my wife laughs at me every time I mention that at heart I am a minimalist. Anyone who knows me we knows that I am a hoarder and live surrounded by clutter and mess. I try to get rid of it, but I accumulate clutter faster than I manage to purge it.
I once managed to get my possessions down to a nice minimal level. Post university and single I rented a room in a shared house and turned up with a duffel bag of clothes, three guitars (lead, bass and acoustic), bass amp, portastudio, stereo amp and speakers, about 50 CD’s, a box of tapes, a camera, CD walkman, a futon mattress, duvet, sleeping bag, tent, a car, skateboard and a pushbike. Minus the car, this is what I had been carrying around with me for 3 years whilst at Uni. Oh and tools and cooking utensils. and a radio alarm clock. In truth there were still one or two items stashed back at my parents house.
Anyway, compared to now that was a fairly small hoard of belongings. It was nice to be able to cram it all in the back of a car and "up sticks" to somewhere else.
When I went travelling in a camper van for six months a few years ago, I had even less possessions and was really enjoying the feeling of having so little to weigh me down. I had given away quite a lot of my stuff, even one of the guitars, and felt good doing it. Once again I had off-loaded a fair amount of stuff at my parents house beforehand, but had almost forgotten what they were six months down the line.
There was one moment on the trip where I realised how little I needed to be happy. I was making a living busking, so the guitar was essential. I was travelling around in the van – my shelter, kitchen, home and transport. Add some clothes, tools and cooking utensils and I was fairly self sufficient. When I was settled for a while in El Morreon, an isolated valley near Orgiva in Andalucia, I remember telling someone that all I was missing was a girlfriend (there were virtually no single lasses in the valley!) and a skateboard ramp (I daydreamed about building one and living under one of the platforms!), I could stay put forever.
There was a personal test towards the end of the trip. The van engine was knackered to the point that I didn’t know whether it would even make it back to the UK. The sensible thing to do would be to sell the van, even if I didn’t get much for it, allowing me to fly back. I even had a couple of people interested in buying it at one point.
I failed that test – I decided to chance it and drive back anyway, based purely on the fact that there were a number of possessions that needed a vehicle to transport back to the UK. Sad as it sounds, apart from my clothes these consisted of:-
– Acoustic guitar (glad I kept that, although I could’ve taken it as hand luggage on a plane anyway)
– Skateboard (still got it, easily replaced though)
– Surfboard (ended up selling it for £10 two years later, kinda wish i’d kept it)
– Mountain Bike (pile of crap, gave it away 4 years ago)
– box of tapes (threw them away when I moved 2 years ago)
– ghetto blaster (gave it away 4 years ago)
– cheap tent (got knicked from boot of car 3 years ago)
– small box of tools (got knicked along with the tent)
– cooking utensils (now live in shed, used for non-existent camping trips)
I wouldn’t call it a regret, more of a lesson. These things were practically worthless yet the next month of my life was dominated by them, as I transported them back across Spain in a very reluctant van, which became a dead weight sat on my parents driveway and I ended up selling for scrap because I was too broke to replace or rebuild the engine.. I should’ve sold the van in Spain, dumped everything I couldn’t carry and got a £50 flight back to the UK.
After adjusting back to "civilised" life I moved to Bristol with a similar minimal hoard to when I left uni – all of it fitted into the back of a citroen 2cv (with the back seat removed).
Since then I have become much more domesticated, a happy family man with a house and a whole load of clutter, prone to making drunken new years (or any time of the year) resolutions to clear out the junk.
I’ve also been meaning to take that rotting xmas tree in the shed down to the tip for a month or four…