A few years ago I got really into Minimalism.
Like, really into it. I read all the blogs. I read all the books. At that time, I was living in a two-bedroom apartment by myself—sure it was in a building where homeless people would sleep and use the bathroom in the stairwell, but two bedrooms! Inspired by the Minimalist Dream, I whittled my already scarce possessions down to one desk and one mattress and one pan and one knife and fork, which I constantly debated myself on whether I really needed. Maybe just a spoon would do? I got ride of quite a few things I wished I hadn't. My regrets:
I got rid of a lot my books, and I miss some of them now. Sure moving with them every year wasn’t much fun. But some books I miss. The short stories of Mavis Gallant. Quite a few Hemingway. A bunch of hardcover Faulkner. Some Alice Munro. Jean Stafford. Maeve Brennan. I miss you, books.
My college diploma
I was going to own less than one hundred things, and who needs a stupid college diploma anyways?
My checking account
Money is the ultimate unnecessary possession. I decided to do without money like the guy in Utah who sleeps in a cave and goes dumpster diving and takes baths in the river. Lesson learned: I don’t really enjoy dumpster diving every day and it’s hard to buy things without money. Also: no caves in New York that you'd want to sleep in.
I thought I could just get by with one shirt, one pair of jeans, and two pairs of underwear, and two socks. I thought a winter coat would "manifest itself" when the time came. This was a mistake.
My tax returns
Who needs tax returns? I thought. They were just taking up valuable space on my floor and weighing down my soul with all those numbers. So many numbers. Probably shouldn’t have thrown all those away though.
Instead of using toothpaste I tried to brush my teeth with fresh mint leaves.
Americans shower too much. We’re afraid of our natural scent. This is what I believed. But as I stood in that elevator on my way up to a job interview and realized the smell was myself, I definitely wished deodorant was one of my one hundred things.
I decided to get more in touch with nature and only live with natural light in my apartment. Sure, I saved some money but had to read by candlelight and I think ruined my vision. I can barely see these words as I type.
Public transportation and taxis
Okay, public transportation is great and in theory I’m all for it. But riding the NYC subway can be a nightmare with all the people and delays, and it’s not like it’s so affordable. At $2.75 a ride or $116 for a monthly pass, it’s a serious expense. Which is why I decided to only ride my bike and walk everywhere. Riding in the rain and snow, however, isn’t too much fun. Probably shouldn't have ripped up my monthly pass.
Water waste and shortages are a major problem in this country. From the drought in California to declining well and water tables across this great nation of ours, we need to become much better at conserving water. I decided to do my part by giving up showers. Since I had also given up deodorant this was a tricky time in my life. Luckily I took sponge baths and was able to shower in the summer in the streets when the fire hydrants were leaking. Still, the kids playing on the sidewalk would make fun of me because I didn’t shower in my apartment.
If I don't need a checking account, I definitely don't need a 401k. I took a withdrawal, paid the penalty, and gave away my money to this homeless guy I saw on the street. In retrospect, maybe not the best use of my retirement funds.
Cooking and grocery shopping in New York is a major expense. Also storing the food in your apartment can be burdensome as it takes up space. Going out to eat is also expensive, even though there are so many great restaurants. The only logical choice to me seemed to give up food. Turns out, it’s a lot harder than it seems.
I decided to be more serious. I was going to give up laughter. This guy told me a needed to be more serious and I believed him. I only allowed myself three laughs a day.
To be really free from possessions and wants and emotions, I had to stop moving my arms and legs and other body parts. That was the only thing to do. I found out, however, that movement is essential to living.
This is the ultimate possession. I was only renting, I know, but this thing weighed down on my soul. I decided to give it up. That way I could be truly free. I moved to Prospect Park and set up my sleeping bag (no tent, I got rid of that). I avoided the hook up site under that bridge because I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea, but I lived in the park and took baths in the pond (kind of gross) and lived a carefree life for those two days until the police kicked me out.
I decided to move to Central Park since that is bigger after all. I was quite happy there for a while but it snowed and got really cold. The thing is, I hate the cold. Like really hate the cold and so I moved back into an apartment because it’s nice having a structure that can hold heat and keep out the elements. It’s nice to be surrounded by a moderate amount of books and a table to eat on and a couch and chairs and dishes and pans and pots and a cat and artwork on the walls and, yeah, having TV to watch shows when it’s snowing outside and the temperature out there is ten degrees is quite thrilling. I highly recommend it.