Source: I really enjoy this stock photo of some dude trying to contain his joy at being totally surrounded by boxes (from WM. F. Horne and Company)

Yeah yeah, I know, the first day of Spring was one two three four days ago, these posts don't write themselves (though with enough imagination, time, and Markov chains, they kinda could).

This probably isn't apparent for those of you in New England at the moment, but today is the first day of Spring. Well…it is in the United States at least, I don't actually know how other countries/hemispheres do seasons. Climatic differences aside, I found myself doing a bit of spring cleaning earlier today, before I even realized that the Vernal equinox was upon us.

But Brandon, what could you possibly have to clean or get rid of? You own like three things.

When I first started out, this was definitely true. The truck had fairly humble beginnings, it was legitimately just a bed, a dresser, and a coat rack dumped into the back of a moving van. But between Home Improvement projects and a few new hobbies, I've actually accumulated a non-negligible amount of stuff. Looking around the truck, I'm currently the owner of about 5% of the products Home Depot sells, plus motorcycling gear to go along with my non-existent motorcycle, bicycling gear to go along with my actually-existent bicycle, about 72 ft2 of insulation left over from a home improvement project I've been working on for 5 months, like 96 ft of lumber that I need to get rid of, and a whole assortment of other random doodads.

To my eyes, refreshed by a relaxing week of visiting friends in Tampa, all of this looked pretty ridiculous. I mean, it's always looked a little ridiculous, but it was looking particularly ridiculous today. Wasn't one of the goals of this whole thing to reduce the amount of random stuff I had? Didn't I value the simplicity of not being inundated with random objects? Shouldn't living in such a small place have forced me to think more carefully about what things I owned? I tried to think back to when I bought each of the things I was now staring at, strewn across the truck floor and haphazardly tossed into heaps and bins.

The majority of the stuff could be traced back to some work I'd been doing on the truck: a drill here, a few rolls of paper towels there, some duck duct tape off to the side, an unopened box or two of sound-dampening foam. Going back to the slowly boiling frog analogy I'm apparently pretty fond of, the slow creep of stuff into my life hadn't really set off any alarms, and I didn't notice until I'd already filled my living space up with it. Just to be clear, we aren't talking about Hoarders-level clutter here, but definitely more than I was comfortable with. So I took a hard look at it all, and there were two major areas of improvement I came up with.

Organization

In this post, I talked about how simply "defragmenting" could do wonders for the amount of available space you had. Too bad I wasn't drinking my own Kool Aid, because a lot of my clutter problems could/can be remedied with a little bit of organization. Between hanging up my motorcycle and bicycle helmets, organizing my tool drawer, and cutting the (now dismantled) wooden railings down to a more reasonable size, there are a lot of small gains I can make here. Even just making things more or less accessible based on how often I use them could be a great exercise in streamlining my life. Really all I need is an uneventful Sunday morning, some nice weather, and a good playlist.

Needs versus "Needs"

Streamlining my life is a great first step, but if my goal truly is simplicity, I won't find it just by shoving extra things into the cracks and crevices of my life. I need to actually get down to the bare essentials. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that figuring out what I genuinely need is kinda hard. Like my tools for example, I definitely wouldn't have been able to rebuild my bike rack without a screwdriver or drill, but does that mean that I need them? Far more often than not, they're just taking up precious space in the back of my truck (and the back of my mind). So it looks like the tools will have to stay in this nebulous gray area of necessity for now. What I really need is a tool library, but it looks like the nearest one is nearly two hours away, in Berkeley.

Fortunately, I did find at least one area of my life ripe for simplifying: my wardrobe. Tell me if this sounds even remotely familiar: somewhere in your house/apartment/truck there is a swath of clothes that don't fit you right, or have fallen out of style, or were gifted to you, or you just don't like all that much for one reason or another, and they've taken up the executive role of "Dust Collector". Unpacking my bag from my Tampa trip, I noticed I wear more or less the same set of ~fifteen (collared/gym/t-) shirts and three pairs of pants every week, making this probably the lowest-hanging fruit in my latest crusade.

So, with no plans on my plate on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, I dug through the depths of my drawers, cleansed my coat rack, and took a quick trip down to Goodwill. In typical fashion, I completely forgot to get a donation receipt, meaning I won't be reminded of my spring cleaning when doing this years tax returns in eleven or so months. Regardless, I still get to benefit from a slightly lighter life.

The Takeaway

More and more often, I've noticed that my posts end with some sort of faux-philosophical epiphany, where I wander upon some not quite revelatory insight about my own life and dress it up as meaningful exposition. I don't think that's happening this time around, for better or for worse. I don't have any sweeping proclamations about simplicity, necessity, and happiness, or how any of the three relate to each other.

Just kidding, I totally do.

In the end, balancing simplicity and necessity is a personal preference. Someone who has fewer needs can, almost by definition, live a simpler life. Whether that equates to happiness, well that's another personal preference and question all together. For me though? I'm a simple man, with simple pleasures. I don't enjoy being busy. I enjoy creating fulfilling work to do, but having too many things going on in my life only dilutes how much of myself I'm able to put into each one. So unless some divine inspiration strikes and tells me otherwise, I'll build my memories without accessories and find felicity in simplicity.