Next week, I am traveling to the family cabin on an island in Ontario, Canada.
Island’s End, named by my mother, is my Shangri-La, respite from civilization’s stressors such as traffic, schedules, and to do lists.
It’s wonderfully quiet and tranquil, and, above all, rejuvenating. I fill my days with reading on the deck, swimming, or lazily kayaking around the islands hoping to spot some wildlife.
As I was thinking about how restorative it feels, it occurred to me that it isn’t just the lifestyle, but the actual cabins and their contents that contribute to the lightness of being.
The buildings and most of their contents were built by the descendants of Norwegian craftsmen who emigrated to the area in the mid-1800’s. The cabins are made of local pine, as is most of the furniture. The dining tables, chairs, dressers, and side tables are all simple designs crafted by hand.
In the kitchen, the plates, bowls, glasses, and food are stored on open pine shelving, instead of behind cabinet doors.
There are few decorative items – some photos, prints, and a carved paddle on the walls; some rocks with fossils in them; a porcupine quill box; candles, and a dish full of Canadian change on the tables.
When I arrive, the dressers and closets are empty, so it takes 10 minutes to put my clothing away, and it’s effortless to find what I want to wear each day.
None of the storage spaces are crowded, and every room has an open, airy feeling.
Cleaning is easy, because there is little to move or maneuver around and few things to dust.
It’s less work to live with fewer belongings. It’s easier to find things. Maintenance is reduced, and the simplicity of the spaces feels wonderful to me.
When I return to St Paul, I’m always struck by the lack of simplicity in my house. Although I keep things pretty clutter-free (and considering my occupation, would I admit otherwise?), there is a lot more stuff here than there is at the cabin. It feels closed-in and too full.
I’m struck most by how I needed very few things around me to be blissfully happy on the island. In fact, having less things in my environment was part of the bliss!
Less Stuff, Less Work, More Value
Every August on re-entry from Island’s End, I try to pare down, so my home will feel more like the cabin – less clothing, less decorative trinkets, less kitchen accessories, less of the stuff that I once thought I needed.
I want to value the things that surround me, and it feels easier to do that when there are fewer of them.
Equally important, I want to spend less time maintaining my belongings and have a smaller ecological footprint. Simplifying will achieve both goals.
But first, the island!
Wherever or whatever your utopia may be this summer, I hope it brings you everything you wish for.