Sunday 4th March 2018 | Blog #7 What it’s like to downsize
From our little flat in Camden, London to our even littler Kombi. We’ve been constantly looking at our stuff and thinking what we want or need. Sometimes those two things cross over, sometimes they don’t (mostly they don’t). We haven’t found any secret tip, or ‘hack’ as people are saying these days. I don’t really care how old that makes me sound, because fad words are just stupid. So hack off. This I what it’s like to downsize…
When I was a cute adorable little boy, I remember having a shelf of action hero toys, soldiers and that sort of thing. Gleefully playing with them whenever, making dens in the garden and generally being happy (…what time it was). Then the time came when I battled with ‘do I still play with these?’ (meaning do I want to play with these = yes, I did) and ‘should I still be playing with these?’. The second answer was no, I was getting too old, so the first clear out of my life began. Off to charity they went.
Fast forward to university, with boxes of books and clothes, I set my self up in the student village. Everything I left at my parents was stuff I didn’t use. A small amount was stuff that gets used on occasion, or, stuff with memories. But a fair bit was ‘overstock’. It sat there keeping the dust company until the uni years ended and it was time to put that expensive study to work. Off to London, I went!
Being the responsible person I am, I did a ‘half a job harry’ and cleared some things, but not enough for my parents to make use of the room. Who knows why. Over the following years, I gradually reduced the things at my parents.
I’m not a hoarder, I’m certainly not a shopaholic (far too tight) and I never really had too many ‘things’. But it seems no matter what level of ownership, there’s always pile of things that don’t get used much.
Minimalism used to be a design concept, now it seems to be a lifestyle concept. And, there’s excitement about it. The type of excitement that involves dressing in black, hiding everything behind monolithic doors and thinking of a two-tone colour palette as expressive. Admittedly it does look cool, and if you go through any sort of design study it will come up and you’ll feel obliged to indulge. My problem is I like books. I like to read, to browse, to let them remind me of things as I glance at them. Their disappearance behind a secret cupboard makes them disappear from my mind. I don’t like clutter, but I do like things to prompt my mind, like whispers nudging the memories into each other. That’s where the new ideas are. Where the unrelated memories meet.
Our latest round of downsizing has come about by necessity. But we’ve been conscious of lowering our impact too.
Impact of what? Well, everything you own has been made by someone, somewhere and then when it’s thrown away it goes somewhere. Lots of unknowns and I hesitate to get overly serious, but we (meaning everyone) are at a time where we need to have a little think about these things. It’s not the 70’s anymore Karen. Plastic packaging isn’t new, isn’t amazing and is a massive pain in the arse.
Reducing impact is simply being more self-aware. The impact we’re trying to lower is on demand for producing ‘things’. So perhaps when something is made, more thought will go into how it’s made, by who and with what. More thought meaning more that something is more robust, more ethical and longer lasting – that’s lasting to do what it’s supposed to, for those sarcastic tits out there thinking, ‘well plastic lasts forever’. It does, but usually the critical part of any device made of plastic breaks way too early and then it’s all over.
By mindlessly consuming anything and everything that gets pumped out with no care or concern for those making it, or the environment that has to deal with it we’re doing quite a lot of harm to that environment as well as ourselves.
Downsizing can be an active effort to reduce your impact. Simply throwing everything out doesn’t really have that effect obviously. So think through what and why you’re getting rid of stuff, and are you simply going to replace it. Minimalism is different to downsizing. Downsizing is a process and one that looks forward to the future. One that also looks at where things are going. Can that go to charity and find a new home, can it be recycled? Annoyingly there are things that are difficult to dispose of, but work through the options and you’re part of a positive process.
What it’s like to downsize
For us, downsizing to move across the globe, and then to fit into a van has been a bumpy ride. Gumtree, ebay, freecycle and the like have helped a lot of things find new homes and for us to make a little money back. But the constant self-examination can be tiring.
So the tip, or hack (snore), is to think as you go along in life. To not buy crap, to not build things up. Most people don’t move across the world and then into a van. But, most people do move houses and spring clean. So save the pennies, buy stuff occasionally that you really want or need. Don’t feel guilty for wanting something, just have some respect for yourself and don’t buy crap. You’ll avoid a lot of frustration down the line.
Downsizing is a good process, it gives control and peace of mind. But it doesn’t have to be a big tiring process most of the time. It’s so much easier and more enjoyable to weave it into your day to day.