Jan 5, 2012 at 8:32 am #1283725
A friend posted a FB link to this:
And it reminded me of you guys and gals. Kind of. I mean when we're hiking, we're like this guy – minimal stuff. But he's living this life, 24-7-52. As he puts it, all his belongings would qualify for the speedy check-out lane because there are only 15 of them.
I have certainly found great mental-health benefits in having my backpack packed and ready. Even when I don't have a any trips planned, just knowing I COULD leave at any time affirms that I'm choosing to be where I am, doing what I'm doing.
So there's the No New Gear in 2012 thread. Do you really need 3 tarps or 4 backpacks? Here's a guy who doesn't have a second pair of jeans. By choice.Jan 5, 2012 at 9:04 am #1820117
I think that on this site, ultralight gear breeds specialization. A gear list is made for every trip planned or condition expected, and as a consequence, people will have multiple backpacks, tarps, tents, stoves, and a plethora of clothing. I think this is what partly what Ryan was talking about in the cottage stagnation thread:
"You don't need the gear, you don't need the debt, you don't need to further tax our resources, you don't need to spend your children's social security on your gear addiction, you don't need to waste time and money storing (or disposing) gear you don't love, and you don't need to lighten your pack from 5.2 to 4.6 pounds."
While that article wasn't the most popular, it sounds like it was written by a guy who has come full circle and is willing to add a little weight (blasphemy!) to his kit to have gear that works for most every situation. Due to the consumerist nature of outdoor gear and our need to have everything just so, I think we lose sight of the main goal: getting outdoors and enjoying ourselves.
Are you committed to an ultralight life, or just ultralight backpacking?Jan 5, 2012 at 9:20 am #1820124
UL BPing: I wouldn't say committed, but I've always enjoyed the scenery and exercise more than the weight on my back. My big motivation now is being 50 with a 11-year-old son and we really enjoy hiking together (he did spectacularly on a one-day, Bright Angel to the Colorado River and back this last May and on 7-mile-in BPing trips. I'd like our family to be backpacking together still in 20 years (met my wife on a gourmet backpacking trip), but I know many things could change that. So I'm looking to capitalize on our current mutual interests and physical abilities but he hasn't had his growth spurt yet so I'm carrying all my gear and all the group gear.
I'm also a serious techno-geek and testing boil times on different pots, designing heat exchangers, and blowing things up are fun ways to spend time in the garage.
In life: I'd like to have less stuff around. I fight a male-linked hoarding gene that runs in my family and seem to be getting the upper hand in part because my brother and uncle have gone so far over to the dark side and I don't want to end up like that. I keep reminding myself, "If I need a particular piece of tubing or a thermocouple or blower, there's always Home Depot and eBay and I have deep pockets. And keeping lots of theoretically useful stuff around at some point limits what I can do/find/use/make."Jan 5, 2012 at 9:37 am #1820130
@tylerdLocale: SE US
I tend to keep a lot of stuff around too. Recently my wife and I talked about reducing the amount of stuff we have but it was tough deciding what to get rid of, you can always imagine that one 'what if' scenario that demands you keep x,y, or z. One day I had an idea, how about we gather all this stuff up, take it to the local flea market and sell it all. It was a lot of stuff that you wouldn't bother selling on ebay but at the same time it would be wasteful to throw away. Furthermore we decided to take the money we made and put it in my son's college fund.
With that twist in mind, it made it a lot easier. It was more like, hey this is for a good cause. The table at the flea market ended up being $8 bucks for the day and in the end our profit was just a hair over $500 bucks. Of course we sold a lot of stuff and basically lost a lot of money but we cleared out the junk and clutter. The premise we used was 'if we haven't used or thought about using this since we moved into this house (about 1 year ago) then it probably needs to go'. We cleared out a ton of old paper and junk in addition to all the stuff we sold. All told I bet we had 5 big trash bags of trash and one Tahoe SUV packed floor to ceiling with stuff to sell.
The exercise really did something else, kind of went a step further for us. Now when we are tempted to buy or even accept something for free, we look at each other and say "Is this going to end up at the flea market in a year?" It really makes us think more about what we buy. Overall it's been a really good exercise for us.Jan 5, 2012 at 9:48 am #1820138
Ty, my wife and I have a rule. If we buy something, then something must go. This is in part because we have a small apartment, but we also hate clutter and excess things. We bring a small bag of items to Goodwill every few weeks it seems.
There have been some things that were tough to get rid of. But do you know what? Once they were gone, we never gave them a second thought because they were just "things" and held little value compared to what really matters.Jan 5, 2012 at 9:49 am #1820141
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Excellent link. We spent three weeks in Europe with one carry on sized bag each and that was in the winter too. I could do Maui with an 18 liter pack! I think Ben wrote about getting rousted by the customs/immigration officials in one country because his travel kit was so small for the length of the trip and they wondered what he was up to. Modern electronics and synthetics help. Many use a concept of "threes" for clothing: one to wear, one dirty, one clean, in rotation.
Urban travel makes going minimal so much easier than hiking: no cooking, sleep or shelter gear and resupply is readily available.
Gandhi had Hyde beat. Here is a famous photo of his worldly possessions at the time of his death:
I have written about having all your possessions fit in a one meter cube. It makes an interesting exercise.Jan 5, 2012 at 12:13 pm #1820213
@harry-nLocale: Western US
Is a drive to minimalism an aesthetic or a reaction to clutter? I'm kind of in a gray area about this. Civilian backpacking gear packs up small for me but paperwork can pile up. Electronics keeps getting smaller and more powerful too.
Realize we are all a bit different but looking at it, does a person's possessions or clutter interfere with
(1) social life: does a person need to cram their clutter into closets when guests arrive?
(2) work life: can a person retrieve required paperwork in time for clients, promotions, etc…?
(3) health: a lot of us are increasingly allergic to dust and pollen, thus a need for clutter-free spaces.
Yes, I'd prefer a minimalist aesthetic while, on the other hand, avoid houseguests (mostly Western) sitting on mats, crossed legged? After that, I will leave the decor decisions to the next Mrs. N. who (edit) will hopefully be into this aesthetic. Then again that's what eBay is for .. one man's trash is another man's treasure.
ed: grammar, clarityJan 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm #1820218
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
"Is a drive to minimalism an aesthetic or a reaction to clutter?"
Either way, when you get there you are enlightened about being owned by your possessions (no pun intended).Jan 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm #1820226
I like his idea, but it doesn't seem like he is interested in self contained minimalism. I suspect, without a sleeping bag, pad or shelter, he has to either eat out every day and stay in a Holiday Inn Express, or mooch off of other people. I've met people like that over the years and although the idea is quaint, the constant "hey can I sleep on your couch or use your washer or borrow your shower, catch a ride, etc.," makes their minimalism more of a at other peoples expense endeavor. Looks good on paper, till you start to really think about it.Jan 5, 2012 at 12:25 pm #1820230
possessions define many if not most people …
at a certain point they become a who you are/aspire to be … people buy it to fit in… or in lieu of what they would like to do … or to project a certain image ….
i suspect this happens on BPL as much as anywhere else ….
as to the guy in the link, he has less of them, but i suspect they define him too, to a certain extent … he has some "higher priced" gear while something lesser will do … his choiceJan 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm #1820237
You're right, he couch surfs. So cooking, cleaning, etc, become non-issues.
It depends on the person – sometimes they're a pain and the hosts find ways to get rid of them quickly. But we've got friends we'd love to have stay for as long as they want. They tend to be good conversationalists, cheerful, help out around the house, and sense when to borrow our car and make themseles scarce.Jan 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm #1820250
@tylerdLocale: SE US
Travis – good rule. Yes we have found we feel better with the stuff gone. We are preparing to eventually move into a smaller house closer to town even as our income gets higher we have decided to really make an effort to downsize, spend less and save more, not let our possessions own us.
I think this guy and his 15 things is interesting just like the tiny house movement is interesting. It is on the extreme end but that does not mean everyone has to go to that extreme. If you have 15 million belongings and you are happy then don't worry about it but if you are trying to de-clutter, live a simpler life then it is interesting to see where others have gone with it.Jan 5, 2012 at 5:49 pm #1820447
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
Like almost all Americans, we have too much stuff in our house and lives.
But one thing we love about backpacking is the simplicity, minimalist, multi-use philosophy. Very peaceful–although i am still short of convincing my wife she needs only one shirt for a week long trip.
I wish we could accomplish similar things with the stuff we have in our house.Jan 5, 2012 at 9:38 pm #1820581
"In life: I'd like to have less stuff around. I fight a male-linked hoarding gene that runs in my family and seem to be getting the upper hand in part because my brother and uncle have gone so far over to the dark side and I don't want to end up like that. I keep reminding myself, "If I need a particular piece of tubing or a thermocouple or blower, there's always Home Depot and eBay and I have deep pockets. And keeping lots of theoretically useful stuff around at some point limits what I can do/find/use/make."
David, Is it really a lifestyle choice if you just choose to have less stuff around if you have deep pockets where you can buy whatever you want at any time anyway? That sounds like a pretty good problem to have. :)Jan 5, 2012 at 10:36 pm #1820600
>"David, Is it really a lifestyle choice if you just choose to have less stuff around if you have deep pockets where you can buy whatever you want at any time anyway? That sounds like a pretty good problem to have. :)"
Sure, it's more of a choice. I could have minimal stuff, lots of crappy stuff, or lots of nice stuff. The bank account suggests the later but I don't do or want that. The family history (Despression era parents and that hoarding thing) suggest the second. I find the first better for my pysche. When my surroundings are less cluttered, my mind is, too. But it takes mindfulness to get there and stay there. I'm still working on it.
Yes, it's a pretty good problem to have. It beats not having those choices.Jan 6, 2012 at 8:01 am #1820705
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Until one does a multi-year remodel they never realize how much gear one needs to do it. Sure one could rent it, but it costs less to buy it outright!
Could we own less? Yeah, but it doesn't bother me. As long as there is a place for most everything life is OK. I do go by the theory of once outgrown things (my kids) and they won't be used again, go to the thrift store if in good shape (clothing, toys). Or for bigger items I put them out on the street on a sunny day with "FREE!!" on it (always gone in an hour).
As Americans go I don't own a ton of material items but I am sure my kitchen looks like that. So does my hiking and outdoor gear. I like specialized gear for both my hobbies and no, I am not going to go all minimalist and toss my stand mixer so I can stand there and hand mix items. Just like I am not getting rid of 2 of my 3 sleeping bags.
You all can do that if you want ;-)Jan 6, 2012 at 11:00 am #1820840
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
The issue is efficient storage. Stuff is good. Sort of like a museum… museums are good, right?
I keep the good stuff when I find a better replacement. I also collect stamps and some modest art. Art is what separates us from the other animals; the ability to conceptualize reality based on our own metaphysics.
I have a 1960's REI pup tent. Should I get rid of it?
In 1971 I bought a Kelty D4. I really like this pack (used it almost exclusively for over 20 years, and still use it occasionally). After I bought this pack, I bought a brand new Kelty Model A pack from the original owner who purchased it in the early 60's (it was cheap and my thinking was a back-up back in case something happened to the D4). I have used it a few times, and it is in nearly mint condition. Should I get rid of it?
I still have my military wrist watch from 1970. Keeps perfect time and is a "wind up" watch. It was my backpacking watch through the 70's and 80's. I wear it occasionally. In the late 80's I bought a simple Swiss Army brand wrist watch, quartz and battery operated. It was my backpacking watch until a couple years ago. Still wear it. A few years ago my son gave me a Nike sports watch. I wear it a lot. My current backpacking watch is a Timex Expedition. Lightweight with the Indiglo light. Not a lot of other features. I also have a Casio Pathfinder watch (solar, temp, alt, etc.), I asked my wife to buy me for Christmas a couple years back. I use it backpacking once in a while, when I may want to measure stuff. I have two dress watches, a Seiko my dad gave me when I graduated from high school in the 60's and an expensive Seiko my wife gave me. I wear both of them. That is 7 watches, and I really only "need" one. But I will never get rid of any of them, unless the Timex or the Nike break. The others can be repaired.
I still have "stuff" from the 60's forward. I have backpacking gear that is over 40 years old and still works, and I use it occasionally for nostalgia sake. Not giving it up. If something did not work out well, then it is not a "keeper" and I give it away. So it is a case of needing more efficient storage, not giving it up. Plus they can be bequeath to my kids, who can do as they wish with it. I hope they keep it and pass it down.
P.S. Anyone have some Gaz GT 106 canisters they would like to sell? I am down to my last 6 or so, and I still use my Gaz Globetrotter :)Jan 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm #1820960
@jshorttLocale: North Carolina
David, Interesting link, thanks for posting it. Great replies as well. I started looking at minimalism this year as a way to extend what I learned from lightweight backpacking into my broader life.
From a backpacking perspective I have tried to reduce the number of items carried as much as my weight. What I have concluded is that my wilderness experience tends improve with fewer items. In general the weight is less but also there are less items to keep up with and many tasks are simpler like packing up and finding things.
If thinking about a lighweightlife. There are a few good books on minimalism I have read that I would recommend.
– Minimalism: Essential Essays
– The Joy of less, A minimalist living guide to living with less and loving it
What I found was that I was having trouble letting go of things because I associated them with people or it had cost significant money. By no means would my family be considered hoarder, we are probably just average Joe, but I have taken truck load after truck load after truck load away to good will and the dump and we don't miss it a bit. Our house is beginning to open up more and it has spread to the rest of the family. With out even asking all of us (me, wife, and 2 kids) have cleaned out our closets. My daughter (14) helped my son (11) go through all his old toys and he literally donated more than half of what he owned. Thinking that all these toys were going to kids who didn't have much really inspired them to dig deep. I hit my office, the garage, bathroom drawers, and the attack this year. My wife went through the linen closet, bonus room, and kitchen. I still suggest we have a lot of opportunity in the kitchen.
Yes I even threw out my old north face pack from 1983 after finding the pack pad had turned to dust, out went my old sierra designs starlight tent that smelled so bad no one could sleep in it. These things all had great memories but they aren't the memories. Just because I don't have the stuff doesn't mean I didn't take the trips. We say nostalgia, but I never went to the attic pulled out the out tent and reminisced about old times. I was just moving them from place to place taking time and resources to unpack, store and repack them.
On to passing items down… I found I was "stuck" with many boxes of junk that belonged to both of my parents that had come to me after they passed away. I really did not want this stuff but did not know what to do after dealing with their loss. The boxes filled my attack and I was afraid to even look at them. They weighed on me heavily. Once I realized the stuff they once owned was not them I had the courage to go through it and find someone who would use it or trash it. I feel such a relief now that I didnt think was possible.
If you were to come into my house today you would not even suspect I have started to move to minimalism because there is still so much here, but start I have and each step I take has only made me feel better.
JamieJan 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm #1820966
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
I am moving to the US from Europe in a few weeks and the shipping company requires a breakdown and value of all goods shipped for insurance purposes.
I was quiet surprised by how much it would cost me to replace my kit if I bought it new, lets say I could buy a nice second hand car with it.
I do not own a crazy amount of kit, half my kit is used all year round and the rest I have a 3 season and winter item but no more than that.
StephenJan 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm #1820970
@thomdarrahLocale: Southern Oregon
Having done a recent PIF gear-closet cleaning I have a feeling not of loss but of liberation. In regard to minimalism I have a ways yet to go but I've made a good start.Jan 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm #1820972
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
Great post, Jamie. I was going to respond point-by-point but realized it would be a novel. So I'll just express appreciation and leave it at that.Jan 7, 2012 at 7:28 am #1821223
@harry-nLocale: Western US
Just some thoughts as I will need to minimize for a move soon and frankly, stuff breaks down over time if used, moved, or even stored. Mostly the 2d Law of Thermodynamics meets planned obsolescence + new tech. I'll be ditching a lot.
The traveler in the OP's link seems fairly young, and with few responsibilities, why not get a pack and travel? Of course there's some high dollar items the pack (with a nice computer), and probably a large amount spent on plane tickets. Getting older, people do accumulate assets, prized possessions, fall in love/shack up/maybe start a household with hatchlings, so no reason for anyone to get defensive. Especially kids and pets may require different furnishings, autos, etc.. vs. a single guy with a motorcycle and cinder block furniture, a college student, true empty nesters, etc.. Gotta plan for those life changes. OTOH, if the place is full of junk, time to pare down or buy a bigger place and/or more storage.
Alternatively, one could buy/sell a rarely used household item on CL or eBay. Maybe even an auto (though why is an auto on CL in the first place? – Chevy Azteks excepted). If needed (again), pick it up at the free market price (read it on Lifehacker iirc). Maybe not all products but, for example, if I need folding tables once every 5 years or so, does it make sense to store them? Now, a caterer or someone who entertains much in their backyard may have a different response, so everyone is different. Think the younger generation will be much better at this. If it's more of a hassle to repair then trash, there's usually some neighborhood scavengers who will take whatever is left out overnight.
Just some of my thoughts before the move(s) and required downsizing, but replacing some of it with more functional, easier to maintain furniture/less paperwork. ADD: The backpacking stuff actually seems pretty easy to move – it all packs up in the pack, and is the least of my worries.
(Ed: need to stop writing and start tossing more stuff)Jan 13, 2012 at 11:24 pm #1824577
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
I read the article and looking at the photo of the author and his "15" things… I can tell you that it is all quite do-able — in fact, it's essentially what I've been doing over the last two months!
I just finished a solo backpacking (hosteling) trip through southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Brunei). My backpack was smaller than many people's day packs, and it was never more than half full. Total weight (including the backpack itself) was just a tad over 10 lbs. Truth be told, I have traveled the same way for 7 months (on a round-the-world trip back in 2009) — and I could easily have traveled on "indefinitely".
But is that really 'minimalism'? To most of us, the answer would be yes! But thinking about it… while I stayed in air-conditioned hostels that boast modern plumbing — there are still hundreds of millions of people all around the world living in bamboo / wooden huts, generating mostly organic wastes — instead of organic, metallic and petro/carbon wastes that we in our society generate in great quantities! Just flying from Point A to B meant consuming in vast quantities the types of resources that only the advanced societies can generate and consume. Is that 'minimalism'?
I noticed the author didn't own a single food utensil or crockery or pot/pan — indicating in all likelihood that he ate out regularly. Is that really any more "minimal" than someone who owns a set of crockery, pots and pans but does his or her own healthy cooking? Hard to say…
I believe some of us do consume a lot less than our neighbors. But compared to the so-called "Third or Fourth World" countries — very, very few of us are 'true' minimalists.Jan 14, 2012 at 12:47 am #1824586
Excellent points Ben. I was thinking the same thing.
Essentially you'd have to do a full life-cycle type analysis of that lifestyle. In a consumer society sure he has minimal footprint but when expanded to a full global view and if you attribute the footprint he passes off to his friends and the such by couch surfing a lot of his impact is negligible.
Our society is so material focused that we forget about energy usage and how behaviour is far more of a factor in life than possessions.Jan 14, 2012 at 7:02 am #1824605
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Gandhi had Hyde beat. Here is a famous photo of his worldly possessions at the time of his death:
The problem with the photo of Gandhi's last possessions is that everyone forgets his wife and the household that supported him all his life. Someone had to do the cooking, clean up the house, clean the toilet, change the baby's diapers (not sure if that is what they used… probably not, but still those items also existed), drive him around, take that photo, make those sandals using tools to make them, etc. etc.
People also forget that he lived in a very hot climate where it was easy to reduce possessions to the little there without having to worry about winter cold or stoking the fire. Gandhi didn't live as a hermit. He was surrounded by hundreds of supporters who did a lot for him.
Which I guess is one very important thing to consider: keeping our possessions down by relying more on one another and not focusing on having our personal possessions accumulate.
Gandhi is one of my heroes, so I don't have anything against him, but I think people have to be more realistic about him, too. Everyone always forgets that he had a wife, who suffered quite a lot because of his ideas and activities.
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