The Simple Struggle

Our house the day we moved in

When I was a kid my mom (at least I think it was my mom) sometimes referred to me as an “anti-packrat.” This was, of course, in a time before “Minimalism” and its derivatives were a thing but the idea was the same. For as long as I can remember I’ve gravitated to simplicity over complexity in my life.

The last few years have seen the idea of simplicity in our lives go mainstream with No Sidebar, Becoming Minimalist, The Minimalists and, most recently, Marie Kondo’s Netflix show (among others). For me their ideas have been inspiring in that, finally, I know I’m no the only one who doesn’t care about “having it all.”

That’s not to say I’ve always done well at this. When we moved to Austin in 2012 I went on something of a spending spree buying cameras, computers and all sorts of other things my first salary over $30,000/yr finally made available to me. It took me about a year or two at that point to remember why I didn’t need all those things in the first place (a reminder I get regularly when I see the few things I still have from those years collecting dust on a shelf somewhere).

Lately, at least since moving to Florida a few years ago anyway, I’ve been making a renewed push to simplify again. For example, since moving here we’ve gone from 6 vehicles (2 cars (with payments), 2 motorcycles and 2 [old] bicycles) to 3 vehicles today (1 paid off car, and 2 bicycles, one of which is electric). In addition, we’ve been making bi-monthly-ish trips to donation sites whenever we get a car-full of “stuff” to take and, most importantly, we’ve cut our buying of stuff down considerably.

There’s still a long way to go.

As much as we’ve gotten better, as of late, the truth is I still often feel like I’m drowning in junk and that I live more in a dumpster than a house. In 2012 we sold our first house together, a 750 square foot house we had bought 3 years earlier for $50,000. Today we live in an 1,800 square foot house and, frankly, it just seems to big to me. I’ve gotten better at frivolous purchases and simplifying my digital footprint but we still fill the house with furniture and “stuff” for the sake of “stuff” and it drives me crazy.

My solace, as of late, has been my computers. I’ve simplified and removed accounts, apps and more that I don’t need or even, in some cases, that I could drop in favor of using other tools better. When I get frustrated with stuff around the house I’ll turn back to my accounts and delete some more (I recently went as far as deleting every piece of data I possibly could from my Google and Twitter accounts among other places).

My digital life is where I have control.

The catch is, I’ve simplified my online footprint so far that these days I just go in and clean out logs and messages and all again which only takes me a few minutes as I have no history. The problem is I’m often deleting things I need in hopes of somehow “starting over” or something like that. Even things I probably do need have been sacrificed to “but it’s cleaner with nothing” and I’ve found I have to send important emails to my wife to make sure I don’t lose them completely.

This isn’t healthy.

What would be healthier is for me to try to work with my wife to simplify other rooms and stuff we don’t need in hopes that, one day, our home will actually feel like a home to me. The catch is she is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from me in terms of what we see as simple and that can lead to fights when I’m trying to clean things out.

Our truce.

Today we balance each other in that there is less “stuff” in the common rooms (all the stuff we’ve gotten rid of the last few years ago) and we each get one room, my office for me and the kitchen for her, where the other one is supposed to but out. That helps to an extent but we’re both often frustrated with parts of it.

Where we’re going

Here’s the thing… Simple isn’t always something you can just do. Cleaning things out is great if you live alone but if you live with someone you love, especially someone who doesn’t see stuff in the same light, it can quickly lead to frustration for both. For now our truce is working fairly well. The next step is turning to our living room and other rooms. It turns out that when no one really feels at home things like keeping the room clean can really suffer. So my first step is to try to clean up these rooms with Joy’s help and possibly outside help. From there it will be easier to take stock of what is left and move forward. Wish my luck.