I just recently moved living spaces. From renting a room in a home to renting an apartment. It’s a small apartment. 300 square feet. For many people that’s not enough space but it’s actually perfect for me. I am what some people would call a ‘minimalist’. I own a 2002 Honda Accord Coupe. It’s a relatively small car and I was able to move all of my things, minus my bed, in one car trip. Since leaving home for college, I have never been one to own many things. I could get off into America and Materialism but, in this post, I’m going to focus on the efficient use of time and energy. Particularly, the use of energy over time, to attain and keep the life that we envision for ourselves.
Let me say this: I like nice things! Hands down. Nice clothes, cars, homes, cookware, computers, phones, etc. However, over the last 10 years I have come to understand that the more material possessions I have, the more I have to give energy to those things to maintain them. As a college student living in dorms, as a soldier living in barracks, and as an entrepreneur trying to keep my costs of living low, I have been somewhat nomadic over the last decade plus. Moving every couple of years or so. I keep the things that are meaningful and useful to me. I don’t let people push things off on me and I scrutinize purchases not just for monetary reasons but for real value added. “Will this item make my quality of life better?” Each move has gotten progressively easier as I pare things down to essential, enjoyable, personal possessions. For me, moving is no longer a huge hassle. This last one took me a couple of days. That’s from starting the packing process, getting everything to the new place, cleaning the old place, and unpacking everything into it’s right spot in the new place. Two days. I didn’t miss a workout and I stayed pretty close to my normal eating style.
What else? I gave three speeches at Tacoma Community College in the same week I moved. I did some editing for this blog in the same week that I moved. I did some networking for my business in the same week I moved. I did some delivery driving for UberEats in the same week I moved. I bought a set of dishes from one store, returned it, and went to a different store and bought the same stuff all over again because there were better deals, in the same week I moved. I did New-Hire Orientation for Tacoma Public Schools in the same week I moved. I hung out with some of my friends in the same week I moved. I only asked one friend to help me move my mattress because I couldn’t fit that in my car. The frame, I broke down in minutes and moved myself. My life did not stop because I was moving. I maintained momentum. I’m writing this on the Monday following move week and I’m right back to normal. In reality, I don’t know that I got out of normal. I was still in Beast-Mode and that’s normal for me.
I contrast this with the experiences that I have had helping friends and family move over the course of my life. I’ll put myself in the negative and call myself a ‘weirdo’ in this regard. Normal people have a lot of stuff. Stuff that they have collected over their lifetime. Sentimental stuff. Stuff that they haven’t used in years but just feel they need to keep. There’s the classic statement of truth, “Well, when you buy a house you have to fill it up!” (Of course, I’m joking) The moving process is stressful, arduous, and seemingly never ending for people. Stuff ends up still in boxes or still in storage for years sometimes. One human, with a large closet full of clothes, a literal piles of shoes, eight different old smartphones/tablets/laptops, and enough dishes/cookware to feed the Seahawks a Super Bowl Celebration Dinner. I said I wouldn’t get on materialism but just for a moment: Y’all, this is Ridiculous! It’s like we’re preparing for doomsday but instead of doomsday it’s like HostDay or DressyEventDay. You know that day that’s coming where you’ll need all those dishes at once or that day that’s coming where you’ll need that sniper outfit that can only come together from a pile of unused options. You know, DressyEventDay. Shaking my head…
The biggest observation however is how inefficient and cumbersome this all becomes for people. People hate moving! Why? All the crap that they are responsible for maintaining and shuttling around. It felt like a good idea when you bought it but you’ve only used it once in 2 years and now you and your spouse are fighting because you just banged up your knuckles trying to get it from the second level of the home down a narrow hallway and through four little doorways and you’re confused as to how you got it up there originally and why you still have it and your significant other just can’t get rid of it! Whatever ‘it’ is! People spend a month or two moving between places sometimes. Workouts disappear. Eating habits turn into whatever. Budgets, if they existed, get turned on their heads. Family’s go completely internal as they try to survive the whirlwind of unsettling and resettling. And, people fight. Moving is one of those experiences that brings up old stuff, literally, and can exacerbate underlying tensions in any type of relationship. In part, that’s a good thing, however, if I’m going to expose a raw nerve I’d rather do it in a sterile environment, like a counselor’s office or on a walk in the park on a nice Spring Day. Not while trying to wrestle some big piece of trash down a flight of stairs. I’m just saying…
None of us desires a life of perpetual stress. Every single one of us wants to be able to respond to the challenges of life in a calm and cool manner. Level headed with rational thinking and empathy towards others involved. This type of control over one’s emotions requires energy to learn and energy to maintain. We won’t have it if all of our energy is going to ‘stuff’. Many of our frustrations with life seem to stem from self imposed chaos. The dopamine hit from having a new thing feels really good in the moment but the long-term baggage of lugging around something that isn’t cool anymore, sucks. Often we respond by buying another thing, whilst holding on to the old thing. It’s easier to just tuck the old thing into a closet and forget about it. Chasing that high and feeding our own burden.
A few years ago, I did think I was somewhat of a weirdo, but I am realizing that many people are getting sick of being crushed under the weight of their own stuff. The Tiny House Movement and Micro Apartments in places like New York City are evidence of a growing sense of fatigue with the burden of too many things. It’s simple folks: As your cost of living goes up, the amount of money you must make, right now, goes up. This creates limitations in your ability to experiment with endeavors that my be much more fulfilling but don’t have an immediate pay off. Is a closet full of clothes really worth sacrificing true fulfillment in life? Is maintaining the status quo really worth sacrifices to the quality time spent with loved ones? Everything and Every decision has a trade off.
Have you ever had a room in your home or maybe just a closet or drawer that is filled with random things that you never use? We say things like, “One day I’m going to go through that stuff and purge!” Whether we follow through with it or not, it seems to take up space in our minds. It’s like nagging knee pain. It’s not a show stopper but it would be great if it were gone. A few years ago I decided to follow through and purge. My goal was simple: I wanted to be able to quickly locate everything that I owned. If asked to produce an important document, I wanted to be able to go to it quickly. If asked by a friend to borrow a type of tool, I wanted to be able to confidently say whether or not I had it, and produce it quickly. No mental lag. I got rid of old military uniforms and gear. I went through stacks of paperwork. I donated tools and clothes that I wasn’t using. When all was said and done, I was lighter and clearer. My sense of comfort in my apartment was higher. It was around this time that I started my first blog. Seems as though I got some creative energy back.
What if you got that space back in your mind? What would you be able to give that mental energy to?
Something to Ponder…