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.