It began when I was not even 20 and I was in a very unhealthy, scary relationship that was complicated and difficult to get out of. I looked around at an apartment full of stuff that was owned by both of us. I felt trapped. That is an understatement. I felt underwater, overwhelmed and helpless.

So I began packing boxes — for him.

I threw everything in that apartment into his boxes and walked out of there with my clothes and a boxspring.

I was free. I was free of him. I was free of all the “stuff’ and belongings that trapped me.

Good for me. Except what I brought with me was a neurosis about owning things. If I began to accumulate too many belongings, I started to feel trapped again.

One of the best experiences in my life was when I backpacked through Europe for two months. I carried everything I needed to live for 2 months on my back. I didn’t buy souveneirs — I took pictures. It was a wonderful time in my life. I was free as a bird, so to speak.

But that was not real life. In real life I had more than what fit on my back. I would move from one college apartment to another with what would fit in my small hatchback. I had discarded the boxspring early on and had a small, twin roll up futon mattress that rolled up in the back of my car.

I think I lived like this for another 15 years as I moved from apartment to apartment in L.A., then Seattle, then Monterey, then Oakland.

Then I got pregnant. For some reason this allowed me to relax a little. I didn’t feel like I had to be ready to run at any second. I didn’t feel trapped by my belongings anymore. Well, maybe a little.

Now, what I do, is I declutter. I only keep what I love and find useful. But I still know deep inside me there is the desire to own nothing and to be able to leave in a heartbeat.

I love those exercises where you look at your belongings and have to decide what to take if you have 20 minutes to pack before a fire consumes your house. Because there is always a mental list in my head.

So yes I am a minimalist in the good sense where I would rather be on my deathbed and remember all the “experiences” I had instead of the things I owned, but I also am a minimalist in the bad sense, where I fight within myself to be able to live a life where “stuff” doesn’t own me, I own it and it doesn’t take up space in my thoughts — it just is.

5 thoughts on “Minimalism”

  1. Wow, interesting post. You certainly sound like a vagabond — or an American in the Foreign Service! Are you a retired CIA operative, Kristi? ;o)

    I’m curious about that “mental list in your head” of the things you’d take if you had 20 minutes in a fire. What would they be?

    For me, my recipe file, my Proust books (heavily annotated from my two years of reading them), my address book, and photo albums. Funny that three of the four things (recipes, addresses, and photos) could all be scanned to electronic files, if I had the inclination. Sure would make the fire drill exercise a whole lot easier!

    How goes everything in The House that Sick Built? Better, I hope!

  2. Interesting post indeed. I wish I could remember where my desire to frequently get rid of things originated. I didn’t keep mementos from old flames either. In fact, every time I start feeling overwhelmed with life, I find myself downsizing. My husband often jokes that he will one day find himself out on the curb, if I haven’t found a need for him “w/in 6 months”. Luckily, he isn’t in any danger.

  3. Kristi- I love this- I think I am an aspiring minimalist- I am in so many ways in my life but in others- I need help.

    Thanks so much for your comments on my blog- sorry I have not been able to get back to you quickly. I am no longer going on my London trip but when I was ;( The majority of the colors I brought were black, midnight blues and emerald greens- I love wearing those colors in the winter. And that fab suitcase was by Tusting- made in England. It’s such a great high quality little case.

  4. Hey Kristi, I want to be more of a minimalist, too, and I really try. When I was younger, and when I was single, I didn’t really think about it, I just accumulated “stuff” like crazy. But now, maybe it’s because I am now a mother, with two little beings to be responsible for besides myself, I understand the burden of all that stuff and I am constantly trying to “downsize” to the essentials. I am by no means close to the ideal I have for myself, but I just keep going toward the goal. As for what I’d save in a fire, you’ve really got me thinking. I should write out that list!

  5. Growing up military I was used to packing up every 2 to 3 years so I learned early on all the stuff you accumulate just has to be re-packed up, some a minimalist approach is better – for me. As an adult I moved apartments nearly every year and it was a matter of sanity! Less was easier to move! I understand that people need to hold on to stuff, it comforts them, provides memories, I just have never been one to feel that way. I like a clean, stark look and I want to be ready to move to Paris, Honk Kong or across the street at a moment’s notice without too much difficulty. But my husband has a tendency to be a collector, so it is a bit of a challenge 🙂

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