Tuesday, January 04, 2011


A new year usually comes with expectations of self-renovation. We look at our lives, think of all our past shortcomings, and make plans for amends. In the coming year we will become thinner, smarter, more organized. We will recycle more, eat better, exercise more, pay our bills on time, finish projects, and increase our retirement savings. We put a lot of pressure on the new year to fulfill our fantasies of change.

Aside from the required annual institutional goal-writing at work, I have just one direction in mind for this year: less. In the environmental spirit of the Small House Society, I aim to cut down on my overblown accumulation and archiving of consumer stuff. In the spirit of Thoreau, I aim to live simpler and more deliberately. I want to cut back on the complications that are weighing me down and shattering my focus. No - I do not plan to move to a tiny cabin in the woods. I do plan to offload some of the junk and look carefully at where my small reserves of time and resources are going.

So I offer up the "Emigration Game". For informational purposes only, since I have no plans of emigrating any time soon. Here is how it works: Consider the following scenario: You have decided to move to a small cottage somewhere overseas (or apartment or whatever - just quite a bit smaller than your current space). It is very expensive to move stuff, so you are only taking the items that you most need or care about. You are not planning on returning, so storing the rest is not an option. What would you take? How would you prioritize your list? This is not one of those survival games, so we are not talking about duct tape, a knife and a ball of string. It isn't a list of what-to-put-in-the-car-if-the-range-fire-is-approaching, either. Instead it is a consideration of BOTH your fondest possessions and the useful items needed for a reasonably happy life. We are talking things here. So go ahead and make your list. Then put it aside and come back to it a few days later. Or think about it as you navigate your house. You may surprise yourself. Again, this is for awareness only. I am not advocating getting rid of all the items not on the list. Unless you want to.

Here are the top few items on my list:
- Cats
- trailer (and tow vehicle)
- computer (for images, books, and communication)
- camera
- Traditional and Kiwi spinning wheels
- sufficient knitting tools
- Wood-burning and painting tools

The order (after cats and trailer) changes as my mood shifts. Purely utilitarian stuff falls lower on the list.

So what have I done so far this year in the name of "Less"? Two things: First, I have established a policy of offloading at least one item per day. Throw it away, recycle it, give it away - whatever it takes to get it out of the house. It can be large or small. It doesn't count if I am replacing it with a new version or just emptying the usual trash. Second, I have called and canceled my cable TV. I can still get my favorite shows via download, but I will be freeing myself from the focus-sucking, time-wasting tyranny of never-ending crime show reruns. Yes, I know the TV has an off switch, but I am weak, plus I will be saving almost $700 per year (and I only had "expanded basic").

So less is more for 2011.


Laura said...

Bless you. That's just what I need to do. With all of Mom's fiber stuff, and my own, and two looms and two spinning wheels and 2 equines and 5 alpacas and 3 cats and 2 dogs and... Just the animals are overwhelming. The house stuff - don't get me started. I will have to ponder (and maybe blog).

We can support each other in this effort - it's always easier to do this with a friend!

Fiber Floozie said...

Good for you. I too am foucsing on less is more this year. Keep up the good work. I'll help you. Call me any time.

Sharon said...

That's certainly food for thought. Now if I can just Ian to stop scrounging and bringing home more stuff. There's a sewing machine on my table that he dug out of the trash at an abandoned house. I'm going to wrong way!

Linda said...

Wow! It's been a month or so since I checked in with your blog - you know, December came with all that continuing ed for my license, the flu and 2+ weeks of company! What a lovely surprise to see your new design - I love it!! Good luck with your downsizing. I did surprisingly little of it when I moved, but I have sorted through all of it after moving and made some deletions in the process. It's like losing weight - it feels so good to have it gone, you wonder why you waited so long to do it. If only that thought came to mind before the oooh that looks good, I think I'll eat thought struck, I'd be in good shape! My poor wittle pea bwain! It's nothin' but trouble sometimes!

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

I would gladly live without TV, but I would have to give up my husband too.... will have to think on that :)
Great ideas in practice, but can't figure out how to apply it to myself and my current living conditions, well all except the getting rid of stuff, I have LOTS of 'stuff' that I could easily do without. The part about what I would take would be really tough for me, and just what does 'sufficient knitting tools' mean? When I read that, a realization hit me; cultural knitting is all very recognizable because they have limited tools, no full set of circs or fill set of DPNs... interesting. After watching a video of Andean knitters from Interweave SpinKnit Emag and thinking about this, I realize that they have one set of needles that aren't even really needles, they are pieces of wire.
So what 'sufficient' tools would you take?

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

Oh, and if you decide to off load any spinning tools, please feel free to use me as a depository :)

Allison said...

We've been talking about this for years. I'm with you, sister!