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SPACE AT HOME
'The real cost of keeping things is the amount of thought you put in their keeping. [...] In this way does this, the blind desire of mere keeping and hoarding, keep many people poor, and even makes paupers.'
AN OPEN DOOR
'When one door closes, another opens.'
ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL
The front door of a home is the ultimate symbol of personal space. The first constructed and closable doors (as opposed to mere openings in walls) were used by the Ancient Egyptians. They put simple wooden doors on dwellings and also built highly decorative false doors on the walls of tombs to allow the souls of the dead to pass through to the underworld. The Romans perfected the technology of the door – building them from metal and adding hinges and locking mechanisms. They also invented a god of doorways and thresholds, Janus, who looks both backwards and forwards at the same time.
Janus, God of the Doorway
The first month of the Roman calendar – January – is named after Janus, an indication of his significance in the Roman pantheon. He is represented with two heads facing in opposite directions, so that he might watch over both the outside and inside of a home. According to the Roman poet Ovid, Janus's temple doors were left closed in times of peace, lest the peace should escape, and open during war so it might enter once more. As well as doorways, Janus ruled over journeys and beginnings – because every beginning is like opening a door onto a new and undiscovered room, and every journey carries us across a threshold into a new space.
We all look forward to arriving home after a long day at the office, being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic or doing last minute errands. But does the physical entrance to your home provide the warm welcome we crave, making us feel like we are stepping into a cosy, warm and calm abode? Here are some practical tips to make the entranceway to your home a welcoming area reflective of the environment we want to foster inside:
Keep it simple Believe it or not, keeping things simple and clean can make your home appear more inviting. No one wants to walk into an entryway that is cluttered and untidy.
A lighter side Have fun with lighting. Lamps and candles not only add a warm ambience but positive energy to a space.
Bright and happy Splash some colour in your entryway. You don't have to paint the area to achieve this – a wall hanging, some art or even a colourful vase can give a pop of mood-raising bright. Adding such touches makes the bold statement that this home is full of life and art.
Ring the bell The sound of a pleasant doorbell can be a wonderful greeting to someone who has just come from noisy traffic or a busy day. You could also try placing some wind chimes by the doorway to add a calming sound to welcome guests on arrival.
Smells like home Smells can hold powerful memories of place. Make the association with your home the most pleasant you can by placing a home fragrance diffuser or scented candle near the entrance. Bouquets of fresh flowers are also a lovely way to naturally scent a space.
Add texture What about a lovely rug? A durable soft fabric over your entryway floor is not only welcoming but practical for this area of heavy foot traffic.
Bring the outside in Plants and natural items such as shells or driftwood can provide a relaxed ambience. It is also a nice way to bring some of your favourite elements of the outside world in to your home.
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Giving your entranceway the ambience and personality that reflects your style of living doesn't have to cost a fortune. Consider visiting second-hand shops or repurposing old bottles, metal containers or frames to create decorative touches that can lift the space .
IN WITH THE NEW
Our ancestors felt the seasons much more keenly than we do. They longed for the warmth of spring and for its longer days after the cold, inhospitable months of winter. So it's not surprising that the spring is celebrated all over the world. In India, this takes the form of the vibrant festival of Holi, in which revellers fling handfuls of colourful powders over each other. In Mexico people flock to visit the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, where the stepped main pyramid (El Castillo) was built at such an angle that during the spring and autumn equinoxes the sun casts a shadow that appears like a serpent slithering down the steps. The Iranian festival of Nowruz also takes place at the spring equinox and marks the Persian New Year. Over thirteen days of festivities, people visit each other's homes and exchange gifts before spending the last day of celebration outdoors in nature.
A Season for Change
In various cultures, the spring festival is preceded by a deep clean of the home space. In Nowruz, this tradition is called 'shaking the house' and involves dusting and beating furniture and curtains. The Chinese traditionally sweep their houses from top to bottom in order to rid them of bad luck before New Year, which is celebrated in spring, and Jewish people also spend the days before Passover cleansing their homes.
The tradition of cleaning every corner of the home in the days before Passover relates to the Biblical story of the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, which the festival commemorates. According to the Bible, the Israelites – led by Moses – left in such haste that their bread did not have time to rise, so during the days of Passover no leavened food is eaten. Spring cleaning ensures that any stray crumbs of chametz, leavened food, are removed from the home before the festival.
In earlier times, spring cleaning offered city dwellers the chance to fling open the windows and clear the home of soot that had accumulated from the fireplace over the winter months. But, even in modern times, the annual deep clean will help you to enjoy your space more. Here's how to go about it:
1. Get all your supplies together before you start. Put everything you need – rubber gloves, clothes, scrubbers, cleaning liquids – in a bucket so it is easy to transport.
2. Start at the top and work downwards. This goes for the home in general and also for each room – start with the lighting fixtures and do the floor last. Generally speaking, tidy first, then dust and then clean.
3. Expect to spend several days spring cleaning. Try tackling the job in sections – perhaps one floor at a time, or do the bedrooms, then the bathrooms, then the living space, followed by the kitchen.
4. Time yourself. To keep on track, decide how long you want to spend on a particular area – thirty minutes, say – and set a timer. For the period you have chosen, focus all your energies on cleaning.
5. Enlist support. If you live with other people, get them involved in the cleaning too – children as well. If you all work at the same time then you will see fast progress. Hire help if you need to – many cleaning companies offer a one-off deep-clean service.
6. Sort out your spring-clean playlist. Cleaning is more fun when you are listening to some upbeat music.
7. Don't forget to sort your clothes out. Take heavy winter coats and the like to the dry cleaners, ready for next year. If there are clothes you won't be wearing for a while, put them in sealed bags (with moth balls) and remove to the attic or other storage space to make room for spring and summer clothing.
A JOB A DAY
Write yourself a list of thirty jobs you need to do occassionally to keep your home looking sparkling – cleaning the windows, wiping out kitchen cupboards, cleaning the extractor fan, descaling the kettle, tidying the linen cupboard or drawer, vacuuming your mattress. Do one job per day throughout the month, and tick it off when you have finished.
'The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.'
In traditional Chinese brush painting, bamboo appears as a subject over and over again. Ancient bamboo paintings were created using the strokes of calligraphy – with the greatest masters priding themselves on using minimal lines to create exquisite images. Many images show a single stalk of bamboo and much of their beauty is in the fact that the bamboos are surrounded by space – there is no sense of crowding or clutter around them. The same principle applies in the three-dimensional spaces of our homes: we need to give as much attention to the empty areas as we do to arranging the things that we own. Empty space often adds more value to our lives than yet another object. If you want to reduce the clutter content of your home, try this exercise:
1. Get two bags – one for rubbish and one for giving away – and take them to the space you want to clear.
2. Go through each item in the area and ask yourself:
Do I love it?
Do I need it?
Have I used it in the last twelve months?
Is it more valuable than the space it is taking?
3. If the answer to all the above is NO, then put the item in the rubbish or giving away bag.
4. If the answer to any of the above is NO, then give yourself a choice: find a place for it, or put it in the rubbish or giving away bag. Don't allow yourself to put it back where you found it unless that's where it truly belongs.
5. Once you have finished decluttering the area, take out the rubbish, and take the bag to the charity shop.
The bamboo can inspire us toward greater simplicity in our lives. In Confucian philosophy, it is a symbol of moral virtue: the stalks are resilient and strong, yet able to bend in the wind, and the hollow space within them represents a mind that is clear and untainted.
CURATE YOUR LIFE
'Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.'
The Victorian designer and artist William Morris believed that the home should be a reflection of its owners's personality, as well as a pleasing space to occupy. His own home, the Red House, became a living expression of his artistic ideas. One room led to another, creating a sense of flow that was very different from the traditional Victorian home. Huge windows allowed light to flood in, creating a sense of openness and space. And every aspect – from the furnishings to the art – was selected to enhance daily life. Tastes have changed, but Morris's principles remain pertinent for modern living. Follow these five simple principles for a more spacious living environment:
1. Have things in your home that you find lovely to look at – art, well-crafted furniture, thoughtful objects.
2. Go for simple shapes without fussy details. Curved shapes are more natural and more conducive to rest and relaxation than lots of angles and straight lines.
3. Give your treasures room to breathe. One or two objects on a shelf tend to look better than a crowd.
4. Create flow: Morris's own house was designed so that one space flowed seamlessly into the next, creating a more harmonious home and impression of greater spaciousness.
5. Throw out the bad. Morris advised, 'if you cannot learn to love real art; at least learn to hate sham art and reject it.' We all have things in our homes that are badly made or ugly in some way – perhaps gifts that we feel we cannot get rid of or things that we bought as a stopgap. If there is something in your home that you dislike, get rid of it.
LESS IS MORE
'He has the most who is most content with the least.'
DIOGENES OF SINOPE
One of the key concepts in the philosophy of minimalism is this: if you want to make space, have less. It echoes the thinking of many ancient philosophers – including Diogenes of Sinope and the Roman thinker Seneca – who advocated a life of simplicity and self-sufficiency. More than 2,000 years later, these theories are gaining wider attention as many people start to challenge the competitive consumerism of the modern world. In some parts of the world we now have the capacity to buy more things than ever before. At the same time, we are coming to the realization that possessions do not make us happy. Indeed, a large body of recent research has found that excessive consumption is actually related to lower well-being.
Many legends have grown up around the life of Diogenes of Sinope, the Greek advocate of self-sufficiency and simple morality. Exiled from his hometown, Diogenes embraced a life of poverty in Athens. He deliberately reduced his needs to the bare minimum, partly as a way of highlighting the lavish excess of Athenian society. He would sleep wherever he could find a space in order to show that a man could be happy whatever his circumstances. One story tells how, after seeing a boy drink from cupped hands, he threw away his sole possession, a wooden bowl. 'Fool that I am,' he said, 'to have been carrying unnecessary baggage all this time.' Most of us could not go that far, but Diogenes' attitude can help inspire us to reduce what we buy, and to live in a simpler, more spacious way.
In the last thirty years, the development of data analytics and information sharing has meant that we have become more vulnerable to consumer marketing tactics. Often, these are so ingrained in everyday life that we aren't even aware that we are being sold something. Here is simple exercise to practice mindful shopping and encourage conscious consumerism rather than impulse buying. Practise this when you are overloaded by information to help you stay true to your needs and not get swept up in manufactured wants.
1. Mindful shopping (in store or online) begins with a plan. Write down what you need or are specifically looking to purchase. Rank the items in order of necessity, and consider discarding those things that are low priorities.
2. Now come up with a realistic amount of time to give yourself to browse or purchase each item, whether you are browsing in store or on the internet.
3. Before heading out or logging on to your device, commit to a realistic budget to spend. Knowing what you can comfortably afford and sticking to it takes the guess work out of shopping and reduces the chance of impulse buying.
4. As you walk to the shops or start browsing online, recognize that breaks are important. Consider taking a mindful brain break every fifteen minutes. This is important before you finally make the purchase.
5. Having browsed for a while and stuck to your plan, find a quiet place to sit down. Your cart might be full, but take a moment reflect on the day or let your mind wander. Whatever your recollection might be, this will change your focus for a few minutes and help you regain objectivity.
6. Ask yourself if you really need what you are about to purchase? Could you wait or make it on your own?
7. If you still want to make the purchase, before you pay for it make sure it is a price you can easily afford.
8. Driving home with your item, or when away from the computer, check in with yourself on how well you did. Do you still feel good about the purchase? Are you going to use it or give it away? Were you proud of how you executed your plan? What would you do differently next time?
9. If all went according to plan, take a moment to reward yourself. This could be by sharing the news about your purchase with a friend or loved one, enjoying a cup of tea or running a calming bath.
'The deeper the blue becomes the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite.'
Because it is the colour of the boundless skies, blue is the colour most often associated with spaciousness and the infinite. The Egyptians painted the ceilings of their tombs in deep blue scattered with gold stars, and Krishna, the Hindu god of compassion, is often depicted with blue skin – compassion, after all, is openness to all the suffering that exists under the vault of heaven.
Distant objects, such as mountains, take on a blue cast – so we instinctively associate blue with wide, open landscapes. It creates a sense of openness and calm, because – as Kandinsky sensed – it is the colour of infinity. Here are some simple ways to make the most of this calming colour in your home:
1. Use light colours from the cool end of the spectrum to make a small area seem bigger. Blue seems to draw the eye toward it and can create a greater sense of space than other hues.
2. Paint your ceiling a lighter shade than the walls to make it appear higher. In general, keep the darkest shades near to the floor to add to the illusion of space.
3. Blue is said to slow the heartbeat, so is particularly good for rooms where you want to feel relaxed – it's often used in bedrooms and bathrooms for this reason.
4. Blue can be a little chilly-looking so be sure to balance it with some warmer colours. Blue's complement is orange, which makes a bright contrast, but if you want a softer look go for warm browns and terracottas.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "How To Make Space"
Copyright © 2018 Quarto Publishing plc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: A More Spacious Life, 6,
Chapter One: Space at Home,
Chapter Two: Take Your Time,
Chapter Three: A Clear Mind,
Chapter Four: Space in the Body,
Find More Space, 174,
About the Authors & Illustrator, 175,