“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”.-Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”. This page is my interpretation of Thoreau’s sentiment on simplicity.
What is decrappification? It’s a process and a philosophy of simplification which I have adopted. I am simplifying my life by reducing the amount of stuff I own-or which owns me-while at the same time eliminating or minimizing the stressors in my life. This site is a record of my journey. I don’t for a moment think this will happen overnight, so I’m in this for the long haul.
About half way through December of 2012 I made a decision to simplify my life. I had reached a point where there was too much clutter in my house and my life in general. It was time to change! Borrowing a phrase from the computer world (referring to removal of pre-installed software) and adding a “p”, I call this process decrappification.
Not having much of a plan, I started with what seemed most obvious to me: books and magazines. I am a voracious reader, and I had years of accumulated reading material to prove it. I went through all my book shelves (and piles) and discovered that I had a lot of magazines that were more than two years old. Many were more than ten years old! So I created four piles: keep, sell, redistribute, and recycle.
I took any magazines that were more than one year old to the recycling center. Any that were between six months and one year old, I brought to the “library” at work. Right now, for any that are less than six months old, I’m scanning specific articles as PDF files, and then taking the magazines to work for redistribution. The exception is my collection of back issues of Mother Earth News. (However, I’m going to buy a CD with all their back issues from 1970 to 1979, at which point I won’t need the hard copies.) All told, six large canvas shopping bags of magazines no longer call my house “home”.
I have been doing much the same thing with my books, except for the scanning part. I had dozens of what I think of as “one and done” paperbacks, mostly fiction, but a lot of automobilia too. I have no idea why I was holding on to them when I hadn’t so much as cracked a cover on most of them for ages-some as much as twenty years! Those which I felt I had a reasonable of selling went or will go on e-Bay (and I have done rather well so far). Those which didn’t seem salable but that could still be of interest to someone, I took to work for redistribution. The rest have been recycled.
Next, I’m going to repeat the process with my “keep” piles, and see what else I can rid myself of. Simultaneously, I am going out of my way to avoid acquiring unnecessary replacements. To that end, I bought an 8 gigabyte Nook Tablet, substantially marked down because the new Nook HD models have come out. I was a bit skeptical at first, but now I find that I am enjoying reading both books and magazines on it and the peace of mind I get from knowing that I have a viable strategy for simplifying this aspect of my life. There are a few authors whose works I will always buy in hard copy, and I won’t part with my Bibles. Everything else is up for review, though!
What’s in store? I’m going to rip all my CDs and DVDs so I can get rid of them. I’m going to go through my clothes and any which are in good shape but which I have not worn in the past year will be cleaned and donated. I have a duplicate set of cookware and way too many plates and cups and other kitchenware, that are headed for Goodwill. I am going to put my disused camping gear and other miscellaneous items, along with far too many knick-knacks, on e-Bay. Anything that does not sell will be donated.
Then, I’ll probably start all over!
Phase One of my decrappification process is the reduction in the number of things in my life. I’m speaking of possessions, and reducing their numbers. I’ve reduced (and am still reducing) the number of books and magazines in my home. I have acquired a Nook tablet to avoid filling the reading material void. I’m laundering and donating unused and/or outgrown (in a downward direction) clothing on an ongoing basis. I’m scanning a ton of photos. I’ve begun going through my kitchen implements and gadgets, to eliminate redundancy (how many skillets does one person need, anyway?) and unneeded items. So far, the physical reduction in my belongings is going well.
Phase Two is going to be a mental and spiritual process. Minimalism is not about subjecting yourself to deprivation. It is all about eliminating from your life that which serves no purpose. Doing so will allow you to focus your energy upon that which is important and purposeful. These important things include relationships, prayer or meditation, useful work, play (yes, play), and so on. I’m sure you can add to this brief list.
Some of the things I need to let go of emotionally are old romantic relationships. I’ve got a few shoeboxes full of mementos from past girlfriends, the oldest going back 12 years. Why in the world am I dwelling upon failed relationships? I will remember the good times, because there were some. Even so, I will dispose of the mementos, and symbolically let go of the last threads holding me to these past relationships.
I suspect that Phase Two is going to require less work, but will be a lot more difficult than Phase One. I must review and prioritize my emotional and spiritual attachments. Attachments to the past, to people who wandered out of my life for various reasons, and to material possessions. This will entail a lot of self-examination, something which I, and I suspect many, have avoided.
Well, the time has come!
Phase 1 was a reduction of the number of my possessions. Phase 2 was a realignment of my mental and spiritual foci. Phase 3 is an ongoing process, which may be thought of as “maintenance”.
- When I decide to purchase something, I wait an extra 24 hours and think about whether this purchase is truly necessary. If it is, I go ahead with it. If it’s not, I don’t.
- Each time I clean a part of the house, I examine my stuff to see if there’s anything with which I can part without causing myself an inconvenience or a hardship.
- I am always on the lookout for ways to simplify my life. When I come across a useful tip-generally in a blog-I implement it. For example, I have established a habit of “Toss it Tuesdays”, in which I specifically take one day a week for recycling/redistributing: clothes, reading materials, tchotchkes, etc.
Phase 3 is about creating new habits which reflect my new priorities. It’s about being conscious of the impacts which my materialistic choices have, not only upon me but upon those around me, and in a more general sense upon this world in which I live. Phase 3 involves a continuous and conscious examination of my life, and those issues which either motivate or impede me. It’s not only about getting rid of stuff, it’s also about creating a visually simpler environment in my home.
This is not a one-time event or a “when I feel like it” thing. Decrappification, simplification, or minimalism-whatever you call it, it’s a lifelong process of self-examination.