House and Home, Personal Finance

The Desire for a Simple Life

When I was about 13 years old, the Ron Howard film “Apollo 13” came out and spurred in me an interest in becoming as astronaut. I eventually let go of this desire, mostly because it would have required either (1) military service or; (2) a degree involving a lot of math and physics. Neither of those options sounded particularly appealing for someone who really just wants to be able to experience a zero gravity environment amongst the stars at some point in her life. I digress. There’s one particular scene right after the Lovell family and their friends have watched the first moon landing on television in which Jim and Marilyn Lovell are outside in their backyard and Marilyn says, “I can’t deal with cleaning up. Let’s sell the house.” That is exactly how I feel right now!

The Big Shmoopy and I have recently been discussing our desire to live more simply. Has anyone else ever just grown frustrated with their closet/desk/kitchen drawers/spare room/car/wardrobe/insert various life space and wanted to throw everything away and start over? Every few months I just get a while hair to clean out my closets and dump everything I own, but this time, it’s a little more serious than just re-organizing all the unnecessary crap I own!

I suppose it’s a bit ungrateful of me to feel this way. Many people would love to have the luxury of owning as much stuff as I do. I suppose I just begin to feel overly crowded, that my life is cluttered with too much unnecessary stuff. Perhaps I am just growing in my minimalist tendencies!  Every time I go through my closet and dresser drawers, I usually manage to come up with at least one giveaway bag which I then take to the donation trailer outside my office.

Anyway, this past month, we really got serious about simplifying our living space. We have two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, dining and living room. We also have a one-car garage. Our three closets were a hot mess, and the second bedroom needed some serious attention. So, about three weeks ago, we started in. We cleaned out the guest room closet and organized and purged various sundry items. Much to my chagrin, we did put back some of our stuffs that we haven’t used in a while. But, we got started which is a step in the right direction. Rather than simply organizing, we started to ask ourselves why we need this or that thing.

We also began the process of converting the second bedroom back to a full-time music and arts room. (About six weeks ago, we converted the space from Brandon’s office to a bedroom for my mother. I explain more about that in this post. Sadly, she stayed with us only three days before we had to take her back to the hospital where she ultimately passed away.)

(On a related note, I fully realize that some of my desire to simplify my life may be rooted in grief.)

Here are some of the steps we’ve taken to simplify.

1. Television. Prior to my mother coming to stay with us, we were given a large flat screen television. Before this, we had only a small monitor which we kept in a closet and occasionally used to watch movies. Because we anticipated my mother would be with us longer than she actually was, we accepted the larger television and stand, reasoning that my mother would enjoy watching some of her favorite movies on it. We attempted a movie with her only once, and she fell asleep. After her passing, we kept the television up for a while to see how we felt about having the constant ability to watch movies on a larger screen and without any setup required. It was mega convenient. It was so convenient, in fact, that we often defaulted to watching movies or hooking up the laptop to binge watch TV shows via Netflix. Historically, we haven’t watched that much television, but having that large TV set in the living room made it a constant option. There was less talking to each other. Less reading. And forget about working out. So, we have disconnected the television and moved it out of the living room. Soon it will be returned to the person who gave it to us.

2. Office furniture. Since Brandon got a new job earlier this year, we deduced that we no longer needed a home office. We relocated our two bookshelves to the garage and boxed up all our books. Some of the books may make their way back into the house, but many of them are now living at Brandon’s office. Truth be told, though I love to read, I don’t miss the shelves. We have one handy built-in behind our bedroom door that currently houses DVDs and other less-often-used items. I’d like to clean that off and relocate some of the unread books – which I want to read – to that particular shelf. We sold our two desks on Craigslist.

3. Stuff. In addition to the desks, we also recently sold Brandon’s rarely-used (and very aged) table saw. We have also listed a lathe which Brandon has literally never used on Craigslist. He got these tools for free, so any dollars gained from their sale are just money in our pockets. We are using funds raised from the sale of these items to purchase free weights and gym equipment for the garage, which will save us other funds once we cancel our $40 per month gym membership. So far, we have purchased more than 300 pounds worth of bumper plates, two 10-pound hand weights, a couple medicine balls and a super nice weight-lifting bar. We have also broken even on our purchase of gym equipment. The money we used to pay for it has all come back to us in the form of Craigslist sales! Baby steps to frugal living FTW!

In conclusion, we are attempting to pursue a more simplistic life. For me, this pursuit has brought about a desire to challenge myself. Just how little can I get away with purchasing in the realm of clothing, household items and other stuff? I find that the past several months have spurred in me a desire for less. Less stuff. Less stress. To some degree, watching my mother go through the dying process made me hyper aware of the areas of my life that weren’t worth the effort and brought about a sincere desire to live more intentionally in the areas that matter.