Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Journey toward minimalist/simple living, part 1

This is a long bit of my life history, so I'm breaking it up so no one falls sleep reading.

There's an unconventional concept that I really would like to sink my teeth into, and that's called minimalism.  Basically, not owning very much stuff, not being cluttered, not being consumer-driven, usually having less impact on the environment, and not spending time on things that are really unnecessary.  Most minimalists you read about are either single or maybe married, and maybe one or two children.  Minimalism lends itself very well to a nomadic lifestyle, which is great if you know you're going to move any time soon, but one thing that really appeals to my husband and I is that it makes things easy to clean and doesn't look cluttered (he had ADHD so clutter is REALLY distracting to him).  I wish we could say that we were really good at this, we're not, but we're trying.
I think we both were raised with a fairly practical approach to stuff: spend what money you have on things you absolutely NEED (like food and the electric bill and mortgage), if you can't fin all your stuff in your closet, dresser, toy box and shelves then you need to give some things to charity, re-purpose things you already have, and so on.  When we had been married for nearly 3 years, we were living in an apartment that was about 1200 square feet, three bedrooms and one bathroom, had one child and another on the way, and our apartment was FULL of stuff!  We'd been wanting to de-clutter for a while, but it was a slow process because one of us would have sentimental attachment to it, or we would think that it was something that we would use "someday" or whatever other reason that I don't even remember.  We were also dirt poor.  In Idaho where we were, jobs are few and far between and even though our rent and utilities were very inexpensive, we couldn't keep up.  We knew something had to change and were desperately looking to find an answer to our prayers.  We decided at length to go with a security company that is always hiring for the summer.  They had been trying to get my hubby to do sales for a few years, but sales is just too unreliable income for us since it's purely commission based.  So we went with installing security systems.  There are supposed to be 3 of 4 times as many salesmen as there are installers, so even if some salesmen aren't making it, installers still get good work, and get paid by the install.  The man who recruited us was going to Milwaukee, but said that we could go to other places if we wanted.  Since I was due to have our second child a little over a month after the summer season started, we decided to go to the Seattle area, since that's near my parents so someone could help us out after the baby was born.  The company would pay for the apartment and a few rental furniture pieces (a bed, kitchen table and chairs, couches in the living room, etc.).  Most people just go for the summer and then go back to their regular homes in Idaho or wherever after the summer.  We were not going to school anymore at that time so we didn't have a reason to move back to Idaho.  We also had wanted to move somewhere warmer, at the time we were thinking Arizona, and we had a satellite job unofficially lined up for after the summer.  So there was our plan, go to Washington for the summer, then move to Arizona and live down there.  We felt good having a plan, but the thing is, we had to cover the expense of going to those respective locations ourselves.  There are many ways to make moving less expensive, but most of those ways were still our of our price range.  So we decided the only thing we could do was to get rid of almost everything and fit just ourselves and what stuff we could into our little 1995 Oldsmobile Achieva S and drive.
This is not a picture of our old car, but it's the same kind and the same color!

We decided this about 2 months before we moved, and on one hand we really didn't want to get rid over everything too long before the move.  I'm not sure why, though I could understand the bed part, I was very pregnant after all.  So we just started going through the stuff we were sure we really didn't want or didn't need.  Dishes were one of the first things (our water heater didn't work very well and we had to wash our dishes by hand, plus neither of us like doing dishes, so they would pile up quickly.), though I still kept some dishes at first, then papers, papers, 50 extra birth announcements from when our daughter was born that we never sent out, some craft supplies that I'd never used, cord that I didn't know what they went to, and in the process our then almost 2 year old daughter decapitated a statue of a couple that my husband had given me in a way that made superglue ineffective, so that got tossed too.  We also had to almost immediately sell our large flat screen TV that we had bought on clearance and on sale the year before with our tax return, to get money to pay enough of the electric bill to keep our electricity on (it was February, and there was about 4 feet of snow on the ground, and we had electric heat).  About a month before we left we posted everything we thought we could sell on the electronic bulletin board at the local university and did sell quite a bit.  We donated more and more stuff to charity (my brother worked at the local thrift store at the time and he was wowed with all the stuff we were getting rid of.)  It was getting hard.  Then we decided that we didn't have a way to take our bikes and the bike trailer along, so we had to sell those too.  That's when I got really emotional.  I loved going for bike rides with my little one in the little bike trailer, plus I was pregnant and that thing held two kids, not to mention the out of control hormones that go along with pregnancy.  I just kept telling myself "It's just stuff, it's just stuff, it's just stuff..."  that helped quite a bit.  I had always liked to think of myself as being above hyper-consumerism and achieving some sort of status or worth from material possessions, but this was a lot harder than I'd anticipated!
When it came time to load up the car and move, surprise surprise, we couldn't fit it all in!  Part of the added challenge was knowing that we were about to have another baby.  If we knew it'd be a while before getting pregnant again, we could easily get rid of the little baby stuff and have just what we needed for our toddler.  So we had to take the infant car seat, newborn clothes, some baby blankets and such.  The crib did not make it on the list as it was a little too...loved to move.  We also got a car topper and left a few boxes ay my brothers house that my parents agreed to pick up next time they went to visit them.
Getting rid of so much stuff was hard, but pregnancy hormones made it harder, toward the end of it all, I started to cry about throwing away my baby girls broken crayons.  My husband got a little concerned about this and said he'd take over and told me to just go to my brothers house and rest.  Such a good man.  The next day we were cleaning, but it took forever (I think largely because we were SOOOOOOOOO exhausted) and we left later than we wanted to.  We tried to get the whole 13 hour car trip done in one day, but of course got a late start, I don't even remember why) and by about 3 in the morning, we had to stop at a motel to get some sleep.  Luckily, my dad had sent us his gas card and subway card so we could actually afford to pay for a cheap motel.  The next day we made the last 4 hours of our car ride.

Tomorrow I will post about minimalism or simple living when we got to Washington

Part 2
Part 3

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