About Scott: Minimalism

This could be shorter

Full trash container with a couch on top

Cleaning out the barn, June 2017

Reading time: 2 minutes

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It was an accident

You could say we're minimalists.

If 10 is a hoarder, and 1 is a member of the tiny house movement who owns two pairs of pants, we're probably a 4. I'd guess the average American is a... 7?

The car

In April, 2016, after an ugly car crash where Gina was not at fault, we decided to forego buying a replacement car with the liability payout.

Now we have just one car and it hasn't caused a problem yet. We are self-employed and work from home. Most of what we need is a walk or a bike ride away.

A badly wrecked car

A driver used the turn lane to bypass Friday afternoon traffic. He hit Gina as she was waiting to merge with traffic in the opposite direction. Apr 2016

The issue with the car got us thinking.

The house

In January 2017, we went on a purge of our house.

For years I had felt stuck, that somehow the clutter was getting in the way of my work - especially my writing.

My books were jammed into the small closets of our 19th century house. A rat's nest of cords by my desk made moving a phone charger a sixty second task. I was tired of moving something so I could move something so I could get to something.

I had a lifetime of possessions and many of the worthless, bulky things my ex-wife conveniently left here. When Gina moved in, she had a lifetime of possessions and furniture, too. It was not going to be a trivial effort.

I threw away one too many extension cords. I haven't missed anything else.

The purge took five months. We're still not finished, but I'd say 80% of the cleanout has been completed.

The purge process

We had no idea who Marie Kondo was. (She says she's not a minimalist, by the way.)

Our process was simple. I opened a closet and took out a box. I opened the box and took out a thing. I asked myself: "Is this thing essential ?" If I answered "yes" unequivocally, I kept it. Few things passed this test. I was brutal.

If no, it wasn't essential, I asked myself:

  1. Do I love this thing?
  2. Have I used it or worn it in the past year?

If either 1) or 2) was a "no," I asked: Should I sell, donate, recycle, throw out, or destroy this thing?

In some cases, the question was a version of, "Do I need seven pictures of the Eiffel Tower? Why not just one?" or "Do I need five pairs of jeans? How about keeping two?"

Clutter is not just physical stuff. It's old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits. Someone else is happy with less than what you have.

I normally dislike these kinds of glurgy signs, but... they're true.

The end result was:

  • Five trips to Goodwill to donate clothes, shoes, kitchenware, etc
  • Twenty-two contractor bags of trash
  • Three trips to Half-Price Books to sell books, CDs, and DVDs
  • Five extra containers of recycling
  • Three or four sales of items on social media
  • A trip to a shredder to destroy forty pounds of paperwork
  • Seven vanloads of items taken away by a couple who worked at flea markets
  • A filled 16 cubic yard dumpster

How did it feel?

On one hand, it was liberating. Our house is much less cluttered. My life feels simpler and more manageable. I understand my priorities better. I know where my necessary objects and papers are. My books are all out on bookshelves.

I threw away one too many extension cords. I haven't missed anything else.

On one hand, it was liberating... On the other hand, I wasn't prepared for the emotional toll.

On the other hand, I wasn't prepared for the emotional toll. I relived so many memories - a lot of them unpleasant, even traumatic - spanning my entire life. For several weeks, I was full of anger. I was emotionally disheveled for months. The reaction wasn't due to the purge itself, it was because I hadn't properly dealt with issues it brought to the surface.

The key is we're living more simply now. We could do better, but we've made a monumental start.

Archive

About

A smiling Francis and me, sitting outside in front of some shrubs

Some basics

A brief biographical sketch

Me on top of a sunny Mt Pilatus in Switzerland, with mountains in the background

Travel

Pardon the saccharine and the obvious, but travel is everything

A couple standing in front of a large Gothic church, on a bridge over the Seine

France

France deserves its own section

Francis, as a two year-old in a car seat, in sunglasses reading a French picture book

Reading

The bullshit of daily life? I'd rather read.

Stage with musicians going at it - they're Gogol Bordello, and they're crazy

Music

Let me take you back

Little boy sitting on a big white bed, looking at a tablet

Television

I watch a lot more television than movies

Live action from a soccer game at Crew Stadium - yellow versus blue

Soccer

The only sport that matters

Ugly photo of a pig knuckle after it's been eaten - really, it looks horrible

Food

As a travel writer, I have to talk about food

Me in an outdoor restaurant drinking from a green coconut with a long straw

Dumb stuff

You will not feel smarter after reading this

Dumpster full of garbage

Minimalism

Trying to live simply

Me getting out of a red Ferrari F430 with a guy clapping for me

Other Interests

I've only driven a Ferrari once

Dude wearing orange pants and orange and green shoes walking on wet grass

Get off my lawn

A few brief rants

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