Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How We're Clearing House

Some minimalists become minimalists quickly because of a dramatic life change, or because they're exhausted by all their stuff. We've become so because we lived in a little apartment, and after that have moved three times in about the space of a year. Part of what drives me towards minimalism is the idea that some wealthy people (yes, you're wealthy) are stressed out by their stuff, which doesn't sit well with me. I don't want to be in a position where my wealth is a burden to me. On that heavy note...

While the 100-thing challenge is seductively neat,  it's not really about getting down to some magic number of things, but to getting down to the things we use very frequently. I think our default setting is to over-value the function or value of an object while underestimating the costs of ownership-- particularly the costs related to cleaning and to having a larger space or having furniture to keep stuff in.

As we move, I'll catalogue every item we own, because it'll be doable and fun and slightly weird. Doable, fun, and weird: that's a killer combination.

Anyway, so I recommend moving if you want to have less stuff.

I'd also advocate starting WAY in advance of an upcoming move. In our family, when we're pressured for time, we throw good stuff away. The more time we have, the more we can sell stuff (we just got $450 for old camera gear), or find good homes for things-- or even re-purpose things before giving them away. An example of this is pictured below-- I loved this skirt very much, but it was very old and the elastic had long since given in. So I've decided to make my first quilt with it. I don't have a sewing machine, so it'll take a while, and it might be pretty awful but it'll be a work of love.
Skirt is now in pieces. Now to learn to sew... And to have time... cough..
But I'm not moving
If you're not moving, I've found method of putting things away in a faraway cupboard helpful. This is how it works: put things in boxes or bags, and mark the date on the bag or box, and tape it so you'll know if you get into it. If you need something from the box, you can come at any time and retrieve what you need. But if you don't, then sell/donate the contents after six months. The seasons make this more challenging here in the very seasonal Northeast- perhaps a year is a more practical timeframe here. But you get the picture.  If something is stored year in and year out, maybe you don't need it.

Wearing 30 items for three months has been really helpful in helping me to let go. Rather than forcing myself to imagine life without X clothes item, I just had 30 items in my cupboard. The rest seemed less important, because of how incredibly easy it was to not have a crowded cupboard. As the three months have passed, I find myself more and more willing to let go of clothes I thought I needed. The process has been very emancipating.

Books are a challenging area for me, a self-appointed clearing house expert. But, despite how smart they make me feel, the reality is that the books I read are almost always from the library or electronic. I don't read the books I own. They just look pretty.

But, really, you kinda need to move
Reading this, I feel more convinced (unless you're super self-controlled) that moving, or living in a relatively small space, or some other significant life upheaval, are pretty important if you don't want to have excess. That, and not starting with too much to begin with. Which I'll talk about another time.

Here's a few things we sold or gave away in the last eight months:
A lot of clothes (including most of our suits, and a lot of Noah's clothes)
Toaster Oven
Deep freeze
Chicken rotisserie (?!)
3 Bookshelves
100 books or more
Our college and university degrees (almost, by mistake)
Cameras (several, from Eug's MFA days)
IPod nano
The list will grow until it's shorter to list the things we still have...

[If you love geranium, an orchid, or pathos, we'd be very excited to pass them on to you if you're in the Boston area.  They're in painted white ceramic pots.]


leah said...

I'm about to write a blog post about how your 3 bookshelves are helping me simplify my life by organizing all of my kid's things... just as soon as I get everything off the floor and into the bookshelves!

Concrete Gardener said...

Noah's stuff always seems to get everywhere! We have one cupboard for it all but I always just want to get out of the house to avoid cleaning it up later.

Bobsie Hunter said...

Very strange to see yr skirt in bits & pieces!!! Hope to see the quilt!

EC said...

Oh no, I remember that skirt!!!

Concrete Gardener said...

Poor skirt. It really was having issues though. And it was over 10 years old. It's life as a skirt was good, long, full and over.