The Urge Toward Simplicity

I’ve moved to Corvallis, Oregon. Well, more like Philomath. And, saying that I’ve moved is actually a stretch. I’m here for 2, maybe 3 weeks to finish up a long-standing project. I’ve moved into the Galaxie Motel. A typical 1950s highway motel on the edge of town, just past the Dairy Queen on eastbound highway 20. My room consists of a bed, dresser, TV, two night stands, fridge, 2-burner stove, microwave, table, two chairs, and the bathroom which has bathroomy things. That’s it.

As I drove down I-5 I yearned for this place. I’d left a densely cluttered existence in Victoria to head down here. Cluttered physically because a new roommate is trying to wedge his things into an already packed apartment. Cluttered mentally because I’ve struggled to keep up with work and a series of deadlines that are all converging at once. Cluttered by bugs — literally. This was all topped off by a really bad flea infestation courtesy of my cat and whichever neighborhood creatures he picked the bugs up from. My apartment is also filled with baggage. The walls are lined with photos with memories attached to them, old pictures of my parents, artwork of my deceased mother, childhood iconography, tiny reminders of lost loves, larger reminders of the physical distance between me and my girlfriend. The basic grit and grime of an imperfect life like any other. Too many shoes, mismatched socks, a box full of old love letters.

Let me interject here that I hate the notion of Simplicity as it’s been adopted by many new agey types today and by the magazine of the same root name. This doesn’t mean doing more yoga, or learning to knit or make jam. It doesn’t mean adopting a half-dozen archaic skills and the accoutrement needed to practice them. It doesn’t mean more lavender, home-made soaps, nor shuffling things into better feng shui. Most importantly, there’s no way to buy your way into a simpler life unless you are paying someone to take away your junk or paying a therapist to help you deal with mental refuse. For example, owning a DIY carbonated water maker isn’t going to make my life more simple. It will become another thing to maintain and serve when I could be reading, or baking, sleeping, or doing nothing at all.

What I’m striving toward is a decrease in the clutter in my mental and physical spaces. At this moment I’m surrounded by a subset of my normal clothes, rudimentary cooking gear, one book, 3 magazines, my bike, two pairs of runners (okay, that’s excessive), a small selection of photos and treasured objects a journal, my camera, this laptop, a GPS watch and a cell phone. I don’t have to go to softball, soccer, or dodgeball or dance. I don’t have to walk across any rooms to do what I need to — there is only one room. I don’t have to worry that I’m not doing enough because my purpose here is to eat, work and sleep. I’ll see friends and family on the weekends or for dinners, but that’s all. For these 2 maybe 3 weeks, my life has been pared down to what I need to live. Shit, I still have an excess of stuff. Who really needs a GPS watch, camera, computer, and cell phone?

Still, in the past two days my itch and scratch have subsided. I’m soothed by the warm valley air as I bike to work in the morning and back home at night. I feel torn in a small fraction of the directions that I experienced only a few days ago and now each direction seems valid or at least comprehensible. After a couple more days, some of those demands will have eased leaving me in a better spot to steady my mind and quiet the incessant chatter.

My solution, when I get home, is to tear through my possessions with a callous eye toward practicality. Do I need those clothes that I’ve been lugging around and hardly wearing regardless of who bought them for me or where I got them? Can I just throw out the two extra pairs of bed sheets (by throw out I mean donate to charity)? What would happen if I took down 85% of the artwork on my walls? Gave away the books on my shelf that I haven’t opened in years and probably wont open again? Raided and tossed my junk drawer? I can almost feel it now. I can hear the rain falling outside on whatever day this will happen but probably in the first darkening of fall. I can feel the heat coming on, and suppression of all of this static.

This wont solve all of my problems, answer any deep questions, nor solve any riddles. But maybe over time. A few months of the corner of my eye catching one picture on the wall instead of three. Some time digging through my drawers and seeing only clothes that I like. Opening a fridge that doesn’t have 200 1/2 eaten and never-to-be-finished jars of condiment. I think it will do something good. And if it doesn’t I can always take up candle making or subscribe to Simple Living, or otherwise start re-jamming my life so I never have time to think.

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2 Responses to The Urge Toward Simplicity

  1. eliza says:

    really sensical post, much to ponder here. i wonder if i have been so happy in squamish because i left the clutter (and all the condiments!) behind? i hadn’t thought about it that way before. thanks for your beautiful words.

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