Less

A little more than a year ago, I moved across the country with only a suitcase and two cats to the town in Alabama I now call home. When I arrived in the apartment, I had a mattress and box spring, and that was all. Since then, I’ve shipped a few things from home, bought some more, and borrowed or inherited others from colleagues and friends. A number of items I found on the street: some worked, some didn’t, but the price was certainly right.

There’s something to be said for having less. After all, one can’t become a hoarder and the feature of some delightful reality program or the source of neighbors’ calls to the police or local agencies if one has little material to hoard. There’s something restful too in seeing the bare lines of a room with just a bed, a coverlet, a simple lamp. It seems silly, but it’s the case that a neat closet, a clean bed, and an empty sink fill me with a simple, yet full, feeling of joy, a feeling that all is ordered in this admittedly chaotic world: always moving toward entropy.

Less resources require you to be creative about where you find other resources or how you proceed with what you have. When my saucepan’s wobbly handle needs to be tightened, the screw has to be turned with the tip of a knife or the end of a fingernail for want of a screwdriver. These are not the best of substitutions—the knife looks a bit nicked in this enterprise, and my fingernail appears rather ragged after such use—but the saucepan is usable again, so I’m happy. I’ve learned to hem trousers and darn holes in sweaters, given the limits of local shopping and a desire to try to be thriftier and less wasteful. To honor the local produce and try to use everything, I’ve cooked turnip and beet tops/greens and tried to keep on top of my produce and not let anything go to waste, or at least compost what is left.

Not having a car—I sold mine when I moved, in part to pay for my move—has been frustrating at times, but it’s also been something of a relief. I don’t have to constantly look out for the next bill—for insurance, for registration/license renewal, etc.—or worry about that knock or wobble and the many possible auto malfunctions that seem to haunt any vehicle. I don’t anticipate the financial hit and time required for the regular repairs needed for proper upkeep. I don’t need to worry about other people’s driving and the stress of navigating even simple streets. Being car free has saved me a great deal of money and a good deal of frustration. I hope I’ve also done some good in my carlessness: not only reducing the amount of traffic on the road and the damage to roads surfaces, thus reducing taxes, but lessening my carbon footprint, all the while addressing some of the joys of getting older—i.e. swelling thighs and middle—with extra walking.

Having less has not only led to greater fitness but the chance to observe my environment more fully—the crescent moon high in a sky shaded lemon to dove gray, a vast bank of clouds zigzagged with deep rose red: simple pleasures that take me out of myself, remove me from my jagged stresses, my growls of frustration and yearning, and make me see something beyond myself, be someone else, at least for a moment. In this way less really is more, and it is so in so many ways.

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