He wonders if I can. He wonders if I can live in a smaller space — smaller than a three-bedroom home in suburbia — and with less stuff.
My first one-bedroom apartment in Calgary was a tiny little dungeon off Edmonton Trail in Crescent Heights. The bedroom was just big enough to fit my queen-sized bed (no boxspring, mind you; we couldn’t squeeze it down the stairwell) and six-drawer horizontal dresser.
It was exactly what I could afford on the salary of a lowly sports reporter for Sun Media.
The collecting begins
I started accumulating “stuff” some time around 2009, when I moved into my first two-bedroom apartment. Until then, I had been living like a college kid — although I’m pretty sure I’d long since given up my milk crates used as a bookshelves.
I moved up in the world.
The spare bedroom was the “shoe room.” I graduated to a real couch, instead of a futon; a side chair I never sit in; a flat-screen TV, instead of the 36-inch behemoth a friend gave me; and hundreds of dollars spent in IKEA shelving, kitchen gadgets and knick-knacks.
Moving to an upstairs three-bedroom suite made it worse. While I enjoyed the space, I had to fill it.
With stuff. Just stuff. Shoes. Clothes. Appliances. Whatever.
I somehow became obsessed with candles and candleholders at one point.
Then I decided to leave Calgary. It’s one thing to move all your stuff from apartment to apartment, schlepping it around Calgary in plastic bins.
But it’s another thing entirely to squeeze it all into one U-Haul trailer at one time and get it to another city in another province.
Thus my downsizing began. I made multiple trips to the Salvation Army with garbage bags of clothes, following the rule of “if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it.” I piled stuff — kitchen gadgets, camping gear, tools, candleholders, whatever — to discard in a pile on the floor of one bedroom.
None of it was taken to Kamloops.
Fast forward almost two years. Settling in Kelowna meant needing new stuff. A floor lamp to light up the living room, some shelving to hold spices in the kitchen, a bathroom rack to hold my flatiron, blow dryer and hair brushes.
We have no need for two microwaves, two coffee machines, two shop vacs, two steam mops, two … you get the picture.
So it’s time to make decisions. He says don’t give up anything you have an emotional attachment to.
These days, that amounts to a couple of knickknacks, my external drives storing my digital images, my camera and my dog. Somehow, I think he expects me to keep more than that, though.
I wandered through my Kelowna apartment last Friday, mentally tagging everything with “keep” and “toss.”
I stood in front of my collection of shoes — my beautiful shoes — and wondered if I’ll ever again have occasion (think “corporate job”) or place to wear them.
I stared at my closet and thought “do I still need those skirts and cocktail dresses.”
I piled four more garbage bags of clothes, shoes and purses onto the spare bedroom floor. I filled three boxes with toys Shep has never played with, kitchen gadgets I don’t use, and books I have read or will never read.
They’re all destined for the SPCA, goodwill or wherever.
The next step
Living simply, to me, isn’t just about getting rid of stuff. It’s about getting rid of a lot of complications in life, including the trappings of corporate lifestyle, invitations to boutique openings and restaurant events, and dressing to impress.
That’s a life I aimed for and — to a point — achieved in Calgary.
But all that is a lifetime away, a string of unsatisfying jobs and cities fading in the distance. My happiness lies in breathing deeply, savouring delicious food, drinking good beer and wine, seeing things and doing stuff — not in collecting shoes, meeting important people and chasing a six-figure salary.