Last September, I traveled for a month carrying only a 35 L backpack. I didn’t always look proper, but I survived freezing temperatures at 8,000 ft in Yosemite, Malaysian heat, and Philippine-typhoons. Coming back to my apartment, I realized I own many things.
I’ve got shoes for every occasion and multiple sports. More button up shirts than days in a week. Notebooks from freshman year at university. Too much.
With Christmas-consumerism looming a few weeks away, I decided to drop items. I’ve always meant to do this, but tossing stuff is hard. Everything had value. Emotional value. Monetary value. Just-in-case functional value. Furthermore, each item had its own disposal method. Sell high value, donate low value, toss the private or really low valued items.
The first method, selling, is tough. I’ve had the most success with books. They are easy to describe thanks to ISBN’s and they are easy to ship. In contrast, I’ve got a rockin’ GoreTex, unused jacket, but it’s a models old, difficult to describe precisely, and, as a winter jacket, is best sold during only a few months of the year. I’ve got a gorgeous leather carry-on that I never use, but the brand is vague and the value is difficult to assess. It’ll continue to hold shoes I shouldn’t have bought.
Now, obviously, woe is me. The gainfully employed American has too much stuff. First world problems. But since I don’t struggle to find my next meal, dodge bullets or bombs, I’m going to write about what I know. And let’s be honest, you’re reading a blog from the internet. The Internet!
Anyway, a few interesting ideas floated my way. First, the 100 item project. Reduce your personal items to total 100. Strictness varies from all shoes counting as one item or counting each shoe (such as the left New Balance) as one item. As my friend said, its less about going Spartan, than realizing what you can live without and what you really enjoy living with.
Second, the story of stuff. Manufacturing products causes more waste than just the plastic packaging. (Frankly, I found the video annoying. The statistics lacked context, but I got the point.) So buy less. My favorite clothing company tracks their carbon foot print and water consumption well and even encouraged people to not purchase their products, unless the needed them.
To save money and reduce waste (transportation, packaging), I used to buy dry beans, soak them the night before I wanted to cook them. Except I usually forgot, and either went without protein or accelerated the soaking by boiling the beans, which I presume is inefficient compared to industrial canning.
To save money (and to be ironically behind the times), I kept using my 2005 PowerBook G4 12″ laptop, even when it creaked under Pandora, overheated in the summer and required fridge cool-downs. Also, as a PowerPC computer, I continually dug for old software and used the last great thing. I would burn time traveling to computer labs to use the latest software to ensure compatibility when sharing files.
But my diet bent towards malnutrition. And I started to eat out more to quickly compensate. And I hesitated to pursue CPU-intensive side-projects. I couldn’t use my secondary monitor, because my laptop’s graphics card initiated an internal Malliard reaction. I was acting dead.
I was trying to do what my dead ancestors do much better. They spend zero dollars per year and generate zero waste.
At somepoint, trying to be thrifty and environmentally-protective inhibits living. So be judicious about it.
But I’m still going to hold onto my Razr. No, not the 10 inch, Kevlar-backed Razr. The one that flips open. The one you’ll tell your kids about. Because I’m still trying to be cool.