Minimal Me

My new linen closet is a filing cabinet, a cosmic symbol of my evolution from materialist to minimalist. It only took 66 years. In this new life living in small quarters in the woods in my new relationship, there is no special little room with a door on it for textiles. Although, there were three metal filing cabinets, one for paper, one for fishing lures and another one for — fishing lures. In the negotiation that is blending households, I appropriated a filing cabinet as my new linen closet because keeping sheets and towels on a shelf next to the garage door made me feel uncivilized. My sheets and towels need to be housed in more sanitary conditions enclosed apart from the cardboard boxes of — fishing lures. To be sure, the new minimal me isn’t suffering with less and making do with junk. I love my streamlined life. The utilitarian simplicity gives me focus. I’m keeping my material world minimal to create space in my mind.

In my past life I was a hoarder in a big house with too many closets, filling all available space with stuff to distract me from the love that was missing, medicating myself with materialism, shopping and decorating to no end. Stacks of fine linens, plush towels, polished cotton sheets, Jaccard this and damask that, afghans, quilts, and throw pillows mushroomed in my indoor forest of possessions.

Just the word “linens” puts me in a very gendered historical context with my mother, my grandmothers and women everywhere who used woven fabrics to give protection, comfort, style and status to themselves, their homes and their families. Needlework became a thing, linens became dowries, filled Hope Chests, and spread eagle on long display tables before judges at the County Fair. My female forebears knew how to sew like they knew how to cook. Sewing was part of life, a requirement of homemaking, a female essence. The women in my family took great pride in their needlework, heirlooms stitched, embroidered, knitted, crocheted and hooked.

In 2014-2016, the last two years I lived in my own house on my farm, I experimented with AirBnB, turned the master bedroom/bathroom into a guest suite and hosted city people on weekend getaways. Luxurious sheets and towels were a quick route to high ratings and effusive comments. Since the first bone needle slid through burlap, textiles have defined our quality of life. They still do, but my values have changed.

I intentionally left behind my possessions with my past life and arrived in the Pacific Northwest with no linens of my own except the camp bedding and dog towels in my car. I wanted a fresh start. And I got one. Here my sheets and towels are old and frayed, thin grids of plant material beaten into submission by Tide Pods. Of course, I could just go shopping. Luxury linens are a commodity these days. But I’m no longer medicating myself with consumption. The minimal me wants to be a different kind of rich, more invested in Nature than stuff, with plenty of time to explore — fishing lures.

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12 thoughts on “Minimal Me

  1. Dear Billie,
    I , too, am facing new realities in my life. It pains me to realize that I will never farm again. I am finally resolved to dispose of my machinery, in part thanks to your post. I’ll contact Jim MacFadden in the spring, to arrange a sale. In between my farming times, I spent 19 years in the textile industry. I also possess a few family textiles. Last night, I awoke, feeling the cold, got up, and dug out the afghan my grandmother made.. I spread it on the bed, and went back to sleep, comforted by her long dead love. She knitted 18 afghans for each of her her grandchildren, and a number of baby blankets for great grandchildren, before she died. Her handwriting deteriorated over the years that she devoted to this work, due to arthritis, but she never stopped knitting. I can’t imagine divesting myself of the reminder of her love, pain, and devotion. Thank you for bringing the importance of family textiles to my attention. It reminds me that I need to add them to the inventory for my nieces and nephews.
    Your posts always bring me to reflect on my own situation and life.
    Thank you.
    Best wishes and joy for your new life.

    1. Thank you, Mark, for this beautiful message. First, my heart feels your loss of your farm and farming and all the gifts of that life on the soil. Yes, dispose of what remains while it is still useful to someone else. And then you must move on. I know. But you had a farm. You were a farmer. And in that you are still a hero for all the work you did, for being a role model and sharing your knowledge. About your grandmother’s gifts, hold onto them with your memories, pass them on to others and share the wealth of her love. I’m so glad to hear from you and receive your good wishes. I expect you are a person who will continue to live a rich life. Thanks for reading.

  2. Wasn’t it The Shirts who said that when you don’t have enough get rid of stuff. Reduce? Something like that. (You occupy a Very Special Spot in the Midway video with yr ‘oi’.

  3. Loving reading your book Billie as I do your blogs! I told all my bookie friends and family to buys books and a have grand time reading them!

    1. Nice to hear from you, Kathy. I’m so glad you are enjoying my books, and recommending them to your friends and family. Self-promotion can feel like talking into the void. So it’s nice to have your help. Thank you.

  4. Love this post. I’m struggling with getting rid of ‘stuff’. I too live in the Pacific Northwest. There is something about the grandeur of where I live that makes all this stuff just way too much. I want it to all just go away! 🙂 Great post.

    1. Thanks for sharing your insight. I think it is easier to stop yourself from accumulating than to get rid of the things you already have. Emptying my farmhouse took many months and killed my sentiments for things I had treasured for years because I was overwhelmed with stuff. Good luck with shedding!

  5. as always, your writing is rich, and so satisfying. however, i need to take exception to equate collecting textiles with hoarding. my life has been seeped in the trappings of grandmothers,mothers and aunts whose lives were spent stitching to make us beautiful homes, and provide supplemental wages for their families. i continue to stitch partly as an homage to my ancestors and to continue the timeless tradition of women throughout the world whose canvas is cloth. that said i do envy your minimalist life, but need to know… any leftover stuff i must have……??? bless you billy..

    1. Wow, Valerie, I wish I had known of your affection for needlework while I was shedding my possessions. It would have made me happy to pass my heirlooms on to you. Instead they went into a big sale that I did not attend in November 2017. Nothing remains here but one silk scarf my mother stitched for me. While you’re doing all that collecting, you might consider who will inherit your collection when the time comes. I wish I had thought about that years in advance. Curate your life, including curating your future curator!

  6. What did you do with all the things you left behind? I’m unstuffing too and welcome all suggestions: so far I have given everything away or donated it…. what wouldn’t fit in either of those categories was burned or thrown in the dumpster.

    1. I did what you did. When I first sold my farm I put some stuff in a storage pod. Then I realized keeping anything from my old life would be like living in the past. So the last load went in an estate sale in November 2017. There is too much stuff in this world. Even charities have too much stuff. It was so hard to feel good about shedding my possessions. That is why I am determined not to accumulate ever again. Good luck to you.

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