Minimalism vs OCD

I like order. That is part of the reason I am drawn to minimalism. Casual clutter is not my thing. Yes, I understand how complicated, textured interiors can be attractive. It’s an aesthetic with freedom from rules, with permission for creativity, spontaneity and addition, and happy accidental patterns. (Oh, wow…look how my scatter cushions just landed in that perfect arrangement…like Stonehenge…I couldn’t do that again if I tried.)

I get that part of it, but all too often it all just ends up looking messy, and eventually if nothing is moved or tidied, the casual clutter bug turns their house into one of those places they feature on shows about obsessive compulsives, with twenty years of newspapers stacked to the ceiling and nothing but crawlspace between the mountains of hotel shampoo and conditioner bottles that were saved from the garbage because they were just too good to throw away.

That would happen to me if I let it. I’m not naturally a minimalist. I am a reformed obsessive compulsive collector. There I’ve said it.

I’ve adopted minimalism as a life-saving discipline, really I’ve done it for self preservation. I put things in order, I put things away and if there’s no more room in cupboards, I throw things away to save myself from an eventual death, buried in my own stuff.

Lately, I’ve applied some urgency to this process of discarding things as my Minimalist Monument to Moi has taken shape. There just won’t be room for much of my stuff. Even so, I occasionally see my tendency for gathering creeping back into my life. For example, here’s a rubber band ball that has been steadily growing to the size of a cricket ball in my kitchen.

Today a ball. Tomorrow a small planet.

Today a ball. Tomorrow a small planet.

The rubber bands come in one-by-one, around my daily newspaper, which gives you some indication of how long I’ve been collecting them. This is my third rubber band ball. This has got to stop.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen a Japanese architect to design my Minimalist Monument to Moi. The Japanese understand the need for space and emptiness, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy possessions. If consumerism were an olympic sport, the Japanese would be the gold medalists, world and olympic record holders and probably under suspicion for steroid use, so good are they at it. You wouldn’t know it though. Because the other thing they’re great at is putting things in order.

Lunch, for example.

Is that what you "ordered"?

Is that what you “ordered”?

And houses.

Yo Shimada, my architect of choice for this project has developed across his body of work a storage solution that’s turned into somewhat of a design signature. I noticed it first in his House In Rokko, the project with a ground floor walled entirely in glass. The loo as you can see, is contained inside a free-standing box. Not a room. A box.

Loo in a box.

Loo in a box.

He has taken this idea to another level (pun) in his House in Itami, where the staircase is contained within what looks like a piece of furniture (a wardrobe).

What's this box?

What’s this box?

Oh, it's the stairs!

Oh, it’s the stairs!

By containing these functions within boxes, he’s managed to free up the interiors of his houses so that they can be designed differently with walls made of glass, or with nice pieces of feature furniture where walls would normally be. This idea also makes it easy for the people who live in these houses to refrain from cluttering them up.

I discovered in the latest round of design development drawings for my X-House in Hamilton that Yo Shimada has been playing again with this idea of hiding functions in boxes. For example, on the lower rear deck of the X-House there is a free-standing box containing the washing machine and tubs.

I'll keep the OMO box in a box.

I’ll keep the OMO box in a box.

As well, the storage space in the rear office area will be contained within another box.

I'll keep my shoe boxes in a box.

I’ll keep my shoe boxes in a box.

And on the top level, the guest bathroom will live within another self-contained box that doubles as a wall for the kitchen cupboards and an oven.

The soapbox.

The soapbox.

It’s not a room, it’s a box. It doesn’t reach the ceiling because if it did, the rest of the house would lose its airy headspace. In these boxes, the functional things are cleverly compartmentalised and the rest is left open. See this view from the top level looking back toward the kitchen from the rear deck.

Half bathroom box, half kitchen cupboard.

Half bathroom box, half kitchen cupboard.

The box is there, but it’s not boxy. It sits on the corner where the living space bends but cleverly chamfers off, so you get an un-obstructed line of sight through. That’s the view from my barbecue by the way. Line up here for your steaks, sausages and rissoles. They won’t be lumped higgledy piggledy on paper plates, though. They’ll be lined up perfectly in order. Sectioned. Or perhaps even bento boxed.