I hate moving. And yet, over the last ten years, I’ve moved at least 12 times. From Alabama to South Korea to Poland to Kyrgyzstan to Edinburgh to…well, you get the idea. The problem is that although I despise the day of schlepping of boxes from one location to another, I secretly love the thrill of starting over. In fact, you might say that in my twenties I was addicted to the rush of throwing my possessions into a suitcase (or three) and jumping on a plane to begin a new life. Every time I left a place, I abandoned the ‘me’ that had lived there, along with her loneliness and some, shall we say, questionable decisions. (Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Along the way, I made some wonderful friends, earned my Master’s degree and met my now-husband. Not the mention the oh-so-delicious Korean food…and Polish food…and Scottish food. I freakin’ love food.)
You’d think that years of this nomadic lifestyle would have made me a ruthless minimalist who could carry everything I needed in a tiny, uber-stylish backpack. I’ve always wanted to be that person. You know, the one who travels Europe with two pieces of clothing, no bra, and somehow manages to look fabulous. But I am so not that person. Every time that I have moved over the last decade, I have ended up sifting through various pieces of furniture, clothing, and the inevitable pile of odds and ends that go straight into the trash can. I move to the next place swearing that I’ll never thoughtlessly accumulate that much ‘stuff’ again, but as soon as I walk through the door of my new apartment, I’ve already started making a mental list of IKEA furniture that I cannot do without. It’s a vicious cycle and one that, for many years, I didn’t give a second thought to: buy—consume—discard…and more often than not…replace. Years of living in Europe and East Asia taught me to be content with living in slightly smaller spaces than I had growing up in the American suburbs, but somehow my appetite for ‘stuff’ never adjusted accordingly.
Now that I am a bit older, slightly more settled, and a mom, that way of life is not working for me anymore. Setting aside the environmental consequences of all of this consumption, it’s just plain stressing me out these days. I’m sick of fighting with that big pile of miscellaneous papers in the office/dining room every night! How is it still there? And why does it seem to be growing and mutating like the pizza the Ninja Turtles put in the microwave in that one episode?
Reading Zero Waste Home, a book I’m kind of obsessed with at the moment, has really got me reevaluating my habits as a consumer and wanting to make some radical changes. Bea Johnson, the author, has adopted a lifestyle which combines the principles of minimalism and sustainability in a very stylish way (she’s French, of course—see aforementioned European traveler). She has managed to whittle the amount of waste that her household produces down to one quart of trash per year. Yes, you read that right—per year! Check out her blog here.
I’m starting out with slightly more modest goals:
1) To assess how much of what we already have is stuff that actually need and get rid of the excess.
2) To greatly reduce the amount of waste that my household produces by replacing disposables with reusables and starting to compost.
3) To become a more mindful consumer.
Yes, this is going to be a very long process, but I’m hoping that blogging about it will help me keep up the momentum!