Tuesday, September 04, 2012


This whole minimalism thing won't let me go. It comes and goes in waves of intensity, but the drive for consumer consumption has steadily dropped off. I quite enjoy this aspect of continually thinking about the stuff I have, the stuff I actually use, and wether or not I could live without it.

I recently had a tenant in one of my houses up and jump town, leaving me with a house full of their crap to clean up. After the appropriate waiting time, legally all of their worldly possessions were mine. Had this happened to me a few years ago, I'd be cramming another entire household of stuff into my basement and garage. When I went into the house, I was completely disinterested in the possessions they had accumulated throughout their life. And they had a whole life of stuff. It was an older couple, and an odd situation that had them just up and leave, of which I'm not entirely sure of the details. Childhood photos, grandkids photos, wedding photos, videos, home computers, electronics, garage accessories, a full kitchen and all manner of stuff that "normal" people have. Of all of the things I hauled out of the house, the only thingsI've kept were a  brand new Dell Laptop (I'll probably sell it), a few tools and a vintage lumberjack shirt that I've always thought would be great to own. Kind of gross, but kind of not (especially after a sanitary wash cycle) to be wearing my ex-tenant's shirt. But snap is it styling!

During the process of boxing, bagging and chucking an entire household of crap, it was an interesting look at how someone else consumes. And I saw in their possessions, the consumeristic desires that used to be so strong in myself. Kids toys like crazy. Brand new in boxes. The latest must have toys. All of this stuff. Movies. CDs. Stuff that they're obviously now surviving without.

As I finished up the major cleanup which took about two weeks in evenings and weekends of my life, my mind was racing about the stuff of mine that I have yet to rid that I don't use. I set a new goal to get rid of half of the things I own. I've already done this and met the goal, so now it's a slightly slower process. More thought goes into the stuff that I sort. How often do I use this item? What is the quality and how long will it last? Could I get rid of it and use something else to still accomplish the task it was intended for? And then the sentimental value. Which is slowly becoming less valuable as a whole. Memories are what we have. A ticket stub to a music festival doesn't add to the memory. It simply adds to the stuff that I have to try to keep organized.

The systematical thought used to get rid of stuff, and used to consume stuff are very closely tied together. I find myself buying way less stuff, but typically what I do by is much better quality. It will have to serve it's purpose very well, and it's purpose must be something that will continually need to be served. High quality kitchen knives are a good example of my new consumer habits. They can cost a small fortune for a decent set, but the way they work and how long they last, they are worth every penny. The things I buy today, I want to be able to pass them to my children to use. When items are stacked up to this tough benchmark, there few things sold these days that can stand up.

A milestone I had met last month was my goal to go one year without buying a single piece of new clothing. The date that marked this one year challenge was August 1st. It came a month ago, and I still have had no desire or need to buy new clothes.

Simplicity has become such a freeing experience, and much more peaceful way of life. I wish more people could see how wonderful it is to live without excess and useless stuff. I've told friends and family about it and I think most of them just write it off as a passing idea I've jumped on. Something like the latest fitness or nutrition craze. But it's become more. It's a new thought process and I would even go so far as to say a new way of life. It's not that radical and it directly has no eternal implications. But in being able to simply enjoy today and be happy, content and present in this moment of my life, it's profound.

Give it a try for yourself if you haven' already. Start with something small, a little change. Then think about it's effect. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

1 comment:

Pondero said...

Outstanding all the way around. Great ideas, great former tenant example, great personal examples, and a story effectively told. Your point about owning less stuff, but the stuff owned must be of high quality is profoundly right on the mark.

Yet I still struggle. I'll confess my biggest challenge is laziness. I also tend to get fired-up, attempt too large a first step, fail, and get discouraged. Thanks for the clarity on a doable first step. Thanks for the encouragement.

And thank you for posting this.