2010 in review

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2010. That’s about 8 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 19 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 97 posts. There was 1 picture uploaded, taking a total of 39kb.

The busiest day of the year was April 28th with 377 views. The most popular post that day was Minimalism in a Nutshell.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were moreminimal.com, Google Reader, dehoardingdiary.youblog.net, becomingminimalist.com, and blog.hoardhouse.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for am i a hoarder, am i a hoarder?, bakelite doorbell, am i a horder, and why minimalism.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Minimalism in a Nutshell April 2010
2 comments

2

Am I A Compulsive Hoarder? February 2009
3 comments

3

About August 2006
2 comments

4

Does Minimalism Lead to Freedom? August 2010
2 comments

5

Storing Things for Friend A December 2009
3 comments

Minimalist Bloggers

December 7, 2010

There seems to be so many new minimalist themed blogs starting up.  I joined the one-week trial period for the recent A-List Blogging Bootcamp to check it out, and spent most my time browsing the forums.  Lots of people want to follow in Leo Babauta’s footsteps!  There were so many minimalist blogs linked to the forum avatars, all with 2-3 posts.  I wonder how many of them will stick with it.

You can also find plenty of new blogs by looking at the Daily Brainstorm meta site. Seems like every couple days I read about another blogger who has downsized to less than 100 things and is travelling the world.  And of course has an e-book for sale.

On twitter I said something like: “Am I the only minimalist who doesn’t blog about it?”  Then I remembered that I kinda do on this blog.  This blog is really about the process of getting rid of stuff, not a minimal lifestyle – although that is the goal.

This minimalist desire has been with me for a long time, probably starting around 1993.  At that time I was living in a small apartment (small on purpose) and began to realize other people were interested in this topic.  At the time it was called the “Voluntary Simplicity” movement.  Now it’s fashionable to be a minimalist.  Fashions come and go, but I am dedicated to living a simple life for the rest of my days.  Should I blog about it?  Add yet another voice to the choir?  First I need to get started on my e-book! :)

Update:

There was a pile building up here of things I wanted to auction off on eBay.  A couple weeks ago I finally got started listing them and had about 20 auctions going at once.  Now that’s done and most of them have already been shipped out.  Including both of my video encoder boxes, so if I want to watch TV now it has to be on Hulu or a network website.  My new rule for eBay is that I won’t bother listing it unless the estimated value is at least $15.  Cheaper garage-sale type items just aren’t worth the hassle in my opinion.

Reduction progress

November 15, 2010

Well, this was a productive weekend!

Some of my work clothes were getting a bit frayed, so I got them all together in one place and did a critical review.  I do laundry once a week so how many shirts do I need?  Decided to keep five of the best, and also mail ordered one more.

Only have one pair of work pants that fit, due to my recent weight gain.  Kept those and ordered one more pair.  The only non-work pants that fit me now are two pairs of jeans.  Kept those.  All the other pants were donated.  So, I did some serious minimizing on clothes.  When I go to work on Monday I’ll be wearing my only pair of pants that meet the dress code.  Except for my old suit, which is still too big on me, but could be worn if I ruin my pants before the new ones arrive in the mail.

Some of the jeans I donated were being kept in case I could fit into them again someday.  That’s not a good reason.  Buying too-small pants in the first place was a waste of money.

Another online purchase this weekend was a pair of eyeglasses.  I had another pair of cheap glasses I got online that were being used as reading glasses.  But after many attempts I was not able to adjust them so they fit me well.  It was just a really bad choice of frames (hard to do online).  So I put them in a bag along with all the other glasses I had stored away, and donated them all today.  Right now, for the first time in about 40 years, I have no spare glasses at all!  This is a strange feeling but okay.  My whole life I have only needed a spare about 1 or 2 times, so I’ll manage.  I bought a new pair online that hopefully will replace the ones I have now.

In addition, I finally listed my Grandmother’s old ironing board on Freecycle.  No takers.  I’ll relist in a week with the offer worded differently.  If there’s still no interest, I’ll try craigslist.  If that doesn’t work, what then?

Because I do not have a place of my own to live in, these two options have been given a lot of thought this past year.  I have read many “Rent vs. Own” articles and run some numbers, and have come to the conclusion that renting or owning your home is really a lifestyle choice.  It is NOT a financial investment. Why do I say that?  Because in the end, housing is an expense.  It is something you have to pay for.  Either way you go, it comes out approximately the same.

Let’s look at some real world numbers.  Now, as a single person and a minimalist, I do not need much space.  The smallest house available locally is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath bungalow.  There are some efficiency apartments here and there, but I’ll compare to the basic one-bedroom apartment.  For this example, let’s assume I’ll be staying in one area for five years.  Also assume I have 100K saved in the bank and will not be using a mortgage.

Renting a one bedroom apartment in my area costs about $650/month.  Add $150 for utilities, $200 for food, and $100 for internet/phone.  Round up to $1200/month or $14,400 per year.

There is a small house for sale today, close by in a good neighborhood, closer to work, for an asking price of about $90,000.  If I keep the 90K in the bank and earned an average of 1.5% interest over five years this would give me $7000.  Subtract this from apartment expenses (14400 x 5 – 7000) would be net total $65,000 spent over five years for the apartment option.

There are two big variables in the house option that I can’t predict.  One is the market value of the house.  Because housing prices have dropped over the last two years, and some experts are saying prices are not likely to rebound quickly, for our example I’ll assume that the house value stays at 90K.  This may be unlikely, but I have to pick a number so that’s what I’ll use for now.  The other variable is renovation cost.  What if the roof needs to be repaired?  The plumbing?  The driveway resurfaced?  Again, I have to choose a number so I’ll say 10K for repairs over 5 years.

So I buy the house for 90K cash.  Annual taxes are about 4K.  Monthly costs 250 utilities, 200 food, 100 internet/phone.  That’s 10600 per year for 5 years is 53K.  Add the renovation cost of 10K and we’re up to 63K.  I’d probably get insurance for a house, so that’s $3000 over 5 years.  When I sell at the end of 5 years there’s a real estate commission of 6%, or $5400.  So I pay 90K and get about 90K back, therefore value of the house comes out even.  But over the five years I paid a total of $71,400 to live there.

Granted this is a simplified/approximated example, but it shows that owning a house without a mortgage is not necessarily less expensive than renting.  In fact it could even cost more.

As a minimaist lifestyle choice, apartments are better because it’s much simpler.  No dealing with contractors or repairmen, insurance agents, real estate agents, tax collectors, etc.  You just pay your rent on time and the landlord does all that for you.  Plus you have the flexibility of moving when your annual lease is up if you want to.  Less money, more freedom.

I have been thinking about this question lately.  My goal with the reduction project was to increase my personal freedom.  I started this because of a feeling of being trapped by all the stuff weighing me down.  The idea was that by getting rid of most of my stuff I would no longer have this anchor that prevented me from doing whatever I want.  Now that I’m getting closer to this goal I am sensing a conflict between minimalism and what I thought it would bring to me.

The thing about minimalism is that it adds limitations to your life.  Limitations that force you to make choices that otherwise would not be necessary.  These choices lead to owning things that are truly valuable to you, and doing things that have real meaning.  Without minimalism one is more likely to make a decision based on convenience.

For example, the MacBook Air is a minimalist computer with only one USB port.  With one port you cannot connect a mouse, keyboard, flash drive, external hard drive, external DVD drive, and iPod all at the same time.  Only the one device that is most important in the moment can be plugged in.

Another example – let’s say you have not worn formal clothing for years so you got rid of the suits/gowns in your wardrobe.  Then you are invited to an event with a strictly fancy dress code.  Keeping the extra clothes that are hardly ever worn would make it convenient to dress up for the event.  Having a giant wardrobe with outfits for any occasion gives one the freedom to meet any dress code at a moment’s notice.  A minimalist is less free in this situation because they must make a choice, to rent/buy new clothing or simply not go to the event.

The choices forced on a minimalist cause them to reexamine many things that otherwise may be taken for granted.   This is what fascinates me, looking at stuff and actions in a new light.  But I wonder if freedom is what I was really looking for?

Ran across this blog post by Everett Bogue today.  In it he poses the question: “What would you bring with you, if you had to leave now?”

I started looking around my room here at the piles of stuff that I don’t know what to do with.  Very little of it is so important that I’d risk my life to save it.  If the house was on fire, I’d just grab my keys, wallet, shoes, cell phone, then get out.

Maybe it would depend on how long I have to plan for.  I can flee with the clothes on my back, because I can always get more clothes.  But I already have clothing I have bought in the past that fits me.  So with a few minutes to put an overnight bag together, I’ll pack a couple outfits.  If I think ahead to being comfortable the next time I sleep, maybe I’ll grab a blanket.  If I don’t know where I’ll be eating my next meal, I can pack a cup, knife and spoon.  This all seems to be survival gear, like what you’d take to go camping.  Tools for a temporary situation.

It seems to me that the question assumes that at some point you will return.  If not to the exact same place, you’ll eventually replace all that you left behind in your new location.

An example – There is a box here that stores my dishware set.  It would be left behind in an emergency without a second thought.  But when the day comes that I have my own kitchen, I will definitely want that box.  If I had to buy replacement dishware I think I’d miss this special set that means something to me.

However this can lead to dangerous “what if” thinking.  Keeping extra things around because they might be needed someday.  Nobody can predict the future, so there are lots of things you “might” need.  I guess that’s the challenge – to have the confidence to believe that you will be able to have what you need in the future when the time comes.

Everett’s point was that if all your stuff fits in a backpack, you are free to set off on an adventure at any time.  I do value freedom, and also comfort.  Caught here in the middle with a bakelite doorbell.

Rethinking Junk

July 15, 2010

Stuff should be there to USE, not to keep for its potential!

Felt inspired by an article on zenhabits called “The Clean-Slate Guide to Simplicity”.  It was about putting everything away in boxes, and only taking something back out when you really need it.  The idea is to minimize using a strategy of addition instead of subtraction.  I wanted to try this on the junk in my desk.

I opened all the drawers in my desk, looked at every little thing in there.  Put some things in a cardboard box, then one by one put it all back.  There’s so much stuffed in there that I don’t have any place to put it when it’s not in the desk.  So… strategy didn’t work this time.

For example I have three full boxes of staples.  I hardly ever attach paper together with a stapler anymore, so this is more than a lifetime supply.  But what should I do with extra stuff like this – brand new in box products.  Toss it?  If I somehow run out of staples I can spend $2 to get more.  Or rethink my need to staple things.  I use less paper today than I used to, and mostly use paper clips.  Do I need to have a stapler at all?

Much of this uncertainty comes from the temporary nature of my living situation – renting a room.  I don’t have a kitchen, so all my most treasured kitchen tools and dishware are packed in boxes, unused and out of sight.  I’m pretty sure that at some point in the future I’ll have my own place with a kitchen.  But I don’t know when that will be.  So would it be better from a minimalist viewpoint to get rid of everything I’m not using, and replace it with new things if/when they are needed someday?  Or just continue to keep the boxes with me so my potential future kitchen will have a few special homey items?  Much of that stuff is already gone, I kept only things with strong memories attached.  Rethinking the need for these is harder than office supplies because I’m fond of them.

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