Saturday, January 21, 2012

Simplicity of Being

I don't want to romanticize poverty, because there is nothing romantic about it, but there is something to be said of the simplicity it holds.

We Americans like to surround ourselves with stuff.  "Whoever dies with the most stuff wins," was a bumper sticker I saw once. If we look at people on the television show, Hoarders, we already have winners.  The rest of us can give up.

I have nothing against a beautifully decorated home, but I tend to find myself more comfortable in rooms that are open and functional. All I need is a chair to sit in, a bed to lay my head at the end of the day, and a flat surface to write on.

When I had my first apartment, two weeks after my eighteenth birthday, I had nothing but my clothes in a suitcase.  My first bed was an Army cot borrowed from a friend.  I decorated my first apartment mostly with found items.  Things I'd see put out for trash, or great steals in thrift stores.  A citrus crate became an end table.  A piece of plywood and two saw horses became a desk.  Everything I ate was cooked in an electric skillet or a toaster oven.

My big break came in the form of a JC Penney's credit card.  I went out and bought curtains, a decent set of dishes and my first electric typewriter.  Now I had everything I needed.

It must seem silly to some, but I didn't mind that my furniture was an eclectic collection of junk.  I was proud of that junk.  In my eyes they were diamonds in the rough.  With some polish and hard work, they were my masterpieces.  Besides, there was always the thrill of finding one of these gems sticking out of a dumpster or sitting on someone's curb.  These items had character, unlike the mass produced soul-less items you find in a mall or big box store.

I know some kids today are getting their first apartments and their parents are furnishing it from the Williams-Sonoma catalog.  I feel sorry for them.  Sure, they'll have 500 count cotton sheets, but they won't develop the creative eye that teaches you to make a lamp from a wastepaper basket and some wiring.  They see the world through two eyes: one sees treasure, the other sees trash.

I see the world through two eyes.  They both see possibilities.

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