down to basics...

my housemates in tucson would catch me in the act daily, sometimes more than once. "there erin goes," they'd say. "playing with her stuff again." it sounds racy, sure, but unfortunately it wasn't. when they said that i was "playing with my stuff", they meant only that i was organizing my backpack-or, as it were at the time, my suitcase. i'm not quite sure how i got to be such an obsessive-compulsive organizer. i could hardly be called a clean freak. i go for days without showering, skip deoderant more often than not, and like nothing more than a floor strewn with stained t-shirts. well, maybe there are a few things i like more...but it doesn't bother me in the least! how then, you ask, can i claim to be obsessed with organizing my possessions? why, it's simple, you see. there's a world of difference between being clean and being organized. as long as i know where to find my overalls, i don't mind the paint stains on them. the coffee rings on my address book's cover don't bother me as long as it's up- to-date. it makes sense that i'm so compulsive about knowing where every last item i own is, however. i've been living out of a backpack for the bulk of the past few years. when your worldly possessions must be crammed into 3000 cubic inches, you'd be amazed how particular you can get about each and every one of them's accessibility.

it was towards the end of high school that i started aspiring towards a life of minimalism. i'd be heading off to university, after all, and it was necessary that everything i owned fit in my dorm room. dorm rooms may not be huge, but you can fit a decent amount of stuff in them. this task was relatively easy. sometimes during my first (& only) year of college, however, i took to reading about other people who shared my fascination with getting rid of stuff. although the krsnas never won me over to the life of a devotee, the holy bhagavad gita did prove inspirational in my attempts to pare down my possessions. with the support of henry david thoreau behind me, it was the beginning of the end for my old girl scout uniforms, knick- knacks, & stuffed animals. this was perfectly fine with my fellow dorm residents. forbes hall turned into a virtual flea market several nights a week, when i went on my downsizing sprees. jeans were tossed in the faces of innocent passersby as i begged them to help strip me of my still-too-voluminous belongings. i considered purchasing a single outfit in multiples, eliminating the need to decide what to wear. ultimately, though, i decided that would be too boring. sure, jeans and white tees are classic, but sometimes i just feel like wearing a sundress.

the good thing about minimalism is that it's difficult not to get better at it with each passing day. still, it wasn't until i started travelling that i truly mastered the art. nothing compels you to jettison frivolous possessions, after all, like the looming threat of a broken back. sometimes i'd get slightly over-zealous in my attempts to minimize the amount of stuff i had to play with. i'd throw out things i'd work hard to afford only to end up re-purchasing them a month after i realized the difference between simplicity and stupidity. for several years now, i've managed to confine my non- expendable "stuff" to a large backpack. now, however, i'm coming to the realization that living simply requires doing a lot more than getting rid of stuff. removing physical clutter from my existence makes it even more apparent how many empty spaces are in my life and in my heart. now that i've recognized this, i can begin to take the steps necessary to fill them up.

i find my universe shifting at an exhilirating if not alarming rate. i find most people's excitement boring. i find the adventures less meaningful without a home community where i can make sense of them all. big cities and bigger plans have grown tired. i want to fill my life with simple things, just as i have my backpack. i want to wake in the arms of someone i love, greet my day with a stretch, eat good whole food that i grew myself, and acclimate myself to the seasons rather than battling them. i want to toss traditional notions of family out the window and love out of need rather than obligation. i want enough uncommitted time to jump in streams that beckon me, but enough inspiration so that my head is always spinning-even if my feet are dangling in the brisk water beneath me. i want to drastically change my life, but i don't know how to. so i end up just playing with my stuff instead.