Category Archives: minimalism

Moving: what remains

The more you move your stuff, the more it turns into junk from being lifted, banged into doorways, and jostled in a truck. Scratches, dents, loosened joints, dust and smudges on upholstery and rugs. And the more we move our stuff, the more we fall apart too: sore backs, bruised hands, and strains that seem to take much too long to heal at our age. Ice packs, ibuprofen, heating pads, and miracle creams will all be dragged out after a day of moving.

Some people hire movers but I’ve never had that luxury. I hear they box everything up, load it, drive it and then unload it at your destination. In the blink of an eye, your worldly goods are gone and then reappear. All you have to do is write a check and then unbox things and put them away.

For me, for us, we are still healthy enough to do it ourselves. And we’re frugral. We think of what we could do with the thousands of dollars that would go to a mover, and then we start collecting boxes from the liquor store and getting ready to tackle the job. I do most of the packing and unpacking, and my husband does most of the heavy lifting. Right now, we don’t own anything that the two of us can’t move, even given that one of us can’t seem to get a good grip on heavy things.

I’ve been on a minimalist path for several years. Our things, my things, are down to the essence. They are the things that make life easier and are used every day like our beautiful glass electric kettle, well-seasoned cast iron skillets, a roasting sheet that started its life as a metal cafeteria tray, and cookware that my mother bought in the 1960s. They knew how to make pots and pans back then as evidenced by me using pans every day that are as old as I am. Sure, the handles get loose once in a while and I have to pull out a screwdriver to tighten them. But that seems like a minor ailment for pots over 50 years old. My hand-crank pasta maker and rosamorada rolling pin are coming along, even though the KitchenAid stand mixer and food processor were sold.

What else has made the cut? Art that we have purchased on our travels or from local folks. Clothing and shoes. Some colorful vintage serving platters and vases. Proper Oregon Pinot Noir wine glasses, made by Riedel. Oregon Pinot Noir might be hard to come by here, but when it comes, we’re ready. Silver-plated flatware that belong to an aunt and was kept cradled in a wooden box until I decided it should be used every day. Apart from kitchen things and art, we have boxes of love-letters from our long-distance courtship, a shelf of well-loved books, a folder of recipes, decent hand tools, and a rocking chair once owned by my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born. Its joints were already a bit loosey goosey and I’m thinking it may need a bit of tightening after the final few thousand miles of jostling.

What’s left makes me realize who I am and what is important: cooking in my kitchen with practical well-loved implements; beautiful art, be it a painting or a platter; and memories. These are the essence of what’s left and they tell you about my essence. They tell you that I make homemade pasta and I can do it without plugging in an appliance. They tell you I savor a glass of wine. They tell you I love to look at beautiful things and enjoy the memories of where and when they were purchased. They tell you that I cherish my history, and like to think about my deceased parents and my immigrant grandparents. I’ve sold and donated a lot of their things so what remains is more important, makes life more sweet and more clearly focused.

I’m down to this essence of me. And getting ready to furnish a house. Yes, we need beds, nightstands, lamps, tables and chairs. We need couches, wastebaskets, soap holders, and appliances. We will select those things with care and hopefully won’t bring in anything that is not of our essence. We will have only the things that are us.

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Welcome 2019. The year of augering in

Beinvenidos 2019! Welcome 2019! The year of augering in

New Year’s Eve. 2017/18. Lovely dinner with friends at their cozy hacienda-style home in Ajijic, followed by live music and fireworks on the malecon. Chilly. Warming up with Herradura reposado tequila and wearing a shiny “Happy New Year” headband. On the way home, kids hitting piñatas with sticks at the Seis Esquinas plaza and families tending bonfires in front of their houses, sipping ponche or tequila.

New Year’s Eve. 2018/19. On a Volaris flight from SeaTac to Guadalajara. A red eye. No sleep, but I did bring 12 grapes for each of us to eat a midnight. Before we landed around sunrise, I thought about the past year and what I would like in the new one.

We arrived in Mexico in October 2017. 2018 was the year we decided to stay. Big decision. A big year! A year of driving across two countries (over 3,000 miles each way). A year old selling things — house, furniture, lamps, jewelry, things. A year of packing the rest and moving it around. A year of never quite knowing where something is: is it in the car, in a box here at our rental, in a box in our Laredo Texas storage unit or did I sell it or give it away? I have no idea and it all won’t be clear until things are finally in one place and unboxed in our new house, mid-2019.

2018 was a year of leaving well-loved people and places. A year without routine, unmoored, wandering. A year of finding new people, places, and routines, new possibilities, new interests. 2019 will be the year for deepening my connection to those new people, places, possibilities and interests, of finding a niche. It will be a year of finding a new and different comfort zone, having moved far out of the old one. I will grow, as I have in 2018.

I had a dear friend who died in 2005. He often used the term “auger in” to describe what he’d do after a long season of river-rafting or guiding fisherman in Alaska or selling Christmas trees. He’d say he was going home to sit by the woodstove and auger in. <<I loved this term and looked it up recently and The Google informed me that it meant to crash a plane! Yikes, that was not the intent when Ric used it. Have you ever used this term???? If so, I want to know what you think it means. >> This year, I want to auger in, in the way Ric meant it. I want to burrow, nest, find my warm comfortable spot after more than a year of trying things out, shedding the past and moving about. I want to burrow into the now and find my new place in this world.

What do you want for 2019? How will you make it happen? Cheers and best wishes!

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

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/