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Old 05-15-2011, 09:35 AM
Location: Bellingham, WA
9,745 posts, read 14,135,770 times
Reputation: 14784


I've seen threads like this on other forums, but so far I haven't come across any on this board (though I certainly could have missed one). How simply do you live? After quite a few years of collecting "stuff" I've lately realized that most of it just gets in my way and requires cleaning and attention, time that I could use for more enjoyable things. I'm planning to move across the country soon, so I've been getting rid of a lot of extraneous items, most of which I very, very rarely use. Now I'm not one who decorates a lot, mainly because I don't have a lot of extra money with which to do so. So luckily I don't have much art work, knick-knacks, pottery, etc to get rid of. But despite that, I'm still amazed at the sheer magnitude of STUFF I'm having to get rid of!

Why do I still have 50 CDs that I haven't listened to in probably five years? Why do I have 50 books that I'll probably never read again (fiction)? Why do I have several dozen plates, bowls, and cups when I only use a handful every day? Why do I have dozens and dozens of shirts when I only have maybe one dozen that I wear regularly? Why do I have a sofa, end table, lamp, and television when I never use them and never entertain guests? Why do I have a DVD player when my computer plays DVDS? For that matter, why do I have several dozen DVDs when I watch a movie maybe once every month or two? Why do I have a queen-size bed when I only use half of it? As you can tell, this move really has me rethinking the way I live.

I own a house, which I'm trying to sell, and it's about 1000 square feet. Most people I know consider it a small cottage, but the more I get rid of unused stuff, the more I notice how much unused space I also have. I've concluded I could comfortably live in a much, much smaller space. I think all I would need to truly live comfortably would be a small room to sleep, read, and use my computer, an area for cooking, whether it was in the same room or not, and a bathroom. One hitch in this plan is the fact that I love bicycles and getting around by bicycle. I own three and two of those I'm not sure I could part with. One for sentimental reasons, and the other because I just love it too much. The third one I still own because it's just a fantastic, all-around machine, though I could probably bring myself to sell it eventually and the first one can do the same job. So I'm left with two bicycles that take up quite a bit of space, plus enough room to work on them when they need cleaning and maintenance. It would be a lot easier if my only bike was a folding bike! I should also add that I'm doing a lot better in that regard. At one time I owned about 20 bicycles and many, many spare parts! I also have quite a few books that I'm hesitant to get rid of, even though I don't use them all and pretty much all of the information contained inside them could be found easily online. But despite that, I think I could still live comfortably in a much, much smaller space with far less clutter.

Now I understand that this is not for everyone. Some people need or just want roominess and nice decor. Some people enjoy hosting parties and entertaining friends. I used to think I did as well, but I've learned that I'm not interested in those things, at least not at this point in my life. But I'm interested to see how simply others are managing to live, how it's working for you, and maybe some clever things you've done that I wouldn't have thought of.
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Old 05-15-2011, 04:58 PM
15,924 posts, read 17,375,046 times
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I got divorced and all the kids have grown up and moved out.
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Old 05-16-2011, 01:18 AM
4,982 posts, read 5,045,963 times
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The lower amount of the social "capital" (as in living communities, extended families, friends & neighbors, the kind one can still find (not for too long) in some third world remote areas), the more junk you need, it's a simple survival anxiety, conscious or not. Americans are especially vulnerable to this kind of anxiety because they, accompanied by corporations & government, trashed (never had?) real living communities, real communal property, extended families (or true neighbors and friends for that matter). That's why Americans frequently try to create an illusion of "independence" & confidence by means of urban & rural sprawl, accumulating junk they rarely use & "no trespassing" signs.

Facts of modern life:

1) you are on your own
2) everything (goods, services, needs, wants, emotions, longings, etc., etc., etc.) one may get for free in the backward cultures is a business opportunity for the first world entrepreneurs (and it costs pretty penny for you). That means free child/elderly care in a backward third world village and a paid baby sitter/nursing home/shrink and associated paraphernalia for you. Unlike sweatshop goods, first world services are really expensive. It's just pure economics, you don't know when you might need that junk. Even if 90% of the junk is useless, the remaining 10% may pay for itself + 90% of the useless junk you bought. Beside, sweatshop junk shopping that you are comforting yourself with is cheaper and much healthier than services of a shrink & Prozac.
3) US economy is built around junk. You stop buying more and more of junk, everything falls apart, including your "simple life style".

Last edited by RememberMee; 05-16-2011 at 01:27 AM..
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Old 05-16-2011, 02:28 AM
806 posts, read 2,022,364 times
Reputation: 770
Lamplight, I agree with you..

We bought our first home and I quickly got busy with decorating and buying junk for it. I managed to get everything discount, cheap, used, clearance, etc. BUT managed to fill every room, closet, and cubby...

NOW, I am trying to get rid of it.. It is a SLOW and hard process.. WE have the "ole" CD box from the 90's. Been in the closet for years..... old VHS tapes!!! Old t-shirts and dresses.....two sizes too small...

I LOVE going to a hotel or cabin and realizing how nice it is to get away from home.... I could live out of a bag and in a smaller place and be JUST FINE!!

I would even be more active because of less time spending cleaning and fixing crap at home..

Keep your bikes!!

Stay away from Walmart!!! I call it "Cheap China"...
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Old 05-16-2011, 04:25 AM
Location: Itinerant
6,143 posts, read 4,135,992 times
Reputation: 4721
"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy **** we don't need." - Tyler Durden

Since that quote was written it seems things have gotten worse too, now we buy houses that are bigger than we need just to fit in all that useless stuff we have. That makes us not just buy more, but needs more heating and lighting, and sucks the money out of your bank account even quicker. Sometimes it makes you wonder, do you own your stuff... or does your stuff own you?

I've been through that phase of downsizing, it was very illuminating, and a great lesson for self development. I got rid of several DVD players, my last 4 PC's, 3 Televisions, 2 sets of tables and chairs, a whole bunch of flatware, silverware, and several interesting kitchen appliances that I had to have for one use and for some reason 4 coffee makers and 3 Espresso machines. Then there were the CD's/DVD's which covered an area of about 15'x8' all in their nice little packaging, and all stored alphabetically with their spines outwards. I think I kept about 50 of my favorite movies, and TV series, but now store them in ring binder photo-albums in sleeves, they take about 5 albums in all. My CD's all got ripped to my media server and that came, CD's were shredded, I still have proof of purchase though...

Interesting life experience, but it was either that or spend about $20k getting everything here to AK.
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:43 AM
766 posts, read 1,153,649 times
Reputation: 1415
You think you got junk?!?!?! Back in 2004 I still had a house that showed the evidence of 4 teens that used to live here. Then in January 2005 I inherited my Gma's 1 bedroom apt. Then in June of that same year, I inherited all 70+ yrs of my Mother's hoarding pack-rat collection!!! (I'm talking Dr. Phil hoarding)

It's 2011 and I'm FINALLY downsized (it only took me 6 yrs), packed up/boxed up and ready to move out of state. My current home is 1300 sq ft and I downsized enough that I'm seeking 1000 sq ft or less for my next phase of life.

When somebody tells me their favorite hobby is garage sales, auctions and flea markets, I run away as fast as I can. LOLOL
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Old 05-16-2011, 11:08 AM
Location: 125 Years Too Late...
10,851 posts, read 10,527,907 times
Reputation: 9515
Great topic.

I've always been the minimalist sort, but even at that, I find that I tend to start collecting useless items if I don't watch myself. I think, especially in our culture, most everyone thinks it's quite "normal" to waste a huge portion of their income (that they wouldn't even need to otherwise toil to earn) on overconsumption. And they don't even realize it. It's the "norm." Most will defend it if it is pointed out to them. But just imagine how it would be if you didn't have to worry about working overtime or getting a higher paying job. It wouldn't matter. Your wage would be sufficient for your needs, even if it was lower.

I talk about minimalism, frugality, small homes, and simple living here on CD forum quite often, but I seldom do in "real life" unless I know the person is interested. For instance, at work, I hear conversations all the time about so-and-so's new 2500 sq ft home like that's a good thing. Unless you have 12 kids... sorry, it's a debtor's prison. I don't tell them that, of course. To each his/her own. I've mentioned a couple of times (when asked) that I prefer anywhere from 250 to 450 sq ft of living space. The room goes silent. It's a cultural thing, I assume. I can't really see why a single person like me, or even a couple, would ever want much more than that, or why they would ever want to be bound to fund it. Higher taxes. Higher utility bills. Higher payments. Higher maintenance. Etc. Each sq ft of home I don't have and every useless gadget I don't buy is that many man-hours of time I don't have to waste as an indentured servant at work. I can spend that time on the work or activities I really am passionate about.

I've always been a huge fan of very small, cozy homes. Sadly, the only small homes I find are at least 60 or 70 years old. That says a lot about our culture and what they assume to be the norm or what they "need." I think the incredible growing home of the last 80 years has been largely clever marketing (boils down to larger profit, of course). However, there are a few architects and designers who are committed to (or at least give a nod to) small homes. So there is hope for us small home lovers.

Here are a few favorites in my fairly long list of tiny home designers/builders:

tumbleweed houses
tiny texas houses (http://www.tinytexashouses.com/index.html - broken link)
grandoaks timberframing
Ross Chapin - Architect (his smaller home designs)

Last edited by ChrisC; 05-16-2011 at 11:18 AM..
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Old 05-16-2011, 01:32 PM
Location: Brooklyn New York
15,569 posts, read 24,904,283 times
Reputation: 20790
I am not a saver or a collector either. If I don't use it, I don't want it in the house, I am not storing it, cleaning it or taking care of it. I don't need 9 coats, I don't need 6 pairs of sneakers, 6 pairs of shoes......

Funny you mentioned the CD's. I too have a huge collection and there are so many I haven't listened to in years, I should go through them and throw them out, besides most of them are already on my computer so I actually do not need them.
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Old 05-17-2011, 05:30 PM
3,115 posts, read 6,129,494 times
Reputation: 1797
My husband and I had a simple, clutter-free life until about six years ago. He was offered a job making twice as much in a city where we could own a giant home for less (at the time) than the 1200 sqft home we had. Without thinking, we fell into the consumerism trap. Bought the house - 2600 sqft, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, huge bonus room over the garage, living room, dining room plus family room and eat-in kitchen...really ridiculous for the two of us. Then we had to fill it with stuff, of course! Furniture, decorations, lamps, books, etc. It really is insane and sad.

Once we realized how much we missed our simple life, we started searching for smaller homes in good neighborhoods in our city, but quickly realized they don't exist. Here, if you want to be in an area with a decent quality of life, you have to own a mansion.

We have a plan to move to a different city, Portland, OR, where we feel we can find what we are looking for. It's not in the cards to move just yet, but in the meantime we are slowly purging our stupid crap, and we have stopped buying things. Each time one of us wants to purchase something we'll repeat the old "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without".
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Old 05-17-2011, 07:56 PM
553 posts, read 897,586 times
Reputation: 289
My husband's father loves to give me junk for birthdays and other occasion. the most painful thing is that he actually buys it. Some of it is actually pretty big. All sorts of elephants, models of boats, hideous scarfs and shawls. I think I am going to through it all away.
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