Somewhere Between Excess and Minimalism...Searching for Elegant Simplicity

I'm on the hunt for a new place to dwell. 

I have always been a gypsy and I have been in my current home for more than three years now. Although not the longest I have ever lived in one place, it is above my average. Thus far I have lived in 31 different homes during my life, which means that my average time-per-dwelling is less than two years.

But Restless Gypsy Syndrome is not the fundamental reason I am contemplating a move. I am looking for....something; a sense of space perhaps? Currently, I live with my boyfriend in a two-bedroom apartment, approximately 1100 s.f. and it feels...crowded, cluttered...bedraggled. I don't know. Something is wrong. During the past year I started looking at larger, single-family homes with the intention of possibly buying one, spreading out my possessions and settling for a while; maybe forever this time.

But the problem with that scenario is that it misses lifestyle factors that are really important to me. I am essentially a city-dweller who loves the organic/industrial/funky vibe of a loft apartment, with restaurants, coffee shops, theaters and music venues right outside my door. Whether I decide to purchase or rent; a loft apartment, even in Providence, with significantly more than 1100 s.f. is not likely to fall within my current budget. So what to do? It's a dilemma....

First I need to answer some questions: "What am I really looking for? Am I looking for lifestyle? Am I looking for more space?". With my "learn to live fully in each moment" philosophy, lifestyle is both an aesthetic and an existential issue.

Living in a consumer culture is troubling me, both because of environmental concerns and the fact that there are literally, millions of children working in virtual slavery, manufacturing inexpensive consumer products. I am by no means alone in these concerns. There is a small but distinct-and-growing trend toward having fewer possessions - especially among the younger generation. It's a theme that crops up more-and-more frequently in social conversation along with questions about whether over-consumption of goods is actually improving the quality of our lives. 

Increasingly, people - especially millennials - are opting to spend their money and time in gathering experiences rather than possessions. My own recent year of traveling merely whetted my appetite for experiential adventures. A smaller home in the city where I can simply lock the door and walk away for a week - or a month - would definitely be more conducive to traveling.

I am not really thinking minimalism here. I have a somewhat archaic idea of minimalism which evokes images in my mind of 'tree huggers'; people with dirt under their fingernails from gardening, wearing Tevas and living off the grid. Although I intend no commentary on anyone else's lifestyle, that image most definitely isn't for me. I am a Leo; a lioness who revels sensual in comfort. Can my appetite for luxury be combined with spaciousness without needing a larger home?

I believe I may have found my answer recently while reading In My Own Way, the definitive autobiography by Alan Watts; that most erudite and elegant of latter-day bohemians. Among his descriptions of characters encountered in the flowering of northern California hippie culture during the 1960's, one catches my interest. He describes one couple who lived in 'elegant simplicity'. They had a beautiful home; almost sparse but luxurious, with very few possessions. Each and every item, from the most mundane to the most profound, from their can-opener to their art collection was carefully curated and of the most exquisite quality. That vision struck a deeply resonant chord for me and it is the image that returns whenever I contemplate my own life design questions. Yes, I think that may be what I am reaching for here - elegant simplicity.

Elegant simplicity is an evocative term that I can envision, apply to virtually every element of lifestyle; home, possessions, clothing, food, travel...and every image conjured in this fantasy brings me an alluring sense of spaciousness and pleasure. Here is a lifestyle concept I can get behind.


It' might be suspiciously close to the New Year for someone who doesn't really believe in making resolutions (After all how many have I ever kept?) to be embarking on a sweeping life-improvement project. But if there is anything I have learned during the past five years of soul-searching, it is that what we do each day, where we focus our attention, is who we will become. The best mentors I have found tell us to just take a single step. Then take another one each day. If I want my life to embody the ideal of elegant simplicity, now is a good time to begin. 

Those same mentors stay that when beginning any really ambitious project, it's best to set a goal and create a loose plan - which you know is going to change frequently. So here is the plan. I'm going to commit to this project and set an arbitrary-but-flexible goal to let go of 30% (gulp!) of my current possessions. 

I have a lump in my throat and butterflies in my stomach (30%!?). I am going to need some love and support. Would you, my friends and readers be willing to share your suggestions and comments as I go along?

Here's one encouraging thought to get me started; when I do find that perfect place to dwell, it will be so much easier to move....

Collette is a traveler, writer, style and retail business consultant.  After twenty-five years in the designer fashion industry, working for Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, she took a sabbatical and wandered away into the wide world to find adventure, to explore, meditate and learn.  For a year she traveled alone; a container ship ride across the Pacific Ocean to Taiwan, China and Hong Kong; ferries and trains, busses and planes across Southeast Asia and Australia; eight days sitting in silence at the feet of Mooji; advaita Vedantist spiritual teacher; living and traveling for two months in Spain while studying Spanish -- which she hopes someday to master.

Returning to the US, Collette settled in Providence where, attracted by the beauty of the city, the miles of Rhode Island coastline and the crazy art vibe, she hopes to contribute to what she believes is a developing urban renaissance.  In addition to 'finding her cool', she is currently gathering new stories from life and the art around her and working on a full length book about her journey.