Column: What’s essential in a home?

Design Stories columnist Hanna-Katariina Mononen is temporarily moving house, and this time, she’s determined to travel light. Here she considers which items are essential to daily routines that take place within the four walls of a home.

Dust protected boxes
One finds the most essential items in the home when there's not so much space in the temporary apartment – everything else Hanna-Katariina Mononen will pack away to dust protected boxes.

I’M MOVING OUT of my home for a few months to make way for renovations. This is an ideal opportunity for me to think about what objects and furnishings in my home are truly essential. I have already filled a whole page in my A4 size notebook with a short, clear eyed list of various home items I feel I couldn’t do without. My mattress. Cutlery – four of each item. Drinking glasses – four of them, too.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether my gut feeling was right. I suspect I’ll end up having to declare my idealistic domestic asceticism a miserable failure, and meekly return to my dust protected boxes for something disgustingly practical, like a charging cable or a mop. (Come to think of it, I’d better add those to my list).

Many times in my work as a journalist, I have asked interviewees the unfairly difficult question: what makes a home? This is a close relative of the thought experiment of asking someone what items they would save if their home caught fire. Now I’ve had to ask myself a different, unfeeling and purely functional question: what is essential in a home? If my home was burning to the ground, I would choose to save something irreplaceable and of great sentimental value, but when moving temporarily to escape renovations, the choices you face are brutally practical.

“Even in the most stripped-down modern home, people need to rest, eat and wash.”

What items are simply a must when it comes to taking care of daily household routines? When looked at from this angle, the question of what to pack and what to leave behind becomes a somewhat easier nut to crack. Even in the most stripped-down modern home, people need to rest, eat and wash. It is precisely these basic routines that the home facilitates. It provides everything needed to make them possible. I add more items to my list: coffee maker, bath towels. Should I pack two sets of bed linen, or can I manage with one if I plan my laundry days smartly?

In compiling my list, my guiding thought is that I’m going on an expedition, and I need to pack a micro-version of my home, in the same way that a hiker takes the home essentials with them. They pack their bedroom, kitchen and bathroom very compactly in their rucksack: the must-haves for resting, eating and hygiene.

Size matters: the same functions can be taken care of anywhere, only the scale is different. Whether you’re in a large detached house, a hotel room, an apartment or on a mountain hike, it will facilitate the same daily routines. What it all boils down to is that the home is essentially just a more permanent campsite, and life is one long hike.

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson
Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson are starring in the Dune movie, which received 10 Oscar nominations. Image Warner Bros.

I recommend: Oscar movie marathon

“THE OSCARS take place at the end of March, and my goal is to escape the harsh reality of the early Finnish spring by watching as many of the movies as possible before the gala. Among my favorites from the ones I’ve watched so far are the painfully moving and important short film The Long Goodbye, Denis Villeneuve‘s spellbinding interpretation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, and the charming short animation Robin Robin.”

Writer Hanna-Katariina Mononen

The author, Hanna-Katariina Mononen, reflects on the issues of a beautiful and sustainable life in her monthly column for Design Stories. She thinks that just like in life, in the home, the most beautiful parts are unplanned – and often relatively ordinary as well.

Text and image: Hanna-Katariina Mononen

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