We're in Vegas again, and I've been thinking about my fixation on luxury hotels. We live pretty modestly at home. Just what is it that's so special about hotels? Oddly, I think there are some lessons about minimalism here.
Our room is about the size of my first apartment. I've lived in larger houses, but there's something about the dimensions of this space that feels appropriate and comfortable to me. My husband and I always set up our bedroom in the smallest room of whatever house we're living in. At home, the bed takes up almost the entire room. Given the opportunity, we'd always take a smaller house over a larger house. Less to clean. Cheaper to heat and cool. Mostly, we just like having the coziness of a human-scale room, where everything is in proportion to our form.
The only personal stuff we have is the stuff we brought. We have exactly the right amount of clothing. We planned what to wear, so everything coordinates and we know we look good. There's all kinds of space in the closet for triple what we actually have in there. We have linens, toiletries, pens, paper, a hair dryer, and an ironing board. We have our electronics, and that means access to all the work tools and entertainment we could ever hope to need. What else "should" we have that isn't here? Boxes of memorabilia and sentimental keepsakes? Tubs of fabric, yarn, and craft supplies? Holiday decorations? A few dozen extra pairs of shoes and a hundred articles of clothing we won't wear? What are we missing?
Our pets. We're missing our pets, but we'll see them again soon.
There are things in the room that we aren't using and don't need. A large-screen TV and its small companion in the bathroom. Seriously? Why is there always a TV in a hotel bathroom? Do people really watch TV while they're brushing their teeth or shaving? There's a mini-bar, and we don't drink. There is a tray of snacks, none of which are the kind of thing we eat at home. As it is, we're only eating two meals a day and we're still feeling saturated with excess calories, even though we're walking an average of five miles a day and we always take the stairs. You can't work off a bad diet. There's a respectable gym at the hotel, but what makes this place unsustainable for us is that we have to rely on restaurants for our meals.
The one issue I have with hotels is that I'm not emotionally comfortable having other people clean up after me. If they left a supply closet unlocked, I'd totally squeegee the bathroom, run the vacuum, and make the bed myself. I always have to talk myself down and remember that this is someone's livelihood. A sucky one, but a livelihood all the same. I've cleaned houses for money, so why should I begrudge someone else that opportunity? Still torn about it, and probably always will be. Either way, in the end, it's nice to have gleaming clean surfaces, windows, and mirrors. Whether someone else cleans them or whether I do it, I'm never going to settle for dusty, grimy, or greasy. Even on vacation.
What we have in a hotel room is potential. It's a stylish, attractive, comfortable room. It has plenty of sunlight and it also has blackout curtains. There's a desk, a table with chairs, a couch, a bed, and a bathroom. There are plenty of lamps and electrical outlets. What else do we really need in a room? We don't need piles of papers and mail. We don't need stacks of catalogs, old magazines, and books we've already read. We don't need collections of clothes that don't fit. We don't need souvenirs.There is very little that we truly do need.
What we have at home is security. In spite of downsizing three times, in spite of our interest in minimalism, we still have plenty of stuff. The majority of our belongings are not used on a daily, or even a weekly, basis. We keep various tools because they may come in handy or because we think we might need them. Years might go by, and we might not need them, but the potential is there. I'm sure I could come up with a use for a deflated soccer ball or a candy wrapper if I waited long enough and thought hard enough. More than the random possessions, what we have at home is that sense of territory. This is our place to mess up however we like. Nobody tells us what to do here. Well, actually our landlord lives next door, and he does tell us what to do sometimes. Neighbors are always going to have a certain amount of input. In that sense, the security of home can be somewhat restrictive. In a hotel, almost anything goes. At home, people notice, and they remember. Security isn't everything.
The more time we spend in hotels, the more we realize that what makes our home environment feel personal is our personal presence. It's our conversation, the clothing we're actually wearing at this moment, and our musical preferences. It's our choice of reading material. It's our involvement in our work and our projects. There's nothing in particular about a room or a collection of stuff that speaks about our shared life. What makes a place home for us is being together, usually with our critters in our laps. Why do we carry so much stuff when all we really need is each other?
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.