The other day I was standing in a long line at the grocery store, and to entertain myself while the lady in front decided which half of the contents of her shopping cart she no longer wished to purchase, I picked up an interior decorating magazine and flipped to a random page. It was a picture of a gorgeous room. A blindingly clean, practically empty room. The kind of room my overwhelmed, stressed-out mind yearns to own, so that I can sit serenely on the solid-color sofa, staring off into blank space.
I would dearly love to have such a room. And it wouldn’t be only for staring into space. I would also use it for writing. And reading. And thinking about writing and reading. And doing research on topics about which I intend to write. You know, just a place that is dedicated to feeling inspiration and acting on it.
Ha! Fat chance!
There are several factors that contribute to the extreme unlikelihood of my ever having such a room. They are as follows:
- My Humble Abode: I live in a three bedroom home. It has about 1450 square feet. In addition to the three bedrooms there are two bathrooms, a living room, a dining/kitchen area, and NO storage areas apart from the small clothes closets in two of the bedrooms. As you will see in the points to follow, this setup is not conducive to the outlandish “minimalist writing studio” dream.
- My Husband: My husband is a musician/audio engineer/collector of various types of cables and gadgetry. He has claimed the third bedroom for his own. This is where he composes music fit for choirs of Hell’s Angels (not in a bad way!) and sometimes does profitable work that entails playing the same snare sound thirty six times in succession at a fairly loud volume. This is also where he keeps his assortment of noisy things, broken guitar strings and pieces of paper with cryptic messages written on them. Because my husband’s art requires so much more STUFF than mine (All of my writing accoutrements will fit neatly in a case the size of a placemat), it only makes sense for him to claim the one extra room in the house. It’s fine, really. I’m not bitter. I actually enjoy doing my creative work in bed. The ensuing stiff neck and sleeping legs are just the sort of privations that drive the soul of my craft.
- My Daughter: A packrat if there ever was one, my daughter’s bedroom is filled to the brim with headless Barbies, mateless shoes, real estate circulars (don’t ask) and rocks from every place she has ever been, including the laundromat and that place on the side of the highway where the car broke down a few months ago. Oh, and toilet paper tube sculptures. And she refuses to throw anything out or give it to Goodwill. Last year we somehow persuaded her to get rid of about half of her stuff, but only when Grandma allowed that she could bag it all up and keep it in her storage unit. You know, just in case she ever has need of three giant stuffed rabbits or a baby doll with a mustache drawn on its face in Sharpie. But even after trucking all the stuff over to Grandma’s, there was still a sea of stuff in there, and it overflows into the rest of the house like some kind of alien slime invasion.
- My Dog: The reason we don’t have a couch in our living room.
- Myself: If you asked my family members and friends to list my positive personality traits, no one would mention “domestic goddess”. Or even “pretty neat and organized”. That’s because I’m not. I’ve got that mad scientist thing going on. There is a stack of books on the desk in the living room that has been waiting to be moved to the empty space on the bookshelf for about two months. Every time I think to myself, “I am going to put those books away now”, I start leafing through them instead. Three hours later, I’ve learned several things I did not previously know about the tribal culture of the British Isles prior to Romanization, but the books go right back where they were on the desk. Albeit in a different order. I’ve gotten better over the years since I formed a hive. I am usually on top of the laundry situation, and I make extra effort to wash dishes daily and keep the floor swept. My husband helps a lot, and our little worker bee enjoys scrubbing toilets, of all things, but becomes petulent when asked to pick her alien slime off the floor. Suffice it to say, I accept my share of the blame here. But I’m just saying, if I lived by myself, I would have a blindingly clean room with a solid colored sofa, and I’d hire a maid to clean it.
Anyway, as you can see, my home can not physically contain a minimalist room, and even if its proportions were increased through some sort of magic embiggening charm or perhaps one of these high tech “additions” I keep hearing about, a minimalist room would soon become a wormhole of dog hair and missing socks. I’ve thought of obtaining a tiny house (I love them) to use as my own office space.
In fact, I’ve more than thought about it. I plan to do it even if I have to build it myself out of woven grasses and bricks of compressed dryer lint. I would hang a sign on the door that said “DO NOT DISTURB… UNLESS I’VE WON THE LOTTERY. OR IF YOU INTEND TO CLEAN.”
But lately, it occurs to me that perhaps minimalism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, there are a lot of extra little things that significantly improve my day to day life. Like ice. And my iPad. And retractable pens. These things don’t impact my ability to survive. I could probably even live comfortably without any of them. But darn it, they make me happy! And realizing that helps me to relate to my husband’s compulsion to stack coils of cable from the floor to the ceiling, organized by circumference. And it gives me a little insight into my kid’s thing with rocks. I mean, rocks aren’t particularly useful, and, at least to me, the ones you find on the side of the road don’t tend to be beautiful, but to her, there’s something special about having several boxes of rocks under the bed. Ok, who am I to judge? I like to always be within ten feet of a stack of random books.
There is something to be said for a comfortable, distraction free space that can be entirely dedicated to the practice and development of a craft. “A room of her own”, and all of that. But isn’t it an even worthier goal to learn to overlook the small distractions, the imperfections, and all the ways in which things “aren’t quite right”? Because a room of your own is still a thing. It can burn to the ground. It can be infested by hornets. It could conceivably be zapped to another dimension, never to be seen again except as a sliver of something the color of dryer-lint that disappears when you walk past it. But the ability to focus on a project, to allow yourself to be consumed with it, to love it and nurture it to completion and then destroy it and build something even better out of the tear soaked shreds; now THAT is something to strive for.
What do you think? D0 you have trouble finding the space to work on your art? Or are you a domestic goddess who always finds the time and space for everything? (If so, would you be interested in taking on a second domestic environment?) Let me know in the comments!