On Life and Love

Help, I’m shrinking…

Uncluttering and downsizing is all the rave now, I know. I blame Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life for my own downsizing interest. Congrats, sir. You have made a convert.
Greg and I found out a coupla weeks ago that the owners of the house we rent are short-selling. They offered us a first change at the house, but some of the things that made it a fairly attractive rental make it a subpar buy. Plus, you know, I’m not a big fan of even mortgage debt. Why would I want a $120k gorilla on my back?

When we moved into the house last year, I loved having 1400 square feet to play in. Greg and I have separate offices, and I have room for books on top of books. We have a big kitchen and a large common area.

But it was a very painful move — we have a lot of stuff, and we moved ourselves (which we swore we’ll never do again). Add to that the accumulation that comes from having more space in which to put crap. More books (although I’m cool with my Kindle, despite the Big Brother aspects), more furniture, more kitchen appliances (good god, the kitchen appliances!), more stuff.

I’m pretty much done with that.

I’m not trying to squeeze Greg into a 400 sq. ft. apartment, of course. He’s plenty fine with lots of space and lots of stuff, so there are concessions to make there. But I can get rid of plenty of my own junk without impacting him.

Warning: I’m going to use words like “need” to describe things that feel silly for me to even say, like that we “need” a three bedroom apartment in order to have enough room for everyone to be happy. I’m engaged to a great person and he’s totally worth some excesses. 😛

First up: clothes

I’ve been carting around clothes from all my body sizes, stuff I wouldn’t wear now even if my weight were ideal: t-shirts with holes from chemistry lab, college shirts with off-color engineering jokes on them, scratchy sweaters more appropriate to Indiana winters than North Carolina ones, etc. Thirty minutes of collecting and a 15-minute trip to Goodwill took care of that.

Next up: a “paperless” office

I half-assedly follow the Getting Things Done methodology, which means I file a fair amount of things away. And so I have a 4-drawer-tall metal filing cabinet. It’s awesome and cool to have, but it takes up a lot of space, is heavy as hell, and about 95% of the stuff in there be safely stored digitally without any loss of validity. That would leave me with something like this, which can easily be stashed in a closet.

I’m in the process of doing this digitization using Greg’s scanner, but his scanner is a flatbed, what with him being an artiste and all. I’ll keep churning at it, but it’s not the fastest process, especially since I’m rarely at the desk on my office.

Other steps I’m taking to be “smaller”:


I’m not entirely sure how far to go with this. I’ll definitely be selling books I’ve read and won’t reread to Book Buyers here in Charlotte, NC. Books that I have that are no longer under copyright, too, since I can get them digitally for free.

I truly wish that I could get digitized versions of non-technical books I own paper versions of without just repurchasing. I might have to price some trade-ins. For instance, if I can sell a book for $5, and it costs $4 for the digital version of it, that could be a winner. It’d be a crap-ton of work, though.

For now, I’d be fine cutting down from four bookshelves to two. Greg can have my unused ones.


Just a few months ago, I got a super-cheap, super-huge desk. All cherry-ish wood, L-shaped, 5- or 6-feet to a side, glass top, etc. Horribly heavy. Took three of us to move it (and Greg’s matching one), and we dinged the walls good in the process of getting it upstairs.

I enjoy the desk, truly, but it’s covered from end to end in junk. Papers, in-use books (what are all those bookshelves for, again?), borrowed books, magazines, office paraphernalia, scanner, DVD drive, file labeler, and unprocessed “inbox” items. It’s a hot mess.

I’m fascinated with the idea of going vertical, but I’m not sure where to find desks with hutches that aren’t $300+. I’ve found things like this Ikea contraption, which is just the right width for my 2-monitor setup, but I’m not sure about the upper area, especially since it’s attached.

What I’d really like is one of those Resource Furniture space savers, but have it be a combo desk and wall shelving, or desk and treadmill, or desk and life-saving hospital unit.


I have approximately 890 candle holders and platforms, 2,000 little turtle figurines, and various other cutesy things.

I have about 3 candles and very few available flat surfaces (see above re: the junky desk). All of those things are still boxed up or strewn about haphazardly.

So… what’s the point?

Digitizing music

I guess CDs are technically “digital”, but my point stands. I have ~300 CDs of music that are sitting in and around a busted Sony 200-CD Changer in my living room. Those are getting MP3ed at 320 kbps and the CDs stashed away on old CDR spindles.

I’d love to have an HTPC-type setup where both my and Greg’s media were playable downstairs on my surround speakers, with Hulu/YouTube viewable on the television. Since I’d still need my trusty 10-year-old receiver (HDMI didn’t exist when I bought this!) to manage the gaming consoles and HTPC, I can’t justify spending $400+ on yet another computer.

Things I’m not doing:

  1. Moving into a significantly smaller space. A two-bedroom space wouldn’t be healthy for my relationship with McGregor unless I replaced my desktop with a laptop and (therefore) didn’t need a dedicated office. (See, this is one of those silly instances of “need”.)
  2. Getting a laptop. I just can’t justify the $2k+ expense I’d have to make to get a true desktop replacement. I have a computer that works perfectly fine and doesn’t need any upgrades. If it tanks in some catastrophic way, I’ll reconsider.
  3. Getting rid of kitchen appliances. The kitchen is largely Greg’s domain, and he’d be grumpy if I snuck behind him and threw out the (oddly specific) salad spinner.
  4. Buying a sheet-fed scanner. That’s a $400 cost that I also can’t justify, especially since Greg has a flatbed. Honestly, though, haven’t we been making consumer scanners successfully for 15 years now? Why are they still so expensive?
  5. Getting rid of useful, specific-use items. It’s been a while since I made clothes or repaired them, but I’m not kicking the sewing machine out yet. Same with my yarn.


  • Gregory Weir

    I think sheet-fed scanners are still expensive because they’re not in high demand. Mostly, they’re only bought by companies who need a sturdy, high-speed device.

  • guyblade

    How much more expensive would a mortgage be versus what you are already paying? It might be worthwhile to look into it just because it allows you to build some savings without necessarily being heavily encumbered.

    Remember, if you get a 5% fixed rate, you pay something like 0.5% of the principle value per month. This may be competitive to your current rates.

      • Melissa

        I think a 15-year mortgage would have worked out to be around the same cost per month as we spend now, but the property values in the area are low, there’s no growth in the area, and it’s not a well-connected part of Charlotte. A 15-year mortgage isn’t horrible, though. Another factor is that even Greg wouldn’t want to live here for more than about 2-3 years more, and it seems like we would still be in the negative on the deal (closing costs, etc.) in that time frame.

        I’m also not sure we could get a loan at a great rate or at a fixed rate. I haven’t checked with a bank to see what I’d be approved for, but I do have a couple of Stupid Moves on my credit from the year we graduated. o_O

        The multifunction printer looks pretty sweet. If I hadn’t bought a color laser less than a year ago (also a Brother), then I’d be all over it. I wonder if I could sell the color printer (which cost more) to cover the costs of the multifunction… Trade up, as it were. Hmm…

  • Future Father In-Law

    If you think the salad spinner is bad, wait until you receive wedding presents, One can only use so many bun warmers and chip/dip dishes. But when they come from a loved one…

    I don’t enjoy wet salads!

  • Travis

    I like this post on getting rid of your stuff. While I can’t say I’m actively getting rid of my stuff, I move just last month and had a major purging of crap I don’t need. I definitely am making more conscious decisions when it comes to the typical American “consumerism” culture where we’re always on the verge of wanting MORE STUFF!

    I have that Ikea desk! So far it hasn’t been bad – a little dark because a lamp is kind of awkward under there, especially with two monitors. The supports under the desk are to keep it stable, but you will kick them. I took them out to have more room for my legs and the whole thing is wobbly now.

  • Steve In A2

    I love the idea of the MP3’d CDs being stacked on the spindles of old packages of blank CD r/ws. Thanks for that!