Friday, October 21, 2016

On Being Utilitarian

Vegetables: a beautiful fusion of function and form

In my family, “utilitarian” is kind of a dirty word, usually referring to someone who doesn’t appreciate art. However, as I’ve grown older and more self-aware, I’ve realized that I truly am a utilitarian at heart. In short, I don’t like having things— I like using things. And I’m getting to a point where I realize that that’s okay.

For instance, I find no joy in owning a pretty shirt with three-quarters length sleeves, because when in St. Louis is it ever the right temperature for three-quarters sleeves? I don’t understand the concept of owning a piece of jewelry or a pair of shoes that you never wear, “just ‘cause every woman needs one in her closet.” I would much rather have a houseplant (it cleans the air and removes heavy metals!) than a fish tank. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a food processor.

A lot of people don’t understand this. For instance, upon seeing my wedding registry, a few people jokingly chided me for including only practical items, with nothing “fun” on the list. I understood their point, but to me, an electric mixer and a nice set of mixing bowls is something fun. I don’t see an appliance and bowls— I see countless batches of homemade cookies, whipped up with ease because of my great kitchen gear. 

Here I see the countless foods I've fried in butter...
The same holds true for any of my treasured possessions. I love my ice cream maker because of all the batches of homemade custard I’ve created for friends and family. I enjoy my 70’s-inspired dress because it’s comfy and pretty, which allows me to wear it almost every other day. I appreciate my piano because of the beauty of the music I can play, the challenge of improving my skills, and the nights Zach and I have spent singing Beatles songs together while I fumble through the chords. I like my dress sandals because they don’t hurt my feet, and their design makes me feel like an elven maid. 

Being practical doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate beauty; on the contrary, I think usefulness and beauty are intertwined. One of my favorite quotes about simplicity in the home is, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” With intention and thoughtfulness, I believe that the things we own can be both at the same time.


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