Sunday, November 6, 2011

A deep yearning for less...a tea house dream

So many people, myself included on one level, crave for more, more, more. It is the driving force and message of our society: the promise of more and better. I remember when we were planning to build our own house the plans just kept getting bigger and bigger, with a room for this and that added by the day.

This year I allocated "the Year of Enough". Enough racing about, enough trying to do too much, enough buying stuff. Yet here we are in November, and nothing has changed. What creates most discord in my life is tidying up endless mess and being deeply distressed by the level of chaos in our house - caused by too much stuff. With kids come stuff and, scarily, we are not particularly materialistic. Nor is our house particularly big. But on every surface is stuff and more stuff. And it exhausts me. It is messy, excessive, unnecessary. I yearn to be free of it.

We were down by the thatched Japanese tea house in the woods of my father's house today, where we were married seven years ago, and where I now work, and a real fantasy formed in my head.

What if we were to live there? That for me would be heaven. And it would force me to down size. Force us to simplfiy. We lived in a 7 foot by 5 foot room in Japan for a year with roll up futons and a small shared bathroom, kitchen and living room and we were so happy. There is so much about the Japanese way of living that we loved, so much that we miss - including the open air hot bathing pools.

The tea house is one big Zen space. It could only be lived in uncluttered. It's about 12 foot square with a 3 foot by 12 foot space behind for a shower/ kitchen, and sleeping platform above. It looks out over the bog, the sea, the island. You see the sunrise and set, the moon over the water. You hear the wind in the trees. You are always immersed in nature, in the seasons and the magic of the natural world. But you are warm and cosy and safe. Beside it we would have a compost toilet and the outdoor hot tub we dream of, and of course a little herb patch. It would be a Japanese life in an Irish wood, uniting all that we love.

We would simplify, simplify, simplify - live lighter in every way. There would be no worry about each child having a room - no one would have a bedroom! It would demand us to be uncluttered.

 And then I think - but would you change? Don't "what if", start from where you are - down size here. Unclutter here. But here we live in a normal house, one which demands furniture and has space to be filled. I cannot get my head around getting rid of lots of stuff here. Then it would just feel too austere, because we live a different way here. Oh how wonderful a thought the tea house life is... the children dreamed with us... it would be a simple life, one closely attached to the seasons, living in a place which is secluded yet in the village. In a beautifully handcrafted space, with cedar floors and underfloor heating, a thatched roof. Like a modern yurt.

We would need less money to live on, so the sense of "need to earn" would diminish yet another level. I cannot imagine it being viable for the next four years or so, it would not be a fun existence with little energetic children with lots of toys. But when they are all at school, that bit bigger...

I trust in the magic which happens when visions are articulated clearly. I trust in the magic of putting it out there. Dream with me!


  1. I have been watching Sarah Beeny's Restoration Nightmare. You seen it? They bought this old mansion dirt cheap, 97 bedrooms, falling to bits, mouldy, etc etc. a total wreck. And lovingly Rees ring it. She, like me, has 4 boys. Who seem very calm and sweet and gentle compared to my shrieky, arguing, clan. And it got me thinking - maybe having all that space is the answer? Having acres of space to run free, to run wild, wild, wild! Then I visited my friend recently who has a gorgeous wee cottage. I was struck by the immediate sense of calm and order, the peacefulness of having a well ordered, uncluttered house. she does only have one child, BUT, It got me thinking that the answer is simply to declutter. But I am forever bagging up stuff to go to charity and we just fill our house continually back up with more stuff! Tonight I bagged up two lots of stuff from the children's bedrooms alone. And was thinking....maybe we should move again so each child has his own bedroom, and a paddock to race around. My head hurts from thinking about it!!! upsize/ downsize, creating barriers and morer distance between ourselves or dissolving them and being closer. both seem appealing on different days!!!

  2. ah MF - we have inspired ourselves to declutter - sorted the kids underwear drawer and the kids downstairs books. three large bags of stuff GONE already . and we only did this about 4 months ago, and 6 months before that...

    We have so many bags of stuff here in limbo waiting to go to charity shop/ other people/... Its a shame we're a little eco mentalsit otherwise I would have no qualms getting a big skip and just chucking a LOT of stuff in. Next step is to pre-empt all the Xmas flood of unwanted stuff.

    But I DO want an i pad- but they are very small :)

    ah stuff!

    And I hear you - whilst I fantasise about the small space, but NO door to shut on everyone, when I need space, would that be madness??

  3. From Terri...

    Thank you Lucy for this stirring description of something that afflicts so many of us. I too, am “deeply distressed by the chaos” in my home also and I live alone. From society, I’m hearing dual messages; buy, buy, buy, and de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter. I’m a mess trying to appease the "buy gods" and the "de-clutter cops". Motherfunker said it well “both seem appeasing on different days.” And my head hurts too! And it exhausts me too.

    I have to take vacations from it which are probably something like dreaming about living in a tea room. A confession: I just realized this tonight when I read your article. I go to Bed and Breakfast inns from time to time to get away from my “stuff.” Imagine that, I go to B&B’s so I can feel at-home without my stuff.
    I really – really want to say it’s different when you have kids (which I don’t have any at home now). But then I think back to when I was growing up and all those small houses the five of us lived in. I live alone and have over twice as much "stuff” than my whole family had back then. I live in a 2 bedroom apartment which is larger in square footage than nearly all the houses I lived in as a kid.

    I have made some recent progress, but fear more stuff will come even before I finish the de-cluttering project. It is enough to almost run me to a doctor and beg to be locked up in a small room where someone else chooses what items will be in my living space. Ummm…Could I have a problem with making decisions about stuff?? What to buy?? What to get rid of??
    This worth investigating especially since my behavior does not match my truth.

    Reminds me of something I heard from a speaker one time, “When your truth doesn’t match your life, chaos exists.” “Your truth” being your values, what you want. “Your life” means your actions, how you live.

    Thank you again for sharing this gut-wrenching truth. Its caused me to think and take some action.


    PS. I heard you on World’s Biggest Summit signed up for your newsletter and glad I did!

    Thanks for sharing “the Year of Enough” idea with us! Don’t beat up on yourself, you are doing the absolute best you can. It is enough. It has to be enough.

    That’s a stunning photo of the bride in the tea room, is that you?!

  4. I love the sound of your tea house! My husband and I met in Japan, where we first slept (and I mean this literary, sleeping, nothing else!) together, rolling out our futon's in a hallway as all the rooms were full according to our standards (not the japanese), and want for privacy and that hallway became our castle.

    Now, I must admit I find luxury in space, outside and in. Our house has one big open plan room that is playroom, kitchen, lounge and dining room. It is surrounded by glass (like your picture above) so the garden is also part of this. The rest of the house is full of stuff, but do we live there? No, we could miss it. But then I am so attached to a lot of the stuff. My study, that I never study or work in, is full of books, which I treasure. The laundry room, 3 kids, need I say more. The larder. The bedrooms, for some peace and quiet. Less clutter, I don't know if I could do it. Charityshops. yes, I go in with bags filled but return with many more. Sigh...

  5. Ok I'm bowing at your feet, for nothing other that I've finally realised I am not going mad and neither am I alone. I've been decluttering like mad but still it spills out from shelves, cupboards and drawers. I feel like I am drowning in my stuff and dream of a huge skip on the drive. I live with a hoarder who's answer to 'too much stuff' is 'not enough space' so he builds more shelves, more cupboards, more drawers. I yearn for a smaller space, but try to do what I can in my bigger space. I'm grateful for all that I have, for needing nothing, but still I crave minimalism and order...Thanks for voicing the things that have been in my head Lucy and best of luck with realising your dream...

  6. LOL. When we left our 3 bedroom cottage 3 1/2 years ago, to live in a camper van, we did just that. Or *tried to*. And it felt wonderful, free and easy. But then we had children! And we are getting rid of more stuff, continually, constantly. We have gone from camper to narrowboat and now to a 1-bedroom log cabin. And the questions still spin round - we like the small space because it's so much easier to maintain; I don't have to spend ALL my time on housework and basic chores. And it's lovely to be so close to our kids and not have them hiding in their own rooms (although they're too little for that yet)... BUT, when you need a little headspace and ADULT space, some thinking and freeing time... that's when it gets tricky!

    There will always be compromises, whatever you decide. People thought we were crazy to live in a camper and certainly with 2 small children it would be very difficult - but when they are older, perhaps we will try it again. We are trying different things at different times with our lives; some may think us inconstant - we just think we are going with the flow :)

  7. Funny how quite ofter I comment here, but keep thinking and come back for more. I realised I love my clutter, every single bit and bob is a souvenir, a memory or a work of 'art', a family heirloom or a precious car boot sale find. The only thing I felt I could have less of is clothes. How sensible to have so much clutter for a nomad like myself...
    Good luck finding out what is important to you, and your family!

  8. Oh wow, what wonderful responses, what a blessed outpouring. thank you, thank you all for dreaming aloud here with me, it really helps make all our processes so much more powerful and deep. I was down in the tea house working this morning and started the morning by writing a part two to this (before I knew it had touched a chord with you!) I shall post it tomorrow. Have to do the Pukka draw this afternoon as promised!

    @Terri - yup the bride is me, in my skinniest body ever (and obviously pre kids!)

  9. Whenever I daydream my 'more' is always less. More in the sense that I am dreaming of a life I don't currently have but less as in the life I do dream of would be much simpler, much more basic and less at odds with nature and the natural world. Thank you for pointing out that there is magic inherant in articulating our dreams in detail, I've always believed in putting it out there as you say, if the universe hears one day it will manifest and with many things in my life this has been true. I hope one day I will indeed have a more simple, basic life ... will I be satisfied with that? Who can tell, I hope so. Dreaming with you. Much love X

  10. love your vision!!! and you got me with your last line- that is what i am working on right now in my life, CLEARLY ARTICULATING my own visions/dreams to bring them about... love having reminders like this. :)

  11. YES! Start where you are - even if you moved into that beautiful Japanese house, you would still have to do that. All your things and all your habits would have to be pruned so you could fit your lives into that space. We do tend to get so caught up in "what if" and "someday" that we forget we can do things NOW. I'm looking forward to seeing what practical steps you end up taking to make your "what if" a reality.

  12. Thank you Ellie, mb and Rose for your enthusiasm, support and dreaming aloud with me - I have had a real practical day - and lots of reflection - will post it on Wednesday - tomorrow will be joining the Carnival of Natural Parenting.

  13. This could have been me, writing the start of this entry. It is a constant battle here to keep the surfaces clean and clear of 'stuff'. The more I declutter, the more seems to appear. I am drowning in 'stuff'. I wish you your teahouse life, because it sounds so peaceful to me.

  14. I will dream with you! One of our dreams is to live on a houseboat. Also a teensy but peaceful space, rocking on the waves, seagulls our neighbors. Sometimes I wish we could pretend a couple rooms of our house were the houseboat and get our belongings to fit comfortably within that space. Sometimes I wish we could just chuck it all and start anew with nothing.

    I do believe that we have to keep these visions we want in our head, so that we have something to look at as we move forward — so that we know what the next step is.



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