Long story short, I’ve gotten to less. Although, there’s always more to go and more to say on this topic, I’m closing out this blog and devoting my energy to growing my feng shui and color consulting practice. Visit my website Creating Joyful Spaces, or follow me at Joyful Spaces on Facebook, where I’ve got lots of new tips to share.
See you there!
I know the light is returning, but I don’t see it yet. It’s cold, damp, and dark in the Pacific Northwest right now.
I want to huddle by my own fireside, but I don’t have one any more. I should get off my duff and go for a walk, but it’s too yucky (and my dear walking buddy is IN HAWAII where it’s 83 degrees and sunny). That pisses me off too.
Whine, whine, whine.
In his book, The Winter Solstice, John Matthews writes:
The Winter Solstice has always been recognized as a mysterious, shadowy, uncertain time, when the conviction that the sun would return becomes doubtful and the gates between the worlds stand ajar.
We need the dark – the fertile time underground without which we couldn’t grow. We wouldn’t know Light if we didn’t have Dark, Up without Down. The tide comes in and then it goes out.
But I want to rush through these transition times. I don’t want to linger at the threshold, just being where I am. I want to be settled again. New home, new adventure. Clear and in the Light.
A little sun wouldn’t hurt either.
All my stuff is in a storage unit except for: 2 suitcases, 2 boxes of files and office stuff, a box of random kitchen & bathroom stuff and a box of books. Oh, and the laptop on which I write.
Since I’m house-sitting for two different friends till mid-February I don’t have to worry about a bed, a refrigerator and the other necessities of civilized life.
But already I’ve had to trowel into the bowels of my storage unit, seeking this or that particular thing that I suddenly need and I KNOW IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE. But damned if I know in what box it lurks.
You see, in the throes of moving you simply can’t label every single thing that goes into each box. Where is the lined cutting mat I need in the design class? The sketch pad ? I must have a gazillion partially used pads tucked away — did I pack them with office stuff, art stuff, sewing stuff, random stuff?
And where is the white blouse my volunteer usher gig requires?
A friend suggests that every time I open a box and don’t find the thing I’m seeking, I write on the box for next time: “sketch pads not in here…” “no white blouse inside”.
I eventually found the white blouse, but I ended up buying yet another sketch pad.
Sandra Tsing Loh may enjoy living peripatetically, but it’s wearing thin for me.
The current issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a piece by Sandra Tsing Loh, “On Being a Bad Mother,” which features a description of her “mobile home” – a paper-filled Volvo station wagon:
I am bad because after a domestic partnership of 20 years, when my kids were still elementary-school-age, I fell in love, had an affair, admitted it, and quite deservedly got tossed out of the house on my ass. Currently between homes (my earthly belongings reside in a 10-by-10-foot windowless U-Haul storage unit whilst I alternately house-sit, pool-sit, and cat-sit), I furtively park at the curb of my former home for an extra few minutes after dropping my kids off and, with my laptop, I steal wireless. Approaching 50, I am living a life that is less sunlit Waldman/Chabon than tattered Charles Bukowski.
My situation is less grimly colorful, thank goodness. I am peripatic by choice, not bad behavior. My Toyota minivan has space for more crap than a Volvo station wagon (I know this from experience… I had a VSW, in my “good mother” days). Plus the Toyota’s windows are darkened so passersby can’t see the crap.
Finally (neener neener NEEner, Sandra), my storage unit is almost twice as big. Though this may not be a plus in my favor.
Like Sandra, I am house-sitting, pet-sitting, and wireless stealing while I figure out what’s next. (No pools to sit where I am…).
The downside of living out of a couple of suitcases during the holiday season is that my meager wardrobe seems always to be one garment short of the perfect outfit. Sneakers with velvet pants, thin rain slicker over a little black dress when it just snowed. The slacks are right but the top is hopelessly rumpled.
It would help if I stayed long enough in one spot to hang my clothes in a closet. My next house-sitting gigs back in the Portland area are three weeks each – remind me to empty those suitcases.
And Sandra, why don’t you and I make a New Year’s resolution to get our cars (homes) detailed next week… We’ll both feel so much better.
I have let go of more Stuff in the past six months than many people acquire in a lifetime. I felt good about this. Victorious! Virtuous!
“Consumerism,” I proclaimed, “you’re dead to me.”
Then at the end of a lovely afternoon at the SF Museum of Modern Art I made the mistake of swinging through the museum store. (Minimalist alert: museum stores are booby traps for the unaware.)
Although somewhere in a box in my storage unit I’ve stashed a perfectly adequate collection of assorted mixing bowls, strainers and colander, on the museum’s display shelf I spotted this:
It was so cool — the bright colors, the perfect way everything nested — even the colander, strainer, and measuring cups which were part of the set.
But $50? That stopped me. Plus it would just be one more thing rattling around in the back of my minivan for weeks (months?) till I land some place.
Curious, I went online to learn more about the company that made them and was glad I didn’t bite: the reviewers were uniformly disappointed – snagged like me by the pretty colors and clever design, but disgusted with the product’s poor quality.
Phew!! Saved from myself one more time…
A reminder that a padawan minimalist must be especially vigilant because she is as vulnerable to bright colors and shiny things as the early Native Americans were to the white traders’ worthless beads.
I don’t need to look far in San Francisco so see what homeless looks like here. Several homeless people camp outside my son’s office in the Mission District. Matted hair, dirty face and hands, worldly possessions stuffed into a garbage bag stuffed into a shopping cart pinched from Safeway.
In the past month of radical downsizing I delivered to Goodwill the equivalent of a dozen shopping carts-full of perfectly good clothing and under-used household goods. And several more cart-full equivalents to other local charities.
What does Goodwill DO with all that stuff?
I had washed and neatly folded the sheets, blankets, and quilts. I tried to pin, tape or tie shoelaces together, pants and jackets of suits, lids and pots, so that they would actually be useful to someone. However when I got to Goodwill the man placed anything that seemed hard (shoes, pots etc) into one bin, and tossed everything soft into a bin marked “fabric”.
Suddenly I remembered that my friend Kristen goes to the Goodwill outlet (can you believe, even Goodwill has an outlet!) and pays something like a dollar for five pounds of fabric (which could be anything from perfectly good sheets, sweaters, kid’s overalls, to rags). She uses it for various forms of fabric art.
I wanted to snatch back the quilts and blankets. Hey! That could go to the guy on Ethan’s corner who sleeps under pieces of cardboard. Even if that sweater was a little “tired” (as Judi called a few of my clothes) and beyond reselling, it would keep someone on the street warm on a winter’s night.
If you go into a Goodwill these days, you’ll see that they have quite a retail operation going. In fact in my town alone there are at least two “Goodwill Superstores.” Salvation Army is another that has expanded mightily – but I don’t donate to them because I don’t appreciate their missionary zeal.
If I’d had more time and energy during the downsize process I’d have researched the most direct and cost-effective places to get my good stuff to the folks who need it most. Goodwill was close by and easy.
One of my biggest goals in this downsize maneuver was to re-center myself, to stop feeling so pulled by external responsibilities and the demands of maintaining a big house and garden.
It’s in my yankee nature to be a Responsible Person. But I was responsible for so much that my attention span was more suited to a gnat. Flitting here and there, frustrated that I never seemed to accomplish my own priorities.
Here in San Francisco, staying in my son’s apartment while he’s off at work, I’m able to be totally engaged in what I’m doing – to sit down to one task and complete it, even!
So far, so good.