Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Story of An Artist

Many of my readers don't know that I am also an artist and have an artist notebook site but through this site, I have networked with many other artists on the web. One artist intrigued me because she makes wonderful art out of found items , (which you know I'm going to love because I think we are a wasteful society)! But there are two other reasons: one, she is a self taught artist like I am and two, she gave up all of her material possessions to go where ever life took her and it led her to be an artist.

So, I asked her if I could interview her for my blog about minimalism and what she wrote back was incredible! It's long though, so I'll spread it over a few posts.

The Minimalist: What made you think your life sucked?

The Self Taught Artist:
I was forty years old and had recently been asked to move out of the house I had rented
for twelve years because they were selling it. I had been a massage therapist for seventeen years and was burned out physically. I had moved into an apartment and had a hellish neighbor below me that tormented me with music all night. I had recently ended a 6+ year relationship and I had no clue what to do anymore. I knew the city (Phoenix) inside and out and nothing felt new or interesting. I had no skills or education for gainful employment. I was having horrible panic attacks.

The Minimalist:
How did you find the courage to restructure your life?

The Self Taught Artist:

I had a very wise woman suggest to me I just get rid of everything or put it in storage and leave. Get in my car and go. Go towards life. Keep moving and find my passion. Live somewhere awhile, work, and then move on. Just keep moving. It took everything I had to do but it took less than it would have taken had I stayed in the stagnant pool that I had been wading in. It quite literally felt like do or die. Change or die.

The Minimalist:
What kinds of things did you get rid of?

The Self Taught Artist:

I love this question. About five years prior to this I had a very close friend kill himself. Something in me changed overnight. I started burning all the journals I'd kept for almost twenty years. I got rid of most everything and started over. New furniture, new this, new that... I started collecting things that I thought would help me be more interesting and intellectual. Hundred of books, hundreds of records and CD's, art, and antique furniture. Very shallow, but a necessary thing to go through. Then when I had to move out of that house I rented, I had to downsize. I had already begun a pattern of collecting and ridding myself of things so when I decided I was going to just leave with whatever fit in my car, I was excited to finally just be free of the whole material possession thing.

I got rid of my personal stuff: pictures, high school yearbooks, letters from people, books, papers, clothes, knick knacks, etc. I donated what I couldn't sell to friends: furniture, kitchen accessories, bedding, the whole thing. I kept enough stuff to fill up a 5x10 storage unit. Mostly it was a five foot diameter, round chair I had bought that I didn't want to part with. That was the biggest reason for getting that storage unit, all for a $1500 chair! I pondered this to no end thinking if I kept NOTHING sure enough I would go out there, end up coming back sooner than I thought and be pissed I had to buy everything back to start over. And sure enough, which is what happened, if I kept things in storage I would end up staying away and that monthly rental fee along with having to deal with all that crap stuffed in storage would be the bane of my existence. I paid rent for four years and finally had friends go through it and just chuck it. My 'best' things were in that storage closet and I had them send me some of it this year. know what? I never felt happy getting it. It wasn't 'me' anymore. None of it. I got rid of it.

The Minimalist:
It makes you think doesn't it? I love that she said,"
It took everything I had to do but it took less than it would have taken had I stayed in the stagnant pool that I had been wading in."

Next part of the interview tomorrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How many cars do you have?

OK, how many cars do you have and what's in there? If you have any extra cars or an RV for that matter, that you don't drive that often, why? These are great things to either sell or donate and improve your financial picture. Even if they're just sitting in the driveway they're costing you space and perhaps, money to insure them.

Let's talk about that RV. They cost about 80 grand. Now, how many nights could a person spend in five star hotels for that amount of money (plus interest on the loan to buy it!) And I shutter to think about the cost of gas! They're not worthless though, because people can live in them. Does it ever make you sick to think about all those RVs sitting in people's driveways while millions of people are homeless in this country?

So, let's say you only have one car. What's in it? If it's full of junk, you're making your life harder. Did you know that the more stuff in your car, the worse gas millage you get? For example, my friend keeps six flats of bottled water in the back of his car so he can drink one every morning on his way to work because he knows he'll be dehydrated from the wine he drank the night before. Now, a flat of water weighs a bit so I asked him, " What if you just reused a water bottle every morning by filling it with our snow melted tap water? You'd save yourself the time, trouble, money, and garbage created by buying bottled water and probably get better gas mileage." What was his answer? "Shut up and drink your bottled water!" And if you've read my blog you know I hate bottled water!

Do you eat in your car? If you eat in your car you are breaking all of the dieting rules right off the bat, making yourself have to throw away fast food wrappers, and creating useless garbage. Hopefully, you don't support these establishments because they are ruining our farmlands, waterways, rain forests, and creating needless garbage. So let yourself have the pleasure of eating in a calm manner, not while driving.

Do you have a thousand CDs rattling around your car? I have another friend who crashed his car while changing a CD! An iPod hooked up to your car stereo is a great way to go or invest in a 5 CD changer so you can have variety. Driving to work is stressful enough without listing to the news or public radio. You'll just be angry by the time you get to work! Sit back, relax, play those songs that no one likes but you, and sing along!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why do we keep stuff?

I am amazed when I see what some other people feel are their "treasures:" Little League baseball trophies, childhood games and toys, tools they never use, broken things they'll never fix, a breadbox? Anyone using a breadbox hasn't read my blog about how valuable counter space is!
I helped a friend move recently and he put as much stuff into the garage as he did the house!

I do have a few good ideas why people keep such things. I think they tie them to someone who gave them to them or someone they were with when they bought them somewhere in their past. Of course, many people hoard out of fear they'll have nothing one day, or they might need that useless thing one day. But the truth is: we need to get over this stuff! There's always more stuff in our future - the Good Will is full of other people's stuff they wasted their time, money, and our planet's resources on. You won't be young again, and your kids don't want your old toys. Oh, and your old girlfriend's not coming back, so make some room for a new one!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Minimalist Travel: Vacation in Your Own Town

Here in Portland, Oregon the weather just isn't giving us a break. Grey Grey Grey! I got onto the internet and started trying to find out how far we'd have to travel to get out from under these clouds and endless drizzle and to my horror it seemed to go on forever! We could drive eight hours to Redding or fly somewhere. Then I checked out the price of flying and it was crazy! $500 to fly to LA? There had to be an alternative. So my sweetie and I spent the weekend playing around in our own town. We ate every meal out, heard live music, went to art museums, Saturday Market, shopped on NW 23rd, (the tourist section of town), took cabs, stayed out late and slept in late and did pretty much what we would have done in any city on vacation. No dishes, no work and you know what happened? On Sunday the sun actually came out! Today alas, it's gone again, but we had loads of fun anyway and didn't have to spend $1000 for two round trip tickets to the sun, and kept our carbon footprint small...."Oh you can pour my next glass of wine into this glass. It saves energy."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Minimalist's Angst: Not Clutter Again!

I don't know how or why it happens but clutter just seems to happen. Somehow yesterday I looked at my kitchen and thought, wow, we're slipping. The thing is I have zero tolerance for clutter. I have never understood how some people can sit happily with a neighbor sipping tea in their kitchens with piles of paperwork that needs to be dealt with, dirty dishes in the sink, random items that should be put away in other rooms and perhaps even a basket of laundry that needs folding. It makes me feel like Monica from Friends! I just want to start cleaning!

So to my horror, I looked at my own kitchen realized it had lost it's sparkle and needed to be decluttered. So what was wrong with it? All of my systems were in place and functioning, no appliances on the counters, no dirty dishes in the sink but some odd items were creeping in where they don't belong. First of all, my table has six chairs which seems like a great place to drop my purse, jackets, and dog leash. No, this is not where the go and I have an easy place to hang these things in the entryway closet but alas they were there. A pile of checks and misc. papers had accumulated on the table as well as some keys. Under the sink my recycling system had exploded, there were two cutting boards on my counter, a fruit bowl with one apple and two tomatoes in it, and a watering can that belongs outside. This may not sound like a lot, but in my tiny row house kitchen it is.

So I took action. First I got my iRobot vacuum going and took out all of the recycling to the garage. ( Green note: I recycle and compost 90% of my garbage so we only have garbage pick up once a month.) Next I put all of the items away that didn't belong there. Then it was time to pare down. I put the watering can on the back deck, put the random fruit in the fridge, washed out the fruit bowl and put it away, and put one of the cutting boards away. I decided to lose the table runner and put a new candle in the center of the table and wash the throw rug by the door. I had a huge bamboo bowl filled with pine cones that spilled over in what can only be described as "Northwest Chique" that seemed to be screaming winter, so they had to go. I bagged them up, put them into storage in the garage, washed the bowl and put it away. Next all of the surfaces were sprayed with bleach and water which then sat for one minute and then I wiped them all down. That kills most of the germs and bad bacteria in your kitchen. I of course washed the floor then picked some flowers in the back yard and put them where the pine cones had been. This may not seem like a lot but the room now feels bigger and more comfortable and inviting.

I hope this post will inspire you to hit your own kitchen and if you want to check out how my kitchen systems work, read some of my past posts on reducing kitchen appliances, reducing the amount of junk mail you get, and composting.