“How many things can I do without?” ― Socrates, Momentos

A couple of years ago, I stayed in the East Village with an artist friend of mine who had simplified his life and only had the very bare minimum of items in his apartment. He had a few books, and a scant amount of furniture and clothes. The reasoning behind this was that he really didn’t want to be tied to his possession any more, and that he wanted to be free of them. All the money he made from his artwork was divided into paying bills, which included the apartment’s maintenance fee, food, art supplies and the rest went to travel expenses for the various residencies he attended both here in the US and abroad.

I’ve been working as a freelance writer for nearly seven years and my income has dropped considerably. What I earn goes directly to pay bills, food, rent, and vehicle expenses. Anything extra that’s left over is either saved or used for a small treat (and that’s rare). But I’ve learned to do without many of the products and services I took for granted when I was earning the big bucks.

I recently debated whether I should replace my Kindle with an upgraded version, but I’ve decided what I really need is a replacement USB cord and charger. And if I really want to be frugal I can just read my digital books on either the tablet or on the laptop.

This move to the woods has made us more conscious of what we need and don’t need. We don’t need to go the grocery store or coffee shop on a daily basis. In fact, it would financially ruin us because the nearest grocery store and coffee house  is 17 miles away and gas is $3.93 a gallon. Food shopping is no longer used as a form of entertainment and an excuse to get out of the house. Instead, I take the dogs on long walks. We recently discovered a trail near us that we want to explore—assuming it ever stops raining. I’ve also been teaching myself how to crochet, using yarn and a crochet hook that I bought three years ago and never bothered to do anything with it until now.

It may not appear that I’ve given up a lot, but I have. Looking back at my life—say ten years ago—if someone told me I’d live in a remote spot, in the mountains, with just the essentials to complete my work, and get around, I would have laughed hysterically. That’s crazy talk, I would have said. But now I realize it isn’t. Collecting stuff and being enslaved to all these items is no longer acceptable. My priorities have changed, and I know as I get older they’ll keep on changing. This time, I don’t see it as crazy talk and I’m keeping an open mind to see where I’ll be ten years from now. Who knows, I may surprise myself again.