Minimizing (More) & Moving

If there’s one thing that we learned from staying at home over these past few months, it’s this – you don’t have to love your home but you should at least like it.

When we moved into our current apartment in 2016, it was one of only 3 options available in our area. We never loved it but we found it suitable for our needs and managed to convince ourselves that the “amenities” made up for its shortcomings. Among those shortcomings – maintenance is always hit or miss, and by that I mean, they always come to fix the problem but their solution is sometimes lacking. When they fixed the leak from the upstairs apartment that came through our ceiling, they conveniently neglected to paint over the water spots. We’ve lived with that for 2 years now. They fixed the stove by bringing us a really, really used one to replace the brand new one that we paid extra to get. And most recently, they fixed our wasp problem by bringing us a can of Raid (I kid you not).

Our town has grown exponentially over the past four years (thanks in large part to our awesome mayor and the implementation of our first ever citywide strategic plan). Amid the growth, our quaint downtown area with its local shops, restaurants, and Farmer’s Market is thriving. We have more tech jobs now (instead of just factory jobs), more recreational spaces, and a brand new college campus. Now, make no mistake, we are happy with the direction that the town is heading because there’s more opportunity for folks to find something to love right here locally but we still don’t see ourselves living here forever.

With that being said, we decided (much on a whim) that we would move to a new apartment. During the last few years, more than a half dozen new apartment complexes have sprung up to accommodate the influx of folks wanting to live “near Nashville”. A lot of these places are really luxurious (with elevators and coffee bars) and way out of our price range but a few are within just a few dollars of what we are paying now.

When we knew we wanted to move, we had a dilemma of a different sort to contend with. How does one qualify for an apartment without a “real” income?? Turns out it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be. Though I compiled an extensive list of my varying income sources, it was our credit score and rental history that sealed the deal. I’m proud to say that all the frugal financial finagling that we’ve done these past few years paid off and we we got the highest possible score in our screening process (whatever that means exactly).

We’re silly excited about this whole thing and not just because we’re moving somewhere new but because it’s a chance to reboot our minimalist life. I’m not sure how, but along the way we’ve acquired a lot of stuff again. Okay, not as much stuff as some of the folks we see moving in/out of here but for us…it’s a lot of stuff. We have dumpster furniture that we just couldn’t let go to landfill, a plethora of flower pots on a patio that despite our best intentions, won’t grow a weed much less a plant, and so many other things, I can’t think of them all.

Our new space is a blank canvas just waiting NOT TO BE CLUTTERED. We’re moving in 2 weeks so we’ve already started selling off a lot of our stuff. Bulky living room suite – gone!

Cabinets, tables, and storage drawers we found in the dumpster – gone!

Angie even parted with her paddleboard that took up the biggest part of one closet, reasoning that if she wanted to use one, rentals are only $8/hour at our local park.

As of right now, we’ve made $785 getting rid of stuff – a lot of it stuff that someone else once threw in the garbage. But more importantly, we’re reducing our possessions (again) and finding new homes for still useful things.

Why I Ditched My Desk

At the beginning of May, we accepted a challenge from Minimalism and Your Money to spend 100 hours outdoors. While Dave met the challenge, Angie and I finished the month with 85 hours – still not too shabby for the rainiest month of the year. During the month, we managed to:

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We also enjoyed a lot of our meals on our patio and I soon began to look forward to lunchtime. Like a little kid in school, the mere thought of going outside meant I could barely sit still at my desk. Ah, my desk…it has been both a creature comfort and a thorn in my side for years. On the one hand, it has provided me a dedicated space to park my laptop and my rear end for countless hours over the past 4 years. On the other hand, it has also served as a constant visual reminder of my work obligations. If you work from home, you understand this dilemma. There is no separation of work and home. Even when you have a separate office, you still know the work is there and you can often find yourself “getting just one more thing done” long past quitting time.

I spend about 38 hours a week on my laptop. In that time, I accomplish whatever work tasks I have assigned myself, work on this blog, update our social media sites, and take care of any budgetary activities that may need attention (like paying the rent or logging our receipts). For the remaining 130 hours, my laptop always sat on my desk and along with the knick-knacks, gathered dust (or served as a catch-all for the mail). For the longest time, my desk was the first thing you saw when you walked into our apartment. When Angie and I would have decluttering days, I longed to put it in with the rest of the discards but could never bring myself to do it.

A few weeks ago, we were working on the bedroom closet – pushing our winter clothes to the back and bringing our summer clothes to the front. During this (quick) process, I mentioned that it would be cool to have some sort of cabinet or drawer to organize my sewing supplies. The very next day, we were pulling out of the apartment complex when I saw something out of the corner of my eye by the dumpster. Lo and behold, it was a cabinet! Granted, it was a lot bigger than what I had envisioned, but it was a cabinet and it was free.

We brought the rickety kitchen island into the house, cleaned and tightened it up, and there it sat for a few days while we tried to decide what to do with it. The only logical option was to put it where my desk was. To do that, I’d have to ditch the desk. You would think that I would have been ecstatic to finally have a reason to get rid of my desk, but I was conflicted. So first, I moved the desk to the patio to “test” our new idea before committing to it. I rehomed a few of the knick-knacks (they all have special meaning to me) to other locations in the apartment. Then I tried organizing my sewing supplies in the cabinet.

I didn’t like the way it looked. The next day, I moved some of our cookery into the cabinet instead. That didn’t make sense either, since it left empty cabinets in the kitchen (not the most ideal place to store my sewing stuff or a laptop). On the third day, I hit upon a “brilliant” idea. I moved our file boxes and my knitting basket into the cabinet and put both our laptops in the drawer. I know that doesn’t sound like a Nobel Prize winning discovery, but here’s the real beauty in what I did.

I moved my work out of my sight. The simple act of putting the laptop in the drawer changed the way I saw, not just the room, but our home in general. The first time that I walked into the apartment after the change, I was amazed at how much cozier and more homelike the place felt.

It’s not that I dislike my work. I don’t. I just don’t want it to be the first thing I see when I come through the door and I don’t want it to be the focal point of the room. Work is a small part of a much larger whole. For the first time ever, that drawer gives it a properly sized place in our home. I can get the laptop out when I need to, and I can put it back when I’m done. No more seeing it sit there 24/7.

If that’s not great, how about this then? Not having a dedicated space to sit for 6-8 hours a day has meant that I must find a new location to work. The kitchen table has always been just a few feet from my desk but the view by moving over just those few feet is completely different. I can see out the window! And then there’s the patio where the view is even better. Yes, I know that I could have picked up the laptop off the desk a hundred times and moved outside, but I never did. The desk was my “comfort zone”. Everything was already there and all I had to do was just plop down and write.

The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone. ~ Karen Salmansohn

Ditching my desk didn’t take away my responsibilities to work and home. It didn’t mean that I would spend any less time on the computer. It simply helped to reframe things in a way that was more reflective of how I feel inside. Work is important but it is secondary to the many, many more important aspects of my life.

Ditching my desk was a small thing but it was one of the best things I’ve done all year. Who knows what I may tackle next!

As for what happened to my desk…I gave it to a neighbor. She’s using it for a plant stand.

Side note: I was in the middle of editing this post on Monday morning when my phone rang. It was one of those calls that you always say “if this happens, then I’ll do ___” but you never really expect it to actually happen. It seems apropos that as I am delegating my work life to a smaller space in my home, transitions are taking place with my employer that may make my work life itself even smaller. At present, I don’t know much, but as things develop, I will keep you posted. In the meantime, it’s time to start thinking about how best to fill in that blank above.