Returning To A Simpler, Less-Cluttered Life

November 11, 2010

Before I moved to Switzerland two winters ago, I filled a storage unit to the top of its 14-foot ceiling. Boxes, bags, sports gear, furniture and childhood items stacked upon each other in crowded misery.

Slightly disgruntled with the amount of plastic I’d acquired over the years I lived in Minneapolis, I closed the proverbial door with the hope that its contents would vanish in my absence.

Arriving in Switzerland, I vowed not to buy anything, but the extreme basics. I was only in Europe temporarily and I didn’t want duplicates of the household items collecting dust in Minneapolis.

My resolve lasted about two weeks, before I hopped on the commuter train and purchased three massive bags full of “stuff” at the local big box – teapots, spatulas, toothbrush holders and cutting knives.

However, the longer I lived in Switzerland, the less I visited the store. While some of this was driven by the cost of living (the average dinner was around 30 CHF, basically $30), much of this was determined by how I lived.

I didn’t have a car. Visiting mega-stores was a hassle. I biked or walked, so the fewer bags, the better. If I needed a piece of furniture or a random item, a huge flew market was across the street from my apartment. The Plainpalais flea market featured anything and everything I needed at bargained prices (note: I didn’t say “bargain” prices as it was still Geneva, Switzerland, but at least costs were bargain-able).

Since returning to the United States this fall, my boyfriend and I promised each other that we’d recycle or give away most of our storage unit. Especially, the boxes marked “stuff” and the bags labeled “random.” We liked living sparsely and hated the thought of lugging items that we never used into our new home.

While we did recycle or give away several boxes, I find that the recycled random memorabilia is being slowly replaced. One trip here, a stop-off there, and we have a full house of stuff.

I know I’m not alone in my hopes of minimizing how I live. While most of us don’t aspire to be “no impact man,” most of us like the idea of a simplified life. I know I do.

The problem is that it’s easier to live simply when you’re in a teensy fifth floor flat without a car. It’s harder when you have ready access to a Honda Fit, affordable fuel and a “sprawling” 1,500-square-foot house.

Thus, I’m taking the challenge, starting today, to simplify my life in small, measurable ways.

Odd words for someone blogging at a marketing agency? Perhaps, but I don’t think so.

Many of our clients continually are seeking better ways to do business, using less physical resources. (Warning: upcoming client plug) in the case of Marvin Windows and Doors, they build products that are made to last for decades with mostly recyclable materials.

A few ideas I have for my mini challenge:

  • Quit getting to-go coffee cups – use my porcelain cup
  • Quit using paper towels – use microfiber cloths
  • Limit my clothes shopping
  • Recycle existing, superfluous furniture and shop at antique stores

Again, I know I’m not the first to pledge this. And there is many a dedicated person who has done a deep dive, while I’m wading in shallow waters. But, help me out, give me some additional ideas. I’ll let you know how it goes at @amandam.