Over the past few years I’ve been continuously reducing the number of things I own. This is a process I refer to as “decrappification”, borrowing a phrase from the computing world. Basically, I am trying to simplify my life and that includes decluttering my house.
So, of course, something comes along to upset my plans. That something is a renewed interest in cycling this past summer. I got the two bikes I owned out of storage, tuned and cleaned them, and I’ve been slightly less than obsessed with riding since. One bike is a 1990 Univega Nuovo Sport 10 speed road bike, which is great for riding on pavement. The other is a 1992 L. L. Bean Approach (non-suspension) mountain bike with all-purpose tires, which is suited for riding on gravel and dirt roads in my neighborhood.
I’m riding my Approach indoors on a trainer now that it’s gotten colder as winter approaches, but that’s not the same as being outside. My Univega, having skinny road slick tires, is clearly not suited for winter riding when there is snow and ice on the roads. I don’t want to subject my Approach to road salt and grime. That’s why I bought a pair of used Mongoose Spectra full suspension mountain bikes a couple days ago, for the princely sum of $50.00.
One has a frozen front fork but a good rear cassette. The other is just the opposite. Both have cable and twist shifter issues. All four tire tubes won’t hold air. Here’s the thing: between them I can make one good, essentially $25.00 winter beater bike for riding after it starts snowing. If it gets salty and dirty, so what? (I have no idea yet what I’ll do with the leftovers, but I’m sure something will come to me.)
Oh, and did I mention I’ve got my eye on a Kent/GMC Denali aluminum frame, flat bar road bike?
Sometimes the process of decluttering and decrappification is not about messy rooms or an overabundance of possessions. Sometimes it is about time and commitments. There are a finite number of hours in each day, week, month, and year. How we apportion our time has an impact upon us.
For example, for the past three years I’ve been on the Board of Directors of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine. It’s been an interesting experience, and I enjoyed being with the people on the Board. However, when my term recently expired, I chose to not continue. The thing is, I found myself stretch thinly more often than not this past year. As much as I valued being on the Board, it wasn’t an essential use of my time.
I once read a suggestion that one should make a list of one’s top five time commitments, in terms of personal importance. Anything that didn’t make the list would then be considered optional. For me the top five commitments (in no particular order) are work, church, friends and family, home maintenance, and exercising. Among other things with which I was involved in varying degrees, the Board didn’t make the cut, so I cut it. Cutting commitments which aren’t essential, useful, or pleasurable frees up time for those which are, and decreases my stress. Give it a try!
Time can’t be made or found, but it can be prioritized.
I have been thinking a lot about being single at 57 years of age, lately. Without going into unnecessary detail, I was briefly married a long time ago to an unpleasant woman. I have never felt compelled to take a chance on repeating that mistake. That is why I find myself single well after the half-century mark.
Here’s the thing: I am not bothered by being alone. I have always been comfortable with my own company. I believe that this has fostered in me a certain self-sufficiency. I answer to no schedule but that which I choose, and I find a lot of satisfaction in that. I would probably make a really good hermit, as long as my cave had WiFi.
Frankly at my age, it’s hard to imagine having someone around all the time. I have work, church, and friends, so I’m not planning on changing any time soon. I am, as Mary Chapin Carpenter sang, alone but not lonely.
I can’t believe I’ve been away from here for a month! Time to get back into my groove!
As I continue my pursuit of a simpler life, I’m sometimes surprised at how far I have come, and how far I have to go. The thing is, this simpler life thing is not a one-time effort. It is an ongoing process. I think I have picked most of the low hanging fruit and now it is time to reexamine what I have accomplished. My goal is to determine what steps I take next.
For example, I got rid of a lot of unread books and magazines early on, and mostly switched to e-books and magazines. Over the past couple years I’ve accumulated a small stockpile of hardcover books, a couple magazines that aren’t readily accessible as e-zines, and comic books (a store opened up nearby, which is hard to resist). I plan to go through all of my accumulated hardcopy reading material and mercilessly purge. I am also going to investigate the cost effectiveness of a service like Comixology for digital copies of the comic books I like.
I’m also going to go through my clothing again, and anything I haven’t worn in the past year will be donated or turned into paint rags. As much as it pains me, I am also going to inventory my tools, and eliminate duplicates. A couple of winter projects are going to be scanning my photos and ripping my DVDs to a terabyte drive. Clearly, I have my work cut out for me.
But realistically, if a given item is neither useful to me nor a source of joy, I don’t need it taking up space in my life.
I don’t know about you but I get really tired, really fast listening to the news lately. I don’t care which side of the political spectrum with which you align yourself, the bitterness and rancor that permeates the radio and television these days is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my 57 years on this planet. So I have mostly stopped letting the broadcast media rent space in my head and heart for free.
I no longer watch the news on TV in the morning. I mean really, who likes to start their day pissed off? Not me! In the evening I watch a local affiliate for local stuff. To get national news, I read the online versions of state newspapers as well as those of the New York Times and the Washington Post. The advantage of this is simply that I choose what I consume. When I’m in my truck I either listen to a classical music station or my collection of Success Magazine audio interviews. I certainly avoid talk radio, even on NPR, because without fail they are all biased in some manner.
What it all comes down to at the end of the day, is that I have decided that I will control what goes into my head, much like I choose to control what I eat and drink. In both cases, I avoid consuming toxic materials.