November 2011

Just walk away

I’ve been thinking (and talking) a bit about my last post – the “don’t buy new stuff, get rid of old stuff” one. Mostly about the getting rid of stuff part because I still haven’t fully unpacked from my last move. To be fair, I moved into a much larger place and was able to get everything I had out of storage, and I’ve been traveling for most of the time since the move, but still – there is stuff in boxes.

A lot of the stuff I have is stuff I don’t want. It’s stuff I’ve tried unsuccessfully to sell or thought I knew of someone I should give it to. I’ve even told people they can have stuff for free, and yet, it’s still here, still in boxes. Giving things away is hard. It requires planning and scheduling. It’s a real pain in the ass honestly. I kept thinking that I was doing the right thing by holding on to stuff for other people or hoping to get back 20-30% of what I paid for an item a few years previously but I wasn’t. I was just enabling things to pile up.

So my current feeling is as I’m going through this, and I find something I’m deciding not to keep, that stuff is just gone. If I think it might be useful for someone else I’m putting it in a stack to take around the corner to donate to the neighborhood thrift store. If I think it likely isn’t useful for anyone else, I’m putting it in the trash. I need to just walk away from it all.

I also need to come up with some clear rules about what makes something useful to me or not and I need to do this before I start sorting. On an individual level I can justify keeping anything, but painting with big strokes I can write off half of it. I need to make some hard and fast rules that apply to the real word. I can’t foresee a situation where I’m going to need more than 1 week worth of t-shirts, so there’s no need for me to keep more than 7. Likewise, how many pair of black pants do I actually need? There was a time when I had 2 pair of shoes -every day ones and nicer ones. Now I have like, hell, 7 or 8 pair? That’s just stupid.

Anyway, I’ll keep chewing through my thoughts here, and as I solidify the rules I’m making for myself I’ll detail them as well. And hopefully I’ll begin documenting the stuff I’m parting with soon.

Progression through unowning

A few years ago I was singing all kinds of minimialist anthems and preaching the gospel of less stuff on a regular basis. Since then I’ve had a kid, traveled a little less and moved into a bigger house. I was able to get rid of my storage space in that process but the result is much of that stuff is around here and I’m feeling the clutter again. I recently realized that I have so many t-shirts that if they are all clean at once they don’t fit in my t-shirt drawer.

This is no good.

So for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of a plan of attack. And now I think I have one.

I’m not buying any stuff in 2012.

That’s a over simplified soundbite of course, but it’s to make a point. There are obvious exceptions, and clarifications that need to be made. I didn’t say I’m not buying “anything” nor did I say I’m not spending money, I said I’m not buying stuff.

Food, rent, bills, consumables, responsibilities, travel, experiences – these things are not included.

If something breaks and needs to be replaced, that doesn’t count.

If the iPhone 5 comes out, that doesn’t count.

My new place has a lot of wall space and I’ve been really happy to hang up a bunch of my art collection that I haven’t been able to for a while, so I reserve the right to go to art openings, and if so inspired and budget allows – support the arts buy buying some art.

No matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, there’s a high likelihood that I’ll buy an 11″ macbook air in the next 12 months. Call this a preempted slip up.

I really really really really need a nice 35mm lens for my leica, if I find a deal I’ll likely jump on it.

I’ve got a growing kid who needs new stuff all the time, so purchases for him don’t count.

Objects that I need or am using for work (like Safecast radiation monitors and things) don’t count.

There may be some others, but really that’s my plan.

In addition to limiting the intake, I need to get rid of things. And I want to document that too. I was thinking I should do something weekly, but I don’t know if I can really pull that off. I can do monthly for sure, but maybe I should aim for a post on the 1st and 15th of each month documenting what I’ve gotten rid of, and how well I’ve been able to stick to not getting new things.

I expect to slip up from time to time. I’m impulsive and obsessive about objects so that may get the better of me from time to time, but I’m going to try and I’ll be honest about how well I do so in the long run you’ll be my judge.

12 months is a long time, but I think that’s what it’s got to be if it’s going to actually make an impact in my life. It can’t be just a one off yard sale get rid of things and then forget it tomorrow kind of deal. So we’ll see. Anyone want to try it with me?