Descent Into Minimalism

It started with photographs. You know the ones, from the period of your life that you want to forget. They segregate into two cohorts — the family holiday pictures and the stolen moments. The holiday photos are easy to let go of. Nothing says we all love one another dearly like being shoved together, everyone in the frame. Squirming kids, unruly pets, strained smiles held too long. The stolen moments are harder to let go of, quiet moments of our lives that melt hearts. There weren’t so many of those. People always mug for the camera, spoiling the basic concept of candid.

Walls decay into bare wastelands of taupe once the pictures evaporate. It reveals the poor choice taupe was in the first place, even if it is soothing. It launches you to the home improvement emporium, a distraction from painting. The walls acquire a more appropriate beige, something less ostentatious than taupe.

Appliances are next to go. The juicer that you can’t remember using. An antioxidant slurpy machine that called to your partner, whispered sweet vegetable nothings in her ear. The juicer enticed her to terrible experiments with carrots and cranberries. Maybe you do remember using the juicer, smiling around a choking concoction. The bread machine that produced twelve-dollar-a-jar strawberry preserves. The blender that made three margaritas before the declaration that ‘on-the-rocks’ was sufficient. Less work, less clean up. All of them take their last ride to Goodwill, left in an early Sunday drizzle if they’re lucky. Sometimes they just land in the garbage, a schadenfreude defiance against years of strict recycling and sorting.

Furniture disappears more slowly. The cheap Ikea-wannabe shelves that host voids in the dust where books used to sit, unread. The marginally better-than-cardboard dresser that holds too-small clothes. The twinkle of hope that they’ll fit again disappears like the metaphor that was intended for this paragraph. Televisions. Chairs. Heirloom tables you’re sure the grandparents handed down just to avoid feeling bad about throwing out.

You’re left looking at empty walls and counters, wondering what you should fill them with. You recoil at yourself for entertaining an invitation to clutter. You start looking at tatami mats and Japanese furniture before your knees reach up and throttle your mind for thinking such thoughts.

It’s an accidental descent into minimalism, leaving you lingering in a house not quite lived in. Home has been stripped away, leaving the patina of memories. You are oppressed by the possibilities, the ability to make your own independent mark. The voids laugh at you, taunting you to imagine creative decoration. The bare walls default to imagined Rockwell caricatures of your life; a heartwarming vignette of a couple throwing plates, arguing, growing apart.

Your mother gives you your paternal grandmother’s cookie jar. It’s an artifact of your youth. It’s also a reminder of your mother’s own divorce. It’s a reminder she can’t bear, but you can. It’s a desert flower, blooming after years. It’s hope. It’s evidence that there is still life to be lived, that some memories are worth holding on to. It’s a stark blossom in the void that whispers, you will have a home again. One memory at a time.

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