I've always had a tendency towards minimalism, which I assume grows out an excellent case of OCD that makes me hate clutter. Once or twice a year I will go through all my possessions and cull them down to what I view as essentials. However, I think recently my conception of essentials have changed. I have this attraction to the idea that I could fit everything I own into a duffel bag and pick it up and move at a moments notice. I understand the impracticality of this, due to the impracticality of my career (attorney), but it doesn't make me want to get rid of my couches, tv, speakers, books, etc, any less. I've come to view it all as just stuff, but the idea of having so much is sort of overwhelming in a way.
I would assume this is exacerbated by the fact that I hate my job and it makes me unhappy in my situation. Due to insane student loans I can't quit and while I am making changes where I can to mitigate (e.g. interviewing for new hopefully slightly less miserable jobs), I personally am not going to join occupy and cry about owing money no one made me borrow.
My question is whether any of you all have experience a similar tendency/longing to divorce yourself from possessions, and how you have dealt with it. Did you also feel it came out of an unhappy place, or did you draw different parallels?
Thank you for your input.
I love this question. I've had a recent, cathartic experience with this topic myself. I was living in Colorado and running my own business. I worked 7 days per week to the tune of between 70 and 80 hours - as small business people often have to do, especially in the current economic environment. I made a very nice income and I was miserable. And when I say miserable, I mean really !@#$ing unhappy. So, to remedy my unhappiness what did I do? Well, I stopped using my fully equipped home Crossfit gym. I consumed way too much Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, gourmet pizza and Chipotle burritos. Working until 9 or 10 PM in a high stress environment left me exhausted and completely drained. A high calorie meal and 3 or 4 beers later, I could plop down into bed and wait for the 6AM alarm clock. This went on for years, but really started getting bad about 2 years ago. I put on some weight. My belly got big and my arms got skinny. Not good.
So, one day I had just had enough. I shut the business down and sold my house. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I just walked away. I decided to move myself across country to North Carolina to be closer to family and the ocean - I had really missed being near the ocean. As I was packing for my cross country adventure, it occurred to me to rent one of those POD things and let them move my stuff. The problem was that they are too small for all of my stuff. For a single guy in his 30s, I felt that I have too much stuff. I ended up having to rent a 26 foot moving truck, the largest one that you can get without a commercial driver’s license, and even then not all of my stuff fit in the truck. So, while I may not have your desire to the same degree, that is being able to fit all of my belongings into a duffle bag; I do desire to become a “POD person” and be able to fit everything that I own into a 16 foot POD. For me, some sense of minimalism goes hand-in-hand with freedom.
As a side note, this dramatic change that I made a couple of months ago seems to be working. I’ve flirted with the Paleo Diet on and off for several years, but I’ve recently recommitted to it. The weight has come back off and I’m back to working out hard. I feel great. Life is good and I’m looking forward to an awesome summer. The clouds have lifted, the sun is out, the birds are chirping and I see some new business opportunities. Life is far too short to spend it being unhappy. I hope that you find your way out of your situation soon.
I became minimalist halfway through college, and have never looked back since.
From 10 pairs of shoes, a closet full of clothes, and crazy amounts of books and boxes to essentially...nothing. I can move to a new location right now if I wanted to.
I own no books, no boxes, enough clothing for a small suitcase, and one pair of shoes. My room consists of a simple table, chair, and bed.
Wake up to what's important to you.
Times that I have wanted to get rid of all my stuff: right before moving, right after moving, when I was depressed, when I was under a lot of stress, every pregnancy scare at every point in my life, before surgery, after surgery.
So, I think a natural response to stress it to want to gut your place, because it allows you to exert control over your environment in a big way. By moving things up and out, you can actually see the changes that are happening in your life that you are causing.
That being said, I think everyone has a different "stuff" level that they allow and feels comfortable to them. During one particularly stressful time of transferring programs, I got rid of our couch, kitchen table, deck table, and bedside table. This made me feel fantastic for about 3 hours, until I realized we now only had our bed, two desks, and a chest. It is now 6 months later, we still eat dinner off that chest, and set our bed up as a "couch" for the daytime. Does it make me feel better now? No. Would I like to eat dinner on a surface that I can fit my legs under? Yes.
Sometimes responding to the urge to satisfy your de-cluttering need is something you should pause to consider. Would your life be better with item A? Then get rid of item A. You always have to realize that no matter what the problem you are responding to, getting rid of all your "stuff" ultimately will not make that problem go away. Confronting the problem, not the piles, will be what truly makes you feel better.
I'm in pretty much the exact same boat. Law degree I don't want, debt I really don't want, job I DESPISE, and a bunch of stuff in an apartment that is suffocating me. I am completely fixated on moving deep into the woods. I came up from pretty meager beginnings and I always thought things would be easier if I could just finish school / get a better job / move to the right place. Day to day money is better (I don't worry about affording food, still worry about rent) but the debt feels like a giant weight.
I am mostly amazed at how few people in this profession I really like. Most people are so obsessed with coming off fancy and one upping each other that I can't stand it. It is a difficult profession to be in when you start to realize that we're all just chimps in a not-too-complicated social web with arbitrary class systems and methods of obtaining power.
Dude, I just get it. It is like you've peeked behind the curtain and now you can't go back. Once you realize you don't give a shit about the carrot, it is really difficult to continue plodding through life chasing after it. I don't think there is an answer to this. Give your stuff away to someone who needs it. Take a few pro bono cases. Live as meagerly as possible and divert ANY extra income to aggressively paying down debt. My awesome future spouse, who has also peeked behind the curtain, shares these views and we plan to live off one person's salary and use the other's to pay down debt and then hoard money for our eventually crazy retreat into the woods. Did someone say bunker? There might be a bunker.
I think at some level it is to do with responsibility, attachment and control. The less you have the more control you have over it all, the less you have to be responsible for and the less you feel may effect you if you are dependant on it and it is removed.
This is not a bad thing in my mind. Also I believe the less choice we have the lower the stress. It goes for clutter too. For me this extends to even my computer usage where I have a very 'clean and lean' organisation and display of information. Predominately white typface on black consoles.
And perhaps the saying is true: a tidy house/desk/computer/space = a tidy mind. I also think the less we have puts us in a position to value things differently.
Also kipple can creep up on your if you don't watch out.
JR: Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.
Pris: I see.
JR: There’s the First Law of Kipple, “Kipple drives out nonkipple.” Like Gresham’s law about bad money. And in these apartments there’s been nobody there to fight the kipple.
Pris: So it has taken over completely. Now I understand.
JR: Your place, here, this apartment you’ve picked--it’s too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apartments. But -
Pris: But what?
JR: We can’t win.
Pris: Why not?
JR: No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I’ve sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I’ll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It’s a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.
Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1968.
You are not a minimalist. You are someone who is finally realizing you are in a completely untenable situation and you now want to run away. Law schools are engaged in outright fraud, and, unless somehow you stipulated before signing up for these degrees that you understood they were handing you worthless crap in return for a lifetime of indentured servitude (not to mention the time and attention necessary to actually achieve the degrees), you are pretty much right to want to run away.
Yes, you agreed, but it is still fraud. The idea of $300,000 in loans- they've got to smile and pretend you are going to have the capacity to pay it back. Is it Harvard Law (can't be-the price is too low, right)? The school has to be elite, and you've got to go read pick-up artist sites and start modifying it for sharks to have a prayer in hell.
So you can run. There may be other things you can do as well. The main thing is to know the emotion is valid. It is coming from a legitimate place. If you understand, then if an opportunity comes up, you can take it. Fight or flight. The only 'wrong' choice is going catatonic. Play dead for a while if you must, but be ready to act.
Your stuff is just a proxy for your ire. You can throw stuff away. You can kick stuff around. It is your own stuff; you can win over it.
I noticed a similar thing; I pushed hard and lost weight. I succeeded with what was in my territory of control. If I could extend my territory of control, I could succeed there too- and in a more public sphere, more people benefit. Unfortunately, fraud has grown from a cottage industry to a massive, globe covering system.
I was actually a minimalist long before I was paleo. My views of paleo are very much in line with that philosophy, e.g. if I have my mate, and good wholesome food, do I really need anything else? Not really.
Stuff takes my focus away from what I really want to do with my life, from something personal like time with my mate, to familial like cooking, to public like making theatre. I think you hinted at it in your question, but it's worth saying explicitly -- minimalism must be personal. Frankly I think the same is true of paleo.
One other thought. The stuff I really do want to keep (my one pair of Vibram shoes, my cookware, etc) are things which help to keep me focused on what matters, especially from a paleo perspective. I'd rather be outside having fun than inside surrounded by stuff.
I love this topic. I was in business banking for a while, and finally had enough of corporate America. I quit, and in 2009, lived in a Toyota RAV4 for 6 months traveling around. Then I did move into something larger, a van, and did that for 2010, basically traveling and rock climbing. I moved back into a small condo in early 2011, and it feels so huge. I still find myself going minimal as often as possible, and love times when I get back in the van and leave for an extended period. Freedom from stuff is amazing.
I get an urge for a big clearout at least twice a year too, usually when I'm back home from university. I was a little confused when I got back for the summer this year because I imagined my room to have a whole lot more clutter than was actually there, so aside from a few old clothes which I donated, there was nothing else to do!
I started realising that having too much stuff wasn't healthy for me personally when I was 10 or 11 and my family were driving to France with suitcases strapped on the top of the car and I kept turning around in my seat every ten minutes to make sure the cases hadn't fallen off and my clothes weren't flying all over the motorway.
I asked myself "so what if you lose that pair of jeans/ those shoes? Sure, they fit great, but they'll wear out eventually and you'll have to get more and they are in no way indispensable." I worked backwards from there and ask myself the same question about pretty much everything I own/ buy.
Also funnily enough, though I view my desire for fewer possessions and therefore fewer things to stress about losing as a pretty primal instinct, technology sometimes really helps me to enforce it - much easier to slip a kindle into a backpack and head off into the wilderness than it is to drag a suitcase of my favourite books with me wherever I go.
I think my parents would have a whole lot less stress if they cleared out some stuff from the house too, but my dad refuses. He's one of those "but what if I need it again in 5 years time and I don't have it?!" (talking about a copy of MS Office over a decade old...) people. My mum constantly stresses about what would happen if the house was burgled (my answer - "well, they'd take some saucepans and a five year old computer, everything else is too big to even get out of the door!")
Quote: While that may or may not be true, it doesn't really help me. I'm of the opinion that I made my bed, and I will deal with the consequences. I would just like to deal with them the best way that I can. Thinking someone else should take care of it is not that way. – j3wcy Jul 13 at 0:58
For more Paleo Diet hacks: Why do I want to get rid of everything I own? - PaleoHacks.com http://paleohacks.com/questions/97359/why-do-i-want-to-get-rid-of-everything-i-own#ixzz24WlRVdRI
My Answer: If your going to minimalize, go bankrupt. The only thing that would stop you would be your ego. What would people think of me? Or I am a bad person if I default. Do you think the law school would care if they screwed you out of money? There's the OTHER part of the whole minimalist equation. Not trying to be mean, just trying to state that "what will people think?" plays a HUGE role in why we do not downsize.
I have a sister who is building "stuff" while I am trying to get "rid of" of stuff and today I felt weird justifying my position to her because I used to be of the same mind. I have been downsizing for 4 years now little by little and it never seems to be enough, however, each time I downsize "stuff" I feel better so I KNOW I am going in the right direction.
I bought a new RV trailer which is nice but small compared to what I am used to. I want to live in it all year as it is equipped winterized, but no campgrounds allow it. I'm in Canada. Major money grabs in most parks. I wish there was somewhere people could just go and live for cheap and simplified.