A new year and plans of doing more with less.
The last few weeks I have been combing through my office, my garage, my personal belongings, books, clothes and more and evaluating how much I need certain things. Each year we accumulate and each year I go through this feeling of being overwhelmed by my stuff. The process is an ongoing one and has taken years to reach an honest level of commitment to myself.
There was a time when I could put all of my belongings into a single car load. I was young, single and adventure minded. Now I am married, a dad, pet owner, I am older and live in a good house with a good share of storage spaces. I do look back fondly on those days of being somewhat aloof and transient if I needed to be. I know that I can survive on less if I need to. Not having the psychological weight of stuff is a freeing feeling.
I have been looking at each of my worldly goods and possessions. I’ve decided the whole lot of my belongings is getting a shakedown and a clearing out. Already, my surroundings are becoming less cluttered and the things that matter most to me are easier to identify, find, store, maintain and keep.
Each year I try to set a theme for myself. Some key words to live by for the year… a kind of mantra that I repeat and do my best to apply to my life and to live into. Last year was about simplicity and doing things without complexity. I would strive through the year to find the simplest process and adopt that. It worked out pretty well. I consolidated a lot of my life and was able to find better function in my day to day, work and play. This year is similar but different. This year the theme is to “do more with less. “ Becoming more of a minimalist is at the heart of it. I am not about to move out of our house and into a tiny house… That is not to say that this couldn’t happen another day. I really am drawn to them. But for now I am happy with our modest mid-century style 1960's house and raising our son with a large back yard and a basement full of toys.
You think it would be easy… Each item I look at I find myself sometimes going thorough an emotional assessment and argument. I know intimately on a smaller scale what some of those people you see on those “Hoarder-type” reality TV shows must feel as relatives start to toss things. Each little item seems to have a purpose that holds, a "sentimental?" or procrastinated value that makes it worth keeping. “I am going to use that..That will be useful someday soon.” Purging is an emotional process where we look at what we find value in and question ourselves (Hopefully) as to why?
My general process for purging uses boxes. I love boxes (and cool bags too) of all kinds but specifically boxes with character that are sturdy and have lids. Cigar boxes, cases, suit cases, bins and tool boxes all have a special place in my heart and in my psyche. I have found that if I gather up the bits and pieces of little items that clutter my life and put them into a big cardboard box (a temporary box that is actually too big for the job of holding the items) It makes the pile of stuff seem less significant and easier to manage by scale alone. This does the job quite quickly with a single sweep into the big box. The big box gets set aside and I am able to get my drawers, cabinets and counter tops get cleared and empty. Once in the box I can set it aside for a while and revisit it once I have assessed what purpose each new space I’ve created in my storage will serve.
The items in the big box end up in one of three places. the garbage, a bag for charity or a small box of stuff I am keeping “just because” or “just for now”. This remaining small box is the only box I will keep. It is the “everything box” a collection of things I am still not sure why I need to keep them but “you never know when you are going to need that thing.” This has worked for my office quite well. I can’t wait to see how it goes in my garage.
In the winter we tie flies. This last week my focus was on my fly tying gear and materials. As I poured through my fly tying materials I realized that there was a lot of surplus and I have wanted to make my fly tying simpler too. I have a box that holds all my materials, vise and tools. It is surprisingly small already. A briefcase sized wooden box holds everything I need and more.
"There was a time when I could put all of my belongings into a single car load. I was young, single and adventure minded."
This last year I have been tying Kebari exclusively. Many different materials here and there but all in the Kebari design. I have a few capes of feathers plus more hen and duck feathers than I will ever use. All of this still after sending out three big envelopes in a Kebari materials exchange. It felt very nice to send away all of my extra stuff this year in that exchange. Of course I also got a bunch of stuff in the exchange too but the two extra envelopes of materials that I sent out made up for that a bit.
As I head into the New Year I expect that I will have to also purge some old ideas that have been stacking up in my head as well. I am not sure how many little things have accumulated and I have no idea how big a box I am going to need to sweep them all into. I do know that there is no reason to live a life surrounded by things I may only possibly use.
I know that being surrounded in that way with those things can trap you and does keep you from acting on opportunities. I have always said that my surroundings reflect my mind and the cluttered rooms I have been working on are day by day clearing out and are much more pleasant to spend my time in.
This new year is going to be great. I hope that you find some inspiration here to create a better environment for yourself as well.
Happy New Year!
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.