Personal: A simpler kind of life

Aha! I’ve just discovered the “more” tag. I think this is the solution to my problem of what to do with my two blogs, this one and the LJ. As you may know, up till now I’ve been posting personal entries on the LiveJournal and “professional” entries on this one. The thinking was, not everyone who’s here to hear about my art-making is interested in my views on politics, the ins and outs of my health, or pictures of my cats. But I’m getting tired of maintaining two blogs. So I’m going to try something new. I will start to include my personal entries here instead of on the LJ, but I’ll hide the main text behind a “more” tag so people who want to skip over them may do so. Let me know what you think.

Later today I’ll return to Thursday Writing with some thoughts on blogging. But in the meantime, today’s personal post is on decluttering.
Earlier this week Mommy sent me an article that mentioned a couple who made it their goal to live with only 100 possessions. This would seem to bring their stuff-owning down to 19th-century pioneer levels, which is both insane and interesting to think about. I wondered if it was even possible, so I made a list. I did not include the house or any food, but other than that, I put down everything I consider a necessity.

  1. Car
  2. Toothbrush for Lisa
  3. Toothbrush for Erik
  4. Toothpaste
  5. Floss
  6. Drinking glass
  7. Mug with a handle (to double as ladle or as soup bowl)
  8. Bowl for Lisa
  9. Bowl for Erik
  10. Plate for Lisa
  11. Plate for Erik
  12. Napkin for Lisa
  13. Napkin for Erik
  14. Paring knife
  15. Butter knife
  16. Fork for Lisa
  17. Fork for Erik
  18. Spoon for Lisa
  19. Spoon for Erik
  20. Chopsticks for Lisa
  21. Chopsticks for Erik
  22. Kitchen knife
  23. Cutting board (Erik: “You can cut on a plate.” Me: “You can’t cut everything on a plate.”)
  24. Spatula (Erik: “You can use a spoon.” Me: “Yes. But I want my spatula.”)
  25. Mixing bowl
  26. Cooking pot
  27. Colander (this is starting to remind me of a Richard Scarry picture dictionary I loved as a kid)
  28. Baking sheet or casserole
  29. Fridge (I include this but not other kitchen appliances, because some houses/apartments don’t come with a fridge)
  30. Kitchen towel
  31. All-purpose liquid detergent for hands and dishes
  32. Dish sponge or brush
  33. Reusable shopping bag
  34. Plastic wrap or foil
  35. Bath towel
  36. All-purpose liquid soap for faces, bodies, and hair
  37. Sunblock
  38. Body lotion
  39. Jacket (for me, since Erik rarely wears one)
  40. Scarf (ditto above)
  41. Sun hat
  42. Pants for Lisa
  43. Pants for Erik
  44. Shirt for Lisa
  45. Shirt for Erik
  46. Shoes for Lisa
  47. Shoes for Erik
  48. Bra
  49. Sports bra
  50. Raincoat for Lisa
  51. Raincoat for Erik
  52. Hair tie
  53. Yoga pants (because they’re not durable, but I can’t exercise in stiff pants like jeans)
  54. Undies for Lisa
  55. Undies for Erik
  56. Extra undies 1
  57. Extra undies 2
  58. Purse/bag/backpack
  59. Water bottle
  60. Journal/sketchbook
  61. Pen
  62. Pencil w/eraser
  63. Piano or keyboard for Erik (his equivalent to my sketchbook)
  64. Compartmented cat dish (food & water wells)
  65. Carrier for Tisha
  66. Carrier for Lyapa
  67. Litterbox
  68. Cat litter
  69. Laptop
  70. Printer
  71. Chair
  72. Table/desk
  73. Bed/mattress
  74. Fitted sheet
  75. Comforter
  76. Duvet cover
  77. Extra blanket
  78. Pillow for Lisa
  79. Pillow for Erik
  80. Pillowcase 1
  81. Pillowcase 2
  82. Food container (like a Tupperware)
  83. Tissues
  84. Toilet paper
  85. Cell phone for Lisa
  86. Cell phone for Erik
  87. Comb
  88. Nightgown for Lisa
  89. Sleeping shorts for Erik
  90. Lamp/light
  91. Scissors
  92. Tape
  93. Stapler
  94. Neosporin or similar
  95. Bandages
  96. Tylenol or similar
  97. Emergency kit (just lumping all this into one item!)
  98. Hammer
  99. Screwdriver
  100. Wrench

It’s a strange exercise. I’ve included what I consider the bare necessities, though if Erik had made the list he’d probably have left out a lot of this stuff. What my list does exclude are art and decorations, plants, all books, CDs and DVDs, all craft or art supplies, and food. Even aside from these, we’d have to adjust our lifestyle dramatically to live according to this list. We couldn’t have dinner parties, for example, unless people brought their own plates; we couldn’t attend any functions that required dressing up. And we’d have to be doing laundry daily or near-daily. But living with this list would also render most of our furniture unnecessary, and our house would be ridiculously, ridiculously too huge.

I realized after I made this list that the NYT article actually doesn’t say “100 possessions,” but “100 personal items,” which it implies refers only to clothing and toiletries. Ohhhhhh. I mentioned to Erik that we might try paring down our possessions to something like 100 books, 100 craft/art supplies, 100 fabrics/trims, 100 articles to be worn (clothing, accessories, jewelry), 100 items of food, 100 kitchen implements, and finally 100 everything else. It’d still probably be a useful exercise, but not nearly as dramatic as the list I made above, which really forced me to imagine my material life at its most minimal.

Just out of curiosity, I checked my bookshelves and CD tower after making this list, and estimated we have about 250 CDs/DVDs and 400 books. So if we ever wanted to really streamline, we could do something like this: take out books in sets of 4, select only 1 to keep. Probably I’d only get down to 300 or 250 books, but that’d still be an enormous change. A couple of weekends ago we helped some friends move and they had 53 boxes of books, which provided a very physical demonstration of what it means to own so many volumes! And I haven’t looked over my closet or jewelry box at all; I don’t have any idea how much of my wardrobe I’d have to pare down to get to 100.

Lots of food for thought.