Friday, August 24, 2012

More on minimalizing

P and I are currently digging out under a mountain of cardboard boxes, packing paper and most of all, stuff. Yes, our things arrived here in Colorado last week, together with a sinking feeling. I know, I know; of all the problems to have, this one is really not too bad. But basically we have too much stuff.

Part of the issue of course is that we were moving a fully furnished house (with a basement) worth of furniture into a half furnished house with no basement. The result is too many chairs, duplicates of many kitchen items, and altogether too much furniture.

This is easy enough to deal with. I have already sold a few furniture items on craigslist, and certainly some new CSU student will be happy to take many of the household goods off our hands. But it does nothing about all the stuff that we brought with us. These are our belongings: the useful things, the technical things, the sentimental things, the pretty things, the mountains of paper, the books (the books!), and a few terrible boxes of unsortable odds and ends. There are garden things, sewing things, knitting things, art things, camera things, bike things, camping things. There are climbing shoes and there is ballet wear. There is artwork (both mine and that of others -- the blessing and problem of having creative friends and family). And of course there is baby stuff, from phases past present and future.

In confronting the wall of cardboard boxes in the garage, and as their contents spill out into our little bungalow, I keep wishing for less. And yet, it is hard for me to figure our exactly less of what. As a stuff-mass, it is overwhelming in its too-muchness, but each individual article seems full of utility, beauty, memory or (this is the worst one) promise. There are some difficult crossover items, for example I have several pieces of fabric (representing promise) which I inherited from my grandmother ("I should do something with this"). However, seeing all of our things packed up crystallizes in my mind the need to pare down a little. OK, a lot.

Part of my great dismay here is that I thought I did pare down before we left Toronto! On the wardrobe front, even though I got rid of about 5 giant ikea bags of clothes before leaving Toronto, I've packed one more big bag of give-aways since arriving here. The good news in this though, is that clothing-wise there isn't much shopping on the horizon here in Fort Collins. I think most of my shopping will be by mail order (hello Versalette!) or trips home to Canada (in a backward currency value minimization kind of way).

So. It's time to get to work. I have just taken "The Joy of Less" out of the library, and I continue my reading of minimalist bloggers.  There is something funny about minimalist bloggers though. Many of them seem to be of the category of folks (guys, usually) who made lots of money "climbing the corporate ladder" only to discover in their early thirties a growing malaise and sense of dissatisfaction with their large homes full of expensive gadgets. They respond by shunning their consumerist lifestyles, and go on to write books and tour the world (with only a small backpack) as inspirational speakers to talk about minimalism. Don't worry, I'm not going to become a career minimalist.

Then there is another category of minimalists. They are perhaps a bit more like me: ordinary people trying to figure out how to get rid of some things.  But I also feel somewhat different from some of these other minimalizers. I find myself making value judgements ("it must be easy to get rid of your stuff and become a minimalist when you count a gift-wrap station and a electric jewelry cleaner among your possessions. Obviously those can go." (no but really....)). In other words, my stuff is better than their stuff. This is clearly false.

Whatever the content of the stuff-mass, most of us North Americans have it. This is the nature of our position in the global super-wealthy. I guess that moving to a minimalist lifestyle is the ultimate luxury. "I have so much stuff, I am now post-stuff." Well, I'll never be post-stuff. I love stuff. And while we're on the topic, I'll never have a capsule wardrobe either, much as I like the idea. But there are a lot of things in this little bungalow that I don't need, and don't want. Hopefully I'll be able to capitalize on this reaction to seeing my thing-life in boxes to simplify a tad.

I'm amused that this post is so long. I hope this isn't some kind of indication of what is to come: such a terrible minimalist that she can't even write a minimal post about minimalism. Ughh. Wish me luck.

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