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:
- trailer (and tow vehicle)
- computer (for images, books, and communication)
- 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.