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Stickley, Gustav, 1858-1942. / Craftsman homes
(1909)

"The simplification of life:" a chapter from Edward Carpenter's book called "England's ideal",   pp. 1-5


Page 3

               THE SIMPLIFICATION OF LIFE
to consider so many things as necessaries<whether in food, furniture,
clothino~
or what not<which really bring us back next to no profit or pleasure compared
with the labor spent upon them, that it is really difficult to know where
the bal-
ance of true economy would stand if, so to speak, left to itself.  All we
can do
is to take the existing mode of life in its simpler forms, somewhat as above,
and
work from that as a basis.  For though the cottager¹s way of living,
say in our
rural districts or in the neighborhood of our large towns, is certainly superior
to that of the well-to-do, that does not argue that it is not capable of
improve-
ment.  * *     * *
      0 DOUBT immense simplifications of our daily life are possible; but
 N this does not seem to be a matter which has been much studied.       
Rather
       hitherto the tendency has been all the other way, and every additional
ornament to the mantelpiece has been regarded as an acquisition and not as
a
nuisance; though one doesn¹t see any reason, in the nature of things,
why it
should be regarded as one more than the other.  It cannot be too often remem-
bered that every additional object in a house requires additional dusting,
clean-
ing, repairing; and lucky you are if its requirements stop there.     When
you
abandon a wholesome tile or stone floor for a Turkey carpet, you are setting
out
on a voyage of which you cannot see the end.    The Turkey carpet makes the
old furniture look uncomfortable, and calls for stuffed couches and armchairs;
the couches and armchairs demand a walnut-wood table; the walnut-wood table
requires polishing, and the polish bottles require shelves; the couches and
arm-
chairs have casters and springs, which give way and want mending; they have
damask seats, which fade and must be covered; the chintz covers require wash-
ing, and when washed they call for antimacassars to keep them clean.    
  The
antimacassars require wool, and the wool requires knitting-needles, and the
knitting-needles require a box, the box demands a side table to stand on
and the
side table involves more covers and casters<and so we go on.       Meanwhile
the
carpet wears out and has to be supplemented by bits of drugget, or eked out
with
oilcloth, and beside the daily toil required to keep this mass of rubbish
in order,
we have every week or month, instead of the pleasant cleaning-day of old
times,
a terrible domestic convulsion and bouleversement of the household.
  ³It is said by those who have traveled in Arabia that the reason why
there
are so many religious enthusiasts in that country, is that in the extreme
simplicity
of the life and uniformity of the landscape there, heaven<in the form
of the in-
tense blue sky<seems close upon one.  One may almost see God.        
  But we
moderns guard ourselves effectually against this danger.  For beside the
smoke
pall which covers our towns, we raise in each household such a dust of trivial-
ities that our attention is fairly absorbed, and if this screen subsides
for a moment
we are sure to have the daily paper up before our eyes so that if a chariot
of fire
were sent to fetch us, ten to one we should not see it.
  ³However, if this multiplying of the complexity of life is really
grateful to
some people, one cannot quarrel with them for pursuing it; and to many it
ap-
pears to be so. When a sewing machine is introduced into a household the
simple-minded husband thinks that, as it works ten times as quick as the
hand,
there will now be only a tenth part of the time spent by his wife and daughter


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