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Living with a minimalist

Published November 10. 2012 09:02AM

When I was dating David, I was immensely impressed when I opened his kitchen drawers. I never saw a utensil drawer so neat.

Each kitchen utensil was evenly spaced in neat rows.

I told everyone he had to be the neatest guy on the face of this earth because every nook and cranny in his home was so clean and uncluttered.

When we got married and I moved into his home, I discovered why his home is uncluttered.

David is a minimalist. I discovered to what degree that is true when I tried to cook in his kitchen.

When I needed a ladle to dish out soup, there wasn't one.

When I needed a spatula, there wasn't one.

I asked David how in the world he could get by without those items.

"Don't need them," he said.

"Don't need it," is his answer to a lot of my inquiries.

"Look, you have to understand I lived on a sailboat for seven years," he said. "I learned to get by quite nicely without a lot of gadgets. When you live on a 35 foot sailboat, you learn to get by without a lot of stuff."

So out I went to buy the missing kitchen items. But one day when I went to flip over some eggs, there was no turner in the drawer. There was no soup ladle, either.

I thought I forgot to buy them and went out to buy more. The new ones disappeared, too.

I learned David was stashing the utensils in a back closet because he wasn't used to cluttered drawers.

Finally, I convinced him I am someone who loves to cook. I need my kitchen tools where I have easy access to them. He agreed to let my kitchen alone. But his minimalist leanings show in so many other ways.

When I told him I was buying him a fishing shirt, he said, "Don't need it. I have one."

When we sold our boat, I wanted to buy him a new kayak.

"Don't need it," he said. "I already have one."

Sure he does. It weighs 70 pounds, too heavy for me to handle. It needs a new seat and the rudder doesn't work, creating a rough situation during heavy winds.

But no way can anyone convince David he needs anything. His answer is always: "I already have one."

In Anna Quindlen's new book, "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake," she talks about a little boy being raised in a family of minimalists.

The little boy was allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. The next day, when there were other presents for him under the tree, he said, "But I already have one."

My husband was probably a little boy like that.

Quindlen makes the point that there aren't many minimalists in this world. Most of us have too much stuff and keep buying more, even though "stuff" doesn't have anything to do with real life.

I am neither a minimalist nor one who accumulates "stuff." About 25 years ago, I came to the conclusion that we don't own stuff.

Stuff owns us.

With that in mind, I cleared my house of most of my stuff, or so I thought.

But when I was moving from Pennsylvania to Florida, the "stuff" I was giving away from my kitchen cabinets alone filled three SUVs.

When I moved to Florida, I took only what would fit in my car. In many ways, that was completely freeing.

At this stage of life, I don't want to spend what little time I have left buying and caring for possessions.

I moved from a 10-room house with plenty of storage in the kitchen as well as extra kitchen cabinets in the basement. Every inch of space was stuffed.

In Florida, I have a small home with one shelf for pots and pans and very little room for dishes, much less extra stuff.

The funny thing is, that's all the room I really need.

Eight years ago, I enclosed a porch and made an extra room in my small house. I've yet to decide how to use it. I guess the truth is I don't need it.

We need far less than we think we do.

But no one would ever accuse me of being a minimalist not after looking in my overflowing clothes closets. My kayak clothes alone take up one drawer. Biking and exercise clothes are in another drawer. Then there's a big section in my closet for dancing clothes.

David does just as many activities as I do but he can fit all his clothing in one small closet. Economy of space must be a guy thing.

When I watch HGTV, the women are always saying they need the big walk-in closet for themselves. Their husbands are relegated to a small closet.

I watched House Hunters last night where a newly married couple was searching for their first home.

They had to have three bathrooms, they said, one for each of them and one for guests. They also "needed" four bedrooms, an extra family room, a "guy cave" and a big room for a home office.

Times sure have changed. How we define our "needs" changed too. Look what has happened in just two generations.

Our grandparents raised big families or sometimes three generations of a family in homes with one bathroom.

Of course, more rooms need more stuff.

More stuff costs more money and requires more care.

Maybe minimalists like David have the right idea.

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