I have felt this overzealous need to reduce the amount of stuff in my life for a long time.
I’ve just never needed a lot of material possessions to be happy. In fact, less for me has always meant more in terms of feeling peaceful and content. But then, I’ve never been all that traditional, or as Gil likes to point out, normal.
It’s not that I want to be a monk or a nun or that I don’t aspire to do things. In fact that’s it — I’ve always been more about experiencing and less about acquiring or collecting.
I was never that kid who dreamed about all the things I wanted when I grew up, especially in the traditional sense and because of this, I always felt…different.
As early as I can remember, my little girlfriends would talk about who they wanted to marry; they would describe the house they hoped to share with their families, and of course they always knew how many children they wanted.
I’d begin by telling them exactly how I felt about whatever make-believe game we were playing. In other words I’d be honest.
I would say things like I want to live in New York City; I want to write a screenplay; I want to be the starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves; I want to go on tour with Aerosmith.
Honest…but different. My friends didn’t quite know what to do with me.
They thought I was weird.
So I had a two options. I could play by myself or I could play with my friends and pretend to like the same things they liked.
You can probably guess what I did.
I reluctantly played along. They wanted to play school. I NEVER wanted to play school. Why on God’s green earth would I want to pretend to go school when I already spent entirely too much time there as it was?
Wasn’t pretending supposed to be fun?
Yes! And more than anything as a kid, I wanted to have fun. I endured these disastrous activities by infusing our games with my own flavor.
“Let’s pretend our school is like Fame!!!”
or, “I’m the teacher, but I can’t be stuck in the classroom. We’re spending the semester in Paris!!”
It was the same with the houses. My friends wanted Georgian mansions and I’d be all, “My dream home is a teepee!”
I remember thinking how cool those huts were on Gilligan’s Island. Now that was the kind of house I could live in.
I also never wanted to take care of the babies. I usually had to be the stand-in husband unless someone’s poor, unsuspecting baby brother got conned in to the job.
I grew up in a small town. Many of my childhood friends had parents who had lived in the same area for generations and generations. My parents were transplants, and because of this our entire family was a bit different. A few of my mom’s feminist leaning pals did their best to encourage their daughters to aim higher than a mansion, a rich husband along with a staff to care for the babies while they fanned themselves under the veranda sipping gin and juice…er…lemonade. But really, doesn’t that life picture make you want something stronger than lemonade. Or is that just me? Who knows. Like I said, I’ve never been normal — my gauge can’t be that reliable. Thankfully, neither of my parents pushed me to be some guy’s arm candy. I was expected to get an education and a job in order to support myself.
I’m still not like most of my peers in my area. We live in a mid-sized town in the Southeastern US. Many of my children’s classmates’ parents hold views that are vastly different from mine and Gil’s.
We’ve lived here for nearly ten years and as much as anywhere, it feels like home. We’ve been blessed with good friends, many of whom hold similar values and rear their children the way we do. And for what it’s all worth, I really don’t expect people to be just like me. I like variety and want my children to be exposed to various ways of existing in the world, BUT it’s nice to have a tribe, a safe-space that feels rather Kumbaya.
It’s more accurate to say that I KNOW a lot of people here, but the truth is, my tribe is gone. In the past year and a half, my three closest friends have moved far far away and I’m sad. These were the women who, had we known each other as children, would have been right there with me playing Fame School and Study Abroad in Paris.
I think that’s what I’ve discovered as an adult. You have to find your tribe. It wasn’t so much that I was a super-freak on the playground, but at the time I only hung with people who saw their world differently from the way I saw mine. And instead of embracing or even accepting my ideas, they told me I was wrong.
Different isn’t wrong.
This post was supposed to be about minimalism. I’m nearly 800 words in and I haven’t gotten around to that yet. I will tell you this — I feel like I’m on the brink of something life-changing, but I have to push through and make it happen. I’ve always felt that the fewer material possessions I have, the better and more creative I can be. I want to seriously downsize my life, and I’m in the process of figuring out exactly what that looks like.
I’ve been telling Gil and my mom this for a few years now, but they keep telling me that I’m being unrealistic. My mom, ever the traditionalist, is used to my whacky ideas, so she just shakes her head and tells me it’s my journey. We can thank her therapist, Diane, for that. A couple of years ago, that became Mom’s mantra. Anytime I brought up an idea that she didn’t understand or agree with (like the time I considered going to nursing school so that I could treat prisoners and educate them on AIDS and STDS — and yes, that was a crazy idea seeing that I don’t like blood or needles all that much), Mom would say, “Viv, it’s your journey.” She would repeat it over and over like she was trying to convince herself that she meant it.
But Gil, as well as he knows me, just thinks some of my ideas are straight-up loopy. This minimalism idea is extremely hard for him and I’ve decided that it’s because he’s a borderline hoarder. The dude loves his stuff and has a hard time parting with any item he’s spent money on.
Most likely our family will be moving in the next year or two. Gil works in downtown Savannah; I currently work from home, and we’ve wanted to get back to a larger city for a while. Personally, I’d love to pack up, sell or donate the majority of our stuff and move into a smaller, less expensive house. I’d also like to move across the country, but that’s not in the cards at the moment, so Savannah will have to work. There are certainly worse places.
I really want to do something crazy like design a container home or move into a motorhome so I can take the kids cross-country anytime the mood strikes, but that might be a tad unrealistic.
I’m starting by devouring this amazing website. Check it out.
I think for people like Gil and me, we’re just not organized enough to manage a lot. I miss traveling and would like to go on longer and off-the-beaten-path trips in the future. I have a million classes I’d love to take and skills I’d love to learn. I believe that simplifying and consciously reducing our bills and things to manage would be a first step in helping us achieve our goals.
To be continued…
What are your thoughts on stuff? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between?