Jacob Lowe

Published ● 9 min read

Falling in love with the things I have instead of the things I don't

Early in 2019, I quit my job. I had been reading a lot of post modernism books, and the mundane schedule at work was not working for me. I took on the mundane schedule of unemployment instead. I found that I had a lot of extra time. Part of me knew this, and reached forward with open arms saying “embrace me simple life”. During the downtime I decided to try and take on projects. Mostly software engineering project since that is my profession and hobby, but also some home improvement ones. I had a few areas around the house that seemed cluttered and my solution to this was build some cubbies. It would be perfect I could put shoes, books, small plants, things, and more things. I was discussing the plans with few close friends on a hike. Hiking is always a good catalyst for in depth conversations. When on the hike I was weighing the pro’s and con’s on build vs buy. I was leaning towards build because I could use my hands and be part of the process. Choose the perfect wood and probably waste half of it trying to remember how to work with wood. A friend of mine, asked why I needed these cubbies, and I think I was only able to muster was it would hold my things. She started to talk about minimalism, her experiments with minimalism, and some great minimalism books. I was familiar, since I had been calling myself a minimalist for the past 5 years. Looking back at that moment I realized that organizing the clutter was not what I needed. I needed to look at my current lifestyle and simplify.

I have this mentality of all or nothing. I have a narrow focus sometimes and my mind for a week straight was on a mission to minimize and throw away everything. The amount of downsizing I was doing was very noticeable. I had a neighbor that asked what was going on when I was carry six trash bags of clothes to my car to take to Goodwill. I can only assume a few of my neighbors thought I was moving. I also had a concerned friend that asked if I was planning to kill myself. I had to disappoint him and let him know I was just downsizing. I was certain I would have more mental clarity in an apartment clear of clutter, but I had no idea on what that mental clarity would unveil for me.

I am planning to do a deep dive, into the process I have gone through to get rid of my stuff in another post. It is still on-going and my methods are becoming more refined. I constantly am finding new ways to declutter just by documenting the process. I am going to focus more on some of the things I have found emotionally once I tidied up my life.

I sit in my apartment while writing this. Its late, for me that is 9:30 pm, and my apartment is probably the cleanest I have ever seen it. I actually polished my floors the other day and I almost fall probably 10 times a day. I am content at this moment. I have a money tree, and a candle on my coffee table. I absolutely love both of these items. The candle is Patchouli, and Frankincense and it makes my apartment feel comforting to me. The money tree is a gift from some good friends and probably one of my favorite plants I have ever had. I will sometimes rub its leafs and let it know how beautiful it is. I have to say I have this type of relationship with a lot of my current items. I can not say all of them, but I can say there is quite a few. Some that I did not expect.

I am trying to be a better person for my things. I have in the past been the type of person to thrash my things. For example: I took my Canon 80d camera on a hike in the rain and had it out the entire time. I got a lot of photos, but also a $400 repair bill after the shutter button stopped working. I was not great with my things. Even in the process of downsizing, I got rid of too much. I talked about how much I love my candle and the therapy it is for me to smell its aromas. Well I had a torch like lighter, the type you would light a BBQ with, to light my candle. I thought I had a couple of them because they came in some “value” pack, so I tossed it. Well I had also tossed the other and once I realized I had none the trash had already been taken out. I had no lighter to light my candle. It made me frustrated and also a bit sad that I was failing to evaluate which items I needed to keep and get rid of. I thought there has to be a way. I have a stove and… I found some old bamboo chop sticks and lit one with the stove, it was not that bad I got the candle lit and I was back in my happy place. I thought I was, but really the subtle scents of my candle were being masked by a smell of burnt wood. I was convinced for a while that I did not need a lighter and it was just new but I would get used it. It was not pleasant, and over the course of a week I realized how unpleasant it was.

I remember the trip to a local convenience store vividly. I was standing behind someone in line and eyeing the lighters. Bic lighters was the only option for me. I wanted something with quality and if there is anything I learned from my adolescence was that Bic lighters are quality. I had purpose buying this lighter. It was very purposeful. I felt like there was a little bit of my happiness sitting on the counter in the form of a lime green Bic lighter. I can remember I was short on money to buy there lighter I think I was trying to carry the minimal amount of things with me. Either the clerk of the store saw my desperation or I was not that short but he allowed to take the lighter. Just like an addict getting to take a hit of some good stuff I had my good and the anticipation of being light my candle gave me a sense of euphoria. I do dramatize this scene a little, but only a little.

If you were to tell me when I was younger that at the ripe age of 31 I would enjoy the companionship of a lighter. I would tell you are way off base because I do not smoke. That being said it is a prize possession I own. I will often find that I am putting it in my pocket and carrying it around. Striking the wheels to hear the satisfying scratch of Ferro-cerium. I have even had it fall from my pocket with friends around. I feel like I had to explain it was just for my candle, but I forgot that I lived in California and it would have been just as acceptable to say it was for pot.

I still have some pretty bad habits. Like what carrying around things I like. I should be placing them back into their dedicated space. I would always be able to find my favorite things if I just kept putting things back. There was a brief three days that caused me a bit of anxiety. I do want to say anxiety is a very serious thing and I may make a bit of light of my situation, but anxiety is nothing to joke about. I was looking to light a new candle I had bought. I go thought about a candle a month. I looked in the drawer that holds my lighter and it was gone. Being a minimalist you should only have a few places to check, to see if you actually lost the item. I checked all those places and could not find it. I had the fear I had lose a new friend and I would never see it again.

I have found that this has happened a few times since downsizing. Not just with a lighter but other items too. It always seems to happen with some of the either most used or most admired items I own. I am not sure why this is happening now, or if this has always happened and now the effect of losing something is much more dramatic to me. I think this is also one of the reasons I am not quick to replace these items. I feel like I want to find my lighter, and my dust pan. I do not want another one, I want my old dear friend.

I was able to recover my lighter and it has changed my behavior with all my other things I own. I love some of them, and with those items I treat correctly. I put them back in there place when I am done using them. I would much rather sit my lighter on the coffee table next to my plant. Play with lighting it, but I care about it enough to keep it safe.

If you are looking to learn more on minimalism here are a few books I have enjoyed.

Goodbye Things, A new Japanese minimalism

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind

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