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.
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?
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.
Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures
June 21, 2011 @ 11:36 PM
Hehehe my one big memory of the DIscman is how it used to skip when you walked!
I wouldn’t have considered myself a pack rat either but when I go through stuff at home with my mom…oh boy… At least I’m good at downsizing, but only when I’m forced to!
June 21, 2011 @ 11:40 PM
Ah yes, the skipping Disman… Yeah, I never would’ve forced myself to get rid of so much stuff if I wasn’t moving 4600 miles away.
June 21, 2011 @ 11:51 PM
Good for you for getting rid of your stuff. Doesn’t it feel good? I don’t consider myself a minimalist but I LOVE getting rid of stuff — which is a good thing as I move just as much as you do. When I went home this winter, I pared down my belongings to 2 large Rubbermaid containers (besides the luggage I brought with me to China). Even though it feels good to be so untethered, I worry that maybe I got read of some sentimental stuff — like letters and other stuff — that I will wish I had at some point in my life. I did keep all the journals though (but I can’t bring myself to read them!)
June 22, 2011 @ 12:49 AM
I know I’ll still have things to leave at my parents’ house, like yearbooks and band photos (yep I was a band geek) but hopefully not too much. I love the feeling of getting rid of stuff. Next time you’re home, read the journals, they’re good for a laugh!
June 21, 2011 @ 11:57 PM
I once moved so often (paring down each time), that I was convinced that, at the end of it all, I would end up living in a cardboard box with all my belongings in a shopping cart. Come to think of it I think I actually moved with a shopping cart one time!
June 22, 2011 @ 12:50 AM
You moved with a shopping cart? I bet that was entertaining for anyone who witnessed it!
June 22, 2011 @ 8:18 AM
I’ve been thinking of downsizing for a while now! No grand moving plans at the present, but there’s always the dream. Congrats on this huge step!
June 22, 2011 @ 1:15 PM
Thanks Lizzie! Go for it, downsizing feels great!
Mary Ann Hawthorne
June 22, 2011 @ 9:50 AM
Funny you should mention the discman. I saw someone running with one on an armband last week!
June 22, 2011 @ 1:15 PM
OMG hilarious! I guess it could’ve been worse, could’ve been a walkman!
June 22, 2011 @ 10:52 AM
I used to make those cassette tapes!! And just so you don’t feel all that bad about your music choice, I am very sure mine contained “What is Love” as well 🙂 And of course they were always missing the first 10-30 seconds of the song since it took me that long to run to the stereo and hit record 🙂 The good times!
June 22, 2011 @ 1:16 PM
Yes, the fun of bad homemade mixes!
June 22, 2011 @ 11:34 AM
Purging feels good. I only wish I could have sold more stuff (both yours and mine) at the yard sale. I’ll be over sometime soon to see what stuff I can steal and make your life better. Oh, and I loved me some mixed tapes back in the day. Always hated when the DJ would cut in early..sigh. 🙂
June 22, 2011 @ 1:17 PM
I’m just glad you were having the yard sale and were able to make $52 for me. Also, that bag you gave me and Andy helped sooooo much! Thank you!
June 22, 2011 @ 12:13 PM
Wow- i can totally relate. My wife is always on my case for holding on to stuff too long. More then a horder, I am a sentimentalist. Almost everything has some sort of sentimental value to me, therefore I wind up with huge bins through an unsortable collection of stuff. When we got married 4 years ago, I threw out a lot of things, but still moved a bunch into our garage and furnace room storage. Now we are selling our house, I need to throw more out. I always tell people I hang on to so much stuff so they have enough for my museum- but that excuse is getting old with my poor wife.
June 22, 2011 @ 1:19 PM
I read somewhere that if you need to get rid of things but are having a hard time because of sentimental reasons, you should just take a picture of the things you need to get rid of. That way you can still look at the item and have those memories but without the clutter. Worth a try.
June 22, 2011 @ 12:36 PM
Ahhh the process of going through the shit we own and lug around for years is hilarious. I too found many old things while getting rid of things for my big trip that I was just like wow… really??? It’s good though to go through everything and get rid of what you dont need. I see it as the less you own the less your stuff will own you. Now that I am home I think I’m going to go through my things and get rid of even more things.
June 22, 2011 @ 1:20 PM
Exactly, I don’t want my stuff to own me. Have a great time at home these few weeks, and good luck with getting rid of more stuff!
June 22, 2011 @ 3:54 PM
Saw your comment over on my blog and decided to stop by to say hello. If you have any questions about NZ or anywhere else, let me know. Have fun on your trip and congrats on getting married – your story is so romantic!
June 22, 2011 @ 5:34 PM
Thanks Amy! I probably will ask you some questions at some point, thanks!
crazy sexy fun traveler
June 29, 2011 @ 5:59 PM
Oh, how many things we have which we do not need! I got rid of 5 huge bags and gave them to charity when I left Italy and went to Mexico! Good luck with throwing away the stuff 🙂
June 29, 2011 @ 8:38 PM
Thanks! At least one more trip to Goodwill for me!
June 29, 2011 @ 7:33 PM
Good for you! I recently did the same thing, it was so freeing! I really was a pack rat before, but I found myself thinking the same things as you (why in the world did I keep this stuff?)
When it was done I kept looking around my apartment thinking about how much more space I could have had without all my junk. I had taken it through several moves, too.
Also, ahem…. I still use a discman…. lol
June 29, 2011 @ 8:40 PM
I sold tons of stuff today so it looks really empty. Kinda weird but good. Hilarious about the discman!
July 3, 2011 @ 10:31 PM
Oh man, I know that feeling. When we were clearing all our items for our recent trip I kept opening boxes and wondering WHY? every time I saw something I kept.
July 3, 2011 @ 10:53 PM
Yep I know that feeling. And I still keep finding things even though my place is almost completely empty!
July 14, 2011 @ 1:42 PM
HA! That’s a great post 🙂 I think we’ve all got some ‘funny’ treasures stored in boxes back home. I remember when discmans were all the rage. That seems funny now – like those enormous cell phones from the 90’s you see if you watch reruns of shows like Seinfeld.
July 17, 2011 @ 7:40 AM
July 20, 2011 @ 1:57 PM
speaking of casette tapes, my dad is adamant that he’s not getting rid of his. we have a huge pile of junk in the living room (all his) and he’s avoided doing anything about it for the past 10 years. it’s really sad. just the other day we got him to start getting rid of stuff, but at every turn it was like fighting a stubborn little kid…or old man for that matter. he was like “there’s some video games from our first computer, and save those AOL discs.” it was a hassle, to say the least.
July 20, 2011 @ 4:10 PM
Yikes, AOL discs?! Yeah, that’s pretty bad! Who knows why some people hold on to so many things they don’t need. Thanks for the comment, Mack!
August 5, 2011 @ 7:55 AM
Wooow Walkmans! I haven’t seen those for a long time. It’s lovely to find old stuff and just remember them, all those memories… I bet you had a lot of fun reading the old diaries.