Paring Down

Old Woman Peeling Potatoes

Old Woman Peeling Potatoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the principles behind the various living simply movements.  Think about it, in our frenetic day to day lives, doesn’t the idea of slowing down and simplifying sound tempting?

Not in an extremist way, I have no interest in renouncing technology and indoor plumbing;  living completely off the grid, but just saying enough is enough, enough is good enough, I’m going to value time to breathe and enjoy. I’m always interested in the stories of people who decide to do this, sell their second and third cars, their McMansions, and move to adorable, solar powered log homes in Montana, or Maine or Idaho.

1919 Indoor Toilet Ad

1919 Indoor Toilet Ad (Photo credit: dok1)

Except, reading these blogs, how to guides, and articles, these people all seem to have started off with significantly more than they need. And their new homes always have enough room for comfortable furniture, a working garden, room for all who live there and the stuff they continue to value. How does one decide to live simply in the city with a family and limited budget? Is it possible to make it a choice, when so many “no’s” are out of necessity?

I’ve known/know a few who seem to, but they’re all either single or two people (couple or one adult with a child). None have significant, chronic medical needs. Their dry goods aren’t sitting out on kitchen counters because the cabinets are crowded with medicines and supplements.

I like the idea of getting rid of unnecessary stuff and clutter.  It’s the battle of clutter here, because there just isn’t a place for everyone’s stuff.  But what is unnecessary?  My books? Bite your tongue, I need those! Not every book I’ve ever read, and over the past couple of years I’ve passed along at least a hundred, but what’s left are my companions, my solace when I’m feeling stuck or lonely or blue. I could replace them with an e-reader, but that would involve money to purchase the e-reader and buy the books–I already own!–electronically.

There are now 4 small boxes of stuff sitting in my living room from my mother’s apartment. One that’s waiting to be passed along. 3 small boxes from my mother’s life which includes memorabilia from my father and grandmother’s lives. I’d like to get rid of the big wall unit taking up space, but I’m not about to renounce TV either (yes, I do need to watch the Housewives), so that can’t happen until I can replace the old tube TV with one of the skinny hang on the wall things, and a smaller unit to hold the cable box, iPod dock, and Wii.  Money again.

And what about time? Where do these hours to enjoy life come from?  All those luxuries of modern living (many of which I don’t have), like a dishwasher or washer and dryer are luxuries because of the time they save.

Maybe living simply is a luxury itself, only meant for those who can do so as a choice.

What do you think?


Dollhouse (Photo credit: cliff1066™)


  1. I get this! We have a lot of junk I’d like to get rid of. And you know what? We can’t even afford to get rid of it! We have to pay for trash removal in our town, and that only includes typical house garbage, not stuff like broken furniture or bulk stuff. For that you need to rent a container. The smallest container costs about $400?! So to throw away garbage, I have to pay $400?! Are you kidding me?!

    I agree that most people you see “publicly” deciding to simplify have resources with which to make the change in an orderly, pleasing way. And their simple life post-cutting-back often includes a lot more luxury than many live with now- is their remaining one car a nice, nearly new reliable one vs two nearing the end of their life expectancy (if not completely falling apart)? Maybe no mansion anymore, but have they relocated to a tenemant where those forced to live the simplest of existence have no choice but to live? And a voluntary, planned change differs from changes brought on by slowly going broke. Simple will mean different things to different people. Having more of some things can complicate your life and mess up your priorities, whereas having more of other things can simplify it and make it easier to focus on what’s most important to you and your family.


    1. Yup, having more or less stuff completely depends on what that stuff is. I love to imagine getting a hybrid vehicle when/if we replace our current deathtrap, it would be make so much sense–but there’s no way we could afford the cost of a hybrid. Same for a home using solar/wind power, the cost of implementing these energy and money savers is prohibitive.


    2. And yikes! on the cost of carting away broken furniture/bulk stuff. It’d be cheaper to rent a truck and cart it yourself to the dump. Of course, then when you factor in the time and energy to rent the truck and do it yourself, it’s the reason it stays in your house. 😦


  2. Start with a small home. For the last 30 yrs. I’ve lived in space no bigger than 775 sq. ft. Then later I shared it with my partner.

    That’ll discipline anyone.


    1. LOL, we are 5 people and 2 dogs in an 800 square foot apartment.

      You do learn valuable lessons living in a small space. Like how to get along and share. 🙂 Thanks for joining in, I hope you’ll come again!


      1. That’s tight. We grew up in 1 bedroom apt….with 5 children. Except for baby, we slept in the living room. Then parents scraped together money to buy their first (old) 3 bedroom house. I was 10 yrs. old. 6th child was born 9 months later.


  3. You know – it never occurred to me how tough this would be in the city. I know I have too much crap – I’m slowly getting rid of it. I have chosen in the last few years to accumulate less and really focus on the things that I love doing – thus giving me license to buy camera equipment:)

    Living in the woods I see people doing it as a lifestyle choice. Cisterns, rainwater, passive solar, organic gardening – all things that are probably impossible in the city.


    1. I’m glad you’ve made the choices you have, because I ❤ your photos.

      Yes, many of the things you mention are impossible in the city, at least as a fringe or even a middle class person. Space, time, and money, all three in short supply.


  4. stuff is comfort, too much is suffocating. Its hard living in close quarters. I am the woman who on a plane who ponders.. if I kill all the people around me and stack the bodies.. I might have more space.
    It doesn’t bring out the best in me. it probably doesn’t in anyone.
    They say multi use rooms are key.. I think a move is in your future. Maybe to Georgia with a wrap round porch and mossy trees. sometimes the impossible just needs to be turned inside out till you find a way.
    Hope you can get the space you need.


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