Before leaving for London, my friend Andrew sent me a message: “You are welcome to stay here for a while, but be prepared, I live a minimalist life now.” He attached several photos of the apartment from different angles , including living room, bedroom, kitchen, looks elegant and simple.
I have long heard of minimalist living, which is nothing more than keeping everything simple. As someone who has quite a lot of travel experience and prides himself on being able to go with the flow, I thought that this would not be difficult for me, and it should be a temporary hotel with simple conditions. Just this trip, I took my ten year old and don’t know how he would react. But the plane tickets are all booked, even if the child goes back on it, there is no way.
I texted Andrew back and said, no problem at all. In order to cope with the upcoming minimalist life, I even put down the laptop that I must bring every time I travel. If there is work to be done, I will only use the limited data of my mobile phone to complete it.
Andrew is a Malaysian Chinese friend I met in the UK ten years ago, when we were working in the same company department and became friends because we both spoke Cantonese. Andrew has been working in London since I left, and after jumping from our previous company, he was marketing in a dental practice. Five years ago, he saved enough money to buy a small apartment of less than 20 square meters on the outskirts of London, and he has lived there until now.
His apartment is two subway stops away from London Heathrow Airport. My child and I arrived at around 10 o’clock in the evening, and it was a five-minute walk to the left after exiting the subway station. Andrew had been waiting for us at the door of the apartment, and as soon as we entered his apartment, the children were as curious as kittens to visit.
The apartment gave me the same impression as the photos, but I was there in person, and I felt that the air inside was free to circulate due to the lack of sundries. Whether it is large furniture or small objects, all maintain the minimum configuration. There is a sofa, a coffee table, a wooden table and two wooden chairs in the living room, which confirms the Latin root in the word minimalism, minimus , minimum or least.
”Except for the sofa, I made all the furniture myself,” says Andrew proudly.
Andrew majored in art and furniture design at university. After coming to London, he liked wooden furniture, so every Saturday he would attend a wood workshop and beat in it all day. His furniture does not use nails, but uses the most traditional mortise and tenon technique. I saw the wooden boxes in the bathroom for small items, which he also made by himself. Whether it is from the perspective of beauty or practicality, I can see that his craftsmanship is extraordinary. Of course, the toiletries in the bathroom must also follow the concept of minimalism. I joked with Andrew that he can use “one piece” as a quantifier for all his items.
Andrew’s coat hanger in the corner of the bedroom with all his winter clothes
”Except for the kitchen utensils.” He shook his head and said, a little helpless. Originally, he also hoped to maintain only the most basic “one piece” of pots and pans, but sometimes he has to receive visitors like me, so it is best to keep a few more sets of tableware and buy them all from second-hand stores. As for other kitchen utensils that I thought were essential, such as fresh-keeping bags and lunch boxes, Andrew used the food packaging he got from the supermarket instead. Before I came, I was actually a little worried because I needed to pack some hand-washed underwear. I wanted to go to the grocery store to buy a box the next day. Who knew that Andrew pulled out a recycled plastic box from the cabinet, and it was a supermarket. Packed with mushrooms.
”Is this suitable?”
I immediately took it to the bathroom and tried it, hey, it’s quite suitable! After saving a few pounds, I discovered for the first time that small items that I usually think can be bought at will, with a little thought, can definitely be replaced by recycled items.
The kids protested because there was no internet in Andrew’s apartment. This little boy who was immersed in the Internet from birth, without the Internet is like without rice and water, and suddenly lost his direction. But he quickly quieted down, staring intently at the decorative study on the apartment wall. Those were some of Andrew’s life shards, which he wrote on post-it notes in different colours and framed them as decorations in wooden picture frames he made.
That night, because the child was too tired, he temporarily gave up the Internet and went to sleep. In the next few days of the trip, although he clamored for the Internet, we went berserk between different attractions every day, and he gradually got used to it. He’s also happy to accept an old Gameboy that Andrew has lent him when he’s addicted to gaming. As for me, given the limited traffic, it is more efficient to set aside a fixed half an hour every day to deal with work than to look around when I have an internet connection at home.
At home at night, the children looked at the post-it notes on the wall. Those little insights were Andrew’s life story. At this time, it became an ice-breaking topic. He and the child immediately became a year-end friendship. After the kid fell asleep, Andrew and I sat on the sofa listening to the radio he had used for ten years, over drinks, and chatting casually.
”Why choose this way of life?” I asked.
Andrew got up right away and showed me the photo from the kitchen, which surprised me. That’s what the apartment looked like when the previous owner lived in it: a tacky bright red carpet, cluttered and cluttered. Andrew was extremely disgusted, and drastically removed all the original decoration, replaced the off-white carpet, and painted the walls and ceiling into pure white. Andrew said that Minimalism actually originated in the art world, and the essence is to use the simplest elements to present the beauty, the most representative of which is the interior decoration from Japan. Later, this trend spilled over to the lifestyle, so there was a Minimalism lifestyle.
Andrew said that in recent years, the topic of environmental protection and sustainable lifestyles has frequently appeared in the British media, big and small. He often reads about the sustainable living challenges that established media such as the Guardian throw out to readers, sometimes refusing to use plastic products for a month, sometimes wearing second-hand clothes for 30 days. I’ve also noticed that on the streets of London, more people choose to travel by bike than a decade ago, and shared bikes are everywhere. Andrew also said that after the epidemic, many Britons realized that the way to travel by flying to a place for a few days was not environmentally friendly, and now they prefer to travel by train, or choose to travel within the UK. Open any local newspaper at will, “environmental protection” and “sustainable” are definitely the hot search terms. I saw a well-known local chef describe in a free newspaper how his family of five builds a zero-waste environmentally friendly life.
Small corner in Andrew’s apartment
As a big fan of minimalist living, Andrew certainly lives up to it. He only travels once a year and saves all his vacations just to fly back to Malaysia to see his family. He doesn’t accept gifts from guests, and he said that if he wanted to express his gratitude, he might as well have a salmon bento from Chinatown. In the past year, he did not cook in the summer and did not turn on the heating in the winter. The average monthly electricity bill was around £25.
”How does that keep you warm?” I’m really surprised, after all, there are still near-zero temperatures in the UK in winter.
”I drink Tom Yum Kung soup!” Andrew said, showing his secret of keeping warm with a smug expression, “I drink it hot after work, and my whole body is warmed immediately.” He said that the living room is the coldest in winter, so he washes up immediately after dinner. Take a bath, make a cup of hot tea and get into bed. For many, winter is long, from November to February. But for Andrew, winter ends on the winter solstice, and the days that follow, the light gets longer every day.
”Thanks to the minimalist lifestyle, I see life from a different angle,” he said.
Andrew’s lifestyle is also affecting his friends, maybe they can’t be as thorough as he is, but vegetarian food three days a week, or only buying second-hand clothing items, as long as you make a conscious effort to simplify your life, that’s also Participate in minimalist living by yourself. Andrew said that after choosing this life, he became calmer. Back in his twenties, he was definitely a party animal, Tiantianpu nightclub. Now that the apartment is far from the city center, two hours back and forth, it is better to be alone in your own simple small apartment. During the quarantine at home, he stocked up on frozen food for three weeks at a time, enjoying a long stretch of time every day.
At the end of a few days of London trip, I invited Andrew to eat his favorite salmon bento, and thanked him for giving us such a special experience. Even the children were embarrassed to admit that he actually liked such a day without the Internet.
During the meal, I remembered the electricity, water, and gas bills that Andrew usually saves. What do you want to use it for?
”I am going to buy a house in Malaysia that is enough for myself and my family, and have a piece of land that can be cultivated.” He added, “With the knowledge of modern people, return to the essence of life, simple, pure, is it not us Is it the life that human beings most yearn for?”