Simple

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that I spoke of simple/minimalist living before. That is okay, this is my blog and I just feel like I need to talk about it some more. So, apologies, just try to stick with me! 🙂

On another site I frequent, I started the topic about how much you really need to live. I was in the military, and aside from my locker and my bunk, I did not have much in regards to living quarters. Yet, even with the minimal accommodations, I still lived quite comfortably. We had a community head (bathrooms for you civi’s), community washer/dryer, and a huge berthing area where we all slept. It was totally fine with me. I made that bunk my own. I hung up pictures of friends, family and whoever my current girlfriend was at the time. I kept a book within easy reach, and a wind up clock that gave me a little noise in that quiet area.

I then left the service and went back home for a couple of months. I saved up some extra cash and found an apartment. Now, I must admit, I held on to quite a bit. That happens when you grow up not having much. You save things just in case you need them. Even though I could easily afford new items, I still had some of those old tendencies. So, because of that and my mom (bless her heart), who picked up after me so much as a kid, I was not the best cleaner either. Heck, I had to join the military to learn how to wash clothes, because my mom did not want me to use her nice new washer! Ahh, I love the lady.

Book Stacks Anyway, so I did organize things very well in the apartment (typically, in stacks), I just let things get out of hand. I had stacks of magazines all over, DVD’s, CD’s, books, all of that. I just had issue for organizing smaller items. I was never good at it because I never really had to do it. In the service I just had so few items that it was really easy. Plus, if I did not lock it up, things could have been stolen. So I was motivated as well. However, in an apartment, you worry a bit less about that. Needless to say, my apartment was a wreck. Now do not go and think I kept food wrappers all over. That is not the case. No, I just had too much stuff and not enough storage. It was like a hoarder, yet I was not a hoarder. I simply held onto items for no reason really. I just lacked the knowledge on how to clean and organize properly. Just think of a typical teenager’s bedroom, yeah, that was my apartment.

I met my now wife and we moved into the house she had. It was over double the size of my apartment, but combining my furniture with hers, plus her stuff with mine, it just got to be too much. We had a spare bedroom that was the “storage” room because I just did not know where to start with that.

My biggest issue is knowing just how to tackle a big project. I have no training on organization, I just go by feel. I know I love a clutter free space, but I have a difficult time executing it. Organizing is really just common sense. Put all the pens together in one location and reduce the number to what you really need. In other words, do not own 500 pens if you really only maybe need 10 on hand. You most likely do not even need that much, but honestly, I know I had well over 30 at one point (and probably still do somewhere). I have that thought process that comes into my brain when I am working on removing clutter. It all comes down to “have I used it in xx months?” For me, I tend to go by either 6 or 12 months. I have a mindset in place for tackling old office items. We have one box set aside for when/if nieces spend the night, a dedicated art box. That is just fine with me. It is when some of that art box bleeds into other boxes that I start to have a problem with it. All that excess is not required.

I apologize again, this thought process is a work in progress as I type. I know what I want to speak of, but ADD kicks in and I run off on other topics. I will keep it all related to the best of my abilities!

So what is truly needed to live happily? Ask different people and you will get different answers. Some may say a home and a car. Others may say a bicycle and an apartment. Most often you will hear “food and water”. I think I know what is truly needed. I have it down to a small little list. This is my list for living comfortably in the world of today:

1) A place to call home
2) A lack of clutter and too many items
3) Ability to access food, water, and facilities to maintain your hygiene (on the premises of course)
4) A form of transportation (walking, biking, scooter, or car; or a combo)
5) Ability to wash your clothes and maintain your living quarters
6) A place to do your favorite hobby

Maslows_Hierarchy_of_Needs

That is pretty much all I can think of now. Sure you have that pyramid of needs junk that we learn in school/college, but honestly, we all need a hobby to help us unplug from the world and relax. Yet society tends to tell us we need so much more.

We MUST have an iPhone or Android to handle all those wonderful apps! It syncs right with your computer! It is so easy! Really? Last I checked a phone was supposed to make a call, yet my iPhone struggles with that at times.

Honestly, I’d be fine with a simplistic phone where I can talk/text, and a small iPod for my music. I have a tablet for my reading. That is really great because I can simply open up that tablet and have dozens of books at my fingertips, all while keeping the storage space exactly the same on my desk. I love it.

That is the simple stuff. Putting more stuff on your computer or a tablet to reduce the amount of books, magazines and newspapers you have. My phone is nice for playing Sudoku. I love that game. I only really use maybe 10 apps on the whole phone. It is rather funny now I think of it.

The complex stuff is things that take a bit more work and thought. Houses for one. My house is huge. I do love my house. My wife and I worked hard for it. Yet, honestly, I do not use much of it. I love the kitchen, but still, I use maybe 50-percent of it when I cook. We have a lot of storage space for things that deep down I know we do not need. I have a TINY food processor. It would be great for making salsa if I could stop myself from buying the stuff in the jar. We have several pots and pans, yet we do not use them often. There is the “go to” ones you stick with, and the others are “just in case”. You know I am speaking the truth!

Then there is the whole cups and plates thing. We have maybe 2 sets of cutlery. We have the new set and the old set. The reason for the new set was to replace some of the spoons that accidentally got damaged in the disposal. Ooops, it happens. That takes up the same space as would one set, no big deal there. Plates, we at one point had two sets of plates, bowls, and mugs. One was my old set that I had as a bachelor, the other was my wife’s. We used hers. Once we moved, she ditched her old set in favor for my more simplistic and rather thick white set (I had a black and white theme in my old place). That made things easier. I have one mug that is not a part of the set that I have had since I was a child. It is a wonderful memory of many childhood evenings spent in front of a fire or TV with the family. I hold onto that. We have several that do not meet that criteria. I do believe those will depart from the home in due time. I do not need cluttered cabinets.

We have several sets of drinking glasses. I have an issue with those. I find those “cool” ones and I think “I MUST HAVE THIS!” Yeah, seldom do I think when I purchase them; only to bring them home and be like “Okay, what am I going to do with this?” Honestly, I purchase them with good intentions, but we just do not entertain enough to utilize them. I am getting much better at refraining from pulling the trigger on impulse purchases.

Yet again, that is small potatoes compared to a house as a whole. I am just curious when it became the standard to have such big bedrooms. We stayed in Paris, France, recently. The hotel room was ultra small. The bed was a full sized bed, with maybe 1.5-2 feet of walking space between the bed and the wall, all the way around. The bathroom was crammed in a small space, and there was a single desk with a mini refrigerator under one side. The LCD TV was mounted to the wall, and a spare chair was under it. There was a tiny closet for a simplistic wardrobe. The first night there I felt so cozy. It just felt right to me, like I was in my element. A small space, easy to clutter up, but super simple to get it clean. I could easily handle that!

I am not saying you need to do this. This is an extreme case of organizing. However, when money is tight and you can only afford so much to pay towards a living space, it sure does pay to be creative!

I wish I had a picture of the hotel room. I had some stuff in the bathroom, some in the closet, and the rest on the desk or in my suitcase. It worked. When you really think about it, why do we need huge rooms to sleep in? To store more stuff? Why? Why not have a smaller space and keep things simple? You sleep in the bedroom. You do not do everything in the bedroom. I could understand having a huge bedroom if that was your entire place. You know, where you cooked, worked out, slept, had an office, etc. Granted, if you are in downtown NYC or London (or similar), then you are most likely already living smaller than most of the population in the US. I think I heard somewhere that NYC is 4 times the density of Los Angeles or Houston, yet still retains the fuel usage per person that was average back in the 1920’s. A lot of cycling, walking and public transportation helps with that. Do not go and quote me on that, I am simply recalling it from memory. Let me know if it has changed.

Here is another video, except this one is in Japan. They are tight on space. It is amazing what you can do with such little space. This apartment could be made more efficient, but it works very well as is.

So yes, a bedroom is to sleep in. It holds your bed. So why make it so big? Why take up the extra land and space to have more room to sleep in? We need a room to hold a bed and a dresser or maybe a hutch. I bet most people have more clothes in their closet than they know what to do with. Yes, we do tend to get attached to our wardrobe. At least I do. I have a couple of soccer shirts I love, and several cycling shirts. I also have shirts from the MS 150 bicycle rides I have done and the 5K runs I have participated in. I have a small selection of nice attire like suits, sport coats and button up dress shirts for those more formal occasions. I have a section for jackets. Honestly, I could do away with a few of them. I do not need that many jackets. My cycling attire takes up the most space. I do need to go through it.

Oh and closets. I must say, I do love the big closet. However, why does one want a large closet? To pile in more stuff! Granted, it all made sense to me when we first moved in. Now I am thinking, why did I not just get rid of a lot of my stuff? Why am I so attached to everything? Yes, I must constantly ask myself that question. Currently, I also have to kick myself in my own rear to get motivated to go through it all.

We have a loft in our home. I am positive that I could build that one room to hold everything I own and be totally happy with it. Granted, that is just for me, but it would work. I could store my bikes in there, have a shower, toilet, an ultra small sink, a kitchen with a larger sink for washing dishes, a point-of-use water heater to reduce energy consumption, a toaster oven for small baking, a microwave, a two burner stove with hood, and a mini fridge (not ultra small, but smaller than a standard refrigerator). Then put in storage for my clothes, some of my hobby stuff, pots, pans, dishes, glasses and cutlery. I would still have enough space for a washer/dryer combo. I am sure I could fit it all in if I thought it out really well. Do not get me wrong, I would definitely have to go and get rid of some stuff, but I could do it. I think it would be fun as well. I have to admit though, I am not going to be doing that. We own the house, might as well live in it, right?

Before we went to Paris, we were in a rental flat in London (a flat is what people in the UK call an apartment for those who do not know). The thing was maybe 500 square feet. I was in love with it. We had heated floors, a really small dishwasher, a 4-burner stove, an oven, a washer/dryer combo, a decently sized bathroom, a living room/dining room combo, balcony, and a bedroom. It was just brilliant. I loved it. It did not have much, but because it did not have much, I was motivated to keep everything organized. Picking up took minutes instead of hours. Smaller spaces are easier to keep clean. They clutter easily as well, which would force a person to really think about purchases.

The smaller fridge there also meant shopping more often. I am just fine with that. The market was only a 5-minute walk from our flat.

So how much does one person truly need to be happy? That is up to the person. Some people feel claustrophobic in small spaces. My wife feels much more comfortable in a larger space, and I am totally fine with that. I just know I do not require such a large space to be comfortable. Give me 200-500 square feet, and I will make it work. Especially with what I know now. I also think of mortgage payments, electricity, heating/cooling costs, repair bills, maintenance costs and time, as well as overall costs. It just makes more sense to buy small. Too bad the government has said, “No, you must have a house of at least XXXX size because we deemed that the smallest space required to live safely.” That makes me laugh. No, I am quite sure house size is limited based on how much money is generated when one is built. A larger house means more materials. More materials means more labor time. Those together equal more costs. That and the house is often taxed by square footage or number of bedrooms, then the government gets revenue off of all of that, just like the builders, insurance agencies and banks. It is nothing more than a scheme to make money. If we all lived in houses that were under 1000 square feet, then those industries would make much less money.

Some of the Asian families in my area that have several generations living in one house have it right. Sure it cramped, but honestly, you can get away from everyone quite easily. I put up with my mom during my rebel years by simply either locking myself in my room or being outside until dinner was ready. The same could be done there. It makes total sense.

Yet our culture here in the United States tells us we must be independent, we must have our own homes, our own furniture, our own cars, and our own yards. Money, it is all about money! We could quite easily do well with less, we just have been told that we cannot, “for our safety”. That is why we have building codes. Hmm, I can build a small shack on a hunting lease, put a wood stove in there, and make it rather livable without really needing to meed a code, because it is not a real, 100-percent, lived in home. Yet I cannot do similar things closer to the city because I have to meet building codes and a minimal house size regulation.

Sounds like we are being ripped off here.

I think we need to jump away from the bigger is better theme and realize that we can be just has happy in a smaller setting. Remember, I am not saying everyone should live in a house smaller than a typical apartment, but does a person really need 4,000 square feet of house? A bigger house does not really make you happy. Now if you need bigger rooms because you feel cramped and claustrophobic, okay, you cannot do anything about that. However, try to minimize your footprint as much as possible. A small(er) house can still have comfortable rooms. We just acquire so much that we run out of places to put all those belongings. We get fed up and feel the desire to upgrade. If we simply practiced some self control (I need to do this myself!), then we could do well in a smaller home. I am not saying we need to all move into 100 square foot houses, not at all. I am simply stating that often we think we need something larger, when in all honesty we just need to ditch some of the useless items we have acquired.

To me, nothing sets you free more than having a home, being happy with it and having it paid off. I just know that my wife and I will be downsizing later in life. I will not be in retirement age and have a huge house that I must maintain. Smaller is better, especially when you get older. Maybe something along the lines of 1,000 square feet would be nice. Just remember, society says that what you own defines you. I say, who you are defines you. Do not let what you own become who you are; let who you are be who you are, and everything else just stay as stuff.

Live as simple as you desire, live as happily as you can, but live your life to the fullest.

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About TrekRiderMark

I like to ride bicycles and stay fit. I am also a professional photographer and artist. I dabble a bit in web design and as a graphic artist.
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One Response to Simple

  1. Good stuff man, you have a knack for writing. My goal for minimal living takes up a lot less space, but it’s meant to be a motorless home…bicycle or tricycle based. The use of space in these videos is ingenious! Thanks for the inspiration!

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