Learning to live with much less

Canada is blessed with space, lots of space. We are blessed with room and an abundance of natural openness that gives us opportunity to spread our wings and get away from it all. We have the option of building a sprawling ranch-style bungalow on the outskirts of town or even create an oasis in City limits with the perfect pie shaped lots.

As suburbia spreads we see less wiggle room and more houses stacked right next to each other as City planners try to jam as many lots into each subdivision to answer the growing call for property in Red Deer. I am pleased to see that green space and creative function are still being employed in newer developments as future neighbourhoods rise up around us.

A group of TED Talks captured my attention on the weekend, addressing the ‘issue’ of shanty towns which are springing up all over the world. Over two million people combined now live in ‘temporary’ makeshift housing but upon closer inspection these are actually growing communities that are being managed and built by their occupants. While most of us in Canada could never dream of living in such conditions or in homes put together from salvage materials, millions of our fellow man are making this a place to reside and raise their children.

In Istanbul a shanty town called Ayazma has been growing steadily over the past few years. Filled with Gecekonu homes (which means it arrived in the night), this is a growing and even thriving community. Most of these small homes are built so quickly that the government does not have time to seize it and tear it down. Go to sleep at night and wake up with a new family living beside you, this is the way in Ayazma. Governments are having a hard time keeping up with the sprawling ‘cities’ that are housing so many poor and underemployed families.

As I watched these informative sessions it occurred to me that we probably live in larger spaces than necessary. I recently moved into a home which is about half the size and was astounded at the amount of excess I was carting around. I thought I was pretty good at purging and donating things I didn’t need but here I was again with boxes and boxes of what? Old DVD’s? Eighteen glass vases from flower deliveries that I will never use? Five different salt and pepper shaker sets? Why? I am able to live with less and have a perfectly happy life!

If families can erect a shelter of salvaged metal and wood and have a functional (albeit humble) home then surely I can live in less square footage and rid myself of excess baggage – both physical and emotional. The physical junk we carry with us ties us to emotional memories that we may not need and that may not be good for us. The act of clearing out and cleaning up is good for the soul and a healthy outlook on our lives. Create some space in your home. You have more square footage than you probably need, give yourself some breathing room and clear your head and your space of unwanted items. Then don’t buy anything else for awhile. Enjoy the open shelves and cupboards before filling them up.

Kim Meckler is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre.