My recent war that I've been waging has been against stuff. For a while (and by that I mean since 7th grade), I've produced my own income and spent most of it on things from the internet. I've talked about this before so I won't bore you with the laundry lists of my posessions.
Then when I sold my house in North Austin, I was faced with the prospect of moving all that stuff. My most financially productive years were while I lived there, so I bought a ton of stuff. During that period of collection it never occurred to me that I would eventually move. My garage as well as one of the bedrooms in the house because warehouses for my things.
When I moved, I took a pretty extreme approach. I went through every item in the house and made a decision - either I needed it or not. If it was worth more than $50 or so I sold it. If it was worth less than that I put it in a bedroom. If it was worth less than $5-10 I donated it or threw it away. I posted my address on craigslist and let people go into the bedroom and take all that they wanted. Within a few hours the bulk of my stuff was taken away.
Seeing all my stuff leave was strange. I remembered buying each item. There was the Vrtual Boy (that's a 3d Nintendo game, not some weird sex toy) that I bought on a school trip to Houston. I handed off my cuisinart ice cream maker whose arrival I eagerly anticipated for days. I watched as my plates that I had spent half an hour choosing left in someone else's hands. These were, for the most part, items that I had really wanted and spent a considerable amount of money on.
As people left with trucks and vans full of my stuff I felt like I was scamming them somehow. Here were things that I'd identified as clutter that other people were now burdening themselves with. Would that Virtual Boy actually improve that guy's life, or would it take up space in his closet? At the same time, I felt like a sucker. I'd spent thousands of dollars on these things, and giving them away was the best outcome I could find.
When all was said and done I had a small stack of boxes that fit neatly in the hallway of the condo. My entire house was reduced to just that small collection. I filled half a dumpster and dropped dozens of bag off at Goodwill.
I assumed that my distaste for stuff would wear off. It was just a temporary reaction to the drudgery of moving, I thought. I wanted to write about it here but I didn't want to go on and on about something only to change my mind a month later.
It's been over a month now, and my love for simplicity has only increased. A few days ago I went through the boxes that I had brought here and threw away half of the stuff in them. I did a clean sweep through the condo and photographed everything valuable that I didn't want. I then moved it into a closet and began listing it on ebay. I now list 2 things every day and will continue to do so until I don't have anything I don't need.
At my house I had a large HON two drawer lateral filing cabinet. I brought the files over here in several boxes. Today I went through every paper I have and shredded almost all of them. I filled up an entire trash bag with shreddings. The remainder of my files fit neatly into half of one of the small filing boxes. My parents allowed me to put a few plastic boxes in their attic of mementos (I'm far too sentimental).
Some things are hard for me to decide on. I bought the best pots and pans money can buy - All Clad Copper Core. I had them monogrammed with my name ("I'll always need pots and pans, right?") which makes them unsellable. On the rare occasions that I need a pan, using one of them is a pleasure.
What about these sequined pillows I have? They were given to me at a trade show. I like that someone gave them to me, and I think they're cool, but they serve no purpose in my life.
On a coffee table is a lamp that technically belongs to Courtney Love. She had moved out of the house without it, and I took it with me when I moved to Austin. She once confided in me that it was worth $100k (doubtful...), so I figured I ought not to leave it in the chaos that Project Hollywood had become. Still, I don't really want it, but I'm not in touch with her so I can't return it.
I have so many clothes in my closet that I paid tons of money for. I had a bit of an addiction to Cavalli, and it shows. Honestly I'd rather just wear some super functional patagonia capilene shirts now. It sounds stupid, especially considering how much I used to love to wear cool clothes, but it's not important anymore. The simplicity of having seven shirts and two pairs of pants and doing laundry once a week to keep them clean is really tempting to me. No closet needed - I'd just fold them in a suitcase.
In fact, I feel like I'm holding on to old things just because I'm worried that I'll lose my drive to make money. If Cavalli clothes don't excite me anymore, then why do I need millions?
It's little speedbumps like these that I'm still trying to deal with, but overall my progress has been amazing. When I look around and see how little stuff I have now, I feel really happy. More importantly, the stuff I do have is super high quality (worthy of being on bestintheland.com, even). I have only two computers besides my laptop (down from 20 or so), and I'm going to sell both soon.
So what's my goal with all this? To have so little stuff that I can have it all written on one page. I don't know how to explain it, but the idea of having a list of every single thing I own seems incredibly wonderful to me. Further, I want to be completely mobile. I want moving to be a simple 1 hour affair rather than a 3 day chore. You may wonder why moving is important since it's such a rare occurrence, which brings me to my next topic.
The condo has gone on the market and people have begun to look at it. The average time on the market for a property like this is 8 months, but that's no guarantee. I could be out of here next month, or I could be here for another year. There's no way to know.
This isn't an easy situation to plan for. On one hand I believe this is the best place to live in all of Austin, so I'd like to stay as long as possible. On the other hand, if I'm going to move it would be cool to have some sort of plan.
Really what I want to do is be a nomad. I love Austin, but I also love LA and Boston. More than any of those places, I love exploring the world. What if I could go to Japan for a month or two and have EVERYTHING I own with me? When I think of home I get this warm fuzzy feeling of security and comfort. I like being at home and tend to want to come back when I'm away for too long. What if home was just on the road? Would I still have that feeling wherever I went? I think so.
My ideal situation would be to find a cheap, tiny, but well appointed (wood floors, etc) apartment or guesthouse as close to downtown Austin as possible. My family and my best friends are here, so I may as well make this my home base. If I was only paying a few hundred a month for rent, I wouldn't feel like I was squandering money when I spent a month in another state or country. I'm not willing to live far away from downtown, though.
I spent an hour looking on ebay for an RV. Maybe I'll buy a 22' RV that has a little living room that doubles as a bedroom, a small kitchen (I'll replace the microwave with a light oven, obviously), and a tiny bathroom with a shower. Then I could literally bring my home anywhere in North America with me. Plus it would be so small that I could park it in front of friend's houses or in parking lots in Wal Mart. The idea of not paying any living costs is really cool too.
The only really large possessions I still have are my car (thinking about getting rid of it) and my bed and mattress. I really want to replace my bed and mattress with a luxurylite cot, but I think that might be pushing it a bit too far for the ladies.
So - that's what's been on my mind recently. Any feedback from you guys would be welcomed as always.