Reasonable and right

These historic Martha's Vineyard cottages are compact and charming. September 2012

These are historic Martha’s Vineyard Cottages are compact and charming. September 2012

“…it is reasonable and right that men should strive to make the useful wares which they produce beautiful just as Nature does; and that they should strive to make the making of them pleasant, just as Nature makes pleasant the exercise of the necessary functions of sentient beings. To apply art to useful wares, in short, is not frivolity, but a part of the serious business of life.”William Morris

One year ago today my post was about my love of romantic Victorian decorating, and how it might seem to be at odds with my growing conviction that simplicity is the answer to many modern dilemmas.  As I wrote then, I’ve learned to enjoy such frilly delights without needing to own, dust, or maintain them, especially now that there are abundant online images to enjoy through Pinterest and other social media.

In recent months I’ve been particularly drawn to learning more about the “tiny house movement,” as it is sometimes described.  I have no delusion that I am anything close to ready for such radical downsizing, but I still think it’s a fascinating concept worthy of attention.  One facet of this lifestyle that I find appealing is the attractive design of many of these tiny abodes.  Maybe it’s because, as a child, I dreamed of having my own little playhouse of about the same size and design.

Certainly the cottages of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, pictured at the top of this page, are far too large to be considered tiny homes.  Yet they are considerably simpler than the homes belonging to us and most of the people we know, while possessing a unique charm that many newer, more ostentatious homes lack.

William Morris, who is quoted above, produced high quality furnishings normally associated with wealthy or upper middle class consumers.  But note that Morris (an ardent socialist) said nothing about size, quantity or monetary value; rather, his emphasis was on the marriage of beauty and utility; the combination of aesthetics with practicality.  Perhaps his ideal is echoed in the delightful designs of the cottages pictured above, and in the cute coziness of many of the tiny homes springing up across the country and around the world.

For the majority of us who are not ready for such a drastic departure from the norm, there are some helpful lessons to be learned from those who are choosing this path.  You’ll find more food for thought in this post, titled “The top 10 tips I’ve learned from minimalists” at Lara’s blog, The Extraordinary Simple Life.

Advertising may have influenced us to associate beauty with excessive spending and prestige brands, but economic and ecological concerns are causing many of us to re-think our ideas about what is necessary and desirable.  Contrary to what we may have been told, practicality and beauty are not mutually exclusive, just as material possessions and happiness don’t always go hand in hand.

Since I have enjoyed dividing our time between two “normal” size homes, I would have a long way to go– and lots of belongings to shed–  before I could live full time in a tiny house, or even a gingerbread cottage.  But I applaud these modern pioneers of a new (old) way of life, who are proving that frugal does not have to be frumpy, and downsizing can be delightful.

One year ago today:

Turrets, dormers and tchotchkes

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Thanks, Julia! Lara’s blog, The Extraordinary Simple Life, is a gem!
    I think my friend, Christina, and her husband were inspired by the tiny home concept when they launched their ministry, Finally Family Homes.
    That, and perhaps the fact that large homes in California are difficult to procure or maintain.

    • Susan, what a wonderful and needed work your friends are doing! I’m always a bit discouraged at how many people seem unaware of (or uninterested in) the plight of so many children and young people in the USA, not that we shouldn’t care about global needs, but it’s so much easier to care “from a distance” rather than up close and personal, in our own backyards, so to speak.

      • Julia, that phenomenon is so true! I wonder if people are afraid that if they help local persons in need, they’ll end up overcommitted, or they’ll be followed home or something? Or if we help out locally, it’s like “working from home” and the lines become “blurred” and we can’t walk away and enjoy the local attractions that those with fewer resources can’t enjoy (like a nice meal at an expensive restaurant)?

        • Yes to all that and more. We’d much rather scatter “random acts of kindness” that are dictated by our own moods and whims, than make a commitment to anything (short term or especially long term). Just ask any community, church, civic or even political organization how hard it is to get people to say they will show up to volunteer on a regular basis, or attend even a single event. Our modern culture encourages people to go for the random dopamine hit that makes them feel good and offers counterfeit reassurance that they are OK and even good people. But sadly, this is not sufficient to fulfill our need to contribute, and more to the point, it not the most ethical way to behave.

          • Well said. I finally committed to volunteering with the Non-violent Peaceforce:
            Then I promptly left town for three weeks. BUT I’m hoping to get involved and start training when I get home. In the meantime, I’m reading their emails and such.

            • I notice their USA headquarters is in St. Paul? The MSP area can definitely use some peacemaking. I’ll be interested to hear of your experiences!

  2. Judy from Pennsylvania

    The comments section is working for me again, so I don’t know what the snafu was last week.

    Hubby and I have been seriously getting rid of things we don’t really use and giving them to family, friends and charities. It feels good to reduce the amount of things that accumulated over the years. I’m not quite a minimalist but I think of myself as more ‘getting back to the basics’. Family keepsakes are still on display but the clutter in closets and dressers is going down. Still working on it though!

    I like your photo of the pretty porches. I’d like to sit in one of those rockers and watch people walk by and talk to them, too. That’s what used to help make a neighborhood. I think I remember you saying you have a porch and a porch swing at your new home. Do you use them very much?

    • Judy, I’m discovering over many years’ effort that the process of clearing away excess belongings seems to be an endless one. I joked recently to my sister that when one is moving, one’s belongings tend to mysteriously multiply so that the task is never completed! But as you say, the process of cleaning out can be therapeutic even when a bit of grieving is involved. My goal is to have almost nothing for others to sort and clear away when I die. But to accomplish that, I’ll need to live a good many more years. 😀

      Re: the swing – I usually end up sitting in it only when it’s good weather and I’m waiting for a ride, or for Matt’s ride, or something else time-limited. Usually when I’m outside I am working in the yard. But I have a goal to allow myself a certain amount of time, several times a week to sit out there with a book and wave at all the people who walk or jog by. I have started allowing myself an hour or so to sit out on my deck in the sunshine (with adequate sun protection of course) along with resuming my walking habits. All these things add so much joy to life and I hope to eventually have them on a flexible but defined schedule.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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