The Downsizing Dozen: Make It Stick

Tape, anyone?
As long-suffering followers of this blog have read ad nauseam, I’ve been on the minimalist path for quite some time now, posting one-hit wonders such as Don’t Minimalize Your Bangs, Goodwill Hauling, The Urge to Purge, Hobbling the Hobbies, and my biggest blockbuster to date, What’s In YOUR Garage? Since 2009, I swear to you on my mother’s outdated china pattern that I’ve tried to walk the talk. So, imagine my surprise and shame while packing to move, when I repeatedly pulled out of various drawers and pandora’s boxes an endless assortment of . . . tape.

In shock, I felt moved to document the phenomenon in the photo above. That’s right folks, you counted correctly. There were no less than ten dispensers (couldn’t get them all in the picture) of sticky stuff. For every act of stickiness imaginable, I had all the bases (or folding flaps) covered. And this number doesn’t even include the medical tape I found, or the tower of duck, masking and electrical tape hiding in the garage, but that was to be expected.

No, the big mystery to me was how on earth a family of three had managed to buy and then forget about all that packaging tape. During her formative years, my daughter was (and still is) a very creative child who went through yards of tape to hold her projects together, bind her handmade book pages, fasten her abundant artwork on the walls, and ultimately leave waded on the floor only to be cut out of the hairs of a wandering family cat or dog later.

With all this taping of hers going on, I rarely had enough on hand to wrap the occasional gift much less mend a careless rip, in which case I was stuck with the ugly duck or masking tapes, and if we were out of those, then house caulk or chewing gum often came to mind. With the necessary scotch tape truly invisible to my naked eye, yet another entry to the weekly shopping list was made.

Here’s what I think happened: as the years went by, and my daughter’s appetite for temporary paper creations switched to sketchbooks and computer art, the tape dispensers disappeared into the gaping cavern of her closet, and fell behind the beanie babies and spirograph sets lurking on the back shelf. Our holiday gift wrapping has diminished (maybe that’s why we don’t have as many friends), and even when absolutely necessary, by then I had discovered the wonderful world of gift bags to fit any oddly (or normal) shaped object.

But here’s the big reason why I found so many. You ready for this? The reproductive habits of scotch tape are little known, so it’s my theory that they breed in any dark corner or unattended shopping bag. And in my case, they are known to disappear for years, only to reappear in multitudes. Furthermore, they are not the only office supplies known to do this–rubber bands and paper clips are also likely suspects.

So what can the unsuspecting suburbanite do when they open the door to a cascade of slippery plastic dispensers with their guillotines of tiny razor teeth? Follow these next steps carefully:

1) You evaluate possible causes of your dirty little secret, vow that you will go to great lengths not to recreate a similar environment ever again, and make that resolution stick.

2) You may be tempted to fling all humiliating signs of tape debauchery into the trashcan, but please take a deep breath, and think of a daycare center, classroom or craft program that would benefit, turning a bad situation into good.

3) Whatever rolls of tape you do keep, for the love of tidiness, I plead with you to store them in a well-lit area, out in plain sight, and NEVER, EVER allow them to wander off in pairs. You, your wallet, and your pets covered in little bald spots will thank you for it.

Once a month for the next twelve, I’ll feature another step in the downsizing journey that didn’t just begin when we sold our house and moved to a small walk-up apartment in June of 2014. This shift to a simpler life has been years in the making, and I hope you’ll join me in my family’s quest to get down to basics. My inaugural post entitled Giving It All Away was featured in July.

Going Too Far

Letting Go #18

Is it possible to go too far with this letting go stuff? Here I sit on a Thursday at 2 in the afternoon, still in my pajamas. I figure I have a right to do this, since it is my day off, but…. In some ways I have let myself go, maybe for the better, maybe not. I no longer care about the latest fashions–they just get in the way when I’m searching for books, or reveal too much when I bend down to answer a question from a library patron. Stylish duds are either too cold or too hot, or make me want to pull up, pull down or pick at them constantly. I’ve given up contact lenses because they are too much trouble, and stall on the purchase of new glasses with unlined bifocals because I don’t want to spend a fortune. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of minutia that I’m missing all around me because I can’t see (although in my house that may be a good thing). My philosophy right now is to get rid of the object rather than dust it–unless it’s breathing, of course.

And then there is my fascination with the hows and whys of material accumulation. I have become obsessed with the show Hoarders on the A&E cable network. I watch with horror in that “have to smell the milk gone bad after you told me not to” kind of way every week, as the poor wretches in ever-worsening situations try to plow a path out of the addiction there for all to see–and smell. I sympathize with the relatives who try to reason with their kin and sort through the mess while wondering if a sudden life event will set off their OCD hoarding genes. I, too, wonder if there but for the grace. . . well, you know.

On the other side of the spectrum, I’m a big fan of Dan Price, whose book Radical Simplicity describes a life spent in extreme downsizing. Yep, if downsizing was a sport, he would be one of its all-stars. During the past twenty years or so, Dan has gone from a regular house, to a rented room, a tipi, a shack, a hole in the ground, and various forms of lean-to, shanty and tent. Until finally, he found himself shivering in the wilderness in nothing but a sleeping bag. At that point, he wondered just how far he would take this minimalist vision of his. Would he wind up completely naked and living like the animals? Fortunately, he found his stopping point, and currently lives in a hobbit hole in his beloved meadow in Eastern Oregon.

I know that I am perfectly capable of taking things to the point of absurdity. Luckily, I have a very practical spouse and child, who periodically have to save me from myself. Occasionally, they must remind me to put on some clothes however unstylish, take out the trash, get real about my goal of living with only two boxes of possessions–oh, and stop smelling the bad milk.