The accidental minimalist

It wasn’t part of a grand plan.  I didn’t do it to make a point.  I didn’t do it cause I couldn’t afford more pants.  It just happened; and I found out my life was not only simpler, but happier.

I’ve always enjoyed traveling with a backpack, but usually upon return, life would creep back to normal.  However, the last 6 years have been a bit different.  When I got divorced, which seems like ages ago now, I drove away from my previous life with an RV, two bikes, a laptop, and a closet full of clothes.  I left everything else behind.  I don’t know if I didn’t need them, or if I was in such a mess that I couldn’t think straight.  The thing is, after approximately 24 hours, I felt a big sigh of relief, not because of relationships lost, but because of things lost.  I felt liberated.  Life had become childlike simple again.

One of my best memories. (Courtesy of world’s best photographer– Alba).

When I look back, life was indeed simple– I had road bike, a mountain bike, a laptop, and my clothes.  My total monthly bills came to about $70 for a cell phone and… uhmmm, yup that was it.  I spent a few months visiting friends across the US, and I didn’t feel like I needed anything else to be happy– what I truly needed was minimal.  Thus began a downsizing journey that continues to this day.

A few years later I went on sabbatical, and never properly returned.  Not returning was never part of the plan– it rarely is.  But after 4 months of living off of a backpack (no RV), I realized I had downsized yet again, and there wasn’t anything left in that RV that I missed.  Well, apart from my faithful Velo, but he was having a blast at my parents’.

Life has expanded a bit since the end of my sabbatical, but not as much as you’d think.  It turns out, when you rent an (unfurnished) apartment,  the kitchen utensils need their own backpacks.  And life is a lot more convenient with a blender, not to mention pots and pans.  So now I have kitchen equipment, and I do live with a handful of bike tools.  Oh, and an external monitor– I’m twice as smart with a bigger screen, plus I can keep track of gossip a lot easier ;-).

As anyone close to me knows– I own one pair of long pants, one pair of shorts, 6 t-shirts, a sweater, a hoodie, and spring and winter jackets.  Plus a few things like socks and underwear– and let’s not fool ourselves, there’s a drawer full of bike clothes.  But that’s the general gist.

You see, at the risk of sounding cliche, less is more.  Less gives me the ability to enjoy more, and spend time on the things that matter (to me)– relationships, friends, going out to eat, traveling on the spur of the moment, etc.  Each morning I have exactly one decision– is it cold or hot?  If it’s cold, I wear jeans, if it’s hot, I wear my one pair of shorts.  Voila.  Time to enjoy the day.

I try to spend more time doing (or lazily NOT doing!), and less time worrying about things I have, or maintaining said things.  You see, everything you own includes the hassle of maintaining and worrying about them.  I hate cars and car maintenance.  I also hate having more than a bike or two.  And even though I love books– carrying my entire library in a Kindle is pretty convenient and shelve free.  At last count, I read 30 books last year, mostly because they were conveniently accessible at all times.

Open relationships?  Polyamory?   That’s sounds like a lot of hassle.  And besides, do you really want two people telling you to keep the toilet seat up?  I didn’t think so.

For the curious, here are the top questions people ask:

1. Aren’t you afraid of getting your pants stained?  A. You’d be surprised how careful you are when you only have one.  Plus, I have an emergency laundry pair, but I’m never seen in public with them ;-).

2. What do you do for special occasions?  A. I wear the same pair of jeans, duh.  You’d be surprised how little people care about your clothes.  I have friends that after years, have never noticed that I only wear one pair of jeans.  Although, I suppose that if the Queen of England invited me to a party, I’d rent a penguin suit.

3. What about shoes?  Q. One pair of sneakers, sandals, and flip-flops.  Though, there are some boots I bought to go on an igloo building expedition once, and I’m keeping them just in case civilization ends in winter and I have to use these skills again.

4. What do you do when people give you things?  Q. Seriously, please don’t.  Gift me experiences, not things!

I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but even simplifying a bit can free you up immensely.   You’d be surprised what you’ll gain.

Pondering what to do after a torrential downpour.

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