Autumn 2012 Minimalist Lifestyle Update
Time for one of those periodic reviews of the whole clutter-control and simple living thing. This is the time of year when I’m like a squirrel in reverse, sort of scurrying around and getting things in order before the long winter, but chucking stuff out rather than stockpiling it. It is, after all, much easier to cart stuff away when there isn’t three feet of snow and ice around.
Several articles and blog posts I’ve come across in the past few weeks take an honest look at the complexities involved in reducing the bulkiness of our material goods, even after two or more years of embracing simplicity or minimalism. Former compulsive shoppers are still struggling with the urge to shop, the frugal still save too many plastic containers and various just-in-case items, fashionistas still want too many shoes, and people with kids miss one day of throwing out stuff and then find themselves buried in an avalanche of toys and papers from school. It’s like it never ends, and possessions never seem to get down to that perfect minimum.
I sympathize. Just this week I’ve gone through my clothes again. I had saved some things from the spring weedout that my frugal self planned to alter so they would fit better, but it’s six months later and I never made the time to deal with that project. I also would not have needed them even if they were altered, as it turned out. Went through the sock drawer, too, and tossed half of them when I bought replacements. The half I tossed were either worn out or uncomfortable. Same thing with the rest of my stuff. Each time I replace things there is a slight shift in their characteristics, whether in the softness of the fabric, the color, the size, the style, the quality, etc.
Likewise, there are three giant contractor bags full of debris from removing part of an old wall in the basement. There’s another bag with old bed pillows that I thought I would repurpose, but the time was not found in the past several months, nor do I foresee the time being made–and I don’t need whatever it is I planned to make of them. Those four bags will be set out with the trash tonight. There are boxes of old office supplies and office-type organizers that I’ve hung onto as being likely to be used again, but as time goes on it is less and less likely. There are a couple of uncomfortable office chairs that are not likely to be used again, as we have replaced them with inexpensive but much more comfortable ones that have made all the difference in the world in our productivity. There’s an old table with a broken leg that we’ve been meaning to fix for the past year and haven’t made the time. Will we? The table used to come in handy sometimes. But only sometimes. I’ll make decisions about those things in the coming week.
Other bits: The garden project has gone as far as it could this year, and my taking advantage of the last two 70-degree days is why this post is a bit late. We are still vegetarian, and when I have some medical tests done this winter, I will see if it has had a positive impact on my health. I think it has. The leaky red teakettle was recently replaced with a different red kettle that was on clearance. I also found Converse sneakers at half price in a crazy orchid purple, which are great replacements for my old ones that were too tight. There are other things that could use replacement, such as my winter coat, but all in good time. I find if I wait, the right thing at the right price will eventually turn up–and without going on time-consuming power-shopping trips, either. I still run into temptations, though, especially when there’s clearance sales, but I’ve been good about chucking out at least one thing for every new thing that comes in.
Stuff Creep requires frequent, if not constant, vigilance. You’re not a failure if you never reach perfect minimum, you’re human, a real live interactive being that grows and changes, and so are the people you live with. As your work and life moves forward, some of the things you use become unused–and accumulate, at least for a while. That’s why periodic reviews are important, as a form of mindfulness. Realizing that things are no longer needed is a mark of success as a minimalist, not of failure. I must say, though, that if there isn’t too much stuff in the first place, it’s much easier and faster to deal with what does accumulate. A basement cleanout that used to take a week now takes an hour or so, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
Incidentally, for those of you who obsess over what is minimalist and what is not, there is a lesson in the photo above: the tea cup is not sleek and white and all zen and visually minimal. Nor is the outfit I have on, which is a wool challis shawl over a sweater over cheap sloppy jeans, and they do not co-ordinate and would probably horrify Calvin Klein. But the tea cup is the tea cup. It has a matching saucer. It is porcelain. It is generous. It’s not part of a set. The shawl is the shawl, worn year-round when I want to keep the draft off, whether from the a/c or the howling north wind. The sloppy jeans are the ones I wear for housework and gardening, preserving the life span of the skinny black (properly) minimalist ones. It’s all very comfy, too. In terms of numbers and functionality, things are still down to the essentials, but from the photo I could be a hoarder, for all you’d know. I love messing with perceptions 😉
How about you? Doing a review, got any updates?