Moving is generally considered one of the top life stressors, up there with major illness, job loss, death of a loved one, and divorce. We haven’t moved yet, but in getting rid of so much stuff (stuff removal update below) it is like we are having a mini-move before our move. And you can ask people who have known me for a while – I don’t deal well with these kinds of changes.
“But Val, what does this have to do with being stuck in a rut?” you might ask, because by now you have realized that my post titles tend to be a setup for the posts themselves. First, what is meant by “stuck in a rut”? People use that term when they feel they are stuck doing the same thing, day after day, week after week. They may feel that there is no excitement or energy to what they do, or that the effort of doing something different is too great to alter their routine. Eventually it just becomes easy to do what you always do. You can just go with the flow without much thought. And eventually get bored.
Most of the time people don’t like doing the same thing, day after day after day. You start feeling like there is something missing, like you could be doing something more. Or at least something else. But when things go topsy-turvy that rut can help out. When life starts knocking you around, when things get rough, having an easy path that doesn’t require much mental effort to follow can be a lifesaver. You can save that brainpower to deal with the emotional turmoil -whatever the cause.
Jules continues to do amazing work. She is our extrovert and has already sent off our dining room table, my old bike that I haven’t ridden in a decade, and a propane grill off to new homes. She has also found a new home for the piano, but the new owner needs to arrange for a mover. She has also taken a bunch of stuff to Goodwill – both hers and some of the stuff I pulled out from under the stairs. I have some skate gear to go through to either donate to my league’s loaner gear or sell. Today is also the day I start going through the bedroom and moving more stuff into the donation room. I also need to check on selling some drums.
This morning I remembered the topic I wanted to write about on Friday. The problem was I didn’t actually remember what I wanted to write. I had the topic but not the details. So I went about my day, keeping the topic in the back of my mind. And this is actually quite apropos to the topic – why am I choosing minimalism?
Minimalism to me seems the best choice for living with intent and meaning. Too much of my life has been chasing money to afford more stuff and a larger place to put the stuff. And then getting myself stuck in bad situations because I can’t afford to do anything else. Or staying home doing nothing because I can’t afford a vacation, or a weekend away, or a day trip, thanks to a large chunk of my income going towards rent, excess services, debt repayment, or more stuff to assuage my overall dissatisfaction. There’s a reason it is called the Rat Race, that unthinking process of work, buy stuff, work.
That’s not what I want to do anymore. I want to do stuff, not own it. I want to be able to go to a roller derby tournament somewhere. I want to take Jules to see the full solar eclipse in 2017. I want to spend a week in a cabin on a storm drenched coast, with the winds howling, a fire roaring, and my dog snuggled next to me. I want to write.
But that is hard to do when all of your money goes to other people for things you don’t need.
These are the first skates I bought, five years ago, before I started playing roller derby. At the time I knew that I wanted to try playing and knew that I would need skates. So I picked these up at the Oaks Park skate shop. Just a few weeks later I would have to make a choice between joining a roller derby league and buying Devo tickets. I chose derby and that has made all the difference. Three or four months after this I ended up buying better skates. For those keeping track, that means these have been sitting around for four and a half years. No, I’m not going to throw them out. They will go to my league’s loaner gear.
Some days get busy. Right now my work and sleep schedules mesh in such a way that I have a bit of time before work and a bit of time after work before bed. I don’t have a huge window for cleaning out the bedroom and the closet. But I have told myself that the effort will be worth it. After all, if I’m not the kind of person who can do it all at once then I have to be the kind to do it a bit at a time, like sharpening a bird’s beak on Diamond Mountain.
As I mentioned before, decluttering does not means getting rid of large, meaningful things. In fact I’m likely to be getting rid of small things or stuff that just happened and never got cleaned up, especially later in the week.
Two pairs of shoes, one of which looked good but was too small and never got worn, one of which I wore five to seven years ago. A pile of old socks that needs a new home. A plastic machete purchased for a costume I never finished and can’t remember. Old throwing knives I purchased used as a starter set years ago when I had time and space to practice.
I will admit that in some ways I am new to the concept of “minimalism”. While I have known for years that I “have too much stuff” and “need to do something about it” there wasn’t any reason behind it other than frustration. And whenever I did any research about it I ran into opinions and methods that seemed extreme. People competing to see who could keep the fewest things like some bizarre contest. Getting rid of everything and only replacing things you “truly need”. Major lifestyle overhauls that need to be done right now!
And I floundered. Because none of those methods or ideologies worked for me. And then, in a moment of pure serendipity, I found the Minimalists Podcast. Now I’m not big on podcasts. I had only ever really listened to one podcast years ago and I decided to look up that podcast to see whatever happened to it. It was still going so I downloaded a podcast app for my phone and started downloading. Well, I happened to look at the list of Top Podcasts and saw the Minimalists Podcast and decided to give it a try. After all I was trying to downsize my life. And it worked for me. The way they present it – here are some ideas that have worked for them or others, take what works for you, modify to fit you – made sense to me. I’ve taken some of their advice and mixed it with ideas I found elsewhere. I’ve finally figured out my why.
Not to say that they don’t have their detractors. I’ve read comments ranging from “they don’t say anything new” to “they aren’t extreme enough” to “they don’t think capitalism is bad”. But to all of those people I say this – how many people have you gotten to reduce their footprint in the world? How many people have you helped off the treadmill of seeking happiness through item acquisition? No, I’m never going to be in the running for title of Minimal-est and have everything I own fit in a grocery bag. But I am going to pare down because of the ideas and encouragement I first found in that podcast.
Here is what is going away today. Yarn, needles, and a knitting book from when I decided to try knitting. That experience has made me appreciate knitters even more. A small metal pail that I picked up at work one day to keep office supplies in. A book that I read 9 years ago and kept “just in case” I wanted to loan it to someone.
Why am I doing this? What is driving me to get rid of stuff that I have had for decades? Yesterday I decided to get rid of things that I have had for 20 years. I’m sure that there are older items yet to come.
Simply put, I have finally come to the realization that stuff does not equal happiness. Oh, I’ve known it in my head for years. But I didn’t really understand it. It was one of those things that “everyone knows” but that no one ever follows. I was dissatisfied with something in my life and felt that the next knick knack or doohickey would bring me happiness. But now all this stuff does not support what I want to do or who I want to be.
As I said in my very first post – Jules and I want to get a tiny house but we own too much -some people would say it owns us- and would never fit into a tiny house. We talked about getting a storage unit but that seems like it isn’t the right solution. Oh, we will probably have one for seasonal items, like camping gear or winter clothing, but there is no need to store things away forever.
Now we might not end up in a tiny house. We might just move into a small apartment. Either way we cannot do that until we have less. Our stuff requires space in the form of a storage unit or a large apartment and that costs money. Prisoners of our possessions.
So, in that vein, here is what I am finding another place for today:
On top is a food mill. I used to make chile sauce out of various dried chiles I found in a local market. It was fun and the sauce was very tasty. But it went bad before I could use it all and I never started canning like I wanted to preserve it longer. Someone will use it.
The other is a bin full of nail polishes. Some of them were mine from a period when I actually used them. Some of them were presents. Some were left to me when roommates moved out. I think I’ve worn nail polish once in the last 4 years – and it wasn’t one of these.
It isn’t easy to change a habit. The ingrained autopilot routines can catch us when we’re not paying attention. Just grab the remote and start channel surfing; pop open the laptop and play games; pick up the phone and check social media.
We have to put stuff in the way of those easy paths if we wish to change. Not because those habits are bad but because they impede us from being who we want to be.
My biggest reminder at the moment is this:
That is a leather bound notebook of hand made paper. I bought it months ago, wrote in it once, then left it on a shelf. I would see it and think that I should write something. The notebook now resides on my laptop. I have to consciously acknowledge the notebook’s existence and purpose every time I turn on the laptop.
And in the past few days I have written more both in and out of that notebook than in the past year. Will I keep up this pace? Who knows. I will be getting back to other things in life that mean something to me.
And I’d rather choose between meaningful things than meaningless things.