Minimalism: By choice or necessity

So I have been reading a lot about minimalism lately and it hit me like a ton of bricks, I am a minimalist.  Whether it was by choice, chance or necessity, It happened to me in 2005 and again this year.  It actually began in 2005 when I was living with my then girlfriend, now ex, in Bradenton Florida.  She moved back to California after months of not being able to find work and my money situation at the bike store where I worked, unable to keep us afloat.  I had been alone in the apartment with our 3 cats for almost 3 months and was missing being around her.  We had spent nearly 7k getting all of our stuff down to the two bedroom apartment and knew we wouldn't have enough cash to get it back to California. I am very logical when it comes to matters of this nature, and decided to discuss the merits of downsizing.  The hard part of the discussion with my ex, while on the phone, was looking around at all the things that we had.  Most of our stuff was antique and had been passed down from family, so when deciding that we must sell, it caused an emotional lump in my throat.

After realizing that it was just "stuff", I was able to convince my girlfriend, that it was just that and could be replaced down the road with other stuff.  I began the daunting task of putting everything, and I mean everything on craigslist.  If it wouldn't fit in a small trailer to pull behind my girlfriends car, it wasn't going to stay with us.  We agreed on keeping clothes, some cookware, her bike and the cats; other than that, it had to go.

My plan was to be done selling everything by the end of January 06 so that I could be on the road by Feb 1st.  We broke our lease and luckily just had to pay one months rent as we had someone who wanted to move into our place.  My girlfriend agreed to meet me in tucson and drive the last day in with me, since she had just started work and was unable to take the time off.  We had agreed to live in her parents house for a month or so until we could get off our feet and find our own place.  As luck would have it, after listing everything on Craigslist, the night before my uncle was to fly down and help me load up the trailer, I had a guy make me an offer on the last 3 pieces of furniture that I needed to get rid of.  Of course it was much less than what I really thought the items were worth, but in the end, when you have to go, money becomes less of a necessity and more of a "thing".

Needless to say, the move went off well, however the relationship didn't fair well.  It was the beginning of the end for my girlfriend and I.  She needed things and stuff to make her feel safe and secure.  The fact that I was coming back to San Diego with no job and no money, put more strain on the relationship than it could handle.  By December of '06 we decided to throw in the towel on our 5 year relationship and move on.  She moved out and I stayed in the apartment as I didn't want to break the lease.  She took my favorite cat, pepper, and I kept the other two, Tigher and Precious.

Fast forward to this year.  I was still living a relatively minimal lifestyle in Leucadia.  I was renting a room right by the beach from my best friends Dad.  I had minimal clothes and minimal "stuff" (Bed, dresser, computer desk and remaining boxes of stuff from 05 move).  I have been very appreciative of the little amount of stuff that I have.  That was all about to change in February of this year.

I got the call from my aunt that my mom wasn't doing well. She wasn't able to keep food down.  We brought her to the hospital where they looked at her tongue (she had cancer on the other side of her tongue in 2002, but because of chemo and radiation, it was in remission).  The doctor said initial diagnosis was cancer on the opposite side of her tongue.  The biopsy confirmed it and before long, I was called to the hospital one morning when my aunt phoned and said mom wasn't doing well and couldnt' breathe.  When I entered the hospital room, I was shocked to see such a frail woman of 82 pounds.  She was skin and bones.  I knew without shadow of a doubt that I would have to move up to LA and help care for her now.  After I quickly experienced all 5 stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance; I decided the only thing to to was get rid of all my "stuff" and move up to LA.

I can tell you now that aside from losing a loved one, walking away from 3 wonderful, loving and unique cats, could be the hardest thing next to death that I have had to face. I gave away and sold most of my stuff, but the hardest thing to do was to give my girls away.  (BTW they are in a wonderful home at the moment, but I still need to find a permanent place for them to live)  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about them and miss them, but I did what i felt I needed to do and that was be here for my dying mother.  Aside from a few towels and necessities, 1 box of school books and 1 box of holiday stuff, I am almost down to the bare minimum.

I sleep on a borrowed bed in a room that was designed to be an office.  I don't have all the things I once owned that I thought made a house a home.  Instead I have a place to get out of the weather and to rest my weary head, and to be honest, in a weird kind of way, I really like it.  I find it very liberating to go through stuff and figure out what it is that you really want and need.  I'm also not done, and find myself now looking around the room at stuff I don't really want nor need.

You see, we fill our lives with things that we think we need that are going to make us happy.  We get one thing and after it loses its luster, we move on the the next (best)thing.  After that thing loses its luster, its on the the next next (best) thing and so on and so forth.  The reality of my journey is, I need 4 things.  My laptop, my cellphone, a camera, and the love of family and friends and that is it.  The rest of the shit works itself out.

Ryan Bingham, from up in the air gave a speech at his seminar.  That speech was this:
"How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you're carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life... you start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks, then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV... the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home... I want you to stuff it all into that backpack... The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks. "

Now I know that some people are swans and I am not trying to convince anyone to become a shark by any means.  My challenge to you is that the next time you walk by something in the electronics department, or a neat gadget in the household store, ask yourself, "Do I really need that, or just want it?"  How much does your life weigh?  Is that weight worth the fight?  If the answer to those questions is a lot and no, you may want to think about cutting the fat out of your life.

Until next time...

PS.  I do have a car that I pay for monthly, but I am not afraid to walk away from it in a heartbeat.  Its just a thing that gets me from point a to point b.  If point a and b were closer, I could walk.