Tech Minimalism

Simon in his superhero cape

Most of my technology hails from the mid-2000s. My running IPod is from 2007. My laptop is from 2009. I still have the original IPhone only because of the pictures that are on it. In 2018, I purchased a Chromebook for $125 so that I would have something more modern to go on the internet and work on my blog.

None of this antiquated technology was a problem until I lost my job last year in the middle of a global pandemic. If you want to know how essential technology is to day-to-day life and to survival, that was my wakeup call.

When I completed grad school in 2015, I backed away from technology and things online. After 25 years as a professional college student and constantly being online, I needed a break. In 2015, I did not just downsize my digital footprint – I deleted it. 

I deleted my Facebook profile in 2015 and have not looked back. It was the best move for my mental health. I was not sure if the move would be temporary or permanent, but now in year 6, I am happy to announce that it is permanent. You can read a year without Facebook, two years without Facebook, 3 years without Facebook, 4 years without Facebook and 5 years without Facebook to follow that journey. 

Flash forward to 2022. We are living in a global pandemic. I have lost my family and many friends to COVID-19. I can literally count on one hand the people I knew before the pandemic who are still alive today. That is not an exaggeration. I am on year 3 of medical isolation as an immune compromised person who has a high risk of death if I get COVID. I am completely a 100% remote worker for as long as I have my current job, which I am hoping to hold until retirement. I found my dream job (part two).

Now that I am back online in a huge way, it is time to evaluate my digital footprint so that I do not reach the point I was at in 2015 when I had to completely unplug.

First of all – hello, internet. It’s me again.

Social Media

My social media consists of this blog, which I started in 2015 (the same year I deleted my Facebook). I have since added a Twitter account. Twitter is one of the best things I have done in a long time. I have made many new friends all over the world. It’s lonely living in a pandemic when everyone you know and love has died. I have made some amazing friendships on Twitter. I am so grateful for that platform.

Actually, I should clarify. My cats have made a lot of friends on Twitter. They are more popular than I am. Seriously, though, the cats are the highlight of my life and my reason for living, so who wouldn’t love them?

Social media – blog and Twitter. That is all of the social media I can handle. That is okay. I have people I can talk to and reach out to if I need so that I do not feel so alone.

Hardware

Now when it comes to the actual technology of it all – the hardware and software – I struggled last year when I lost my job. The technology I have did not always meet the technology requirements for jobs I was looking at applying. Luckily, I was able to find employment with the technology I have. One of my jobs actually provided me with all of the technology I need to perform that job. 

However, now that we are in a global pandemic and technology is literally a lifeline, I do not want to be in that position again. For example, last spring, I had to fire up the 2009 laptop to update my resume because it was the only thing with word. However, that laptop is way too old and outdated to go on the internet. I had to save my updated resume on a thumb drive, then access that thumb drive from my Chromebook, which was new enough to go on the internet.

Many jobs I was looking at applying specifically stated you could not use a Chromebook to do the work. My Macbook was too old to go on the internet anymore. I did apply for some jobs using just my phone, but that was low paying gig work. 

I did update my cell phone just before the pandemic. I typically change cell phones every 4-5 years. It all depends on when they start to break. In fall 2019, my cell phone was starting to break after 4 years. So, I do have a new cell phone. 

However, the whole decade old Macbook, thumb drives, Chromebook routine got old really quick. I need updated technology. I need to be able to have one cell phone and one laptop that can do it all. I also received a message that my Chromebook is basically going to be a paperweight after June of this year. Chromebooks are only made to last for so many years and apparently this spring is when mine will stop working.

I have been saving money this past year since finding my new job to update my tech equipment. I bought a new laptop.

I am now in the process of migrating everything from my old technology to my new laptop so that I can achieve my one cell phone / one laptop goal. Once I have things migrated, all of my old technology will be wiped and recycled. 

The hardware goal is one cell phone and one laptop. When I put all of my technology in one place this winter, I saw that I had 4 boxes of technology hardware. That’s right. Four boxes. What do I have? I have a broken DVD player, broken CD players, old cell phones, a 13 year-old Macbook, the Chromebook, and a -ahem – potentially 15 year old windows laptop.

When I’m done with all my migrating, wiping and recycling, the goal is one cell phone and one laptop. I do not need four boxes of technology hardware.

I made sure I have word on the new laptop so that I no longer have to rely on the 13 year-old Macbook for that. 

As far as my digital footprint, I have documents and photos. Almost all of my documents and photos are stored in the cloud. However, I like to have things stored in two or more places in case one storage place fails. All of the old technology hardware in my house is the second storage location.

Over the next several weeks, I need to migrate the photos off the 13 year-old Macbook onto my new one. I need to migrate the photos off my original IPhone onto my new Macbook. 

I have two old IPods and a brand new mp3 player that I cannot figure out to save my life. I need to figure out how to have one item to listen to music when I run. Both IPods still work great with the exception of battery life. My running pod (an original IPod shuffle from 2007) seems to have an extremely short battery life now.

Somehow in the past 10 years I ended up with all of this technology clutter. In the future, I will save things in 2 or more places and try to update my technology once it becomes obsolete. I think what happened was that in 2015, I completely dropped out of the digital life. All of this technology stuff just piled up. Then with the pandemic, I was suddenly and unexpectedly thrown back online again.

Conclusions

So, hello internet. It’s me again. I’m back.

The next few weeks and months I will be migrating, wiping and recycling all my old technology to reach my one cell phone and one laptop goal. My new laptop can do everything that I was previously using at least three other tech devices to do. My new laptop is new enough that I could apply for pretty much any remote job I wanted if I needed to now. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary. My goal is to stay at my current job until retirement. 

How much technology hardware is in your house? If you put all of your laptops, cell phones, cords, etc, in a pile, how much would you have? By the way, I found 5 house phones, almost 10 landline phone cords, and multiple internet cords in my search. I am keeping two of each. I am one person with one phone. I do not need 10 telephone cords. I will keep two in case one breaks so that I have a backup.My goal is to get all of this technology migrated and downsized so that I can focus my online activities on what I like to do – working on this blog and interacting with our Twitter friends.

The 3 Deaths

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The theory of the 3 deaths has been attributed to multiple sources. Typically, if an idea can be traced back to three or more sources, it is considered to be common knowledge. The first death occurs when the body stops functioning. The second death occurs when your body enters the grave, by burial or cremation. The third death is the moment when your name is spoken for the last time.

If Kip was still alive, today would be his 23rd birthday. Kip and Kitty are still both alive today because I keep their memories alive. While they have both experienced deaths one and two, they have not yet experienced death three. I have a feeling that when I die is when they will experience the third death. There won’t be anyone left to remember them. There will be no one left who still loves them.

My goal right now is to outlive Jude, Simon and Jolene so that I can keep them together. I worry about what would happen to them if something happens to me. They know their names. They know who they are. I know all their likes, dislikes and quirks. 

In addition to taking care of Jude, Simon and Jolene, I keep the memories of Kip and Kitty alive by still loving them. When I die, they will die with me. My purpose in life is my cats. 

There have been cats and humans throughout time. Many have been lost to history. Millions have experienced all three deaths. Yet in this period of time, I have loved and saved five lives. I am caring for the three I have now. The two I have lost are still loved in memory.

I don’t worry about experiencing the 3 deaths myself. My life has not been memorable for anyone but me. I just worry about what happens to the cats without me. 

Maybe it’s presumptuous to think I am so important in their lives. If I am gone, they will be rehomed and their lives will go on, right? I love them so much I just want the best for them.

Today I am remembering Kip on what would have been his birthday. I am also remembering Kitty, who is in my heart also. They have not yet experienced the third death because my love keeps their memories alive. 

Tales from my Surfboard Part 7: Lake in Winter

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It wasn’t always me going back to Massachusetts. Sometimes Lily came to New York to see me. The biggest difference was that Massachusetts tends to be more accepting than New York. New York is extremely conservative in comparison to Mass. 

Many people may wonder why we didn’t just choose – Massachusetts or New York? Pick a location and move in together. We had that conversation many times over the years. In the end, I think we were both scared. Lily was afraid to give up her life and family in Mass to come to more conservative New York where we would both struggle and everything feels so precarious. I was in New York for a specific purpose – education – and it took me a lot longer to reach my goals than anticipated because life happens. In the end, it came down to fear and economics on my end. I could not afford to live in Mass and I didn’t want to be in a position of living with someone if I was not able to pull my own weight.

Probably our biggest experiment in this dilemma was the year when Lily rented a house on Cayuga Lake here in New York for 5 months of the winter. It was the off-season for Lily at work, so the only thing she was technically leaving behind was her family. She did travel back to see them. 

The house was a fully furnished rental that was someone’s lake house. The rental was reasonable in the off season. It was on a seasonal road that was never plowed and when not blocked by snow, was often blocked by trains passing. It was directly on the lake and had a gorgeous sliding glass door that opened directly onto the dock of the water.

There was a canoe and other boat apparatus at the cottage that we used on the water. Lily made sure to teach me that the water and the lake was beautiful, even in winter. 

Perhaps the water was even more beautiful then. Whenever a storm came up the coast, it produced good wake. We put on wet suits to help protect against the cold and even took our shortboards out on the waves. 

Cayuga Lake is inland, so the wake is not as good as the ocean. Winter waves move slow, small and lazy. We were were able to catch some. We also took the surfboards up to Great Lake Ontario. There the waves were better – more comparable to the ocean on a good day. 

Lily was able to find some temporary odd jobs to do while she was in the cottage in New York. I was working full time and going to school, so of course we could not spend every minute together. The experiment was to see if Lily would be interested in moving to New York to be with me permanently. 

Having Lily in Ithaca for 5 months allowed me to see the city through her eyes. It was like playing tourist in your own city. We went places and did things that I never would have seen or done alone. I remember we got to see Rusted Root in concert at The Haunt. Rusted Root was the band who did my graduation song. When I graduated from high school, we were the last graduating class allowed to have a song. When our song played, we all stood up, hugged each other, and shook hands. When the song ended, we sat back down. The administration said we were “disruptive,” so no graduating class has been able to have a song since unless it is an original song made by a member of the graduating class. 

Lily and I saw Rusted Root in concert. We visited the wineries and attended many plays of live theatre. We spent time together and Lily helped me to fall in love with the beautiful Finger Lakes region all over again. 

Sunday mornings we would wake up lazily. I remember sitting in an overstuffed recliner right by the sliding glass door with a good cup of coffee watching the snow fall gently on the lake. Lily helped to open my eyes to good coffee and taught me that life is too short to drink the cheap stuff. Go for the gourmet coffee, you will be happier for it. It is the small indulgences in life that matter the most.

Saturday evenings I would arrive at the cottage after work. We would walk the dog (Lily had a dog then), and play some flag football in the yard. Well, as much flag football as two people and a dog can play. 

At the end of the 5 month rental, I remember Lily saying that it was a beautiful area and that she loved it. New York was not for her. It is too conservative and stifling here. She went back to Massachusetts. 

Well, we can say we tried. 

On my end, I was even more in love with the natural beauty of the area despite all of the challenges of living here. Lily taught me to love the lake in winter. Sometimes the lake is more beautiful in winter than it is in summer. Winter is not something to be feared, but to be embraced. It has a beauty just as brilliant as the summer, even if in a different way.

Stay tuned for more Tales from my Surfboard … telling stories of lives of loved ones lost to COVID. 

The Great Clean Out

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When I bought this house 3.5 years ago, the gentleman who owned it had passed away after living here for 60 years. His family cleaned out his personal effects, but there was a lot left in this house when I bought it and moved in. 

Over the years, I have been gradually going through what was left in this house in addition to my own minimizing and downsizing. I have recycled and donated as much as I can. Some of the items were quite interesting. For example, I donated a 1940s era fire alarm to the Historic Society. There were a few other historic items donated also.

I finally came down to the point where everything that could be donated, recycled, or reused had been. All that was left was junk. There were old tools that were rusted and that no one would want or use because we now have power tools to replace the old hand tools. There were old tools from the days when Americans would travel by horse and buggy before there were cars. This house was built in 1911. There was just a lot of stuff.

Winter is typically the time I declutter and work on all my indoor house projects. In the spring and summer, I donated everything. I took a week off for my birthday to complete my house projects.

This week I hired someone to come get all the junk. I was looking at renting a dumpster, but did not want all of this stuff to end up in a landfill. Instead, I hired a small family business who came and picked up everything. They will try to recycle things as much as possible in ways I simply could not recycle them. For example, they have a way to recycle all the metal that I simply don’t have access to. I’m not sure exactly what recycling metal is all about, but I know that they are going to try to recycle the items as much as possible to keep them out of the landfill. That makes me feel so much better than if I had simply put everything in a dumpster.

This week, all the junk left as part of the great cleanout. Everything else that is left in this house, I can either donate, recycle, or dispose of one by one if needed. All the junk is currently gone unless something happens to break beyond repair.

I am getting ruthless on cleaning out this house for a few reasons. First, someone is going to have to clean out the house when I die. I don’t wish that chore on anyone. I am trying to make the house as easy to clean out as possible when I die. 

Second, on a more positive note, if I am able to survive the pandemic and outlive the cats, I want to leave the country. It is going to be easier for me to leave the country with less items. I am downsizing with the idea that I am going to leave the country. 

Third, this house is difficult for me to handle. The more stuff I can get rid of, the easier it will be for me to take care of the house. My true goal is to get everything onto the first floor of the house, but with the bathroom and my office on the second floor, I don’t really see that happening. I’m doing what I can to decrease my possessions as much as possible.

All that stuff that we keep “for an emergency?” The emergency is now. We are living it. If a global pandemic and what looks to be World War Three is not an emergency, I don’t know what is. If you haven’t used something over the past 3 years, you aren’t going to need it. We are living the emergency now. Get rid of it. Only keep what you need and what truly makes you happy. 

As spring approaches, I am winding down on my decluttering project for this season. With the exception of some ongoing projects (like my CDs), I tend to take a break of several months once the weather cooperates to be outside. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. I have things to do other than declutter and maintain my home.

I feel so much lighter now that the great clean out has occurred. All of the items in my garage and basement are items I use and need for the house. All of the rusted metal and weird horse and buggy items are gone. I am still on my minimalist journey, but with this clean out have made significant progress. 

Will Run for Peace

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Ukrainian President Zelensky announced that if anyone wanted to go to Ukraine to help them fight, they would give you arms. I would love to go. The only things preventing me from going are my cats and the fear that they would not take me to fight in Ukraine.

Ukraine is worth fighting for. Their freedom is worth fighting for. Would I fight for America? No, I would not. America is not worth fighting for anymore. America put me on their euthanasia list.

Both the President and the CDC say that I am they type of person that should die in the pandemic. They want me to die. As part of the vaccine mandate, there was a euthanasia plan for those medically unable to be vaccinated. My euthanasia appointment was immediately canceled as soon as the Supreme Cout struck down the vaccine mandate. The hospital told me that as medical professionals, their first duty is to “do no harm,” and they did not want to euthanize anyone if they were not mandated by politics.

In America, I am condemned to die. In addition to the euthanasia list, we have not had a single mask mandate or lockdown. America is trying to make our COVID death toll as high as possible. I don’t want to die of COVID. I would rather die fighting for something in which I believe. I would rather die fighting for Ukraine. Those people deserve freedom.

I try not to get political on this blog, but it is hard with the times in which we are living. However, it’s a wonder Putin does not have the chutzpah to invade the USA. If the USA was invaded, I would not fight. A country that has condemned me to death for my medical conditions is not worth fighting for. If we were invaded, I would surrender. The healthcare as a POW would be a significant improvement over American healthcare. It would be free.  

Healthcare in America is not accessible. It is not affordable. Whether you realize it or not, as soon as the USA declares the pandemic over or downgrades it to an endemic, millions of Americans will lose their healthcare coverage. We will all be back to paying for healthcare 100% out of pocket. We will continue to die because we cannot afford basic care we need.

My life goal is to leave the USA once the cats are gone. If I could figure out how to leave sooner and take the cats with me, I would leave in a heartbeat. I am 100% willing to relinquish my American citizenship to leave the country. 

Immigration to other countries is impossible for low-income Americans. The immigration regulations for American citizens moving to other countries is strict because other countries know we are leaving because we don’t have access to healthcare here. We can’t afford healthcare. I would love to be able to access the NHS or any other functioning health system. As I stated earlier, even healthcare as a POW would be better than what we have available in the USA.

I digress.

I want to help Ukraine. They are worth fighting for. Since I can’t take my cats to a war zone, I need to come up with something else. So, I’m going to do the only thing I know how to do.

I will run for peace.

I have registered for a virtual half marathon this spring benefitting UnitedHelpUkraine.org. This non-profit organization helps provide medical supplies to Ukraine. 

I am a fall racer. I don’t typically run spring races, but when I do, it’s a charity race.

Medal # 21 will be arriving this spring as I prepare for another half marathon. Please consider a donation to UnitedHelpUkraine.org to support my efforts and assist the people of Ukraine.

Ukraine is worth fighting for. Their people did not ask for this. If I did not have 3 cats depending on me, I would volunteer to go fight. I doubt they would accept me, since I am on the American euthanasia list. Or maybe they would, since the USA wants me to die anyway. However, my cats are my only family. I can’t abandon them to fight.

So I will run. I will run for peace. Here comes another half marathon training. This one is for Ukraine.

My Quarantine Life: Week 102

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In a few weeks, I will be entering year 3 of shielding (as my friends across the pond call it). I am in the immune compromised / vulnerable group that the CDC and US President have both said “deserves to die” in the pandemic. The only time I am indoors with other humans is for medical.

While the government may say and think that my life is worthless, I am still here. I am still alive. I am very happy to be alive. My goal is to outlive the cats so that I can keep them together and take care of them.

Things here have been busy. In 2022, I have saved two lives. That’s a story for another blog post. However, even though I’ve saved two other lives in the first two months of 2022 alone (let’s not count the hundreds others I’ve saved previously), the US government still calls me “worthless.”

I digress.

Week 102 of my quarantine life, I am happy to announce that I finally replaced the vacuum cleaner that broke last year. I was unemployed for a few months, then trying to save money for a new vacuum, then waiting for the January home sales.

World, meet Frankie. Frankie is our robot vacuum that is now helping me clean. Purchasing a robot vacuum is one of the best purchases I have made in a very long time. 

The robot is incredibly smart. It goes around the cats when they refuse to move without bumping into them or running them over. It does an amazing job of cleaning. I can get all windows and surfaces clean while the robot is busy cleaning the floor.

I am so grateful for the robot vacuum, that I applaud it’s work every time it returns to its home docking station after it’s done working. Literally. I clap for the robot and thank it.

There was a news story a few weeks ago about a robot vacuum at a hotel in the UK that left the hotel. It went out the front door and just left. A gardener found it underneath a bush outside the hotel. I’m not sure if the robot got fed up with it’s job of vacuuming the hotel or if it just needed a change of scenery. However, I don’t want my robot to “escape,” so I applaud it’s work every time it’s done so that it knows I am grateful for the help.

The cats tolerate the robot vacuum much better than the traditional vacuum. Jolene is the only cat who is completely fine with any vacuum. Jude and Simon are both terrified of vacuums. Jude, however, tolerates Frankie. Simon does not hide when Frankie is working, which is a huge improvement. 

My life is going to be short. There is a very good possibility I will not survive the pandemic. With this in mind, I am so grateful for the luxury of having a robot vacuum to clean the floors for me in my final chapter of life. This robot is making my life so much easier, it is unbelievable.

I would highly recommend a robot vacuum to anyone who is able to afford one. Actually, when I was looking at purchasing a new vacuum, the robot vacuum was $20 cheaper than the traditional models. They are not too expensive if you get a basic or entry-level model. 

Approaching year 3 of quarantine, I am so grateful to still be alive and home with my cats. We are also thankful for our new robot vacuum, Frankie.

Tales from my Surfboard Part 6: The Game

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It was spring 2012 and it was Fenway Park’s 100th birthday. I was also turning 33 and hoping to finally see my favorite player, Jason Varitek # 33, at Fenway before he retired. Although I had made the pilgrimage “home” – to Fenway – many times, I had never been to a game. I just didn’t seem to have time or money.

I was in town for the weekend at the end of May for a race. I was scheduled to run Boston’s Run to Remember. I had contacted Lily to see if I could crash with her for race weekend. She was dating someone at the time, so we were “just friends.” I always asked if it was ok for me to show up when she was with someone so that I did not cause issues with her current relationship. If it was going to cause issues, I would just get a hotel room in Southie.

Lily said it was fine. She was working that weekend and they probably wouldn’t be home much that weekend anyways. I had a key to the house. I could crash on the couch and do my thing. Her current girlfriend wouldn’t mind.

On Saturday, I arrived about lunch time to drop off my stuff and park the car. I would take the T into the city to go to the race expo. The race was early Sunday morning. I went into the kitchen to drop my car keys on the table in case Lily needed to move it while I was in the city.

Sitting on the kitchen table was an envelope with my name on it. There was a single ticket to the day’s Red Sox game. I had definitely not been planning on going to a game. I was in town to race. The night before a race I am typically in bed super early. While the ticket was unexpected, I was also excited.

Lily knew I had never been to a game in-person. I was waiting until I turned 33 to see my favorite # 33 player. He had just retired that year, which completely took the wind out of my sails. However, Lily said in her note that she wanted me to be able to see a game at Fenway for the 100th birthday celebration and she did not know when I would be in town again to go. So she left me a ticket to go to the game.

I took the T into Boston and went to the race expo. After the race expo, I went to the game. It was a day long celebration. Before the game, I had lunch at the most amazing sportsbar just outside Fenway. This sportsbar even had TV sets in the restrooms. I could still watch ESPN even while going pee.

I had an amazing time at Fenway at my very first Red Sox game. I felt just like Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch with my own Fenway Family.  It would have been even more amazing if Lily could have been there with me. We would often meet at “home” – Fenway Park – in the city. Lily had to work, but we were able to facetime during the 7th inning when she was on a work break.

Of course the Red Sox won. I had the most amazing time of my life. I also had a little too much to drink, but it was Fenway and I was not driving. I rode the T back to the Cape and Lily picked me up at the T station.

I will admit I don’t remember a lot about that night, but Lily and her current girlfriend were still fine with me crashing on the couch the night before the race. They also had a bit of fun with me. When I woke up in th morning for the race, I had a bunch of Red Sox stuff written on me in red sharpie. I did not have enough time before the race to wash it all off. I had woken up late and needed to get to the start line. 

Waking up that morning before the race felt a lot like the scene in Garden State when he wakes up the next morning with stuff written all over him in sharpie. Lily and her current girlfriend took me in to the city and dropped me off near the start line for the race. It was one of the few times I actually had someone there to see me at the starting line for a race. Even though we were not “together” at the time, it was still nice.

That Red Sox game was one of the top highlights of my life. Even though we weren’t together at the time, she still knew me well. She gave me one of the best gifts ever. 

More than the game, thank you for the memories. 

Tales from my Surfboard is a series that remembers lives of people lost to COVID. Stay tuned for another installment … 

My Forever Valentine

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Today is Jude’s 10 birthday and also his gotcha day. I adopted him on Valentine’s Day when he was two years old. Jude was seized by the humane society from a hoarding situation. He was found crammed into a tiny trailer with over 30 other cats.

When I adopted Jude, I had been searching for a month for a suitable companion for Kitty. Kitty was distraught about being alone after Kip passed away. Kitty would get so upset about being home alone while I was at work that I would come home to multiple puddles of vomit because he was so upset. Kitty needed a companion.

Kitty was declawed (please don’t judge – it was the 90s when he was declawed and I have not declawed a cat since). Being that Kitty was declawed, he needed a companion who would be gentle with him, as I did not plan on declawing a cat ever again. This meant that Kitty did not have claws to defed himself, but his companion would have claws to potentially harm him. We needed someone with a gentle disposition who would not take that advantage.

A friend of mine had heard about Jude at the shelter. He was friendly with all other cats and was very gentle. He was good about playing with his claws in. He was also quite shy and they were looking for a rather quiet home for him. 

Jude’s name in the shelter was Raymond. Given his story and his shelter name, I knew he was meant to be. Raymond was my grandfather’s name. I had Jude picked out as my baby name for a boy. I always use their shelter names as a middle name. Jude Raymond could not have been more perfect.

I brought Jude home and did the slow introduction process with Kitty. They bonded immediately. It was love at first sight. Jude was indeed very gentle with Kitty. In addition to being declawed, Kitty was a lot older than Jude and was a senior. Jude played with Kitty, but seemed to sense when Kitty was tired and would stop playing. Then they would cuddle.

Even though Kitty was declawed, he taught Jude how to use the cardboard scratcher for his claws. I had bought scratching posts and cardboard scratchers for Jude to use. Kitty would “use” them first and then Jude would mimic him. Jude was a fast learner. Kitty taught him many things.

After Kitty died from cancer, Jude was alone for 6 months. It was just the two of us. I could tell Jude was sad from losing Kitty. We played all the time. Jude was ready for a companion, but it took me longer to be ready to adopt again. 

Then came Simon. Jolene came later. There was supposed to be 2 cats and a dog, not 3 cats, but that is a story for another day. This is Jude’s story.

Jude is an amazing older brother to Simon and Jolene. Jude is the oldest. Now he teaches them everything, just like how Kitty taught him. 

Jude has really come out of his shell since we moved from the apartment to the house. He plays a lot more in the house than he did in the apartment. He still rolls around on the floor. I never knew a cat to just roll around as much as Jude does!

He truly is happy. I’m so lucky to be able to see the wonderful relationship he has with Simon and Jolene. Jude still has some shy tendencies from his days as a stray. He is gentle when he needs to be. Sometimes he does play rough with Simon. 

Jude will always be my Valentine. He was meant to come into my life at the perfect time. He indeed took asad song and made it better.

Happy 10th Birthday, Jude. Happy 8th Gotcha Day. Thank you for being my Forever Valentine.

Minimalism – Entertainment Media

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When it comes to downsizing or decluttering, they say to always leave the most difficult items until last. For many, the most difficult items are sentimental items. For me personally, the most difficult items are CDs and DVDs. I love music. I love CDs. 

Artists create albums as a work of art. It’s not just the music, it’s the cover art and the insert that goes with the disc. In this way, CDs are similar to records for me, only CDs are smaller. The exerience is almost the same. The one key difference is that the sound of a record is vastly different than a CD, but I digress. Everything else is essentially the same.

I am at that point in my minimalist journey where I feel comfortable tackling the hard stuff. I do think that part of this is pandemic related. Part of it just happens to be where I am in my journey not related to the pandemic. I also have goals in life that are causing me to be more ruthless in my decluttering strategy so that I am prepared to meet my future goals with less stuff.

Here is my strategy and how it is going with my some of my most challenging decluttering categories.

Books

Originally, I thought books would be a hard category to downsize. However, when you look at CDs, DVDs and books, I found it very easy to downsize books in comparison to music. I started with close to 1,000 books. I would spend hours cataloging them by various methods – author, title, genre, ISBN. 

I can borrow books from the library and frequently do. In fact, I was borrowing so many books from the library that I was not reading the books in my house. There is no point in keeping all those books if I am not going to read them. It is time to pass them on so they can be read and enjoyed by other people.

Decluttering my books has been a very gradual process over the past decade. When I declutter books, I donate them either to the library book sale or to the Little Free Library cabinets that I tend to find in parks. 

If I enjoy a book so much that I have checked it out of the library at least twice to read it (two different distinct times, not simply renewing a book I did not have enough time to read), then that is a book I need to own. My goal is to only own books I enjoy enough that I read them several times. If I only read a book once and do not have the urge to read it a second time, then it is time for that book to move on to be enjoyed by someone else.

After a decade of going through this process with these perameters, here is my current status. 

There are 8 books on my book shelf that I have identified as books I have read multiple times, intend to read again in the future, or simply cannot part with (books that have special autographed messages from the autthor). 

In addition to the 8 books on my bookshelf, I currently have one reusable shopping bag full of books that I intend to read. As I make my way through this bag of books, I am deciding if I will keep the book or if the book will be donated and move on to be enjoyed by someone else. So it is entirely possible that I will end up with more than 8 books on my bookshelf as I make my way through the bag of books I have.

My goal is to make it through this bag of books this calendar year in 2021.

 DVDs

My goal for DVDs is only to have as many as I can fit in the DVD cabinet. Right now, not only is my DVD cabinet full, but I have DVDs that have invaded by bookcase. DVDs have been an escape for me in the pandemic, and I do not have cable to watch TV, so I have more DVDs than space allows.

I have decided that I am definitely keeping all of my TV series and my baseball World Series. I am currently watching all of my movies to decide what is staying and what is going. This has been a challenging exercise. 

I will admit that there are some DVDs where I am on the fence. If I am on the fence, those DVDs are going in a special box. They will not be donated to the library book sale this year. I labelled the box 2023 and am going to put it in a closet. If I don’t feel like watching any of those movies in the next year to the point where I pull them out of the closet, then they will be donated in 2023.

There are some movies where I watch them, and right away, I know that I am done with that movie. Either it has served its purpose – I enjoyed it, but it is not one I reach for on a regular basis, or I have “outgrown” the movie. I am no longer at a point in my life where I feel like I will watch that movie again. I have enjoyed it and it is time to move on.

I am currently working my way through watching my movie DVDs to help everything fit in the space provided. The goal is that the DVDs will all fit in the DVD cabinet and that there will no longer be DVDs invading the bookcase.

Records and CDs

This is probably going to be a shocker for those who know me well, but I have decided my records and the record player will be leaving. I had a record player and records long ago that were lost in a flood. Then, for graduation for one of my four degrees, I was gifted a record player. Over the years, I acquired a milk crate full of records all second hand from either the library book sale or from the used record store in town.

In looking through my records, almost 100% of my record collection is a duplicate of an album I own on CD. I rarely listen to the records. To be frank, it is a pain in the ass to connect the record player, place the vinyl on the turnstyle and line up the needle to play. Sure, I love records. I love the feel, smell, and sound of them. However, I am getting much more enjoyment out of my CDs and they are easier to use. The records and record player are just weighing me down at this point. I have future goals that require me to be as light and nimble as possible.

When it comes to CDs, this is my most challenging category to downsize ever. I love music. I love CDs and my collection. A few years ago, I got rid of a shoebox full of CDs. At the time, it was hard. I was all emotional donating a shoebox of CDs. You know what? I don’t even remember what CDs were in that shoebox. I don’t miss them at all. 

Looking at my CD collection today, I have 700+ CDs. I don’t listen to them a lot. CDs are similar to the 80/20 rule for clothes. I listen to about 20% of my CDs 80% of the time. 

The CDs are also way out of their space. All of the CD cabinets are full. CDs have invaded the bookcase. They have overflowed even the bookcase and are just laying around in boxes on the floor. I have way too many CDs. While CDs are my most favorite form of music, I’m not listening to them as much as I used to.

A few months ago, I stopped listening to radio. I just can’t take news anymore in the pandemic. I had to stop listening to news in order to keep my sanity. I still get news. I do not bury my head in the sand about anything that goes on. Now I go to a few different news source’s websites a few times a day to get my news instead of listening to it on the radio. This way, when I have had enough news, I can stop looking.

I also splurged and put Sirius radio on my phone a few months ago. I now listen to music without commercials and without news. I am thoroughly enjoying a bevy of my favorite music stations. I enjoy satellite radio so much, I am not listening to my CDs as much.

This does not mean I can live without my CDs. I still love them. I still have times when I listen to CDs because I want to hear a certain album or a certain song whenever I want. Although I am enjoying radio on my phone, digital music is my least favorite form of music for listening. My CDs still hold a tremendous amount of value for me.

In 2022 this year, I have embarked on a project to downsize my CDs. I am listening to every single CD.

Yup, that’s right. Every. Single. One. 

As I listen to them, I am deciding which ones I am keeping and which ones I am donating. Sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised. I will pick up a CD and think “this one should be donated,” then I listen to the CD and fall in love with it all over again. It stays. There are other CDs I pick up and think “this one should have a free pass to stay,” but I force myself to go through the listening exercise anyway. Then Ilisten to the CD and think “why was I going to give this one a free pass? I never listen to it and it’s horrible.” 

I have come to realize that just because I enjoy a specific band or musician does not mean I need to own or like every single piece of music they make. There are some bands where I have all of their albums just to have all of their albums because I love the band. But you know what? I may love the band, but some of their records really sucked. And that’s okay.

This year I am enjoying a muscial journey through every single CD I own. Again, the goal of this exercise is for all of the CDs to fit in the CD cabinet. CDs should not be invading the book case and overflowing into boxes of CDs sitting on the floor because there are so many of them. 

I only want to keep what I truly love and enjoy. That is the entire purpose of life. Just because I love a band does not mean I need to keep their one album that sucked. No artist is able to produce albums where every single one is stellar. Some are less than stellar. That’s okay. 

Conclusion

My biggest goal as a minimalist is to only be surrounded by things that are useful and things that I love. Just because a band brings me joy does not mean I need to keep an album that I did not love as much as the others. 

I also now have future plans that are going to require me to be nimble and easy to move. The more I am able to downsize, the easier it will be for me to realize my future goals. Even if I do not realize my future goals, my goal for right now is to only be surrounded by what I love. If I don’t love something, then it needs to leave. 

Yes, I love CDs. I love music. CDs are my favorite form of music. I’m sure I will be just as happy with 300 CDs as I am with 700 CDs. As long as they are all albums I love, that’s the point. I do not have a set number of CDs I want to declutter down to. I just want them all to fit in the CD cabinet and not overflowing and invading other spaces. 

What is your most challenging decluttering category?  

Minimalism: Shoes

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Shoes are hard to minimize for some people. There is a stereotype out there about how women love shoes and have entire closet fulls of them. You hear tales of people having 30, 70, even over 100 pairs of shoes! If that is what makes you happy, go with it.

As a minimalist, I try to have only what I need. For me, shoes are a necessity. As a runner, I would rather pay more money to have a few pairs of high quality shoes that are going to preserve and protect my feet than be fashionable.

I have roughly 6 pairs of shoes right now (pictured above). Each pair serves a purpose.

Starting at top left, there are my rain boots. Those are obviously for rain. I started wearing rain boots back when we started to measure rain in inches, and the field at Fenway Park was underwater. You needed rain boots to be able to walk without wet feet. As someone who has previously experienced homelessness, dry feet are a must. You must keep your feet dry to stay healthy. I always have a good pair of rain boots. This black-speckled pair is the third pair of rainboots I have owned, after pairs one and two became cracked and started leaking water.

Next to my rain boots, are my sloggers with blue paw prints on them. I also like to refer to my sloggers as “shit kickers.” These are water proof, similar to my rain boots, however, they are shoes. Sloggers are great just to have by the door to slip on when I need to go to the mailbox, the garage, or just out in the yard. Not only are they good for small amounts of water when it is raining, but they are also good in mud.

On the top right, are my snow boots. I live in the northeast USA, so we definitely need those. For all of my shoes, the priority is traction. I need all of my shoes to have good traction so I do not fall. I am already a fall hazard with my MS, so any extra traction I get is most welcome.

On the bottom left are my everyday shoes. These sneakers are actually trail running shoes. I choose trail running shoes for my everyday shoes specifically for traction. Trail running shoes are designed to help you grip on uneven terrain and help you to stay steady even in mud. I have been using trail running shoes for my everyday shoes for a few years now, and the traction is great. The only way the traction on these things would be any better would be if I was wearing cleats.

Next to my everyday shoes are my slippers. Everyone needs to be comfortable around the house. Again, I chose slippers that have hard soles with good traction. These ones do. They are not your typicaly slipper soles that are either simply flat or just have lines of ridges. These slippers have bottoms that provide traction. So if I do end up running outside in my slippers (typically due to some issue with the outside feral cats), I do have traction both outside as well as inside. Traction is essential even in slippers, as I have to do the stairs to get to the washing machine, and I am walking on non-carpeted floors.

On the bottom right are my running shoes. I run in Mizuno wave riders and have been my entire running career. I’ve been running in Mizunos for about 15 years now. I typically have two pairs to rotate in and out to preserve the support. However, I just rotated a pair out that had reached it’s mileage limit and are out of support. I only have the one pair right now. I have not yet obtained a second pair to be able to rotate in with these ones.

All of my shoes serve a purpose. I have everyday shoes and slippers. I have running shoes. Then I have my seasonal items of rain boots and snow boots. Sloggers are a luxury. I could probably live without them. However, I just like having them by the door. I can slip out of my slippers and into my sloggers if I need to go outside quick and I know I have great traction in my sloggers.

I am definitely not the type of person that has a closetful of shoes. Each pair serves a purpose. When they become worn, lose traction, or no longer support my feet, I replace them. Being a runner, my goal is to be as kind to my feet as possible so that I can continue to run as long as possible.

While I do not have a set number of pairs for shoes, every pair serves a purpose. I am not a stickler for numbers as a minimalist. For me, as long as my items are useful, beautiful, and fit in the space I have to store them, I am fine. 

I do not need extraneous pairs of shoes. More shoes would just be more things to store and take care of. I do not want to have to take care of more things than I need. The less things I have, the less things I need to clean. However, I do have enough shoes to be able to function in my everyday life. 

By having fewer pairs of shoes, I am able to purchase high quality items. They last a long time and are kind to my feet. I replace things that need to be replaced. This year, I will be looking to purchase a second pair of Mizuno wave riders to be able to rotate in with my current pair.

Minimalism is not always a numbers game or how few things you have. For me, minimalism is only having things that are useful and things that I need so that I am free to focus on the things that are most important in life. What’s most important are my cats, people, and experiences. I have enough shoes to meet all of my life needs.