Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adventures in Minimalism.

Once upon a time, in a land now far away, I decided to become a traveler.  Over one exhausting month, I boxed up everything I owned, hauled it out onto the lawn, and pleaded with strangers to take it away. Anything left either had to fit into my car to come with me, or it had to be important enough to box and store... knowing I would not be using or seeing it for three to six months at a time. As I sat on one of the two small couches for sale, I got really frustrated. All that money spent on things that never turned out to be as handy, necessary, or important as I thought they would be... and I realized most of it was really, truly, just junk. I felt foolish and wasteful.

While I was in Oregon, I had the chance to try on new hats; to see what I really wanted in life. For two months I lived in a hotel room without a kitchen and only a very small mini fridge. Most meals were cold (sandwiches) or cooked on my little Trangia alcohol stove. I had a toaster oven, but never really used it. Although I only came with what would fit in my car, even that proved too burdensome to move every three months.

Thus the inspiration for the name change in my blog. A few of us travelers were chatting, discussing, strategizing the career path we've chosen. I noted that I was paring down my possessions and ultimately looking for the perfect "system" to travel with- simple, light, functional. Margaret replied to this with her master plan... three rubber maid bins: one for the bedroom and clothing, one for the kitchen, and one for the bathroom. While my possessions do not literally fit into three bins, I did indeed adapt this system. Coming from Oregon to Illinois, these three bins were sorted accordingly and fit perfectly into the back seat of my car. Other miscellaneous items were packed into the trunk.

Also while in Oregon, I started to find seven items per week to get rid of. This was a simple way to start questioning if I really, truly needed the things I had. As I simplified my belongings, I also simplified my life. I shopped and cooked simple meals one time a week. I opened mail and paid bills once every Monday morning. I gave up the gym and started walking and doing yoga at home. I rarely had to clean anymore- there simply was nothing to pick up. I got rid of cloths that I didn't wear or didn't look good. I found an insanely simple way to alway have fresh bread ready to bake.

It isn't about deprivation, Zen, or 100 items. It's about making deliberate choices to only have items that work for me, and choosing not to work for my items. It also is about stopping the ongoing onslaught of items shifting in and out of my home and my life. How many things have I bought in my life whose lifespan was a year or less? Even when moving back from Oregon I left items I bought while I was there, so I still fall victim to the same impulses, but they are losing their power the more I grow.  Now when I buy something, I try to ask myself if I can imagine it surviving and being useful ten years from now. If not, why? Sure, some things wear out... clothing, shoes... but why have I gone through at least three sets of pots and pans since high school? How many water bottles have I bought in my lifetime? And where did they go anyway? When is the last time I used an entire tube of lip stick, or a pen ran out of ink, before I lost it?

It's not that any of the above are major atrocities, but applied to every situation in life, I've been nickel and and dime-ing myself for years. So I've been trying to go a different way. Some of it is necessary for my lifestyle, some of it allows me to feel more in control and secure, and some of it is just rewarding and fun.

SO... Here are the "seven items" for this week. Obviously I found more this week, but as time goes by it should get harder to find things...

From Left to right are: Sell, Give Away, and Trash. The first is a sleeping bag that I started car camping with, but is WAY to heavy for hiking and has since been replaced. I'll give it two weeks to sell on craigslist before offering it up on Freecylce. The next pile I will bring to a local thrift shop. Other options include the free section on craigslist or Freecycle. The last, sadly, is my first air  bed. I tried to repair it, but it is dead, dead, dead. I will offer it as scrap on Freecycle for a week, then I will toss it.

It's as simple as that. If you have a lot of clutter, you may find you want to start with a closet, a drawer, etc, just to get a head start. Still, tossing one item a day will help anyone decrease unsightly clutter.

I'll try and keep updating on this in my blog. I'd also like to include posts of where I have (or have not) de-cluttered my life.