Post-Xmas Thoughts on Hard Minimalism and the Upcoming Year

I got a lot of stuff this year.

I’m pretty sure this had to do with the fact that I’d had surgery less than a week before Christmas, and my dad’s paternal generosity was brought to the fore at the sight of my young, happy self laying in a hospital bed and joining the missing organ club. In his defense, though, I didn’t get anything I hadn’t specifically  asked for via my Every-Occasion Wishlist. A new wetsuit, ultralight camping chair, tea kettle, bike gear, a book, and some other things. From others I got a jacket, some wool and thermal wear, a ceramic pot and steamer, and some gift cards.

Getting material gifts is always a double-edged sword for me. The consumer in me gets incredibly happy at having a new thing, but the everything else in me winces and perpetually wonders if it–any of it–was ever something I “really”, “truly”, needed.

For 6 weeks after surgery, I’m supposed to take it easy. No lifting over 10 lbs, no rigorous exercise (including sex), no excessive crouching and bending over, and not to be surprised if any exertion makes me cripplingly tired or if things start to randomly ache over the course of recovery. I hate not being able to do things, because that usually means that I find myself stuck in front of the TV when reading gets boring. So one evening I got super bored and grouchy, and against my mom’s and husband’s wishes, went upstairs to organize my room a bit.

One of the things that gets talked about a lot in zero waste and minimalist circles is the collection of What-If Stuff, and what to do with it when one wants to downsize and declutter. Earlier this year I spent a lot of time getting rid of things. Clothes, art supplies, knick-knacks, etc. But going through my room again this past weekend, I realized that there was still a lot I’d held onto. A small box of scrap fabric yardage, old hard drives, a few art and cosplay supplies. These weren’t things that I used regularly at all; but I have thrown these sorts of things out in years past only to find myself shelling out for them again at some point. I wish I could be in a frame of mind where I didn’t need these things, but that’s just where I am right now. Why do I own this stuff? Well, for one, I like to be able to fix things when they break. I’m master of my small collection of glues, for instance. I have bike tools and a few spare parts; I have a Dremel set. And that fabric yardage is great for making, say, a “SHARE THE ROAD” patch for when I’m out cycling on hostile streets. Or it helps when I maybe want to make my own Christmas stocking instead of buying one. Or I  can patch the hole in my pants instead of tossing them out.

And all of that got me to wondering: what does a minimalist lifestyler do when they need to patch up a hole in their pants and they’ve thrown out the needles, threads, and patches because it was too much clutter? Or when a piece of favorite costume jewelry breaks and you don’t have the glue to fix it? What happens when you’ve given away your needle-nose pliers and a wire needs gripping, a metal ring needs opening, or something small and delicate needs placing?  Let’s pretend for a moment that I draw my comics with pen and paper because I find it convenient moreso than something that just makes more sense to me to use– the two square feet I save in my closet from storing these pages might be saved if I drew everything digitally, sure, but then in order to make sure those files don’t disappear I have to back them up; maybe onto a hard drive, maybe the cloud, maybe both and then some. I also would likely have to buy, maintain, and become dependent on a Cintiq, which is a fancy piece of equipment that allows for easier digital art-making than the 8-year old, index-card sized tablet that I currently use. In other words, if I were to completely digitize my art-making process to “minimalize” my space, I would actually have to further complicate the world outside of my own by handing my clutter over to another person to deal with.

So instead of paper and archival boxes, I’d have even more to throw onto “the cloud”, which is basically just friendly marketing-speak for someone else’s computer. I’d also have to support an industry that creates very niche, complex electronics that are getting increasingly expensive, short-lived, and convoluted as the digital arts market continues to grow and mature. I don’t want to become dependent on tools and workflows like that; it just spells disaster for me in the long run.

And the same can be said for the rest of the things that I hold onto. I want to have the resources to patch my clothes, craft, make, un-make, and repair without having to go to someone else–without having to outsource those skills and resources to someone else–and pay them for their services. Is that real minimalism? I don’t know, but it’s definitely not in the spirit of my praxis.

The upcoming year looks incredibly promising for me. Having had my hysterectomy, I don’t have to deal with periods ever again, which is a tremendous burden lifted from my shoulders as both a gender-weird person and someone who suffered tremendously from endometriosis. 2015 will be the beginning of the rest of my life in that way, and I’m stoked.

I also plan on moving to central Oregon. Living with my grandmother in the city that we do is becoming less and less tenable for me. We just are just NOT compatible as roommates, and it’s taking a pretty big toll on me. I’m also having a really hard time finding work here in Los Angeles; I can’t even get hired at a grocery store. So on that front, too, heading north will hopefully be a boon as the unemployment rate in Oregon is a bit lower than it is here. I’ll be closer to my husband and Vancouver, so plane trips will be shorter and maybe even cheaper. On my uncle’s ranch where I’m planning to move in late spring, I’ll be able to have my vegetable plot, I’ll be able to walk and roam, I’ll be able to cultivate my growing tendencies for rural living.

Oh, and speaking of, did I mention that 2015 will be the year that hubs and I will be formulating plans for moving to Lasqueti Island in the future? It’s an island in the Georgia Straight that’s off-grid and home to a small, quirky, and mostly radical community of environmentalists and (I suspect) anarchists. Hubs and I made the decision a few weeks ago to make this island part of a very serious 10-year plan which will hopefully culminate in us owning a plot of land and building a cod house/earthship. And getting through 2015 is gonna be step one.

Do I have any resolutions for this next year? Not really, never been much into them. But I think getting some kind of income going would definitely be it, otherwise.

How about you?

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