Tag Archives: minimalism

Minimal failure

Perhaps it was because Spring came and went, or for a bit we thought we might have to move again, or because we had to dog-proof the house, or my recent life changes inspired me to take greater control over things I could, but I’ve never felt the pull of minimalism as strongly as I do now.

I’m tired of not knowing where things are – if I use/enjoy something, it should be in a place, not buried in a poorly-labeled box, otherwise I shouldn’t have it… right? This is my mantra of sorts, and is working for me (sort of) now. I’ve blathered on about spending most of my life living in a cabinet of curiosities, so now I’m aiming to cull and contain my most prized pointless objects to an actual cabinet.

Once a year our town has a junk week wherein you put what you don’t want, or what was too big to throw away without paying extra, out on the curb. What follows is a mildly pleasant time of encountering previously un-met picking and promenading neighbors, and scavenging jalopies with faulty mufflers that clatter by at dusk and dawn but disappear the worst of the worst – busted motors from ceiling fans, a single broken shutter, planks from a floating floor that ReStore refused – and by the time the Goodwill truck comes followed by the bulky trash truck, there’s very little, or nothing, left for them to claim.

For the last couple of years I have avoided going on the junk walks – not that I didn’t want to meet more neighbors, I just didn’t want to haul something rusty and broken and utterly useless, but devastatingly beautiful home. I am not acquiring any new [old] things unless they serve a purpose, right? But we wanted to see if we could find anything for the garden and yard – old windows for cold frame beds, bricks/pavers/flat things for stepping stones, or all-weather tchotchkes for whimsy.

orange fabric unfurled

Instead I scored a massive bolt of blaze orange upholstery fabric and a couple of pieces of extra thick canvas.

Do I need them? Nope.

Can I use them? Of course.

Will I use them? Eh…..

orange fabric detail

I haven’t tested the orange fabric yet for content – I’d say it’s likely to be at least mostly cotton and feels nice in the hand. I could make a new cover for the old basement sofa with it, or complete hiking-during-hunting-season in a globally warmed climate ensemble for a family of four, or a helluva lot of tote bags.

(I justify many a cheap fabric purchase or acquisition in the name of tote bags…).

Or perhaps I should sell it.

But I’m thinking of dabbling with painted floorcloths for the canvas – the weight is perfect – perhaps it would make a good runner on our map stairs.

In my defense, when folded, the new fabric takes up less space than the items we discarded – including an extra old microwave oven I’ve been clinging to for purposes of craft or unrealistic thoughts of second workplace abodes…

But I have absolutely no room left for fabric and for now, it’s in the shed where fabric, except tarps and garden stuff, should never be.

But I’m making headway in other areas – a childhood’s worth of seaside souvenir shells have become landlocked in the garden (except for a few extra special ones), I disposed of a cubic foot of (some decade-old) tights, and 4-H trophies have been reduced to parts and donated to the art/craft supply place. The prize ribbons, however, are fiber after all, so I feel obligated to make something from them, but then what? I’d have another thing with memories and then extra making memories I’d want to keep but not store…

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Filed under collecting, gardening, home, recycling, sewing

On getting rid of things, part III – thinking more than doing

tiny car

I’m suffering from a self-diagnosed bout of tendonitis.

That marathon session of curtain hemming, followed by countless hours of weeding the garden, some mad hex sewing sessions, some warm-up spinning for the tour de fleece, then knitting with cotton, and finally holding a paint cup in my taloned index finger and thumb for hours on end while painting the basement made some niggling occasional tweaks turn into a sizzling iron inserted into the flesh of my left forearm and wrist.

I haven’t touched needles of any kind for weeks, even my new little shorties, and this year’s tour de fleece is crawling at a snail’s pace as I’m learning to spin with my opposite hand and for just a few minutes here and there as to not damage that one too.

PRS-treescum1

So I’m back to sorting through my unpacked boxes of shit and book collection that I thought was already heavily culled…

My nostalgia problems and issues of practicality aside, how did I end up with so much?

And do I really have that much – certainly less than many Americans, but much, much more than most of the rest of the world…?

Most of it can be blamed on art, and if I take that which I describe as “materials” away, I’m left with a few small collections of old or odd things, a semi-reasonable amount of books for my field, and a variety of tools and gear that are used enough to justify.

I’ve been watching a few hoarding shows, and find them fairly distasteful/exploitative/I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-I-know-it-when-I-see-it and have only identified with just a few of the folks – the kind that scavenge for re-sale or art – the rest with their excrement-soaked abodes are in a sad, much different sort of way. And I’ve also been reading some sites on downsizing and living in small houses.

I don’t understand why many of us have trouble getting rid of things.

I don’t understand the self-help guides and formulas – things that tell you to only wear a few things for a few months, then get rid of what you don’t (not taking into consideration that having too many pairs of socks means you don’t have to shop for socks for years); or get rid of a number of things according to the day of the month (i.e. get rid of 15 things on July 15) and then the people who publicly post their progress and count throwing the junk mail into the recycling as one of the things – or even worse multiple things – when it isn’t getting to the heart of the matter unless your problem is hoarding junk mail or expired foodstuffs or that terrible-smelling product you accidentally bought.

And why must our things thrill us or make our hearts sing in order to keep them?

(A drill isn’t thrilling unless you’re into something kinky, and if I heard my heart sing, I’d probably shut it up with the drill).

Why do we have to be supported or told how to do this as if we are terrible little children or untrustworthy junkies, or cling to others for approval and praise, or subscribe to a bullshit view of things (and life in general) as precious when none of us or anything is special?

Each and every one of us is merely a bag of bones and meat and our stuff rots away along with us.

And why am I even thinking about this out loud here, publicly declaring my own difficulty obtaining a more minimal life while criticizing others who seek out some form of help?

I saw a reference the other day about someone who was downsizing to a more modest 2,200 square foot house. I wouldn’t have considered modest and over 2,000 square feet in the same breath unless you had a family of ten or more.

I once knew a woman who lived out of three suitcases, and just bought a new bed, table, and one chair whenever she moved.  I was slightly jealous, but then she spent more and more time at my apartment, mooching off my atmosphere of live-in cabinet of curiosities until she seemed drunk with gee gaws.

I find myself looking at tiny houses and gleefully make fun of those earnest folks who believe they’re living the dream while fighting to breathe from cooking smells, the loft bed being 2 feet from the hot ceiling, farts, and the composting toilet.

(Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a tiny house on a trailer to park in the woods or the beach for a holiday or a private space for guests when at home.)

But those folks don’t get it – living minimally and simplistically doesn’t mean leaving a footprint – even a tiny one. We can be simple without as much as a single birch bark vase in an apartment or house already built, and work on making it far more efficient or entirely off the grid so that when that body beneath the vintage plaid shirt becomes dust, the next person who needs to live in a house will do so more efficiently. I imagine that tiny house will just be driven off a cliff or bulldozed by a municipality or turned into a suburban playhouse before long…

But perhaps again, I’m a tiny bit jealous.

So I’m striving for simple but not sterile, practical and affordable, homey but not belongs-in-a-home, relationship with my stuff…

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