by Leo Babauta
I have to admit, moving to San Francisco wasn’t as minimalist as I’d hoped. I think we did pretty well overall, all considered, but there were definite non- minimalist aspects of the move. But that’s OK — we’re all human, and we’re learning as we go.
The plan: sell, donate, or give away almost everything we owned. We hoped to keep a backpack of clothes each (to be carried on the plane), and a box of personal stuff each that would be shipped to us once we had a home. Everything else would be sold in a yardsale, given to family & friends who needed them, or donated to charity. Then we’d start from scratch — buying used as much as possible, and getting as little as possible.
That mostly happened according to plan. We did sell, give away and donate practically everything we owned. There is an amazing amount of stuff in drawers and closets that turns up when you’re actually emptying out your house — canned goods, ziploc bags, tools, brooms, bathroom cleaners, things like that — even when you’re a minimalist at heart. It turned out to be a lot of work emptying out our home completely. So not as minimalist as I’d hoped, but again, no one’s perfect.
Moving with a backpack each was nice. We didn’t have any luggage to check in on our flight. In practice, just about all the bags were carried by me and my oldest son, Justin, so we were loaded with three backpacks/duffel bags each. That was OK, but definitely tiring when your trip includes a flight to Japan with a 9-hour layover, a long flight to L.A., and another flight to San Francisco, with ridiculous amounts of security checks at each stop.
We found a home within a week, which was faster than we’d dared to hope. That wasn’t all that minimalist either — we were going all over the city (commuting from Alameda each morning, where we were staying with my cousin) looking at houses. Realtors don’t like to make appointments in advance it seems, so each morning I’d have a list of places from Craigslist and I’d make calls, trying to set up appointments. We walked around a bunch of different neighborhoods in the first week, getting a feel for them. Our favorite was Cole Valley, by far, and that’s where we finally settled.
The first night in our new place was minimalist as hell. We had a futon and an air mattress, some pillows and blankets. We also bought bathroom and kitchen supplies, and not much else. Our home was empty, and cold (I didn’t find the heater until morning).
The first week in our new house, we ran all over town trying to get furniture and other home necessities (dishes, rugs, etc.). A lot of it we got off Craigslist, which is very cool, but it turns out to be hard to do when you don’t have a car or truck. I ended up grouping the pick-ups of used furniture into two-hour windows, and hiring a small mover to pick them up with me. One day I rented a U-haul truck. Another day I picked up a rug, rolled it up, carried it 10 blocks by foot, and then took the rug on the train. It wasn’t too bad.
The disappointing thing is we ended up buying a fair amount of new stuff — a couple beds (we got one used), mattresses, curtains, rugs, kitchen and bathroom stuff. I dislike doing this, as it’s a huge waste of natural resources, but we didn’t find used versions of these things that we liked. Perhaps our standards were too high.
Today, we’re mostly settled in. We don’t have a TV, which I love, but considering I don’t make all the decisions I’m not sure how long that will last. We have computers and wireless Internet, food from farmer’s markets. We don’t have a car and won’t get one, period. We don’t have bikes yet but will.
Our home is pretty minimalist, which is a great thing about starting from scratch. We’ll see how long it lasts.