Peeling Back The Layers

Lately I’ve been having many discussions with myself about my approaches and attitudes to living and being. So this post is a tapestry of the thoughts which have arisen during those chats with self.

Writing things down helps me to see my thoughts more clearly, notice what I’ve missed, where I may be stuck, going wrong, and other stuff like that.

It also helps to empty the mind of clutter, and view the clutter differently – like at a yard sale, junk shop or charity shop. Someone else’s no longer wanted item may be a much wanted treasure for you – sometimes your own item which you thought wasn’t worth anything while it was piled up in the clutter room suddenly looks valuable again now that it has some space of its own to be seen.

In my last post I used some quotes by Eric Hoffer, one of his quotes (which I didn’t use in the post) stayed with me:

“You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.”

― Eric Hoffer

That quote appealed to me partly because it tied into a regular conversation which I’ve had with myself for decades about the differences between what I want, what I think I need, and what I actually need.

Over the years I’ve whittled down what I actually need to a bare minimum, which makes living life easier in a multitude of ways (to balance my sort of Spartan minimalism, my partner is in many ways the exact opposite – he’s a bit of a maximalist. To him want and need are the same thing. It’s a fun challenge to watch the two co-exist in a shared space).

Whenever I get a sudden wanting urge, I tend to ask the part of me caught up in the wanting – Do you really need it?

Usually the answer is – No. If it is, that tends to be the end of that, although I might have a long ponder about why I wanted something, what it means, reflects, is really going on – Am I distracting myself from a discomfort, perhaps, with the wanting urge?

Sometimes the answer is – No, but… – and the wanting side of me comes up with a whole list of reasons, and whines, for why I have to have such and such.

The usual way I deal with the No, but… scenario is by reminding myself of those times I’ve given in to the wanting urge, sold myself on something being indispensable, and have become the proud owner of something I suddenly don’t want anymore because I have it now, don’t know what to do with it because I didn’t actually need it and it ends up as clutter (so then I feel ashamed for having wasted resources every which way), or I realise that it wasn’t what I thought it was and didn’t do what I expected it to do for me and my life.

Less is More by Zen Pencils
(yes, I know I’ve used this comic in posts before – I love this message!)

When I was younger and I got something I wanted which I suddenly didn’t want anymore because I had it, the wanting urge would move onto a new thing which I must have, obsessively needed, my life wouldn’t be complete without it, I couldn’t move on and do all those things I was definitely going to do until I had it, it must become mine or else I’d be miserable, suffering from a lack of that, a want for the want.

It took me a long time to realise that what was making me miserable was me, my approach, attitude, and perspective of want and need.

This has been on my mind a lot recently. It’s an issue which keeps coming up, from the big to the medium to the small.

The small – I saw a dress at the supermarket while food shopping which was nice, and was staring in its general direction while at the checkout when my partner asked me what I was looking at so intently. I told him I had a sudden want for that dress. He said buy it. I said no (I never wear dresses or skirts because they’re not ‘practical’, unless I’m going to some event and I’ve already got a couple I can wear for that kind of thing). He followed that up with a regular statement he makes to me – You should get it if you want it, instead of denying yourself things like you always do (in other words – stop being tiresomely complex and complicated and simply go for it!).

I didn’t get it. I don’t need it. I’m most likely never going to wear it. It was a fleeting want which was fun to have but there was no need to indulge it further.

The medium – My partner and I are in the process of fixing up the main bathroom.

It looks like this (I added a ‘sketch’ photoshop filter to reflect how it looks to me in my mind’s eye) at the moment:

Neither of us has ever done anything like this before because we’ve never owned our own house until now. So we have no experience of the process – of how it is supposed to be done according to how others do it.

We’ve wanted to sort it out since we moved in for several reasons. The previous owner had his own dreams for this house, and those included carving up a decent room with stud walling into smaller rooms to make a separate fantasy shower room.

The shower room was a dark grey cave without ventilation (building survey says – this is an illegal no-no). When we moved in, the shower could not be used because the pump was broken, and it was just as well the pump was broken because when we recently removed the tiles, shower base and stud walls, we found old leaking water damage, and other bad installation of shower issues (someone cut huge chucks out of the floor beams below for the plumbing and then decided – nope – afterwards. This house is full of human bungling genius like that – luckily it has absorbed the impact and stood strong in spite of it).

The layout in the bathroom section was weird – using the sink required maneuvering around the door and squeezing yourself between the bath and sink. Step back a little from the sink and you’d end up with butt on tub rim, possibly tumbling into tub.

However it was functional = do we really ‘need’ to change it or is that a ‘want’ which isn’t an actual necessity? … until the bath waste broke and it proved difficult to fix (I have since fixed it by moving the tub out and up a bit, so it’s functional again).

We saw that breakage as a sign that now was the time to just do it – now the want was a need… although we did have a smaller bathroom, an ensuite to the master bedroom, which could be used. We delayed a bit to just do it so the ensuite which relies on a macerator decided to give us an extra nudge – the macerator broke.

“He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”

– Harold Wilson

We’ve been putting off doing it mainly because there were other areas to fix (some have been fixed, others are still waiting), and neither of us looked forward to trying to find a bathroom contractor. We’ve had two different ones come in (suede shoes, and hipster beard) in the past couple of weeks, and… we’ve now decided to be our own contractor.

My partner has gone into full bathroom contractor mode – once he decides to learn how to do something, he whizzes up the steep learning curve like a crazy reverse skier.

He’s decided to start on the smaller bathroom – it happens to be the ensuite of his master bedroom.

We sleep in separate bedrooms because we can. That started out when I injured my back a few years before we moved in here. I was confined to the bed for a couple of weeks, and could barely move for several months afterwards. Sharing the same bed was physical agony for me, every time he moved I screamed in pain which became mental and physical torture for him (don’t move, don’t breathe… that kind of thing).

Sleeping in separate rooms and beds has had a miraculous effect on our relationship – no need to find over the shit couples fight over when they share a bed.

Changing the structure of your old system to a new system due to events which force that kind of change can be beneficial even if at the time it doesn’t appear to be that way. But you do have to rejig your approach, attitude, and concepts about how things and you should be – what you need, what you want, what you think you need, what you think you want.

You also have to stop listening to those voices outside of yourself which tell you how things are supposed to be – based on what and says who exactly?

“Spa visits had started as an occasional recreational escape but soon became a highly addictive drug – Nopium, the high we get saying “hell no” to anyone who is different from us.”

– Jeremy E. Sherman, A Short Fable About a Big Psychological Vulnerability

He will need a bit of assistance from our plumber (the one I mentioned in another post who never gives advice when you ask for it but loves to tell you that what you chose to do was wrong and that you should have asked him for advice first), but the amount of assistance he’ll need keeps getting whittled down.

The experience has already changed him in ways which are surprising for both of us – the effect of this house on both of us has been something neither of us predicted.

The big – you don’t always know what you truly need until life gives it to you in the form of something you were certain you neither wanted nor needed.

This house has been… a blessing, a curse, a curse disguised as a blessing, and a blessing disguised as a curse (I’m referring to the Chinese fable – Blessing or Bane).

We could afford it because it needed fixing (the first thing we knew before we bought it was that we’d have to put in a new soakaway for the septic tank, luckily we didn’t have to replace the tank itself) – it looked more fixed than it actually was. The previous owner did some great fixes, but also took on too much all at once and cosmetically covered up some things which needed to be sorted out properly – such is human. We all do that. I’ve definitely done that.

Originally I thought I’d be able to indulge in cosmetic wants, but those have had to be sacrificed for structural needs.

Astrologically that’s a very transiting Saturn just moving into Capricorn (which occurred around the time I bought and moved into this place), and transiting Pluto already in full Capricorn mode experience – get your structural system sorted out, make sure your foundation is authentic, solid, grounded in reality before you build upon it. Your fantasies and dreams may need to wait, sit on a shelf, maybe even undergo a transformative time of testing (both Saturn and Pluto like to test what is and what appears to be).

“Pluto always brings truth to the surface, especially the kinds of realizations that we tend not to welcome.

Saturn, as we saw, can also be confrontational: bills come due, hard choices must be made, push comes to shove.

It is impossible, in other words, to look at this Spring astrologically without recognizing that both individually and collectively, the karmic chickens are coming home to roost.”

excerpt from Forrest Astrology blog: The Shadow Dance Between Pluto and the South Node by Anthony Howard

Getting in other people to work on our house has been and still is a big challenge, partly because our house is old (approx. 200 yrs old) and it’s built out of clay which was dug up from the surrounding ground and made into clay lump bricks.

In some ways it is the perfect built from the earth structure for my Sun in Capricorn… and natal Pluto in Virgo 1st house trining Sun, and for my partner’s stellium, including Sun conjunct Pluto, in Virgo. You need to be earthy to live here and enjoy living in a home like this with all its challenges and tests – this house likes to test its owners (we know some of the stories about the previous owners, including those of the earliest dwellers – every one has been tested).

This is a pic (with a bit of an artistic photoshop filter added to reflect my growing view of my house and its walls as a blurry entity with a life of its own) of a wall in the bathroom showing the clay lump bricks and old clay lump plaster (which used hay/straw in the mix) which crumbled due to water damage:

Up close and in person it looks worse that it actually is.

When I first laid eyes on the state of a few of the original walls of this house and how easily they seemed to crumble… let’s just say panic set in with constant nightmarish images plaguing my mind of the whole place falling down, under and on top of me.

However the crumbling is just the surface appearance – these walls are surprisingly solid. Clay lump bricks are fatter, wider, larger than regular bricks and can do a lot of crumbling without it being a problem. It’s taken me a few years of experience to understand that.

But most builders and contractors don’t understand these walls, this house, or the owners of a house like this (especially not when one of the owners is me who is obviously not from this planet – people invariably find me to be a perplexing issue. Both contractors, suede shoes and hipster beard, tried to pigeon-hole me and got frustrated in their attempts – I’m not pigeon-holing them with the nicknames I’ve given them but it does sound like I am so maybe I am).

You can’t just do whatever you want – you have to take into account the needs of this house.

As the owners of a house built like this, it’s up to us to understand the structure and not hire those who don’t understand it and won’t respect it even if they’re really good at what they do when the structure is one they understand.

While both bathroom contractors seemed nice, friendly, and capable…. they have their system, their own personal and business structures of doing things and those just aren’t going to work here or for us.

It’s a case of trying to fit you and your house into their system and structure rather than adapting themselves to you and your house’s system and structure – that kind of relationship scenario is going to crumble and… well luckily it collapsed before they got anywhere near doing any work which might have caused a far more worrying type of collapse.

“You only really discover the strength of your spine when your back is against the wall.”

― James Geary

That’s not dissimilar to when we’re looking for help with sorting out the structure and system of our mind, emotions, psyche, body and soul. We need to find the people and therapies which understand, respect and work with us as we are rather than try to fit us into what they need for us to be for them to be who they are, think they are, have decided they are, want or need to be.

It doesn’t matter how good someone else’s system is, if it doesn’t work with your system and structure it just won’t work for you.

Learning about the structure of this house (I keep repeating a typo – calling this ‘house’ a ‘how’… hmmm… I wonder what that means, what story it is revealing?), and finding the right approach and attitude towards it has helped me to be more understanding and respectful of my own structure and system.

It’s also prompted me to shift how I do things, how I perceive things, and strip back layers which I’d plastered over my original self.

It has also rippled into my attitude and approach to blogging… when one thing within changes, it changes everything, albeit sometimes very subtly.

It’s a house which is constantly inspiring much needed internal discussions…

One thing has led to another and… one of which is that what my partner is doing with the ensuite, all the wants which are needs for him which he is indulging, are inspired by ideas which I had voiced for the main bathroom – such as a bowl sink on a table (that voiced idea made suede shoes tell me that I reminded him of a hippie dippie client of his, the wife of an actor, who was very into yoga and new age concepts – in other words my idea sucked and didn’t fit into his version of reality, his system and structure = that kind of a sink wasn’t in the catalogue he gave us, and if it’s not in there it’s not allowed).

The small bathroom is seemingly becoming a maximalist’s dream… I think the main bathroom will be a minimalist’s dream now.

Life is… a loop-de-loop loopy learning experience.

Time to stop.


  1. Good luck with your bathrooms and structural integrity! Doug and I also have separate bedrooms because his snoring was keeping us both up at night. And our “stuff” dynamic is basically the same — I’m a minimalist and he’s “I want it = I need it”. It really is kind of interesting to make it work. Again, good luck with your bathrooms. Old houses (I misspelled that “gold” houses) are the best!


    • Thank you very much, Willow 🙂

      Years ago when the UK went through a bit of an obsession with sleep studies someone published the results of an experiment they’d done to cure sleep problems – they found that some sleep problems were caused by couples sharing a bed and the cure was to sleep separately. A side effect of this cure was that it relieved other relationship stresses because people got a deeper and more relaxing sleep.

      It’s definitely done wonders for us to sleep separately. Our cat likes it that way too as she gets plenty of space to spread out and is less likely to get squished in the middle of the night 😉

      Love the ‘gold houses’ typo ❤


      • Sleeping separately has certainly helped with our relationship because we both get better night’s sleep, *and* we both have different bedtimes and night rituals — as in, he has one, and I do not. ^_^ Having separate bedrooms makes going to bed way less stressful that’s fersure.

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  2. I am a minimalist who keeps collecting tons of stuff. So is my M. It’s strange. We’re always divesting and then picking up again (not buying or choosing really, just winding up with stuff). We have two households, so I suppose some of that is to be expected, and we have hung on to some stuff for the imminent departure of M’s son who needs basic things and can’t afford them. It seems to be following us, chairs and microwaves chasing us down the road. M seems to take it more in stride than I do.

    The sight of the deteriorating clay bricks would have scared me too and I would have wondered if I was in over my head.

    M and I sleep better together than apart, which flies in the face of the research. I go through periods of insomnia which seems to intensify when we’re apart.

    Great post – very enjoyable. 🙂


    • Thank you, Lynette 🙂

      There’s also plenty of published material about the benefits of sleeping together. In other words sleep scientists have covered all the bases and options, and their asses, and it’s up to us to figure out what works for us individually – thank you science for the big reveal 😉

      I now have this mental image of you walking down the street being tailed by furniture. Every time you turn around the furniture hides really badly behind bushes and trees, the plug of the microwave is always sticking out and giving its hiding place away.


  3. Reminds me I actually sleep like a corpse when I share bed with anyone, lie straight and almost no movement throughout the night. I think I could sleep in a coffin comfortably. So I also was told that I have this occasional teeth grinding habit, and at times I sleep with my eyes open 😳

    There was a time I love to sleep diagonal across the queen size bed, Lol no reason at all for that. Weird habit. And though I don’t move much during sleep I never got used to sleeping on single bed.


    • I like to sleep diagonally across the mattress too 😀 I wondered if it was like a compass thing, with my head like the arrow on the needle, except instead of pointing North it seems to seek out the East.

      I’m a very restless sleeper, anyone sharing a bed with me will get slapped, punched and kicked, have a pillow thrown over their face, end up without any covers. It’s safer for others if I sleep alone, and less stressful for me because I don’t have to worry about what I’ll do to them when I’m sleeping 😉

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  4. Haha I think it make sense for a restless sleeper to sleep diagonally, minimize the chances of falling off the bed maybe. Sometimes I guess I sleep that way so the bed would be fully occupied otherwise the bed would be always half empty if I sleep straight 😉

    Sounds like a typical Monkey, my little buddy also monkey also kicked and punched his mum who slept with him when he was young. He shared my bed a couple of times in the past but nothing violent really, somehow I got out of the way when he does his kicks and stuff. But yes, by morning he would have the whole cover to himself 😄


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