Lists are your friend. Lists can help us remember things, remind us of goals, and provide order to our endeavors. So of course, when considering a simpler lifestyle, making lists can be a very large part of that.
My goal is to simplify my life, so I’ve been making lots of lists. It started with my wardrobe. On my most recent trip to Canada, I checked in with just under 100 pounds of luggage, and it was 95% clothing. I was mortified. Really? My must have bundle is 100 pounds? It was a wake up call, a signal that it’s time to purge again.
I’ve been purging for a few years, getting down to the necessities, but now it’s time to get to the nitty gritty. I had to ask myself, “What are my necessities?” The answer led to a list of my ideal wardrobe. The list is in no way set stone, but it’s a great way to figure out what to keep and what to ditch. My ultimate goal is to be able to fit my essential wardrobe in one standard military duffle bag.
Now, of course there are caveats to this plan. For instance, my winter gear generally stays in Canada, so those items don’t count. Next, is my Burning Man gear, which I’ve also been paring down for the last couple of years. Gone are the costumes and fun fur. My Playa wardrobe is mostly work clothes now, but I still keep a cocktail dress or two and the ubiquitous sun dress for hot days of hard work.
Knowing what you really need in life helps you select what you really want. Now with a more limited wardrobe, as items wear out, I will replace them with high quality pieces that I love to wear. For me it’s a healthy transition. Instead of buying new clothes to fill a whole in my life, I will be buying them to fill a hole in my wardrobe.
Remember Algebra? Finding a solution for the value of x, that makes things equal on both sides of the equation, didn’t seem like a life skill at the time, but when it comes to downsizing it really is. In this case x is the amount one really needs to be comfortable, and it’s actually a lot less than you might think.
Downsizing is increasing in popularity. Whether it’s to avoid debt or to live simply, downsizing begins with a change in values. Why have a huge trophy home and all it’s associated expenses? Is there really a need to rival Imelda with the number of shoes you have? And how many kitchen gadgets do you really need? Just like in algebra the first step to finding an unknown is to maybe look at a problem a little differently. In this case the perspective is more about what you really need as opposed to what you want.
It’s a bit of a shift. We have been taught that success is having all the things. It’s a message that is reenforced relentlessly by mainstream media and memes. To go from having it all to what could be considered a modified minimalist lifestyle might seem counterintuitive to our culture, or even unpatriotic. But then again, maybe our culture is counterintuitive to a better way to live, in which case x is equal to what you choose to value most.
The thought of living a simpler life continues to tumble around in my head. It’s all about basics. I need a place to live, I need to eat, I need adequate clothing and a means to acquiring all these things.
When I was a kid, my mother’s mantra was, “if you can’t eat it, use it to make your car go, or keep warm with it, you don’t need it.” She grew up poor, very poor. She and her grandmother lived in a shack without running water, they knew how to make do. Although they lived simply out of necessity, I hope to live such a life intentionally.
Why would I decide to live such a life? The question warrants an easy one word answer: control. I believe that having a simplified wardrobe for instance can lead to less stress. Imagine, wearing only clothes that are both durable and genuinely comfortable. It is possible. Now, consider food choices. It really isn’t difficult to create fast healthy food that’s economical. Investing in the time to learn such skills not only decreases sedentary time, but gives you a sense of control about what is in your food, something that just doesn’t exist when consuming processed, prefabricated entrees.
In my mind living quarters and transportation pose the biggest challenge for a simplified life. I currently have a car that is reliable, economical and paid for. I also rely heavily on public transit and a bike. Transpo, for the moment, is not too big of an issue. A place to live is another story. I have narrowed it down to three options: a mid-sized Airstream trailer, a live-aboard 27′ sailboat, or a tiny home. Although each has merits and challenges, they also each have limited space great potential for economical living. It’s that potential that excites me the most. I call it living more with less. But more on that later.