Part I/ Recycle to Reconnect: It can start with our furniture

I recently moved to Paris, into a tiny yet very welcoming one-bedroom apartment. From the beginning I felt inclined by the very nature of the place to furnish it in a smart way that would make the most of the space. I had to reconcile two desires: a longing for simplicity, minimalism and space and an equal desire to keep the things I needed the most (clothes, books, etc.) close at hand. Having a good number of “things I *think* I need the most,” I knew that this longing would inevitably lead me to downsize my wardrobe and get rid of the unnecessary items I had been carrying with me for the past six years over four continents. Well, the great thing about this apartment’s layout is that it forces me to constantly reassess the need for all those little objects that, day after day, appear out of nowhere and seek shelter in my humble abode. Faced with the task of furnishing this small space and having limited financial means, I was spending many hours on the internet searching websites selling second-hand goods.  But it wasn’t just cost that compelled me to scour the internet for used furniture. I was looking for just the right items, of the right size, color, shape and price, then trying to get in touch with the seller as soon as possible and journeying across town to finally become the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind object—competition is fierce in this era of economic crisis. I might have ended up saving a lot of time and energy had I chosen to set foot in one of those many mass-production furniture stores. So money was for sure one of my criteria, but not the first one. The reality is that I’m really not fond of most of the styles and trends we find nowadays in most places: monochromatic colors; a lot of silver, black and white; geometric shapes; angular edges… It’s a matter of taste, and I find those things soulless, cold and impersonal. Raw materials, especially wood, have an unrivaled appeal to me. Surely because, even when shaped by the hands of men, wood still carries that life that once animated it.  Wood still bears the marks that tell you its story—maybe a branch was growing here, or some insects might have made a nest there. Wood’s uneven color, which patinates over time, mirrors the changes and chances one goes through in life, and its tone settles according to its environment—the amount of sunlight it receives—and the way it is used. Thus, our wooden furniture slowly evolves into our faithful and quiet companion, accompanying us on our life journey. Wood also somehow provides a seeming connection with nature; its warm natural color and its texture offer a welcome contrast to the rough urban environment outside of our homes and, therefore, a feeling of security. I am not sure if most of the furniture sold today could do much more than serve a functional purpose.

The lack of connection with the objects we surround ourselves with might be one explanation for the high turnover of furniture that seems to have become the norm.

Furniture that is reinvested with meaning—whether because it is made from sustainably sourced materials, has become the repository of cherished memories or embodies such beauty that it irresistibly attracts us—could help us reconnect with it and endow it with more value than just the purpose it serves. This could help us keep from succumbing to the sirens of frenetic consumption and hold on to this small coffee table or that designer armchair a little bit longer.

3 thoughts on “Part I/ Recycle to Reconnect: It can start with our furniture

  1. Very interesting. To be detached doesn’t mean that we don’t care of where the objects surrounding us come from. Instead we can think about the importance “to own” something provided by our planet. And it may help us to give an objective value to things, which is not the value that advertisement has given it, based on fashion or an incentive to show of. In that way, everyone should feel invited to “see with [its] own eyes and not through the eyes of others”.

  2. Thank you for this comment, and sorry for this very late reply! It’s a very relevant thought you’re haring which reminds me of the concept of “trusteeship”. We can see the relationships in society — between social institutions and individuals, within and among communities, between humanity and the natural environment, between present and future generations— through the lense provided by this concept. “Trusteeship” can be understood as the idea that each one of us enters the world as a trust of the whole and, in turn, bears a measure of responsibility for the welfare of all.

    When this idea is applied to sustainable consumption we understand that given the fact, as you said, that everything we have is provided by this finite planet, consuming more than our fair share will deplete the resources needed by others.

    I very much like this concept because beyond giving an added value to things through the understanding that it comes from a finite source, it also encompasses all dimensions of life, bringing a much needed coherence to our thoughts and actions.

    To read more on this check: Rethinking Prosperity: Forging an Alternative to a Culture of Consumerism

  3. Pingback: The Future of Food / Part 1 | Humanly Sustainable

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