Friday, February 22, 2013

Confessions of a Minimalist — Storage

The bus in winter
A few words about storage: Know where things are. Ziploc bags.

Having stuff can be burdensome. But everyone has some stuff. In the confines of a small space even a very modest amount of stuff can be a problem. 

I am not going to suggest I know how to store your things better than you do. Or what your storage space looks like. I'm only going to suggest a golden rule or two of storage. Know where everything is. Use Ziploc bags.

Knowing where everything is lets you find what you need quickly. It keeps you from making a mess looking for it.

The other golden rule is use plastic air-tight sealable bags. Everything from food to small electronics, to folded clothes and cosmetics, can go inside. They nest, small ones inside big ones. They tuck, they squeeze and go almost anyplace you want. You can write on them. They keep things clean. They do not take up more room than what they contain.

Unlike other containers they shrink as what is inside gets used.

Organize what you use everyday so it is close at hand. What you seldom use can be tucked away. For extra storage, a suitcase. 

An organized home is not only neat and clean and easier to live in. It makes you feel good about  yourself and keeps clutter from cluttering up your life.

A few tips: Shoes take up a lot of room. Minimize. So do bulky coats. Consider layering. Store like things together. I store cooking utensils inside a Coleman stove. They are there when I need them, out of the way when I don't. Always clean and straighten right away. Carry a rope or clothes line. Air things like linen and sleeping bags. Consider rooftop storage when traveling. Use folding chairs. When at a campsite think of the outdoors as your home. Set up camp accordingly. Have a system for laundry. Either washing a few things daily or a trip to a laundromat weekly. Practice cleanliness around your campsite, for your sake and the sake of others. Recycle. Share. Love. You want you life to work for you. Not the other way around.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Confessions of a Minimalist — Stuff

One thing years of living in a bus taught me:  You don't need much to be happy — food, shelter, love and companionship is about it. Anything else isn't gravy. It usually just gets in the way.

Now that I am not living in a bus, and taking time to write about it, I'm finding how easy it is to slip back into old ways.

Take CD's and DVD's, for example, Or books, or jeans and T-shirts. Or shoes. Another here, another  there. Soon clutter.

Living in a bus imposes strict limits on almost everything. My rule of thumb has been if I get something new, like a new book or CD, I get rid of an old to make room.

It's easy. Just give it away, or leave it to be found. Someone will want it.

This rule  not only keeps clutter from accumulating. It upgrades what you do have by forcing you to keep only what you really love and need.

Another rule is: If you haven't used it, worn it, eaten it or cooked with it in six months get rid of it. Obviously this does not apply to spare parts. It applies to almost everything else.

I could go on but I think the point is made. Having only what you need and nothing more simplifies your life.

NEXT:  Storage.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Differing Visions of Life in America

Like millions of Americans, I heard the president address the nation in his State of the Union address to Congress last night. I was impressed. He seemed relaxed and at the top of his rhetorical game.  

Yet the speech also troubled me.

President Barack Obama addresses the nation during the 2013 State of the Union in Washington D.C.
President Obama
If I heard him correctly he called for preschool  for all children beginning at age four.

He called for high school education more closely tied to job placement, more akin to an associate degree from a community college.

"To grow our middle class," the president said, "our citizens must have access to the education and training that today's jobs require."

He also made a pitch for an increase in the minimum wage, to $9 an hour, a  boost for the working poor.

It was about jobs and work — tailoring people to fit the world of work rather than tailoring the world of work  to fit people.

Those at the top prosper; those below perspire.

Wandering Wolf

If Mr. Obama was offering a vision of  utopia based on rewards, benefits and confinements of corporate America,  Wakatel Utiw—Wandering Wolf—a Mayan elder who has been walking the Americas, see things a little differently. 

Five hundred years of  rule by occupiers, colonialists and corporate interests has not created paradise in the Americas or the world, he says. It is a system based on greed. Its legacies are division, distrust, poverty and war.

Wandering Wolf 
Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Olax, Wandering Wolf, is at the heart of the movie, Shift of the Ages, exploring the meaning of the Mayan and other indigenous peoples' visions for a better way of live. For more than seven years he has traversed the Americas from Guatemala to Peru and Bolivia, meeting with elders and speaking speaking of a coming change foreseen by his people as long count  calendar comes to a close and a new epoch begins. 

Although the time is now for a new era, he says, mankind must end its divisions and we must work together to make it happen—to end the fouling of our air and water, to end poverty, to end war and greed. 

“The new Sun will come, but if we don’t change our destructive and disharmonious ways, many may not see it. We are not powerless over something happening to us," he says. "We are happening to the Earth and to each other.”

He points to 500 years of occupation, colonial rule and corporate oppression. The lessons of the old order are manifest in a world that has turned its back on the human spirit and preached a world of material plenty and spiritual poverty.

His words contrasted with the focus of the president's address stirred something in me.

Why should it be that in a world of plenty there is so much want?  Why should we begin preparing the young for a lifetime of work at the tender age of four? 

For what reason?  To get ahead?  Who profits?  Who loses?

A Theft of Tender Years

One of  nature's preschool instructors.
Taking four-year-olds, sparkling and spiritual and at an  age when imagination should be free to explore and to play, and putting them on the treadmill that feeds the maw of the corporate machine seems a crime against them and against all humanity.

Using education not to enlarge the spirit and expand the mind but to hone workplace skills seems not so much an exercise in developing  human potential as it does  in crushing it.

The rewards are the material gee-gaws and gadgetry that fill our empty days and overflow our landfills.

One thing that nights looking at stars and mornings watching a sun rise over mountains has taught me is that the stars and the moons and the mountains and the sunrise belong to all of us.  And so too the Earth.  And that there is no more beautiful sight than a free human cast in his or her own mold and not in the mold of others or the machine.

We should be careful what we ask when we seek to grow our economy, and wary of the price we may pay and the fuel we are putting into the fire, 

The four-year-old sitting by the campfire beside her mother, hearing the conversations of coyotes in the hills, the rustle of wind in the grass, the screeches of owls and chirrups of insects and frogs,  dreaming of life unfolding before her in her vivid imagination, will not be so happy in an air-conditioned preschool where she may learn keyboard skills but not know the scent of a pine forest.

Even if it does one day lead to a job.