines, their experiences. I am trying to transform the 'inspiration' into 'learning and action'. And funny enough, the more research and action I take the more the fuzzies come back...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Minimalist not Neutralist

As I build inspiration for my home, I scroll through images which are labeled minimalist, and most of the time the interiors have muted colours - greys, whites, tans, little colour and sparse use of pattern. 
There are 60 similar ones here
But what this house in Cleveland has reminded me - that there are two forms of minimalism - design minimalism, and stuff minimalism. I am trying to focus on stuff minimalism, but I keep on associating it with design minimalism. 

In other words, I want to keep reminding myself that stuff minimalism does not mean a grey couch, white rug, and wood coffee table. It means, making sure that I need / want a couch, rug and coffee table. If the answer is yes, then I can use colour and patterns -  a maximalist design. 

Now, I'm actually not going to buy anything new for my house, so this point is a bit mute. But I love how every day I can break my misconceptions about minimalism and build the definition of minimalism that works best for me. 

Because isn't that the point? To me, minimalism is about being thoughtful and mindful in our pursuit of happiness. Not filling our lives with stuff without thinking about the purpose of why it is there.  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One Step Forward, Ten Thousand Steps Back

Remember when, less than a month ago, I embarked on a minimalist journey? Spurred by the Minimalism documentary I was fully on board - destination no shopping, more time and intrinsic fulfillment? 

Well it was great, I embraced it. Built a capsule wardrobe, returned $1,000 worth of purchases, fixed the items I owned, found long lost items, spent time with family and friends and was generally feeling a high from being unburdened. I was only a few weeks in, and I still had a long journey left, but I was feeling like minimalism was actually going to take hold... And then... 

I bought a house. A house. A whole house. WTF?!?
Hello suburbia. Well it was suburbia when it was built, now it's almost inner city.
A paraphrased quote by Frank Mascia in the documentary says "The biggest impact on the environment is to live in the smallest space possible"... Ahhh? Apparently that went in one ear and out the other!

But in all seriousness - have been at a cross-roads between two competing sets of values for some time... Owning my own house, and reducing consumption and living with less stuff.

For years I have been dreaming about owning a house. Having a place I can put my stamp on and create a home. I dream (quite literally) of moving walls, changing floors, lifting rooflines, re-plumbing bathrooms (well...), painting walls, putting up art, moving furniture around. I see a house as a canvas on which to express my creativity, to pursue my passion for design and in all honesty to test out my design ideas. I love everything about creating a functional, beautiful, intriguing and practical home. And I always have. At 4 years old, after my parents would put me to bed, I would move my bed, dresser and desk around in my bedroom - trying to figure out and create a perfect configuration of furniture. Over the years I have decorated rooms for friends/family, spent hours doing DIYs and designing pieces of furniture. (As noted in many past posts - here and here and here for early examples)

On the other hand, over the past 10 years, I have been feeling a longer sense that consumption is not the answer. I have slowly been moving away from acquiring stuff. I couldn't articulate the name of the trend, or even realize that it was minimalism, but I could feel the pressure of my stuff in my life. My first post ever was discussing a fiscal fast, and I used to regularly post eco Mondays. Quite often I find myself giving gift certificates for my time (even if I should just be giving items!), spending money on experiences rather than items, making every effort to get out of town on a weekend in order to avoid malls or boxed stores, opt for hand me downs rather than new items and build or borrow rather than buy. I compost, wash and reuse my zip lock bags and spend an inordinate amount of time researching where to donate my clothes so that they don't end up in the garbage. 

So somewhere along the way I decided to buy a house. It was not out of the blue. I have been looking for several years with strict criteria (small, beautiful lot, lots of 'potential'). I had made a few offers, but none of them won. I was on the brink of calling it quits - especially because of my no shopping goals and my new pursuit of minimalism. But then I found a mid-century bungalow with a lovely yard. It's ~1,000 sq feet, and with very few updates since the 1960s. I put in a bid, and then won! 

My initial feeling (I am embarrassed to admit) was regret. That is the last feeling I expected. But the transaction is completed. My money is down, there is no turning back! 

So, here I am with a house. And trying to live a minimalistic lifestyle. And feeling really hypocritical.  

I'm not entirely sure where I go from here. Since my initial feeling of regret, I am starting to feel excited. Excited to discover a new neighbourhood, to try my hand at some DIYs, and see how far I can stretch my budget. I would like to do some renovations immediately upon possession, but that will require shopping before the end of April. And in all honesty, I don't need to do the renovations. But I really want to. So the debate lives on... 

Welcome to my journey through renovating with minimalism. Wish me luck.