Monthly Archives: June 2014

Box full of letters

box of letters

A box of letters from an old flame has no place in my life.

Got a box full of letters,
Think you might like to read.
Some things that you might like to see,
But they’re all addressed to me.

Wilco, Box Full of Letters

All this week I have been on vacation, and the days have been filled with finding staycation things for the family to do coupled with several projects I have long needed to get done around the house.

I came across a box yesterday while working in the garage. It was not just any old box; it was the box. It was a box full of letters from an old relationship, which was a painful one that didn’t end well. I had forgotten it even existed until I started this minimalism journey. I went looking for it at the end of May, but didn’t find it. Then, while I was packing up for a family camping trip, there it was.

When I first went looking for it last month, my purpose was to throw it out the night before trash day so that it wouldn’t be “discovered.” It’s not that I was ashamed of it, and I wasn’t really hiding it. I simply didn’t want to answer any questions about it.

So what did I do? I told my wife about it anyway.

It led to a good discussion about it, past relationships, and the pain of being with the wrong person. She asked me why I had kept it. Was I over her?

Yes, I was long over her. I then explained that I had given it some thought and came up with the only honest answer I could: I kept the box all these years because it came at such a great cost.

And so, when I found it yesterday, I got excited. I was ready to get rid of it, and I knew just how to do it. I packed it up when our camping supplies, and when it was time to make supper last night, we used it to light the fire. We made brats and hot dogs, with a savory hint of printer ink and old tears.

I will admit that my sentimentality could have tripped me up. I almost looked them over once more as a final review of the evidence. I didn’t. I realized there was no need to rehash old pain. My heart isn’t broken any longer. I’m good.

I can only re-state my driver with minimalism: If something no longer adds value to my life, it needs to go. That box and its contents certainly had no value to me anymore, and so, I have one less box in my life.

Things are good.

The forced minimalism of a hotel stay

La Quinta guest room

Image courtesy of La Quinta, which means I lifted it from the company’s website.

Last week I traveled to Austin, Texas, for a weeklong conference. I stayed at a hotel, which reminded me of one of the things I love so much about a hotel stay.

The beauty of a hotel room is it forces you into a state of temporary minimalism.

I traveled with only three bags: one backpack for the entire conference that held my computer and other needed gear, one duffle bag with my workout clothes, and my favorite travel bag (instead of a  suitcase) the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. I quickly learned I had packed too much. My intentions of working out were just that: between the Texas heat, the large number of steps I took each day at the conference, and having my time gobbled up with all the educational sessions, I simply didn’t have the energy to put in some extra miles.

In addition, I determined I could have packed my travel bag a little lighter. In the closet was a plastic bag that I could have used for laundry service for a few extra dollars. Had I to do it over again, I would have had the hotel wash my clothes a couple of days into the trip rather than bringing multiple changes.

My hotel room looked much like the one pictured above. It had a comfy chair to relax in, a bed, a desk to do some work at, a dresser, closet, and a bathroom. There was even a tiny fridge and microwave. The TV was the only real luxury in the room, but it was nice to have. The first channel on the TV had a computer generated image of the ocean with sounds of waves playing in the background. I would turn it on and fall asleep to that almost every night.

All of that was enough. It wasn’t too much, and it wasn’t too little, it was enough.

At home, we’re still plowing away on our journey toward minimalism. I’ve been systematically working my way through the garage — easily one of the worst offenders to minimalism in our home — with the goal of having a garage sale in early August after we’ve sorted through all we own. I’m excited to see how we end up at the end of the summer. I predict good things to come.

But I keep thinking back to that hotel room. Why own more than that? I feel calm and stable in environments with less, so why have more?

It is difficult for me to pare down. I find it very challenging. But when I see what the other side might look like, and how it makes me feel, I have hope.

Minimal birthday

Today is my 38th birthday.

To celebrate, I was with family after returning from a weeklong work trip. Most of the celebrations happened on Saturday. I took a nap. I swam in the pool at my mom and dad’s house with my daughters and nephew. We followed that up with a fantastic supper. And yes, there were gifts.

What do you get someone who’s shedding his things? Easy — only the things he would find value in. I got some money (always accepted), Diet Mountain Dew and Dunkin Donuts coffee (which are great because they’ll disappear when I’m done with them) and some wonderful, handmade items from my daughters and nephew. Those are excellent gifts, because I can always take a picture of them and keep the spirit of those gifts forever. I also got some bacon-themed t-shirts, a total win.

And I even got an electric hand sander, which I’ve written about elsewhere. That will have incredible value to me soon as I begin work on a bunk bed for my daughters.

Minimalism doesn’t mean you never get another thing, but it does mean that you make sure the things you let into your life have value to you. I am so honored that every single gift I received this year was something I could find value in. It’s as though the gift-givers were listening to me and tailoring those gifts to match who I am becoming.

Perhaps that’s the best gift of all.