Embrace the mismatch in your home for its many benefits

I’m shopping for a house and so I’m seeing a lot of staged homes. They all have a similar feel: sparse, carefully arranged, and expressing a general esthetic so that anyone from the artist and the traditionalist can see how they might use the space.

I notice in these setups that one thing is consistent: matching sets. Matching plates (for that uncommon but not impossible formal bar counter for 3 look), matching chairs (like the traditional breakfast roundtable and 4 chairs, none of which have ever cushioned a bum), and two identical and perfectly placed loungers directly across from the couch flanking the fireplace in a balanced formation.

In my home, you will not find these things. I am an environmentalist and I am a minimalist. With intention, I choose an alternate path.

Style preferences that require matching sets in the home causes challenges. Your buying patterns likely fit into one of these categories:

  1. You go whole-hog every time you want to update anything. As in, you like an artist’s coffee cup collection, you must now abandon all existing coffee cups on your shelf and withdraw from the account your partner doesn’t monitor for a new set.
  2. You cram your house with items, unwilling to let “complete sets” be separated. You are like a nurturing parent guarding your collections. Naysayers be damned! You buy the new set of coffee mugs and keep the old set too. As time passes, your cabinets are packed and as some mugs from each set get broken, damaged, or somehow lost, you sigh a sigh of relief. You now have a half set each. ‘Maybe it is time to acquire another set?’ you ask yourself.
  3. You are like me. You don’t own sets. You are free to buy your favorite of the mugs the artist has to offer without fretting. Maybe you currently own 5 mugs; now you own 6. No further action needed. (Caveat: As a minimalist, I keep my number of mugs to a minimum. In this example, I would often ask myself: ‘Do I need this?’. The answer is 99% of the time: no.)

Key benefits to choosing this lifestyle route are threefold:

The everyday things in my home carry more meaning. By design, I don’t have a lot coming in and out of my home nor stuffed in my drawers. Useful things are an expression of my style and tastes. It feels liberating and, often, those items end up representing important markers in my personal timeline as well as serving their utilitarian purpose.

Second, when something breaks or wears out, I can give it away or dispose of it mindfully and find a replacement over time if needed. No need searching for an exact replica.

Third, my style can evolve gradually and gently. I can release one item when the time is right and replace it on my schedule without hassle or big investment. It can be in accordance with my tastes at the present. I am never beholden to my style preferences of the past.

I have for many years now owned 5 wooden chairs. Each one has a story. One was hand-built by my grandfather’s father. It is my favorite chair. (I’m currently writing this while comfy in it.) Together these chairs make a set though not a matching one. It is a set that tells my history in a way. If one were to break beyond repair, I would not need to let go of the other 4 because finding an identical replacement is not necessary. I would let it go and know that someday if 5 chairs are what is needed, I will find a chair that has its own unique story to bring to the mix.

This choice helps me not worry about the little things. It makes my life easier. It allows every item I own mean something. It is cheaper. It is environmental and is the antithesis of commercialism. It is buying mindfully and with the heart. It is making habits with your sanity and time in focus.

Maybe just start with one unique and meaningful artist’s mug or by taking your great-grandfather’s handmade chair out of the garage and honoring it by using it. I hope you try it.

This blog post is now also available on my website here.

A strong system is one where the connections between its parts are strong.

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