Chasing minimalism (or stuff) into the new year

It’s the perfect time of year for thinking about your stuff.

Where will we put the presents? Why don’t the holiday lights roll up as tightly as when we bought them? Do we want to save a bundle on wrapping paper by buying it now, or will we get tired of looking at it all year?

On New Year’s Eve, we did a clean sweep of the house for extra toys, clothes and household items. I packed Lindy’s car to the rafters and trundled off to the local Goodwill. Apparently, so did everyone else in this county. I counted 15 cars ahead of mine in the drop-off line, and there were extra staff and cargo trailers on hand to help with the loading. Receipt in hand, I went home and about the rest of my day.

The week after, with the Goodwill scene replaying itself in my head, we watched the excellent Minimalism documentary on Netflix. I read an article about the high cost of fast fashion. I returned Empire of Things to the library because someone wanted it before I read it. Then I started contemplating two major purchases — and made one of them!

I may be an aspiring minimalist, but I’m also technologically-inclined and pretty impatient. More often than not, my first impulse is to figure out how Amazon Prime can get something off my to-do list. Other, smarter people have written about the wisdom of disabling one-click ordering and not storing your credit cards. Our way is to leave the item in the shopping cart for a day or two and then come back to it.

The non-purchase

During the New Year’s holiday, I dropped XY off for a play date with a friend. When I went downstairs to say hello to the friend’s parents, I noticed they had a treadmill. And I noticed, standing on said treadmill, that the ceiling wasn’t too low for my 6’4″ head. I took some mental notes and measurements and started looking around at treadmills when I got home. The barrier had been the basement ceiling versus my head. And it suddenly seemed workable.

I love running. I run races. On roads. I tolerate treadmills. I use them in hotels when I’m traveling, and once in awhile in the office building I’m about to leave for another location (same job). So my thought was that I’d run more when it’s nasty outside, or when I’m home by myself with the kid, if I had a treadmill.

I shopped, I measured, I called. I checked Craigslist and sent some emails. I was prepared to pull the trigger before I took a couple of steps back to re-assess. Did I really want to bring a 300-pound, made-in-China monster apparatus into my home? And spend hundreds of dollars for the privilege? I realized I need to get better at not owning a treadmill before I considered owning a treadmill. Those days when it’s truly too nasty outside, such as during an ice storm? Maybe a handful a year. Times I’m home by myself with the kid and can’t run that day? Really not too often.

The sorry truth is that I need to motivate myself to exercise more. For me, that’s races run, miles traveled. A piece of exercise equipment can’t do that for me any more than a gym membership can. And plenty of people buy both this time of year, only to have them fall into disuse in a few weeks. Bad use of money.

Of course, I had an irregular work schedule the week after I made this decision, followed by a snowstorm. I haven’t run since. The Rock n Roll DC Half is coming up in a few weeks, so I better get busy.

The purchase

Meanwhile, I bought an Instant Pot this week.

I’ve had my eye on this thing for a few weeks after rave reviews on the Facebook group for Travato owners. Apparently it’s popular among the RV set because it does a lot of things in a small space. We’ve been needing to replace our slow cooker for awhile now. It’s pretty busted up after 10+ years, and nobody repairs them. Meanwhile, next to it on the counter sits our pressure cooker. We probably use it 10 times a year at the most.

I’d been idly thinking about what it would be like to have a single appliance replace the two. (Sort of like we replaced our second car and camping equipment, plus the idea of a vacation home, with Roxanne.) Turns out there is an appliance that does both things, and it’s the Instant Pot.

So now I have a pressure cooker/slow cooker combo that has a delayed-start feature. I can slow-cook recipes without having them sit on “keep warm” for hours and hours until we get home. This is a good thing, because a good few of my crock pot efforts have tasted like hot garbage.

Check out the decluttered counter.

As I unpacked the thing and threw out yet another block of foam, I started hoping for many years of enjoyment from this new appliance. After all, we’re supposed to use and enjoy the things we have instead of cleaning dust off the things we own unnecessarily.

For a start, I made some white beans this morning. They came out well. We’ll see how it does with XY’s favorite white chili recipe tomorrow.

And the old slow cooker and pressure cooker will be headed off to Goodwill shortly.

What’s the state of your stuff this year?

 


Also published on Medium.

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3 Comments

  1. Happy New Year, Alan! Thanks for the reminder to move the Minimalism doc up in my queue. I wasn’t surprised to enjoy it. I was surprised how moved I was by it. The point that it’s actually about *more* materialism really resonates. I appreciate the things I have so much. Individually. I take the pleasure they give me personally. Like being happy that someone on the radio is playing a song i love–on purpose, surely. Perfect timing, the CSA box just landed at the front door. (I know what’s going to be in it and) I’m so excited to open it!

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