Here on Our Urban Farm, we like to do a bit of occasional introspection amidst the rural landscape of our Los Angeles postage stamp-sized plot of dirt. As such, and aided by our half century of living on this planet now upon us, I personally decided to put some serious thought into what I find most valuable in life. Not to take things lightly, I asked friends, my wife, and others whom I respect for their own definitions of value and found respectable answers ranging from kids and family, relationships with God, higher learning, physical health, and even money. While I find all of these answers valid and their accompanying explanations more than adequate to justify them, none of these thoughtful elicitations (nor any combination of them) seemed to resonate with me. Continue reading
This is a level of enlightenment we hope to reach someday…
THE FUTURE of the Toronto Blue Jays wakes up in a 1978 Volkswagen camper behind the dumpsters at a Wal-Mart and wonders if he has anything to eat. He rummages through a half-empty cooler until he finds a dozen eggs. “I’m not sure about these,” he says, removing three from the carton, studying them, smelling them and finally deciding it’s safe to eat them. While the eggs cook on a portable stove, he begins the morning ritual of cleaning his van, pulling the contents of his life into the parking lot. Out comes a surfboard. Out comes a subzero sleeping bag. Out comes his only pair of jeans and his handwritten journals. A curious shopper stops to watch. “Hiya,” Daniel Norris says, waving as the customer walks away into the store. Norris turns back to his eggs. “I’ve gotten used to people staring,” he says.
This is where Norris has chosen to live while he tries to win a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation: in a broken-down van parked under the blue fluorescent lights of a Wal-Mart in the Florida suburbs. There, every morning, is one of baseball’s top-ranked prospects, doing pull-ups and resistance exercises on abandoned grocery carts. There he is each evening, making French press coffee and organic stir-fry on his portable stove. There he is at night, wearing a spelunking headlamp to go with his unkempt beard, writing in his “thought journal” or rereading Kerouac.
What do we get from a minimalist philosophy? Practically nothing.
And that’s the point – to evolve from overabundance to desired scarcity. The freedom from excess and shallow desires to a lifestyle which values time over everything else. Most of all, the emergence from stress to peace.
In 2011, we were served with a foreclosure notice on our home with seemingly no way out. Years of trying to finance our mother’s care as she struggled with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, coupled with a crippling recession, had finally taken its toll on our once successful business and forced us to face the fact we could sustain running in deficit no more. A year prior to the foreclosure notice we had entered Chase Bank’s mortgage modification program only to be turned down after numerous delays, lost paperwork, pointless phone calls, and endless demands for financial data. Exhausted, we prepared to walk away from our home after 15 years and rebuild our lives from square one. I’d be disingenuous if I said we weren’t to blame for our dire circumstances; the descent into financial chaos was foreseeable and preventable and yet we deluded ourselves into thinking we’d jump the chasm of debt we created and scramble over the financial hump if we could just, if we could just, if we could just… Continue reading
In January of this year (2014), I initiated the plan to minimalize our household. This undertaking was prompted by the hideous filth I encountered while retrieving an item under our bed and subsequently inspired by two books I’d read on recommendation from a good friend (Minimalism: Live A Meaningful Life, by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, and The Simple Guide to A Minimalist Life, by Leo Babauta). In the ten months between initiation and today, I’ve emptied our property of over half its possessions, including furniture, paperwork, clothing, technology, tools, paperwork, photographs, redundant household cleaning products, and just about any other category I can’t think of off the top of my head. The results have been, as I predicted, profound. Order has emerged from chaos, organization from anarchy, workflow from confusion, prosperity from debt, and cleanliness from filth have been only a few of the most obvious benefits. Continue reading
In our quest to minimalize, we are always looking at the future of our living arrangements. As it stands (and once our son moves away to college in three years), we plan to move into our back apartment unit, renting out our main house to effectively eliminate our mortgage and give us the flexibility to travel and live a more stress-free existence. This article on Distractify has us rethinking things…