Or Fraulein Maria.
My point is: have less, don’t worry about the bathroom tile.
Remember that scene in The Sound of Music when Maria skips down the poplar-lined lane, swinging her one measly carpetbag in one hand and her guitar case in the other, belting her little heart out? You know it. Maybe you’ve even reenacted it. No? Only me?
Eleven years ago, when my sister Cait had just graduated from college and I was 19 and still smack in the middle of it, we took off for a two-week trip to Italy. I had managed to get myself a paying internship for the summer and so she convinced me that the proper thing to do in advance of the start date was to empty my paltry bank account and book a ticket to Italy. We flew on Swiss Air. I took many blurry photographs of the Alps with my film camera and relished sips of ginger ale mid-flight.
We ate pasta every single day of our visit. A Spanish soldier fell in love with Cait on the train ride to Siena. I dirtied my feet wearing an old pair of Birkenstocks before they were trendy and then let the salty Mediterranean scrub them clean in Corniglia. We swore that one day we’d both honeymoon in Capri. We had an explosive fight on the Spanish Steps in Rome. I remained mute while Cait stumbled through her Italian in city after city, until—finally—she forced me to ask “Which way to the leaning tower?” in Pisa. In Italian. I stammered through “Dove” before someone took pity on me. We ordered drinks at outdoor tables and wolfed down the free peanuts.
It was the first time that I’d left the comfort of my stuff to find the wider world on my own. Of course being with your big sister is nothing like being alone, but the point is that we were free, with only our backpacks to weigh us down.
We made our way from city to city, staying in grimy hostels and pristine convents. Yes, convents. There were curfews and starchy bed linens on twin mattresses. The only decoration was a cross on the wall and a bad painting of one or another saint.
I’m not suggesting that the only key to happiness is giving up all of your worldly possessions and strapping on a backpack. Though it certainly seemed to work for Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed and all those saints.
I am suggesting that when I think back to times in my life when I have felt truly happy, they’ve been moments like these. Where I had a bag full of clothes to wear, a roof over my head, food in my belly, but not so much at all in terms of stuff.
Here’s the crutch: I genuinely like stuff. I appreciate good design. I enjoy keeping a beautiful home filled with beautiful things. Not lots of things. Nice things. You understand.
But there are also actual moments when it can feel as if my windowless, yellow bathroom with the missing floor tile and the peeling tub is the thing between me and happiness. That if only my bathroom was white tiled with a claw-foot tub, and a spotless shower curtain that everything in the world would be right.
And that, my friends, is bonkers.
I needed to say that. To myself. And to all of you.
Here’s a pact to swing our metaphorical leather valises with gusto. To shirk some of the burden of the homes we live in as being tied to our happiness. We are more than the sum of our possessions; more than white-tiled walls.
Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 108, right HERE.