I’m going small and it feels good. We’re in the process of finding a suitable motorhome to live in. A beautiful Class C to modify for our purposes. A remodeled rear bedroom for storage, a composting toilet in the lavatory, a bigger kitchen, more comfortable seating, and lots of places for our cats to climb, perch and play! And there will be lots of storage. Cabinets, drawers, shelves, shit hanging from the ciling, but that’s not to say I want to cram everything I have now into an RV with me. That doesn’t sound like any fun. So, I’m going through this process of weeding or filtering my stuff out down to a manageable level. Those words don’t really describe it though. I prefer “distillation”.
“Weeding” out stuff is like saying I don’t want it. That’s not really true. Moving here from Pennsylvania forced me to go through my stuff and pick out books I want, sticks of furniture I appreciate, clothes I wear, and so on. What I trucked out here (there was more than I thought there would be) ended up being a condensed version of all the crap I collected living outside my parent’s house for seven years. I’m a recovering hoarder. Low level. Not keeping used fingernail clippings, mind you, but I’m a sucker for free construction materials, electrical stuff, plastic stock, buckets; stuff like that. I like being prepared and having a good supply of materials when I might need something.
“Filtering” is just dumb. Filtering is about selecting for size. Although I do favor smaller in some cases, that’s just a silly comparison.
Minimalism right now feels more like distillation. I’m starting with a large batch of possessions, and through a process of selecting for very specific properties, I end up with a smaller, more manageable pile of stuff that has a higher average use value. We did this once in Pennsylvania. Much like making grain alcohol, it’s better to distill several times to get a good final product. Well, that’s what we needed to do because there is a basement full of junk that hasn’t hardly been touched in a year.
Books are a good example. I love books. When I buy a book it might be read one or two times and then it’s shelved in near perfect condition. I had a ton of them just sitting there. Sure I would refer to them and try to get people to read them, but what good are they shelved in my home, taking up space? Hundreds of pounds needing moved everywhere I move. I’ve been going to the Multnomah County Library. It’s fantastic and convenient! They have just about everything I want to read. So that’s where my books are going. If I want others to enjoy the books I’ve read, the best way is to donate them to the library so they get the most use. If I want to read it again, I know where to find a copy. 150 pounds have gone this way. What’s left is a few I want to read or re-read in the next few months, some antique refrigeration books and references. I miss looking at my giant bookshelf being reminded of fascinating concepts and histories, but this is better for me and those people that get to read them now without buying another copy. Collaborative consumption is great!
Living in such a small space is going to make for many conflicts about what I might want to bring into my home and what will reasonably fit. Without even owning a motorhome, I’m already deciding what kinds of materials I’m willing to surround myself with. Minimalism by distillation applies to the process of adding things to my pile of stuff. If I only have limited space than I’m not filling it up with crappy IKEA furniture. With less than 150 square feet, why put down cheap carpet or laminate flooring instead of good quality hardwood flooring? Forget the dollar store dish drying rack; give me the stainless or wood one that is repairable and meant to last.
Most folks I know possess an insane mass of stuff compared to people two or three generations ago. How much of it though can be passed on to the next two or three generations? Competition driven capitalist production has given us more, but adulterated these products so we’d keep coming back for seconds, thirds and on and on. I’d rather have less, with a greater appreciation to the care, quality and usefulness of the distilled life. Drink up!