When I was packing I was didn’t have a succinct mission statement. I just looked at every single item we owned and asked myself whether we will really really really need this in Hong Kong? If yes, does it have multiple uses? Did we use it a lot in Vancouver? Do we like it? Will it be easy to store? Recently I came across this quote from William Morris: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I think this quote is very applicable to our situation, and is relevant to spaces both large and small.
Now that we are completely settled in to our little flat, I took a look around our space with this saying in mind and I think we did a pretty good job filling our space with useful / beautiful items. Though space is at a premium – and I tried to be very practical when packing – admittedly we have some things that sit solely in the “beautiful” category. Our artwork serves no purpose other than as decor and to remind us of people and places we love. My little chickadee figurine sitting near the TV is a memento from a trip down the Oregon Coast and a reminder of all the bird watching I did in my parents’ backyard while I lived there before I moved to HK. I certainly don’t need it here. My crystal vase will only be used to hold flowers (totally unnecessary from a purely practical perspective), but to me, very necessary so we can have beauty in our home. I love fresh flowers. I vividly remember carving my soapstone bear at my cousin’s birthday party, in a house they no longer own, at an 80’s kitchen table filled with laughter (and a few tears). It would have been impossible not to bring him along for the adventure.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have items that are completely useful. Our little handheld vacuum isn’t gorgeous (actually, we think our little Dyson is the cutest one on the market) but is it ever necessary – this heat is crazy and making me shed hair like crazy, which drives Braden CRAZY. Our most recent purchase is a dehumidifier. We have heard stories about clothing and belongings becoming musty and moldy without one. We run it all day when we’re away at work and leave the air conditioning off. So far Humi (our name for it, pronounce hyoo–mee) has been busy, collecting 4.5L of liquid in about 12 hours each day. USEFUL! We have a little weather station that tells us the temperature and humidity both inside and outside (kinda nerdy but interesting). We have dish soap and toilet paper and trash bins. We have tools to fix things if something goes wrong. We have a huge laundry bin because every item we wear is extremely sweaty immediately. Not very exciting, but useful, practical, and necessary.
Somewhere in between, though, is where I think many of our belongings….belong. They are useful and have a story. They are practical and beautiful. Our serving tray (which Braden though I was silly to bring) is being used a ton, was a gift from my sister, is an awesome piece of Canadiana and takes me back to when Vancouver hosted the 2010 Olympics. When I worked at lululemon I had custom tiles made in San Francisco by Heath Ceramics and visited their facility. While there I purchased the blue bowl and yellow vase from their factory showroom. They remind of all the work I put in to making that store special and of my friend from the office who I worked so closely with (she has a little vase too). Braden ALWAYS sits to put on shoes, and will sit on the ground if there isn’t a step or bench nearby – it’s the funniest thing! I promised years ago that in our next place we would have a little stool for him to sit on and tie his shoes. I worked with an amazing Vancouver vendor, Peregrine, on numerous lululemon projects and this stump is one of my designs. I adore that it’s made from pinebettle wood, has similar siblings in a store I designed in Tulsa, and it’s another awesome piece of Canadiana. Braden adores that he can use it to comfortably put on his footwear. After my Grandma and Grandpa passed away I got two of their chairs and had them re-stuffed and reupholstered. We enjoyed them in Vancouver for years, but we can only fit one in our apartment (and if you ask Braden even that is a stretch). It’s so special to me that we have something from them here with us. My Grandpa traveled quite a bit for work and I think he would think it’s pretty amazing that we are on this adventure here.
I am realizing that Braden is less sentimental than me in terms of attaching meaning and memories to objects. Maybe it’s guys in general. Maybe it’s him. Most likely it’s a bit of both. If you look around our place, though, he too has brought along a few treasured items. Though I vehemently oppose his position, his playstation was a “must-bring” item so he could virtually connect with friends back in Vancouver. He has a little bobblehead of his favourite football player, Colin Kaepernick (a gift from a friend) sitting on his desk at work. He brought every single Koozie he owns (totally unnecessary to have over a dozen here with us) because they represent memories of the different place we got them and they serve as a reminder of our American friends – and his status as an honourary American – as they introduced him to the Koozie culture. And, yes, they do keep beer cold which is critical here.
We had the option to forego the shipping container option in our relocation, receive some money, and put that toward purchasing new items here locally. When I did the math it didn’t seem to work to advantage. More importantly, I am grateful that the shipping container option has allowed us to assemble our little Canadiana Haven here and fill it with items that are useful, beautiful and meaningful to us.