Firstly, let me give a quick aside here to say that I really like my new bag. It feels right, looks to be put together decently, and is comfortable to tote around. As an added bonus both the cats have approved it for sleeping upon. It’s taking some getting used to in terms of things like grocery shopping but it is working like I had hoped. How it will do in the long run remains to be seen but so far I am pleased with the purchase. Now on to gist of this post.
You are probably wondering why my fascination with all things minimal. Why in this land of plenty would I chose to possess so little? Is it a fad? Another “phase” I am going through?
No. It’s not.
Getting to the minimalist lifestyle I am striving for has taken a lot of thought, time, and money to get there. Minimalism is not some random idea that I happened across recently while surfing the inter webs. For years I was trapped in the consumer world. Working to acquire more things, property, vehicles, and all that rubbish. No matter how much I owned, or bought, or went into debt for, it never seemed to be enough. There was always something else I thought I needed or wanted.
But on top of acquiring all that crap, I found that there was another problem. I had to take care of it all. Something always needed cleaning, repaired, fixed, adjusted, corrected, or renewed. And all that extra work required me to spend more money on the stuff to take care of all the stuff I had. Plus taking care of said crap took up a large amount of whatever free time I had. It never seemed to end and it was making me miserable. It also led me to a conclusion about owning stuff.
You don’t really, actually own anything. When you acquire something, you merely accept the responsibility of taking care of said something.
Yes, I know. You have proof of ownership. Titles, deeds, receipts, and your initials carved into the concrete on your patio. But all that means is you are responsible and liable for that which you claim ownership of. And it doesn’t matter what you have and how much proof you have that says you own something, there is always going to be someone or something that has desire and/or the ability to take it away from you be it government, the banks, or nature.
Think you own your land? Try not paying your property taxes. Or skip on a few mortgage payments. Or argue over grazing fees like that rancher is doing out in Nevada. Think the feds are done with him and have gone home? They’ll be back, and his ranch will be no more.
How about that vehicle you drive around? Don’t pay the tag fee, or skip some payments, or better yet, park where you ain’t suppose to. Ownership no more, but you will still be responsible and liable for it.
How about some weather disaster? A hurricane, flood, earthquake, or ex girlfriend showing back up. You better have some insurance, another cost, or you lose it.
Nope, ownership is just an illusion. And the more complicated, valuable, or bigger something is, the ownership illusion also becomes bigger. Sure, you get to enjoy the benefits of “owning” something. As long as you make all the required monetary payments you can still live, eat, and sleep in your house. You can still drive that vehicle across the land to and fro. But you are still responsible for all that which you have acquired. And you are held liable for anything that happens as a result of you being responsible for those acquisitions.
Now for the vast majority of us who have all that stuff, it’s not a problem. We pay the bills, keep the paperwork in order, and adopt another identity to avoid the ex. But, we are still responsible for that which we claim ownership of, and that is what I want to get away from.
While I am a professional bovine fecal matter arteest, as you well know, I am also an world class shirker of responsibility. I’ve managed to take assets like laziness, apathy, and slovenliness and turn them into an art form revolving around the ability to avoid hard work, responsibility, and accountability every chance I get. So the idea of having a lot of stuff, and having the responsibility of taking care of said stuff, just isn’t in the game plan for me. Quite simply, the less I own, the more better life will be.
How much time do you spend taking care of all your stuff? When you come home from a hard day in the worker bee mill do you sit back and relax or are you still running around doing chores, taking care of stuff, and generally not enjoying your time off? Which would you rather be doing on a beautiful weekend? Replacing the paper liners in the kitchen cabinets or kayaking through a mangrove tunnel? Mowing the grass or hiking some trail. Hint: the grass will just grow back, and you won’t remember cutting it. But you will remember the hike.
A friend of mine, ok, acquaintance, all right, somebody I know, is like that. He has a long term job, typical stuff. 5 days a week, weekends off, the usual paid holidays and two weeks vacation. He mainly works there for the benefits, a pension, insurance, etc. He is married and they have a nice little house with a nice little yard, in a nice little subdivision. When he is not working he is forever doing something around the house. The yard has lots of plants and take a lot of time to care for. There is always some chore inside to be done. His garage is full of unfinished projects. And if he is not working around the house he is doing work someplace else. I’ve never seen him relax. We talked many a time of moving to the Keys. I did, he visits once or twice a year. When he does come down he cannot sit still for a minute. Always walking around nervously looking for something to take care of. Fix some fishing rods, clean a boat, get the dive gear ready. While the rest of us can sit there idly in the evening and watch a sunset, he will get up and pace nervously about. He has been conditioned for so long to be always taking care of his stuff that he has forgotten how to enjoy living. It seems like if he stops for even a short few minutes, everything will overwhelm him and he will be lost. When he retires, if he ever does, it will kill him. He won’t know how to act with nothing to take care of. I feel sorry for him but his life is of his own making. So much of life has passed him by because he was too busy mowing the grass, cleaning the drain spouts, and defrosting the freezer. Such a waste.
So yeah, I am at the opposite end of that scale. Even now, the little boat upon which I lay my weary head at night is starting to become something of a liability. It needs stuff. It needs repairs, replacements, fixin’s, and it all takes time and money. Neither of which I want to spare right now. Sometimes I think, what the hell, fix it up and just enjoy living on it. But more and more, I’m leaning towards selling it and finding short term land accommodations. The cats keep me somewhat anchored for now. So I will stay and do the occasional repair here and there as income affords it.
But still, I look at that little bag, and dream of stuffing the MacAir, the iPhone, along with a few possibles into it, and heading out to explore. No possessions to worry about, no responsibility, no liability. That time will come soon enough.
“Man has always thought of himself as smarter than the dolphin as he had invented such things as the wheel, war, and New York City, while the dolphins just muck about in the ocean, eating and playing. Dolphins have always thought they were smarter than man for exactly the same reason.” Douglas Adams