Tag Archives: minimalism

Hey you…get off of my cloud.

The boxes are unpacked, a place has been found for everything, and everything is indeed in its place. The stress of the move has faded like the cardboard paper cuts that hacked away at my hands those first few days in the new apartment. The space feels less like a “new place” and more like home.
Surveying the apartment, it is clear that it will never reach the sparsity that a true minimalist requires, but I think it’s reached a nice balance of stuff to space. Although I still have a few pictures strewn about, a dining cabinet filled with tabletop items, and full size furniture in every room of the house, there is still a good flow. The space feels open and airy, not claustrophobic. As I said in my last post (at least I think I said this in my last post, humor me) my family and I have been very happy since we moved here. There is a completely different energy compared to our last apartment and with that energy, a sense of possibility and an overall feeling of peace.
Ok, I don’t know for sure whether or not it is the new space or lack of superfluous belongings that have brought the three of us to such a zen-like state, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I know that I could probably go even further and purge more of our stuff, but in the short term I am content with the stasis reached on all things material. Though I must admit, I never see myself going 100% in on the minimalist home idea. One tiny chair in the corner of a huge, empty room is a little too “french movie” for my tastes. I like my home to look streamlined, yes, but still feel cozy. White washed walls with a tiny Lucite dining set does not say “cozy” to me.
So, does this mean I fail at minimalism? Ultimately, yes, but fuck that. I may not be the textbook definition of the movement, but when have I ever been the textbook definition of ANYTHING (aside from “fabulous,” natch.) No, like everything else, I am going to half-ass write my own definition. I am going to do minimalism…my way. There are PLENTY of other areas where I can trim the excess in my life.
For example, did you know that right now you could be suffering from “digital clutter?” Of course you didn’t! Who the fuck would?

Has this happened to you?

That is the lamest sounding bullshit EVER.

It’s true though. There are literally tens of blogs written about how people have too much stuff gunking up their desktops, their inboxes, their “clouds,” along with the proper ways to tidy up their digital life, no trip to the troposphere necessary.
I’ve decided this will be my next project. So far, I’m going to be honest, it fucking blows. Not because I have too many errant files or an inbox loaded with garbage, but because I have come to realize that I have dribs and drabs of my digital life all over the goddamn interwebs. Seriously, I am a web-based Hansel and Gretel; I have left bread crumbs all over this virtual forest.
I am not even talking about the now dormant Myspace pages or Livejournals that are out there haunting the internet. Those would easily disappear with a simple click of “delete account” (if I could only remember their passwords!)
I am referring to the various web-based platforms I CURRENTLY use. The website that allows me to bookmark…other websites. The cloud storage website where I store my clouds. The Facebook that apparently houses two of me (don’t even ask me how that happened!) The Twitter page that I still don’t quite understand. The 30,000 different sites I use for photo storage. Pinterest (why!?!). Evernote. My 4 gmail accounts, and (yikes!) my two AOL accounts.
Well, OK I never actually GO to my AOL accounts. One address is older than my daughter and the other was created when J and I were planning our wedding. They’re still out there though…mocking me with their “digital clutter” creating ways.
Or something.
I took a deep breath and decided to start with Evernote, mostly because before this project I forgot I even HAD an Evernote account, so I figured there was no way for it to possibly backed up with virtual garbage.
Much to my joy, I was right. In fact, the account was practically empty save for a few random “to do” lists from 2010 and a handful of blog ideas that never manifested. This would be easy! I deleted the to do lists immediately and quickly perused the blog ideas for any nugget of salvagability. I was about to declare my Evernote house “CLEAN” when I noticed a folder that I missed in my initial once-over.
The folder was titled “READ ME” and it housed one whole document. There was not one part of my brain that could even begin to recall what this folder could be.
Fearing the rabbit hole I may no doubt fall into were I to open the folder, I thought about deleting its contents sight unseen. My curiosity got the better of me though so I quickly hovered my mouse over the folder and clicked on the icon before I could change my mind.
The title of the lone document was “Melissa Makes a List to Prove What She Already Knows.” It was created July 14, 2010. It sounded fairly innocuous, so I opened it. The document fleshed out in one page reasons for staying or leaving my soul-crushing corporate job.

Should I stay or should I go now?

There were 2 reasons for me to stay.

Despite the recession, despite living in a (gorgeous) apartment that cost more a year than the average person makes, despite my total lack of plan or safety net, the “Reasons to Go” column prevailed. I gave my notice two days after that document’s creation.
Looking at the list almost two years later, I feel as though a completely different person wrote it. I can’t believe I allowed myself to be that miserable for a (shitty) paycheck! I can’t believe I let myself be defined by my house and my “things” instead of my character, my actions, and my relationships. I can’t believe I didn’t set my cube on fire and lead the publishing proletariat to freedom (or at the very least smack my boss upside the head with an Intro Spanish textbook.)
So much about my life has changed since I walked away from the “security” of the corporate world. I have made the most amazing connections. I have taken to the streets and been arrested fighting for social justice. I have been a part of HISTORY, for chrissakes! Only one year ago my daughter and I sat in the NY State Senate gallery and watched as the Marriage Equality Bill was passed. You don’t get to experience anything quite like that sitting in a cube creating “one pagers” for fucking textbooks.
The connections I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, the relationships that have been renewed and deepened, the life I have built in less than two years time feels more mine now than any other time in my life.
I thought about saving the list. Yeah, it’s intended use had passed and could now easily be classified as “digital clutter,” but so what. It was also a reminder of how far I’ve come and keep going on the crazy road that is my life. I may be more sure of myself now than I have ever been, but even the most confident person sometimes needs to bring to mind a time when they weren’t so sure.
I kept the list…in the trash. I figured at the very least deleting the original folder it was housed in gave the illusion of less clutter. Minimalism my way. It may not be the spartan internet presence a true minimalist requires, but who cares, it works for me, and that’s really all that matters.
So far I haven’t really felt the sense of ease one is supposed to feel as they wipe their web life clean…maybe after I delete the 24,485 emails on AOL…

Zen and the Art of Ditching the Japanese Tea Pot Collection

They say (whoever “they” are) that moving is in the top three of most stressful life events, right behind death of a spouse and divorce. Show me a person who actually enjoys moving, and you might as well show me Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny…they are all figments of our imagination.

Never one to look on the dark side (HAHAHAHAHAHA) however, I do try to find the silver lining in the cloud of relocation.

It isn’t easy. Dealing with realtors sucks. Finding a mover is a nightmare. Packing blows, and unpacking is akin to medieval torture. However, there is one teeny, tiny spec of joy in the chaos that is packing up all of your worldly possessions and transporting them to a new location…throwing them the fuck away.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need things. A bed to sleep on, clothes to cover our bodies, something to eat off of, and an item or two to keep us entertained, to name a few. Then there are the sentimental items. The pictures, nick-knacks, tchotchkes, and other assorted paraphernalia of past lives that seem to grow as time goes on. There are also the collections. DVDs. Records. Your mom’s Precious Moments dolls. Dildos. These are like objects you go out of your way to accumulate in a pathetic attempt to have your material possessions make you seem like you are much cooler than you really are.

Well, ok your mom’s Precious Moments collection is lame as hell, but you get my point.

Finally, there are the miscellaneous items. We don’t know how we procured them, hell we may not even know what they are, but nevertheless, they’re ours. Another physical item that needs to be cleaned, stored, and transported.

I had a problem with all of this.

All.of.this.

The fragments of my past have been slowly taking over every surface of our apartment. Our DVD collection was belligerent and numerous. We attempted to keep them orderly by packing them in special “DVD boxes” from Ikea. This helped us to keep the DVDs out of the way, but took up 3 shelves in a closet. Every plane in our dwelling seemed to be littered with some sort of candle-like substance, picture frame, or ethnic statue knockoff with remnants of the “Home Goods” label still affixed to the bottom.

It was madness, I tell you…madness.

Then we decided to move. Suddenly what is always a horrific incident of terror shone in a new, glittery and gay light. Instead of stressing over the moving process, I was going to embrace it. I was going to use this time to throw our shit away.

I was going to be ruthless. No picture frame was safe, no DVD could hide. It was going to be a glorious time of soul-cleansing home purification.

And it was.

At first, anyway.

To start off on the right foot, I attacked an area that would have a serious impact right away. I removed every picture frame from my “Family Gallery Wall,” took out the picture, placed it in an album, and threw the fucking picture frame away.

Sooner or later…Meca Gadget will get you!

I have to admit it felt good! From there I moved into my kitchen. I tossed cookbooks that had never been cracked open, and fondue pots that never worked. I chucked a drawer full of kitchen gadgets that over the course of the year had somehow managed to become intertwined and turn into Meca-Gadget, the most useless monster on the planet.

No, despite my love of cooking and entertaining, if it hadn’t been used, had no discernible use, or became infused with it’s neighbor it was gone.

Next, I voraciously attacked the cabinets and tossed everything from the only glass left from a set of 8 to a gross amount of trifle bowls (what the hell is a trifle, anyway!?!)

Once the kitchen felt sufficiently barren, I moved on in a similar, “take no prisoners” fashion through every room in our apartment. With each bag of trash or box for donation, something miraculous happened.

I began to breathe easier.

It was as though removing the physical “stuff” from my life was lightening the emotional “stuff” as well. I was on a role, and very excited by the lack of moving boxes I seemed to require. This feel-good cleansing of the senses and spirit came to a screeching halt when I entered…the bedroom.

Now, you might think that it was my dresser or closet that gave me pause, or my boxes (and boxes) of shoes. It could very well have been the several bins of purses and other accessories that were hemorrhaging from under my bed. You might think that, but you would be wrong. I had no problem slashing my wardrobe, ditching my shoes, and bagging my bags. It was a project, yes, but staring at a streamlined closet of items I actually wear was a wonderful reward.

My nervous breakdown de jour came when I looked up at the shelving my husband had installed to house the Japanese teapot collection we had suddenly found ourselves in possession of post-wedding. So tormented about the future of these ceramic pots was I that I did the only rational thing possible…avoided them all together.

Remember that scene in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” where the gangly protagonist masterba, goes into a burning pet store and proceeds to save all of the animals?

I’m tired of these motha-fuckin snakes…

You don’t? Fuck you, it’s my story. Humor me.

One by one Mr. Wee goes through the pet store and saves each animal grouping like some high-water wearing Noah. That is with the exception of a slimy cluster of snakes. Each time he passes the snake’s tank, he stares at it in disgust, and moves on to the next creature knowing that eventually he would have to contend with the slippery reptilian mass. The scene ends with him running out of the burning pet store screaming; a pile of snakes in each hand.

Those Japanese teapots were my snakes.

I did a fantastic job intentionally avoiding coming to a decision about their fate. In the beginning, it was easy to do. But with each bag of garbage and moving box marked “Fragile” (it’s Italian), I was one step closer to having to contend with my own reptilian mass…of porcelain.

That day came two days before we moved. The days leading up to it had been long and emotionally fraught. My husband and I were both close to our max stress level. We went from having all of the time in the world to “leisurely” move (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) to feeling incredibly behind as the result of another death in our family (yeah, we have that kind of luck!)

Two deaths in two months makes you realize that none of your stuff…

None.of.it.

…actually matters in the grand scheme of things. Yes, this teapot collection that had been lugged around to five different apartments was a lovely reminder of my wedding day, but so was my husband, and he didn’t need to be wrapped in newspaper every time we moved, or dusted weekly (he’s very active, so the dust doesn’t have time to settle.)

There was a lot to do, and we were trying to get through everything without breaking down. I thought having my husband there as I executed my ruling on the teapots would be helpful. He is always the rational one. The practical one. The stone-cold emotionless “realistic” one.  The one who wanted to keep the collection for sentimental reasons?!?

Oh hell no.

After torturing myself for WEEKS over what to do with those damn pots, I finally grabbed those snakes, and Mr. Suddenly Sentimental was NOT going to change my mind.

I did what any woman who was standing steadfast in her decision would have done in such a situation.

I stood there like a deer in headlights for what was probably a good ten minutes. I then threw out all of the rationalizations I had told myself as to why it was time to purge the pots. Unfortunately, the more he understood my reasoning, the more confused I became. The entire (dusty as hell) pot collection now sat on our bed. There was so much more to do; yet I felt paralyzed. The snakes had bit me. They had won.

I knew I couldn’t take any more time on this issue. I had already spent one breakdown too many on whether or not to part with one particular physical item or another. I needed to end this. Like pulling a bandage off a gunshot wound, I attacked the pile of pottery and threw them into a trash bag, a lump in my chest the entire time. I tied up the bag and added it to the pile of trash waiting to be removed from the house. It was finally over.

We have been settled in our new space for over a month now. It’s larger. It’s airy. It’s clutter-free.

I have not been this happy in a VERY long time.

I have by no means become a full-fledged “minimalist” but there is definitely something to be said for purifying your home of possessions and keeping the clutter at bay. I don’t know that it will necessarily lead to enlightenment, but it sure as hell keeps you from spending the weekend cleaning which opens up a world of possibility for you to go out and experience life rather than sit at home with your stuff.

I know that there is still a lot more that I can do. Two medium plastic boxes sit in my closet full of old journals/yearbooks/photos/Ghosts of Melissas Past that I can probably whittle to nothing, but I think I’ll save that for a day when I have nowhere to be and an extra bottle of gin lying around. Some snakes bite harder than others. I need to be prepared.

Making sure Mr. Sentimental has plans is probably not the worst idea either.