So it is a weird thing to loose all of your possessions overnight. It is in effect forced minimalism.
Now I have no problems with minimalism, though I am a self proclaimed moderatist. In fact I had finished reading Josh Becker’s The More of Less (I will make some cash if you buy the book through the link) on Wednesday night before the fire. By Monday everything was gone.
From Wednesday until Monday I had played out in my mind how we could simplify our lives and our possessions. We were living in a 3200 square foot home, fully furnished, brimming with toys and books. It was a standard “This American Life”.
And life was good. I mean, sure I stressed about the mortgage even though I could afford it and was saving 25-30% of my income. I stressed about the waste of living in such a large space. I even stressed about what it would mean for my son to grow up in a bigger house. What values was I teaching him. But that is simple stress.
The kind of stress people privileged enough to not worry about where a paycheck is coming from or how to get food on the table have. Real stress, but fake stress too (compared to what many in this world locally and internationally go through).
So I pondered. I worked out in my mind how I could reduce the stuff in the garage. Then my closet. Then my books, cds, dvds, etc. All of that stuff. Then it would be done. Minimalism would begin.
Hold up…not so quick. Sure I could reduce my stuff, but what about my wife and kids. No way was I going to force this hair brained scheme on them. I wouldn’t ask my wife to take the time and sift through her closet or cookbooks. Not unless she wanted to. So maybe I lead by example…
As for my son, he is too young to get it, though we try to discuss how to get him to appreciate that life is about people and experiences, not stuff. Still it would be hard justifying getting rid of the toys that he enjoys.
So I continued to ponder. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday…ponder, ponder, ponder.
Then the fires came
There is nothing quite so purifying as a fire. It truly is a cleansing process. When we went back to our home, the only things that survived were metal and ceramics. All else was ash. No pictures. No books. No DVDs. No chairs. No toilets even.
What happened to the toilets? How did those disappear?
It is quite nuts.
Well so much for having to wonder how to get my family on board with my hair brained scheme. Life has forced it upon us.
Minimalism ensues, kind of.
By Monday morning we were possessionless. We ran out with the clothes on our back and a few camping items. Talk about reducing your life swiftly.
No sorting through books. No garage sales. No car trips to the donation center.
Fast and furious and complete.
Now we have choices
Endless choices. That is the one thing we are full of. Choices and space.
We can choose. Choose to go back to how things were, to live minimally, or something in between (Moderatism anyone?).
I suspect we will be somewhere in between. For now, people are being generous and donating lots and lots of stuff. Honestly more stuff then we need or want, but we keep it for now. We will redistribute it when we are more settled.
Personally, now, I am trying to be more of a minimalist. Mindful of all of my personal purchases.
I have 5 dress shirts, one tie, and 2 pairs of khakis. A coat. Jeans x 1. 3 pairs of shoes (Dress, casual, and running). Then there is the underwear, but we will separate that out.
My wife is somewhere in between. She has bought some clothes and received donations from others. She does not want to go shopping, but wants clothes that fit. Tonight she said she just wants her old clothes back.
I get it. There are things you grab for that are long gone, like my sweatshirt from college. It was well broken into and comfy as can be after 18 years.
Do we really miss the things though
While the sweatshirt is comfy, we have not found ourselves missing too many things. We do mourn the loss of our prior life, but now it is time to build a new life. The memories of our things are like bee stings. Momentary pain and then forgotten. No honey for all the effort though.
So what do we miss?
As I said, the memory of these items come, sting for a second, then fade.
- My grandmother’s goat skin rug
- Our antique Persian rugs
- My wife’s grandfather’s Guiro. He planted a seed, grew the plant and then made the instrument back in Puerto Rico.
- Our son’s embroidered blanket
- My backgammon table bought in Turkey for my birthday
- Our son’s year 1 and 2 art work. He drew on canvas and they were hanging on the wall.
- Pictures…lots and lots of pictures (I did go to Walgreens.com and found lots of our pictures online! I had downloaded them years ago I suppose).
- My Persian and Arabic drum.
- An old blanket that I had a as a child and my grandfather used for years before he died.
- The letters offering me a finalist interview for an Astronaut position. I had just framed them.
- My space memorabilia including a patch that had been in space.
- My father-in-laws swords and nunchucks. Gifts given to us for our wedding.
- The watch my wife gave me years ago.
- My wife’s engagement ring…kind of. While we are content with are new wedding bands, loosing a engagement ring suddenly is an unfortunate way to go about downsizing.
- My mother’s pillow from when she was a baby
I am sure there are other things we miss too, but I just don’t remember now. The things above are fairly irreplaceable and that is what makes them special.
What do we not miss?
Pretty much everything else. The clothes, books, kitchenware. It is all replaceable and this is very clear to us at the moment. Minimalism is not so hard when forced into it. It just takes some adjusting too.
So what do you think? Would you like a hard reset in life like we had? Forced minimalism? It’s okay to think yes. As I said, there is something purifying about a fire.
Personally, I would not wish this upon anyone. There are benefits like getting a new home after 2 years of pain. Buying what you need and not just keeping stuff you had bought. Potential insurance money from possessions lost that will not be replaced. But once again, the uncertainty and hassle is not worth it.