Chaos & Toyotas

Not a Toyota, and a far more respectable vintage.

One of our cars is a very (very) old Toyota. In fact it’s the “original” family Toyota – the Toyota the longevity and reliability of which inspired Toyota loyalty, if not lifelong devotion,  within the Chaos family. These days, at least in my area, one very seldom sees cars of the vintage of ours on the roads, unless they are in fact Vintage. Ours is more ‘vintage’ in the sense of a cheap bottle of plonk left sitting at the back of a cupboard for years. Three of its doors don’t open from the outside, one of the windows doesn’t wind, and it can’t be locked, on account of some plonker bust the locks in the process of breaking and entering one dark and (hopefully) rainy night. Sod. I hope he spent our 10c wisely.

But we, and when I say ”we” I mean specifically my husband, continue shamelessly driving the heap to the presumable disapprobation of our neighbourhood, and will do until it drops dead in the traces from exhaustion.

Although I would anthropomorphically feel sorry for the faithful family workhorse were we to send it to scrapyard hell after its years of service, and it’s worth more dead than alive. But who throws away a perfectly good, running car?

I ask that slightly tongue-in-cheek, because I’m well aware that for a lot of people, a certain visual standard also weighs in the equation of decency. But for me, the slight embarrassment is far outweighed by the fact that at this point it’s a free car. I mean, we’re not paying for a replacement, right?

Now all I need is a bumper sticker which says “My other car is – halfway decent….”

 

 

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How to Domesticate Clutter (Or, Make Like the Borg and Assimilate)

domesticated clutter demonstrated

domesticated clutter demonstrated

Lately my already tenuous hold on household order has slipped. Luckily I love irony, or the irony of creating chaos by writing about it would be killing me.

But I do and it’s not, and I am somewhat saved from chaos by some fail-safes I prepared earlier.

Like: the fact that I already had my bases covered for the eventuality of disorder prevailing (because it was going to happen, someday, somehow). Three kids, two adults and a dog living in 85m2 was always going to be a challenge, as I’ve mentioned before.

open shelf storage

What has saved my home from uglitude is:

1) accepting that there will be clutter

2) utensils and appliances that are functional as well as beautiful, or well hidden

3) finding creative storage spaces (from vertical storage behind doors to windowsills – such underutilized areas in minimalist philosophy!)

4) keeping it eclectic (matchy-matchy is far harder to achieve by shopping second hand. Plus, it’s really, really dull.)

plain shade wrapped in a shawl atop a stack of home magazines - storage for shawl + hair decoration + magazines = boheme bedside table and lamp

plain shade wrapped in a shawl atop a stack of home magazines – storage for shawl + hair decoration + magazines = boheme bedside table and lamp

5) going with a boheme vibe which kind of soaks up, or embraces, clutter.

Yup. Embraces.

My feelings on clutter are this: it’s better not to have it. I regularly go through our cupboards and throw as much as I can out – which is never ever enough to go minimalist, even were I so inclined. So, if you are going to have clutter – and for some of us it’s inevitable (and apparently for the sake of creativity you’re better off not getting up hung up over it anyway, according to this comforting little piece) – you must, like the Borg, learn to assimilate.

Thus, all our utensils and stationery and paperwork, toys, schoolbags and hoarded treasures are either in and of themselves visually appealing, displayed appealingly, or contained in something visually appealing, or at the very least tidy. I collect containers of all sorts when I come across them especially for those little odds and sods which end up lying around until they’re rehomed.

fabric covered container

fabric covered container

Someone commented in response to my post on beauty and discrimination how unnecessary it seemed to choose between intelligence and attractiveness when a person could embrace both as a gift. Broadening the point, I get the feeling that greenies like me (and busy mommies) have a tendency to eschew attractive surroundings, assuming, I think, that busy and/or frugal lifestyles cannot or should not also accommodate beauty. But me, I am an artiste, and uglitude sucks my energy and disorders my mind. But I don’t think it’s just me being precious, I think we all function more efficiently in comely environs. Humans are biologically programmed for aesthetic pleasure, so I don’t feel a little bit bad, even as an environmentally-conscious greeny, for desiring attractive surroundings. I’m convinced it enables me to be more productive and creative.

Feral vs Domesticated Clutter

Of course, there is more than one kind of clutter; let’s narrow it down to two kinds – feral and domesticated.

Feral clutter watches you with hostility and retreats from taming. It is unpredictable. Do not turn your back on it. Domesticated clutter is far friendlier. It allows itself to be wheedled into co-operation with bribes of food. And what you want living with you in your home is the domesticated variety.

Domesticated clutter may be, well, still clutter, but it works with one toward a purpose, and thus one feels that though “everything” constitutes a lot of “things”, still everything has a place. By which I mean, in my house, I know where everyone’s crap is at all times. But at least it’s nice crap.

making whoopie with books

making whoopie with books and other nice crap

So how do I justify my desire for an appealing home space while preaching thrift? Simple. Op shops are my thrill. I love a good rummage. If I ever had (just dreaming here) a day off from toddlers and kids, that is where I would go. Just me and the junk. Yep – weep for my sad little hobby. But it gets the job done, and how. I recently, in a period of obsessive organisation, upgraded our household storage from almost none to at least interesting and (to my eyes at least) attractive, for a fraction of the cost of the thrifty suggestions by the idea mills, through my weirdo secondhand shopping habit. For literally a few hundred smackeroos I revamped my entire house. Yu-huh. (High-fives self.)

I just love getting one over on Big Business plutocrats. I realise that if everyone descended upon their local op shops they’d be emptied in days leaving just the dross, but really, people, we do not need so much stuff. Think twice before you buys. (Erm…yeah…scraping the bottom of the rhyme barrel there…)

First World Expectations and the Surprising Evil Role of Pinterest

cunning out-in-the-open storage

cunning out-in-the-open storage of books, ornaments and children’s art

We may have a problem with our expectations. I was brought up in a third world country, and this has shaped my standards. But this is not necessarily to insult the third world’s standards. Maybe the first world’s standards are too gorram high. Dusty baseboards? Pfft, seriously?? I’d rather read another book to my kid. There’s few enough hours in a day. A new kitchen? What’s wrong with the old one? Does it truly need ripping out, or have you just put too many hours in on Pinterest? Put your hands in the air and step away from that Board… Really. I know the siren call of Pinterest; how it drowns out the voice of reason. (Having said that, I can point you to some great little boards where people have made sweet interior decorating whoopie with very basic, if not sub-par, spaces.)

Assimilation and Futility, Pushing the Borg Analogy to its Limits

I’m not going to even try to pretend I’ve got it made in chaos wrangling, that would be….futile. As I write, there’s the debris of a toybox explosion around my feet and I didn’t quite get around to unpacking all the groceries. But that’s my point – sub-perfection is O.K. If you can look around your place and it reflects you and makes you happy, you’ve succeeded in making whoopie with what you have.

 

Our Global Culture of Greed: Politics and Priorities

Sunnmørsfæring - Herøy kystmuseum
A sweeping glance at western society indicates by our very striving for it, that our priority is acquisition; acquisition of wealth, possessions – he or she who dies with the most toys, wins.

In simplified terms, at the beginning of the twentieth century, a lot of work was needed to bring about a healthy redistribution of wealth, and in the decades following the war this goal was achieved to the point that prosperity was probably more evenly distributed than it had been since our species’ long-gone egalitarian hunter-gatherer incarnation. And yet the pendulum of acquisition continued its swing, gaining momentum in the decades following the Golden Age of capitalism. Redressing previous centuries’ social inequity turned a corner into the dim alley of greed.

But while most regular people have no time to contemplate the reason for their hamster-like tackling of the treadmill, with great energy and enthusiasm pursuing their hectic, circular path, what we invest our time and money in is, by default, our priority. We can’t point a blaming finger at the corporate looters who engineered the culture of greed, without acknowledging our own part in the system, which is, our investment in terms of time and money in the cycle of acquisition.

Our ancestors traditionally owned very little, and what they did possess, they valued, because they had to make, or at the least recycle, everything from clothes to tools, further back also having to procure the raw materials. Many people in non-western countries still own very little, but visitors from the west often remark on the generosity in the face of poverty that these people demonstrate, and with what freedom they share what they do have.

In contrast, in the west today we suffer from consumer paralysis, such is the bewildering array of product choices laid before us – but do these choices really bring us the personal satisfaction we hope for, or like sugar molecules, are our purchases empty of real value, only keeping us in thrall to rampant consumerism?

The story of the rich man and the fisherman illustrates the irony of our position. A wealthy man vacationing on an idyllic isle observes a local relaxing beside the sea, feet up and pipe in mouth, early one afternoon after a short day’s fishing. The rich man encourages the simple man to work harder in order to accrue more money, with which to increase his fleet and his wealth, so that in time he may be able to work less hours and spend more time relaxing, feet up and pipe in mouth…

If we stopped the treadmill for a brief moment, we might consider why we are bound to this endless cycle of acquisition. If we, as individuals, continue in this rut, what will be the footprint we leave behind, the impression we leave on life? If we aim to possess only what we value, and value the things we possess, we may find life a lot simpler and more fulfilling. We may even be able to throw ourselves clear of the enslaving treadmill and pioneer a new course for our lives.

Our lifestyle in the wealthy west has implications for people both in our local societies and globally. Healthy redirection is possible if we re-evaluate our priorities, the process of which, contrary to gloomy expectations, is bound to bring beneficial effects not only to the currently disenfranchised, but to our middle-class selves as well, as we rediscover the pleasure of simple things and of possessing things we truly value.