Less is More
“I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both.” ~ Forrest Gump
I became a practitioner of the minimalist lifestyle neither of necessity nor choice but, in the Forrest Gump School of Philosophy, maybe both. Eleven years ago I was heading into the 21st year of a good ten-year marriage with a financially secure future and large hole in my heart. Without a shred of animosity toward the extremely likable man with whom I was leading a parallel life, I awoke one morning to an epiphany. I knew that if I didn’t make a decision at that very moment to reclaim myself, I would lose the narrowing window of opportunity to actually be alive at the moment I stop breathing.
His parents left him 500 acres and a 60 year accumulation of belongings which, against my wishes, made their way into the 3000 square foot house we built on the property. I took enough of the jointly acquired furniture and with me to fill a 700 ft² apartment twice over, still leaving no discernable gaps in the house.
Over the course of the following year, I slowly returned to the values taught to me in my baby boomer childhood as the daughter of Depression era parents, the quintessential do-it-yourselfers. Our family’s most celebrated memories revolve around primitive camping trips, and later a simple mountain cabin built by my dad’s own hands. My mother had me making my own clothes by the time I was 8 years old. They kept the same furniture and accessories throughout their lives, fixed what was broken, and never replaced anything unnecessarily.
I found myself in a good position to pick up some of the soul lessons I had slept through earlier in life. As the concepts of surrender and detached compassion penetrated the mind, the body became increasingly more comfortable in its own skin. By the time I met my beloved Charley, I was primed and ready for a different kind of commitment.
It has always seemed to me that Charley fell out of the sky whole formed, devoid of a single materialistic bone. Even before miraculously surviving an F-5 tornado that left no trace of an entire housing development, he would have been perfectly content to live in a hut without running water or electricity. We compromised with the purchase of a used 280 ft² recreational vehicle and nestled it into a shady spot in a pecan-grove-turned-RV-park at the edge of town. On moving out of the apartment, I happily returned most of the things I had gotten in the divorce and threw open the doors for the neighbors to come and take whatever they wanted from the remainder of my stuff. It was the most liberating experience of my life, as this sonnet I wrote in 2004 will attest:
I’ve jettisoned the nonessential stuff
(to wit: excessive bulk, possessions, pounds,
illusions, fears and attitudes). We’ll fluff
our chosen nest with gentle scents and sounds
in harmony with nature’s pulse. The hand
that shelters, guides and nurtures us compels
a smaller set of footprints on the land
in honor of the place where Spirit dwells.
Let frozen assets metamorph to slush.
Simplicity’s the message driven home
as, underneath the transitory rush,
life’s acquisitions dissipate like foam.
When living in a thirty foot RV,
the only things worth noticing come free.
According to Wikipedia:
- Although there is historical evidence of publicly available storage in ancient China, modern self-storage facilities (in which the tenant has exclusive access to the storage space) did not begin to appear until 1958.
- There is more than 2.35 billion square feet of self-storage in the U.S., or a land area equivalent to three times Manhattan Island under roof.
Do I still like stuff? Of course. We now live in our dream home — a 399 ft² park model on a half acre of heaven, surrounded by squirrels, deer, and peacocks. We have built a small compound of multi-purpose structures to accommodate our close-to-nature lifestyle. Much to Charley’s chagrin, I still dearly love thrift store shopping with my best friend, occasionally bringing in someone else’s white elephant knowing full well that something will have to go to make room for it. But all too soon the human race’s collective stuff will have outgrown the planet.
In future posts, I will be sharing some examples and tips on emotional and physical declutterizing, repurposing, DIYing, storage solutions, and the like from my own experience. I hope you will find them useful, and I would appreciate hearing your own story in return.