As we begin to compile our resolutions for the New Year, it is important to keep one golden French rule in mind....
One of the many lessons I’ve learned living in Paris, in a spatially challenged apartment, is that less usually is more. Of course, as is true for most things in life, it requires a certain degree of distance to be made fully aware of this simple truth. Thrust back into the land of big cars, big houses, big meals, big mouths and big stores for the first time in a year, the realization was immediate for me.
The beauty of living in small spaces is that it forces you not only to consolidate but to become more selective and discerning of your acquisitions, be they food, clothing, furniture, books or superfluous knick-knacks. Limited kitchen storage (including a college dorm room-sized refrigerator) means sticking to necessities. One closet for two means keeping my shopping excursions to a minimum. Restaurants that let you ask for the bill when you’re good and ready mean that the experience of dining out is less hurried, more enjoyable.
While these are some of the same things that frustrate me and cause me to rebuke the lack of space, choice and attentiveness in Paris from day to day, it only takes one visit to an American supermarket, with rows of twenty different kinds of crackers, and ten different milk brands, to perceive the usefulness of limits. Within a day of being Stateside, the sensory overload was so powerful that I instantly felt overwhelmed, wandering about wide-eyed and dumbfounded like a child discovering a candy store for the very first time.
This overpowering amount of choice, in a time when attention (and space) comes at a premium, makes it all the more difficult to focus on that which really matters. The simple things - family, friends, happiness, laughter, learning, and self-fulfillment. If we, as a society, were not so busy rushing around to earn more, buy more and BE more, we might actually find the time to weed out the excess and get back to basics. We CAN learn from the French – it’s not about how much cheese is on your plate but how much it smells. In 2011, the focus is on less.
Lindsey Tramuta is a home & culture columnist for BitchBuzz and the creator of Lost In Cheeseland where she writes about life in Paris. Follow her on twitter @LostNCheeseland.
Photo courtesy of Nina Matthews