Category Archives: minimalism

Grateful in Eugene

We closed on our house the day after we arrived in Eugene. It was bittersweet. The sale could not have been easier: we sold it to the tenants who have lived there for the past year. 

The hard part? We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that house, remodeling almost the entire place and adding a bathroom. We did a lot of the work ourselves (quote from my husband: “I never want to see a tile saw again.”). We had things the way we wanted them — bright colors, quirky and extremely functional. We loved our kitchen with our stainless steel countertops, giant sink, and big pantry. I canned many a batch of salsa there, and jam. And made a lot of beer which we served up from 5-gallon corny kegs kept in a refrigerator in our shed.

We planted hundreds of bulbs which put on a big show in the Spring. We grew a ton (or more!) of food —- figs, blueberries, raspberries, Marionberries, grapes, apples, pears, cherries, artichokes, asparagus, kale (lots!), tomatoes, herbs, beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, peppers, tomatillos. We grew weed (legally). We ate fresh eggs from our chickens. We fostered about 25 dogs (no, not all at once). We hosted friends for dinners, drinks, parties and holidays. I baked cookies, all of my mom’s recipes. We decorated Christmas trees (Oregon firs, some of which we cut ourselves). We (well, my husband) built a pizza oven and we also cooked out on our grill, under a canopy of festive fairy lights. We knew and loved our neighbors and our neighborhood. Did I mention we hosted FRIENDS in our small house or our big yard, cooking and opening bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir? Did I mention the cozy feeling, the feeling of belonging and of community?

But when you decide to move to Mexico and don’t want to be a long-distance landlord anymore, the house has to go. After the closing we shared a bottle of wine with the new owners in our former dining room, eating lovely cheeses that they served on our former dining room table. And it was good. I had closure. We made the right choice. Our house is in the hands of two young professional classical musicians and they will make it their own.

What’s followed has been a whirlwind of sorting through everything in our storage unit, things we wanted to return to when we moved back into our Eugene house, and then selling most of those things on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace (note: the people on FB Marketplace DON’T SHOW UP) and prepping for a three-day garage sale.

During this vortex of chaos, we have been embraced by our friends here, who we will sorely miss. They: hugged us; fed us home cooked meals; let us pet their dogs; lent us a truck; let us stay in their homes; poured us drinks; lent a garage to sell things on Craigslist; let us share a garage sale; bought our stuff and even bought me cake at Sweet Life. We are blessed and our community of friends will be what I miss most about Oregon. We are fortunate people indeed, and I am grateful

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Sell it!

In case anyone wonders what we are up to….

We drove from Ajijic up to Eugene, OR, stopping in Texas for some recreation and visiting. (I will write a post about the trip.). LONG DRIVE that, once we return, I will never make again. The day after we arrived, we closed on the sale of our house. We are currently in Eugene, staying with a variety of amazing friends, borrowing trucks, selling things on Craigslist and preparing for a garage sale (next weekend!). It’s a crazy crazy time.

Maybe you want to buy some of our stuff? It’s all stuff we wanted for when we “came back to Oregon,” but of course, we are not coming back. Less is more, less is more.

Experiences and changes; more opportunities to let go

Experiences and changes; more opportunities for letting go

It’s been a while since I posted anything, largely because all of my electronics were stolen in mid-March. I won’t go into the details of the burglary, but will express that we are very fortunate to have excellent landlords and neighbors who helped us in the aftermath of this unpleasant and disruptive experience. Losing those electronics and my jewelry has been yes another lesson in letting go.

Does being burglarized influence our desire and decision to live in Mexico? No. Burglaries happen everywhere. In fact, our neighborhood back in the Pacific NW was well-known for burglaries.

In fact, we have been looking for a house or a lot to buy in Ajijic, with the intention of spending seven or eight months a year here. That will be a big change in lifestyle for sure.

As I’ve mentioned before, we got rid of a lot of stuff before making this one-year jaunt to Mexico. A. Lot. Of. Stuff. We kept the things we will need to live when we return: bed, dressers, desk, chairs, table, kitchen things, cookbooks, winter clothes, garden tools, hobby stuff (camping, canning, soap making, beer making, skiing, dog-fostering, bicycling). We also kept art and (speaking for me here, not “we”) a major quantity of old (1920s to 1980s) photos, files, journals, and inherited mementos. Where will all of these things go when we sell our house and move South for the majority of each year? How much will go with us (not much, given moving costs and constraints), how much will go away, and how much will remain in the Pacific NW for our summer life?

Semana Santa (Holy Week) was interesting. This was the trial of Jesus, where he was condemned to death:

Gran Isla Navidad resort in Barra de Navidad. Stayed there for a treat and golfed at their lovely course:

Wine on our mirador:

Me and Frida, being beautiful:

Buy what you need — more learnings

am learning another way to buy things while living here in Mexico for a time. Given my desires toward minimalism, this is a good lesson.

In the US, it is clear that more is better, more is more, things are meant to be bought in great quantity and will make us happy. Of course, people with means spend frivolously in every country and culture, I am sure. But in the US, it’s the norm and despite the growing wealth inequality, more people have means than they do in Mexico or many other places.

In the US, there is the Cult of Costco. Stock up! Need olive oil? Buy a gallon. TP? 24 rolls. Paper towels? 12-pack. And of course you have a big house to store it in, don’t you? At least 1,500 square feet per person, right? You should have cabinets enough for all that stuff.

Here, I went in to the local stationer and asked for envelopes. The clerk came back with a box of envelopes, already open, and asked me how many I wanted. My husband went to buy some string to tie up plants, a large roll was produced and he was asked how much he wanted. Rope? Same thing. Need cold medicine? The clerk will cut the number of pills you want from the blister-pack behind the register. Need to wrap a holiday gift but don’t want to store rolls of wrapping paper? No worries, you can just buy one sheet of Christmas wrap. Groceries? Buy what you need. One stick of butter, a few eggs, a few potatoes. Flour or sugar? One kilo bags. Shopping doesn’t consist of cart-loads of groceries.

One thing that makes this work is walkability. When you can walk to stores readily, there is no need to stock up and make your house a storage unit. Grateful we live in a walkable neighborhood here in Mexico, and in Oregon too.

So I don’t have a box of envelopes sitting around that might seal themselves shut in the humid season before I get a chance to use them. Feels right. Feels smart.

Still aspiring to minimalism

Aspiring minimalist

I’ve been an aspiring minimalist for a few years. I’ve been inspired by Courtney Carver and The MInimalists and Marie Kondo (yes, I Marie Kondo’d my clothes, books, etc.). I feel like I hve less stuff than many or most of the people I know. I’ve been getting rid of things for maybe two years. When we decided to move to Mexico for a year, that went into overdrive. Sold, donated, threw out — lots and lots of stuff.

Yet, somehow we still managed to fill a storage unit of things before packing the car with essentials for our year and hitting the road.

Now, I am one month into living in a furnished rental house without most of my stuff. So far, I haven’t really missed anything. Maybe I miss paging through my (pared down) cookbook collection, but hey, there’s the internet where I can find recipes and look at food photos. On Day of the Dead, I wished I had photos of my deceased loved ones with me in order to make an altar. And I wish I had brought more T-shirts. That’s about it.

My questions to contemplate during the next 11 months: When we get back, what will I do with all my stuff? Move it all back into the house? Go through things again and get rid of more? Get rid of whole boxes without opening them up? Will I remember what’s in those boxes (duh, of course I will because they are all labeled neatly and thoroughly)? What will I want to do?

Will this year free me from my attachment to our house and former lifestyle (gardening, food preservation, soap making, beer making, dog fostering)? Will it make me want to move again, to another place, to downsize even further, to change lifestyles? Will I have found other things I like to do as well as home-making things? Will I lose the emotional pull of sentimental items, photos, things owned by my parents? Many of those things have gone already, but how close to the bone can I cut without injuring myself? Or do I have enough distance and callouses now to get out the cleaver?

See prior post: https://cookgardentravel.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/stuff-vs-travels-struggles-of-a-minimalist-wannabe/