less is more

I feel the faintest guilty twitch of hypocrisy typing the title of today’s post since, despite the small footprint of my urban one-bedroom apartment, I do have a lot of crap. Of course, it’s not all crap… just some of it.

Much of my household is filled with things that I acquired for free; gifts, “free couch” scores, hand-me-downs, Freecycle freebies, or castaway treasures from the streets of Seattle. Lots of other things have been inexpensively sourced from various thrift stores, Craigslist, Target, and IKEA. [I have a weakness for IKEA.] I am a self-confesséd “stuff person”.

I do, however, have scruples about technologies. Part of this is motivated by my finances, true. If I had more money, however, I don’t know if I’d buy any of the things I don’t have right now. I guess it depends on how much more money I had?

One of the things I don’t have is a television. When I did, living with my son’s father some years ago, I watched a lot of the Food Network. I was always in accord with Alton Brown‘s anti-single-use kitchen gadget policy. Why buy some ultra-specific—and often pricey—kitchenware when you could use a simpler, cheaper tool that had plenty of other uses?

In a similar spirit and, yes, somewhat out of financial necessity, I challenged myself to live without certain “basic” household technologies when I first moved out on my own. For example, I never procured a vacuum cleaner. I kind of got tired of it but, the first year, I used to take my rugs out and beat them. I shit you not.

It wasn’t just about the expense or the space. It was about really living my life, living in my body and using it (rather than machines) to do the things that needed to be done. I think gyms are just plain foul, and a sad sign of the times. I’m adamantly bent on living without them.

Between my election to ride my bike rather than drive my mini-van and to shake out my rugs rather than vacuum them, I had the most amazing upper-arm muscles I’ve ever had! Out of the same Luddite defiance, I tilled my gravelly, reclaimed-parking-lot garden plot with a hoe and a lot of determination. It was so exhilarating, I’ve done it again every spring since then.

On my way home from downtown the other afternoon, I saw an old upright vacuum cleaner on the side of the road. It was kind of like an old Kirby, but you could tell it wasn’t as luxe, though clearly in good condition. It had the same heavy, cast-metal sucker snout, and a bag made of upholstery fabric hooked up just under the handle. I was surprised to see it on the side of the road, and wondered if it was truly free for the taking, as I suspected. I got off my bike and inspected it. I touched the handle, lifted it to feel it’s weight, but then decided not to take it.

Why? One major reason was the conveyance home. Although I have carried plenty a large and/or awkward thing on my bike, I wasn’t quite convinced I really wanted it. The old burrow has been feeling a bit cramped lately, what with a growing boy and all my precious, ever-multiplying stuffs. I questioned where I could actually keep it.

Another reason for turning down a perfectly good (and adorable) freebie was that I was at all in doubt. It’s so much sweeter to have things you really want, no matter what you paid for them, rather than stuff you’re indifferent about.

The clincher? I’ve gotten this far without a vacuum, and I’m kind of proud of it.

And besides… I can always borrow semi-annually from a neighbor if I’m really hurting for a good home-sucking.

I think it was the above incident that compelled me to tweet about all the modern gadgets and such that I surprisingly live with out.

Then, I thought I’d make a chart about it… ’cause that’s how I roll.

things i don’t have things i use instead
TV DVDs, YouTube, Hulu, my rear windows
iPod radio, CDs, cassette tapes, Pandora, iTunes, quiet
iPhone computer, wall calender, digital camera, brain
smartphone dumbphone
laptop desktop computer, thumb drive, [paper] notebook
dishwasher me
microwave oven, stove top, bain-marie, culinary skills
vacuum broom, carpet sweeper, dim lighting
bathtub* sink, shower, neighbors’
credit card debit card, piggy bank

~andrea

*I realize a bathtub isn’t technology, per se, though it is something I live without.

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