Photo by Si Dunn

Throughout my life, I have had no discernable sense of interior design.

For example, my apartment decorating style typically has consisted of hammering four nails into the sheetrock on move-in day. Nail 1 is for the wall calendar, typically an advertising freebie. Nails 2 and 3 support the cheap frames holding aloft my honorable discharge from the Navy and my Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. Nail 4, meanwhile, is reserved for a big, battery-powered, but lightweight wall clock, preferably one that automatically updates itself. Watching seconds tick by apparently is a hobby of mine.

What about furniture? Well, I tend to create distinctive disarrays built from whatever furnishings have survived the latest move, plus any donations from friends eager to free themselves of excess chairs, tables, crockpots, and cans of corn.

Each time I've owned or shared a dwelling, however, I've always fallen back on my old-fashioned Southern roots ("Or just plain maleness," I am told) and let "the lady of the house" call the decorating shots. This especially is true if the random junk and hobby stuff I've hauled around for decades can be kept in a room with a door that stays shut until after any guests have departed. Of course, "guests" have not been much of a problem during the pandemic. So I've enjoyed plenty of access to my time-tarnished treasures. And a funny thing has happened. A realization, actually. I can see clearly now that I've accumulated entirely too much stuff: furniture, furnishings, books, tools, cooking items, clothes, jackets, shoes, cans of corn, and more. I would need seven lifetimes, at least, to give it all even minimal wear and tear. Or consumption.

Blame it on YouTube. Especially those now seemingly countless how-to videos that focus on decluttering, minimalizing, and creating open spaces in areas where hat racks, wobbly chairs, unneeded barstools, oversized coffee tables, and stacks of cardboard boxes once stood. The Lady of the House kept watching the shows. And eventually, I became curious and got hooked, too, Minimalism! Scandi! Japandi!. I began taking notes feverishly, not only on these hot interior-design trends but also on how to efficiently pare down the detritus of my many decades.

Why, for example, do I have 34 pairs of socks, 41 T-shirts, too much underwear to close its drawer without the use of brute force, and 12 pairs of shoes, some of which have become at least one size too small? The minimalists' answer: I've kept buying new stuff and letting it bury my old stuff like volcanic ash. The YouTube videos now have convinced me I can live comfortably with a lot less. For me, that means 10 pairs of socks, 10 T-shirts, less than a half drawerful of underwear, four pairs of pants, and four pairs of shoes. Also, I no longer need most of the long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts I used to wear to offices. So, donation time! My excess clothing and shoes can go straight to worthy organizations that help people in genuine need.

Photo by Si Dunn

Along with paring down, reorganizing, and giving away or selling unneeded items, YouTube videos are introducing me to the joys of light-toned, bright, Scandinavian home interiors with hygge ("hyoogeh"), coziness and comfort, as well as darker-toned Japanese home interiors that emphasize natural materials, simplicity, balance, and wabi-sabi, finding beauty in imperfection. But even more appealing to me is "Japandi," the increasingly popular mashup of Scandinavian and Japanese interior design philosophies. Japandi encourages the creation of clean, calm, light, neatly organized spaces with no items displayed unless they serve a functional or artistic purpose.

Having less stuff to dust, polish, pick up, store, or stuff into a washing machine, the videomakers claim, frees up more psychic energy and more time for creativity and relaxation. (You might even choose to document your own downsizing process or interior restyling and try to attract followers, subscribers, and sponsors for your YouTube channel.)

If I keep working at this, who knows? Perhaps I, too, can become an interior-design consultant! Create videos, write books, hold seminars, and carefully stack my cash up in neatly organized denominations. I already have some tapped and untapped skills (plus a hammer and four well-worn nails) ready to be put to work.

For example, I have eaten Swedish meatballs at IKEA. And, over the years, I've even bought two or three IKEA tables and bookcases and successfully assembled them. I've also read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (plus the unintended trilogy's other two books) and watched more than one version of Wallander on TV. And, long ago, I spent a few weeks in Japan, compliments of the Navy and your tax dollars. While there, I became intrigued with several aspects of Japanese calligraphy, art, woodwork, and music. I even sent home a small Japanese calligraphy set and a small box of Japanese woodworking tools. But once I returned to civilian life and tried them out, I found that I possessed less than no talent for either art form.

Nonetheless, on the off (and I mean very far-off ) chance that my new interior-design interests take flight, and I begin jetting off to restyle the mansions and vacation dwellings of the rich and famous, what should I call myself?

Scandi-Man? Japandi-Man? I'm thinking Minimal-Man might not work.

--Si Dunn

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Si Dunn is a writer, screenwriter, photographer, and semi-skilled digital laborer. He currently works at home at a small IKEA table in the urban wilds of Austin, Texas.