The Unintentional Minimalist

Over the past 5 months, I’ve been slowly going through all my belongings in preparation for my big move to Germany. It started one week in January when Atlanta got enough snow and ice to paralyze the city for almost a week. I couldn’t get to work because it took that long for my parking lot to thaw enough to rescue my car.

yes it does get cold in Atlanta
yes it does get cold in Atlanta

That week, Andy and I talked a lot about our future together, and I knew big changes were coming. I ate lots of pasta since it was all I had in the kitchen, walked across the street for tacos and much needed caffeine when I ran out of Vanilla Coke Zero, and I went through a dozen boxes I had been carting around for years. I’ve averaged about 2 years per apartment since I graduated college in May of 2002, and apparently I decided it wasn’t worth my effort to go through these boxes each time I moved. It turns out I could’ve thrown out the entire contents of my hall closet, where I’ve been keeping these boxes, and I never would’ve missed a thing. Almost everything ended up in the trash or in a pile to go to Goodwill.

Here are just a few ridiculous things I found:

  • A box of cassette tapes, many of which were blank mixed tapes of half songs recorded from the radio. Really?! I’ve been lugging those around for the past 9 years? Or really closer to 20 years since recording them. Do I need the last half of “What is Love” by Haddaway? (Laugh all you want, the full version is on my iPod.)
  • 2 boxes of old notes. You know, the kind you used to write to your friends in the middle of your boring 8th grade math class and then fold up like origami. While a few of these were entertaining, the majority were pretty stupid. It’s fun to go through memories sometimes, but if the only time I look at these things are every third time I move, they’re not worth keeping.
  • Old diaries. For sentimental reasons I thought I might hang on to these. Until I started reading them. I bored myself. The details I felt the need to make permanent record of were shockingly mundane. I got excited when I came across entries from trips I took to Europe when I was in high school, but apparently I felt it more important to remember that Jane was being annoying so Mary and I didn’t want to hang out with her that day (names have been changed…just in case “Jane” happens upon my blog and cares that one day 17 years ago I thought she was annoying in Paris).
  • A Discman. Walkman for CD’s. I was so excited when they first came out, but when is the last time it was even relevant? I doubt I ever used it beyond my college years, so why did it survive the first move out of my parents’ house?
is there a museum for this stuff yet?

I ended up with a pile for Goodwill that was so big I couldn’t walk from the kitchen/dining area to the couch without having to step over things. Sadly I forgot to take a picture of the mountain of crap, my apologies for that. The first load of stuff I took to Goodwill filled my entire trunk and the back seat of my car. I have since given a few things away to friends, sold a few things, and emptied out my closet. I finally got rid of the majority of the clothing most women keep for years in the desparate hope that someday those clothes will fit again. While Andy was here for our wedding, he helped me get rid of more stuff, including a few more trips to Goodwill.

When Andy left to go back home to Freiburg yesterday, he took two checked bags weighing a total of 96 pounds of stuff I’m keeping and a huge stack of his books, along with his two carry-on bags. I’m now left with furniture to sell and a random assortment of kitchen items and decorative things I’m hoping to sell or give away. (Atlanta friends, this means you! Come buy/take my stuff!) A friend of mine is buying my car the day before my birthday so I won’t have to pay to register it for two weeks, but she’s graciously letting me borrow it until moving day. Thanks Allison!

I’ve never thought of myself as a pack rat, but I have held on to things for way too long “just in case” I might need them later. Which was ridiculous because I never would’ve remebered that I owned whatever it was I needed later. It has been extremely liberating to get rid of so much unnecessary junk. I will never be one of those minimalists who can carry all of their worldly possessions in a backpack, but I definitely care a lot less about accummulating things. The experiences gained from traveling and from life in general are so much more important than any belongings.