The Environmentalist Justification


I totally just caught myself using the “it’s better for the environment” argument to hold on to a bunch of stuff. Specifically a multitude of coffee mugs. First I should confess that I love coffee mugs, I had a tendency to acquire them like a collection. So when I decided to move towards a minimalist lifestyle, I knew that I was going to have to get rid of a few. Not having actually counted, I believe the number was somewhere around…22. Bear in mind that I drink coffee at my home approximately once a week, if that.

Now, I have pared down the collection quite a bit. I keep 8 10 in my cupboard right now, and recognize that’s probably still more than I need. Plus, aside from the 10 in my cupboard, I have another 7 or 8 that I keep in the drawer where I keep my lunch bag. These rotate in and out of the office.

The justification, of course, being that if I bring a clean cup to the office and the dirty cup home to put in the dishwasher, I won’t use the paper cups and hence, I’m protecting the environment. But this afternoon I came up with a crazy idea. Now this is really revolutionary, so brace yourself…

What if I kept one mug at the office and washed it?

I know, crazy right? I told you it was a novel idea.

It is a rare situation that holding on to too much stuff actually helps the environment. And it’s something I’ll be working through. I started this post yesterday and can say that today, I came to the office with 6 mugs and added them to the office cupboard. My hope is that the next time someone here reaches for a mug, they will use one that I have donated to the stash instead of paper cup. What’s more environmentalist than that?

What are your justifications for holding onto excess stuff, or stuff that doesn’t suite you?

Gone, baby, gone.


What a sweet, sweet feeling it is to have so much stuff out of my house! This past weekend, I invited a couple friends over to dig through my pile to see if they found any treasures in my trash. When they left (yes, with a few goodies) the piles of clothes and household items that were taking up massive space in my home were quickly loaded into a borrowed mini van and delivered to Goodwill.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be making progress.

There are probably words out there somewhere to express what I’m feeling, but they’re escaping me at the moment. To say that a weight has been lifted, is a massive understatement. However, a friend I have recently visited said this to me, about herself, when I started talking about my move towards minimalism.

“I am burdened by my possessions.”

So simply stated and yet so true, the only way to express how I feel right now is to say that I am unburdened. Or at least becoming unburdened. And while I still have many possessions at this point, still an entire house full, for just myself if I’m being honest, I continue daily to downsize, donate and give away that which I do not require. I am coming to terms with the fact that not only were my possessions not making me happy, they were in fact burdening me in such a subtle way that I honestly didn’t even realize it.

It feels good to be making progress, and I recognize that I am also quickly approaching what feels like mile 20 in a marathon. There may be a wall up ahead. All of the little things, the easy things are gone. I am anticipating challenges up ahead. However, I am a firm believer that life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  So here I go.

Give, give, give.

Getting rid of the clutter in my house has been freeing. Detaching from particular items has been freeing.  Opening up my cabinets and seeing space and not having to think about which glass to use has been freeing. All of these little steps that I’ve been taking have helped me to feel lighter and less overwhelmed in ways that I wasn’t really anticipating. It’s improved my life in ways that I didn’t realize needed improving.

I didn’t do the standard ‘sell’ ‘donate’ ‘trash’ boxes that are recommended going into a project like this. With the exception of a few higher end pieces which will go on eBay, everything has gone into one giant dumping place, resulting in an as of yet undecided continuum of should I or shouldn’t I have a yard sale.

So, what I have is a huge pile of clothes in the spare bedroom closet, and a huge pile of “other stuff” in the garage.  And a relatively small pile of items set aside and listing on eBay.  And the nice thing is that my over ambivalence to selling or donating these items has resulted in giving away a lot of items to friends that needed them.

Now granted, I’m allowing my friends to decide what they need and not pushing my new-found belief system on them. Sometimes I feel guilty about that, that the old stuff that was cluttering up my life, is now new stuff that is cluttering up their lives. But I don’t really feel that it’s my decision to make. And receiving these items have made my friends quite happy. My friend K who lives on a very limited budget for her and her son, was happy to receive high quality sheets and sweaters and some books from my collection. I gave my sewing machine, which never got used, to my friend whose own sewing machine was broken and sitting in a state of disrepair for several weeks. I delivered fabrics and sewing notions to another friend who is growing a side business selling handmade quilts and quilted accessories. And what I realized was that it felt REALLY GOOD to be able to support each of them in these little ways.

That being said, I think I probably will donate what remains after my friends have gone through what I am removing. Knowing that someone will be using items that they need and maybe could not afford to purchase otherwise makes me happy. Happier than the $100 or so that I would be bringing in from a yard sale.

No one has ever become poor by giving.

The Universe Plays Games

In a quest to move towards a more minimalist lifestyle, I’ve recently started focusing on practicing detachment from material things. They are, after all, just things.

So when I went on vacation and returned to find that I had somehow lost my favorite dress, I had some new issues to deal with. Our group on the trip was large, eight of us total, but only one other girl. So I called her and asked if she had accidentally grabbed my dress, she had not. I called the hotel, they didn’t have it either. Damn. I realized that I had to come to terms with the fact that it was gone. Normally, this would have been quite upsetting. However, as I was trying to practice detachment, I reminded myself that it was just a dress, just a piece of fabric and it had no real significance to me.

I let go.  I detached.  I moved on. 

And as soon as I had done so…I got a text from one of the guys on the trip. He had gone back to check the hotel room one more time, saw the dress, grabbed it and forget to tell me about it. I got my dress back yet held on to the lesson in detachment.

Well played Universe, well played.


Well…since I don’t write as often as I would like I usually go back and read my last post before submitting another. In doing this I realize that I haven’t come very far from my last post. or maybe I’ve made leaps and bounds. Hard to say.

My point is that I still want to sell the house and buy an Airstream. or more likely a VW bus, because frankly, I don’t want to try to back an Airstream trailer into a campsite. Ever.

And what this led me to is a new pursuit of minimalist lifestyle. Now honestly, who knows how far I’ll take this, but it’s been enlightening in a lot of ways, so I thought I’d share. The truth is, when this process started, about a month ago, it had nothing to do with becoming a minimalist. I just came home one day and felt really…cluttered. Now you should know that I am a pretty organized person. Everything has a place and I’m generally quite good at getting everything back to it’s place. But on the other hand, I live alone in a three bedroom house and nearly every option for storage was full of …something.

I started with drawers and cabinets and just general de-cluttering. This was the easy part. I had a lot of stuff I wasn’t using. Identifying those items was quite simple. Some of them were easy to throw into a “donate” box. I apparently collect a lot of “shwag” which is a fancy word for free shit people give away. I also like to support whichever event I’m attending which usually means another t-shirt purchase.  For the records, I almost never wear t-shirts and when I do, I’m quite picky about cut and fit.  Which brought me to my first step in this process.

1. Stop the Bleeding.  I mean seriously, WTF? As I was tossing these hardly, if ever, used items into the donate box, I mentally tallied up how much money I’d spent on them. Thankfully, many of the items which were purchased went to support a good cause.  That helped me cringe a bit less. Regardless, I realized in that moment that I needed to stop bringing this stuff into my life if I was ever going to get away from it. So new plan… no more free schwag, no more event t-shirts (if I want to donate to the cause, I can always do so by simply donating) and a temporary freeze on all purchases until I figure out what I truly need. I will confess, this is still a new resolution and one that will probably be challenging for me.  I just bought 4 books.

Ok, so that was the easy part. Getting rid of t-shirts I never wear, mugs I never use and at least half of my coozie collectoin was a pretty simple process.  Honestly, how many coozies does one person need?  I threw it all in the donate box and it FELT SO GOOD. I started to look around the house. What else did I have that I wasn’t using? Were there hidden items taking up space (physical and mental, I’ve come to realize) that I could purge? As I opened cabinets and trunks and closets, I started to find item after item and collection after collection that I wasn’t using. So many things that were just taking up space. I pulled them out of the cabinets. And then I put them back. I couldn’t get rid of them, they had sentimental value. Two items (which were actually several items because they were both sets) in particular come to mind. First was a stunning espresso set from Greece, hand made and painted with gold leaf, it was a gift from my aunt. The second, was a sushi serving set from Japan that was a gift from an old friend of the family. I looked at these items for quite some time when I realized that I needed to change something. Which led me to step two.

2. Practicing Detachment. This is a difficult and necessary step. I’ve been reading blog after blog about simplifying and becoming a minimalist and what it means and how to do it and so on and so on. And this discussion of our sentimental attachment to material things is widespread and addressed on nearly every article on the subject. What it really comes down to is … it’s just STUFF. It really doesn’t matter. Getting rid of items for which we have a sentimental attachment changes nothing about the actual sentiment. If the house burned to the ground tomorrow with all those items in it, I would still have the fond memories of the people who gave me those gifts. Now I will confess that this is definitely easier said than done.  I have given the espresso set away to friends, a couple who has a coffee addiction beyond any I’ve ever seen and will put the set to good use, or on display. Knowing it was going to a place where it would be appreciated, instead of tucked away in a cabinet like it was at my house, made detaching from it much easier. Maybe that means I haven’t actually detached from it.  I’m not sure, sounds like a question for a yoga teacher.  Regardless it’s no longer cluttering up my life.

Side note…I have an unhealthy attachment to books, I’m working on it. It may require therapy.

So, I’m sure your assumption at this point is that I’ve made drastic improvements in minimizing my life. I mean, how much stuff can I possibly be emotionally attached to (books aside) and how much space could it possibly take up? Well, let me introduce you to the third and most difficult (so far) step.

3. Removing “Just in Case” Items. This is actually proving to be a bigger challenge for me than practicing detachment was. As it turns out, I have an astronomical amount of “Just in Case” items.  I have a very pretty black dress, “just in case” there is a funeral or a wedding and I need to wear it (by the way, I did not wear that black dress the last time I attended a funeral or a wedding.) I have lots of extra sheets and blankets “just in case” … I don’t even know why… in case something happens to the several blankets I use on a regular basis and I need extras? I have a plethora of cooking and baking items, “just in case” I need to, I don’t know, bake a couple dozen cupcakes randomly (if you don’t know me personally, I can assure you that is NEVER going to happen, the last thing I used my oven for was to heat up pizza.) Oh and of course, I have books.  Lots and lots of books.  “Just in case” someone stops by and is randomly looking for a book to read… “just in case” I ever want to read it again… “just in case” I ever get the urge to finish reading the books that I started, but couldn’t quite get in to.

So here I am.  With a large basket of books in the car to trade in at the book center. Not nearly all of my books have left the premises, but I’d say about half have found new homes (or will once I get over to the book center.) I still have a fully furnished 3 bedroom home.  I still have an enormous amount of paring down to do.  Clothes, glasses (I own an obscene amount of drinking glasses), handbags, jewelry… the list goes on and on.  But each time I remove an item and, address the underlying feelings connected to it, I feel lighter.

I do not know if I will ever be a “true” minimalist, even by my own definition of what I believe a minimalist is. But as I remove the clutter from my home and consequently, my mind, I do feel that I’m moving towards a more peaceful existence. And that feels wonderful.useful and beautiful

Being Passive Aggressive

So there you have it… the last post I made was ridiculously passive aggressive. A quality that I despise in others and loathe when it comes from myself. Generally, I pride myself on being “aggressive aggressive” as I like to put it.  You want fuck with me? Let’s go. But there are those rare situations when my emotions get the best of me, my brain apparently shuts down and dumb ass shit comes out of my mouth.  or in this case, off of my fingertips.

So what did I do?  I avoided my blog.  ‘Cause every time I opened it up to start to type, I was slapped in the face with my own bad decision. And at a time in my life when I really need to be writing because so much is overwhelming, I avoided the blog AGAIN because of what I put up there. So I guess this is sort of a confessional.  My way of moving past an indiscretion.

So hopefully… more later.

Thought for the day…

Isn’t it funny how sometimes you can be nothing but nice to a person, be the only one that is supportive of their situation, and they still have only horrible things to say about you.  And under a pen name no less.

C’est la vie.

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Budhha

When it all falls apart

I had an amazing childhood.  I mean really, really amazing. Just about perfect. I rarely, if ever, saw my parents fight. My brother and I ran wild in the backyard, which connected to our friends’ yards, through fields and forests (probably not as large as my childhood memories lead me to believe.) We had a pool and our grandparents in the “in-law” apartment downstairs. We had dogs and cats and horses and goats. My cousins were nearby and we saw them weekly.  It was perfection.

Could I point out this event or that event that was less then perfect?  Sure, my dad worked a lot and he missed stuff. I know this because he tells us that now. I never felt like he actually missed anything, I remember him coaching sports and sitting in the crowd for all of my activities. But if he said he missed out on part of our childhood, I’m sure he did. He worked hard.  And let’s face it… at some point growing up, my brother and I were teenagers. So you know there was some ornery times in our house.

But we were THAT family. The one that all our friends wanted to be around. The family that stuck together, even when we moved apart. We were close, always. And geography was nothing more than a technicality to us.

So as I try to cope with the last year, I can’t help but look around and wonder…

What the fuck happened?

It all fell apart.

One Sunday Night.

My brother and his fiancee came to visit. They’ve had some hard times. Stress was building. There was a fight. My parents and my brother, lashing out at each other over years of very clearly unresolved issues. For four hours, I watched and listened and attempted to mediate what I could only hope was a clearing of the slate. A violent storm of words, washing away animosity on both sides that neither knew existed.  I watched in utter shock the words being flung back and forth like arrows with poison tips. We all cried. We hugged and I went home. Leaving my brother and his fiancee at my parents house. Two days later, they left to go back to Connecticut.

And I was so, so wrong.

Nothing was improving, nothing was washed away. Scars were left by words. It became increasingly more clear to me that this was not a clearing of the slate. Putting 1000 miles between them didn’t help the situation. The communication broke down. They weren’t speaking. Where the hell did my family go?

And there I was. In the middle.

Don’t you think this? Don’t you feel that? How are mom and dad. How is your brother. Do you think I was wrong? Were we really out of line? ENOUGH! I finally told them all I was out. You want to know how your son is doing? Pick up the phone and call him. You want to what your parents are thinking? Ask them. And that was that. I removed myself from the triangle.

Sadly, this (and months of therapy) did little to help me heal. My perfect family will never be the same. Everything I knew that I could always depend on was a shattered mess. I fell apart. And nobody knew it. Nobody in my family even bothered to ask how I felt about it all. As if they didn’t even realize that it had affected me.

So now, with nearly a year gone by, I guess everyone is at least speaking. On occasion, the other will be mentioned to me in a passing conversation. Everyone is living their lives. Who knows if anything will ever improve.

I still love my family more than anything, but now it’s with a heavy heart. I took for granted the way we were and I wish I had appreciated more of what we had. Because we will never, ever have that again. Life goes on and these things happen, I know.  My story could be much worse, I know that too.  I wasn’t part of the battle, but I got scarred in the cross fire.

Here’s hoping time really does heal all wounds.

Finding the Good Life.

The “good life” is your life. Whatever you choose.

What should I write? It’s a question I frequently throw out to trusted friends or sometimes just at dinner to rile up the conversation. It’s usually met with the same response

Er… I dunno. Whatever you want.

Helpful guys, thanks.

But when I was getting antsy to write this time, my usual question was answered with a not so usual response.

“Write about how there are so many people, including myself, that live their lives struggling, advancing in work, getting married, running in the rat race. Denying the true feeling that they have had for ever about their lives. They are a gypsy soul that wants to wander the world, have no place to hang their hat, love strong, say YES, die whenever but not from sickness.”

And at first, I could not figure out how to answer that text. But then I realized that I did know how to respond. I felt it, I understood. I could relate. I did it. Fuck, I LIVED it. All of it, every line.

I got married, because that’s what people do. Because I mistook loving someone for being deeply, truly and madly IN love with them. Then I got divorced and did it all again. Even the divorce part. Next my biological clock started ticking so loudly in my ears, I went BABY CRAZY. For four years, I listened to my biological clock pounding in my head, in spite of not having someone in my life that I would want to share a child or have a family with. Then, one day, I realized I’m not even really sure that I want kids.

And then I thought about it. Not kids, necessarily, but life.

I actually took the time to think about my life. And what do I want? What happened to all the things that I knew I wanted to do? I wanted to see Europe. All of it. Mountains and beaches and museums and cafes. I wanted to lay on the grass and stare at the Eiffel tower. I wanted to climb to the very top of Greece and look down to the ocean, see its stucco facade in all of it’s blue and white glory and watch the old men lead donkeys up and down the windy roads. I wanted to ride a gondola in Venice and smell the retchid loss of dignity the city has suffered going from a beautiful mystery to a city drowning in it’s own sewers.

And I was spoiled, blessed. I watched the wave riders from the beach in Bali. I walked for hours on the Great Wall of China. I toured the Great Ocean road in Southern Australia and gawked, open-mouthed and stunned at the raw beauty of Aboriginal paintings. The spark of wander lust was fueled; like someone recklessly splashing lighter fluid on the bonfire. It remained a fire that glowed, sometimes brightly, sometimes just an ember.

But as it does, if you let it, life happened. I got a job and found myself in a career. A year, then five and then a decade passed. My mind occasionally wandering back to a lust for travel. But the occasional longing to roam, well it’s the longing that confirms that I want it and need it. I need to GO.

I miss the feeling of standing in the customs line, my gut tight with knots, strangely and unnecessarily nervous. The same way that my muscles clench mildly during date. Knowing what I want, but not what to say to go about getting exactly that. Not sure if my hunger will be immediately satiated, or if I’ll need to justify it.

No place to hang my hat? Yeah. Been there. Lived in my car. Literally. A Ford Escort. A shower curtain rod hung between the two back windows to hang my work clothes. Everything else in the trunk. Missing my dog, knowing she was safe and loved and more cared for than I could provide after leaving her with a family friend. Crashing each night with a different friend or colleague. Do I long for that life again? I was going to say no, but unexpectedly, the idea makes my heart flutter with inexplicable excitement, my pulse and energy level rising in unison at the mere thought. And reminiscing about my unfulfilled desire to see the world, well, I could just sell the house, sell the car, buy an old VW bus and live in the vehicle again. An unexpected notion that has me surprised and titillated by unexplored possibilities…fascinating.

Love strong? Me? No.

Did you believe me? Yeah, neither do my friends. I fall in love. Hard and fast. As Sugarland puts it,” I’m slow to trust and I’m quick to love.” I love in a way that is strong and deep and I don’t want to let go. I don’t protect my heart. I don’t build walls or put up fences. I believe in being reckless with my heart, but not with other people’s. And I believe that there is peace in knowing that love is going to be gone someday and you only get more if you give it away.

Say YES? God, yes. Yes. Let’s do it, let’s go there, let’s try that. Yes, I trust you. Yes, I want you. Yes I know that you can, and very well might, break my heart, but yes to anything might ask. Let’ do it. YES.

I’m not ready to die though. In fact, I feel as though I could live forever. Surviving on the ebb and flow of the ocean. Stealing subtle intensities from the sky with each deep breath. Absorbing the suns energy like a plant and thriving on that.

I’ll say it again, just in case, I don’t want to die yet. I’m not ready. There’s too much life to live. Too much to see and do. Too many friends left to embrace. Too much love to give and accept.

Before I go, I want to dig in the dirt. and know that a tree will grow because I planted it. I don’t need to watch it grow. I have faith that the sun and sky and earth will watch over it for me.

I want to play in the surf, knowing that while I’m nowhere near “home” the waves could carry me there if I let them. If I could just be swallowed by the oceans and rivers for only a moment, to have them deposit me where they believe that I should land, maybe this crazy world would make sense.

I want to watch the sun until it becomes an eclipse. I want to spend my time seeing it rise and set and fight with the moon until they learn to compromise and share the calender.

But if I were taken from this world today I could rest easily. For I know that I have loved and been loved. I know that I’ve explored and experienced life. To it’s fullest? Not yet. But thankfully, I believe I still have time.

“I go where the wind blows. You can’t tame a wild rose. Welcome to my crazy life.”

*originally posted to elephant journal June 2012.