One of the main goals of Our Urban Farm – in its reality – is to live as naturally and holistically as possible within the framework of our busy metropolitan surroundings. As such, and in keeping with our action-oriented plans on installing vegetable garden boxes, rainwater catchment containers, and drought tolerant landscaping, we’ve now begun the process of minimizing our material possessions in anticipation of a serious life change coming up in three years.
At that approximate time, our son will be leaving for college (or work or whatever) and we plan to move from our main house into the smaller guest house – converted from our garage into a one bedroom apartment – on our property. We’ll rent our three bedroom home for close to or a tad above our mortgage, thereby freeing us from our largest monthly expense and enabling us to focus less on making ends meet and more on travelling, alternative career paths, and/or simply having more free time to relax and reconnect as a child-less couple once again. Step one was coming to an agreement on the plan itself, which was discussed and agreed-upon in short order (indeed, we lived our first seven years in less than 600 square feet and were arguably happier than at any point of our relationship).
The main obstacle is that Alicia, though the most wonderful person ever to walk the earth is, to put it mildly, a pack rat, borderline hoarder. Over the years, she’s amassed a Titanic sized mountain of paper, clothing, memorabilia, work-related “stuff,” and filled practically every crevice of our home with said belongings. Whereas I’m an Felix Unger neat freak, she more than compensates by out-Oscar’ing Walter Matthau and Jack Klugman combined. Changing her habits has been a quarter century battle that has remained in a delicate stasis between my tolerance for clutter (and efforts to keep it this way via secret “purges”) and her need to hold on to things for a variety of reasons ranging from practical to emotional to absentmindedness. One of our most epic fights occurred early on in our relationship, when Alicia, in the heat the moment, blurted out, “I want more stuff!” Keeping this freight train of consumption under control over two-plus decades had finally reached its breaking point, with both of us realizing that a total reevaluation of our priorities regarding who and where we want to be was needed and plan put in place.
The first step, as I outlined earlier, was to simply hold a few serious discussions to align our goals for the foreseeable future in a variety of areas, which of course included how we’d live and what lifestyle we desired. Since we’re both from similar humble backgrounds (and shared an apartment under 600 square feet when we first got together and our back house is under 500), the decision to pare down and live in less space wasn’t too difficult. The piles, however, were another issue, entirely. How to get my partner of many years to change such entrenched habits seemed daunting, if not unconquerable. Salvation arrived via our good friend, Joe Anzai – aka The Second Hand Answerman, who recommended a book called Minimalism – Live A Meaningful Life, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. In a nutshell, the authors lay out a plan for getting rid of stuff and how doing so can completely change one’s life (they were high flying corporate execs who decided to minimalize, themselves). Would Alicia embrace this reductionist philosophy and finally allow her “stuff” to depart our household?
Next: The purge begins.