A Minimalist in Hell


Some of the many sound blocking panels installed in the office.


There are at least four houses of people on my street who have quit their jobs since the US government started giving a monthly stipend (universal basic income or UBI) to people with children. Since then, the level of noise and chaos on my street has increased exponentially. 

As if living next to a group of Proud Boy terrorists was not enough, there is a house about four doors down who has decided to purchase a drum set. They have not done any sound proofing to their home. They think that it is okay to drum full bore from 8 am to 8 pm. The local police do nothing – our noise ordinance goes from 11 pm to 7 am. There have been at least five other houses who have complained of this loud music during the day. 

The loud drumming is causing trauma to veteran and civilian survivors of large-scale events. It is causing ears to bleed. It is causing windows to crack and break. It is causing people who work from home to either lose their jobs or be put on probation because you can’t work when people can’t hear you because you are being overpowered by a drum set.

The village code officer refuses to do anything. They say there is no noise ordinance that covers this, even if this one house is terrorizing not only all the other houses on the street, but houses on neighboring streets as well. (Yes, it is that loud.) There is no talking to the house in question to knock it off – when you go over there to try to talk to them, they instantly shove a gun in your face. I, for one, do not want to be shot in addition to being terrorized non-stop in my own home by deafening sound.

The only recourse we have is to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits take money and who wants to make a court appearance during a deadly pandemic? I’m not willing to die for this. The gun waving is bad enough.

I have been reading up on sound proofing to try to figure out how to block the noise from my office so that I can work. Note that my office is on the far side of the house away from the offending house. The offending house is also four doors away. (Yes, they are that loud.)

Actual sound proofing done by a handyman or contractor costs thousands of dollars. Who has that kind of money in a deadly pandemic? We are still struggling with food shortages. 

I have been reading up on DIY sound proofing. Most suggestions to block the noise suggest things I have already done – close all windows and doors, use heavy drapes to block noise. I do this anyway to block light and heat to try to keep the house cooler in the summer.

Other suggestions for DIY sound proofing are to put a ceiling to floor bookcase against the wall and fill it to try to block the sound. The basic premise is to fill the entire room with stuff so that the offending noise does not echo around.

I am a minimalist in hell.

I have purposefully been trying to empty the upstairs of my house. It is difficult for me to do stairs safely. I have been trying to get all of my belongings on the first floor with me to reduce the number of times I have to do the stairs. I am a fall hazard and fall on the stairs frequently. My goal is to have empty rooms upstairs. 

There is one exception. My office is upstairs. This is so that my workspace is separate from my living space so that I have a positive work life balance. Now that I am 100% a remote worker, it is critical to have that distinction between home and work. 

I actually have divided one room into two different work spaces. There is a work space for each job. This helps me with transitioning mentally from one job to the other. There is also a distinction in that one job I am an employee, where the other job, I am the boss / an independent contractor. One job provides me with their equipment that I must use. The other job I have to provide all of the equipment.

Aside from the office and the bathroom, the goal is to empty the upstairs.

The idea of having to fill my office with stuff in a futile effort to block noise is driving me completely nuts. My goal is to empty rooms, not fill them up. 

I am trying to figure out what I can put in the office to block sound. I have purchased sound blocking panels – they do nothing against the onslaught of noise we are experiencing. I have put my container of sewing fabric in the office. I have put my one container of childhood memories in the office. I am doing what I can to block the sound. 

However, trying to fill up that room is driving me almost as nuts as the noise. Except for the bleeding ears and damage to my hearing. (Yes, I have seen a doctor who says my hearing is being damaged by this.)

The best solution would be for these horrid neighbors to stop making the noise. I am not, after all, the only house that is being bothered by it. However, stopping the noise would be way too easy. These people are so self-centered, they do not realize there is an entire village that is being terrorized.

The village office said they had sent a letter to the offending house a few weeks ago. However, the people who live in the house making all the noise can’t read. So sending them a letter does nothing. A phone call or some sort of consequence for their action might go further. However, the fact that they constantly come out and wave the guns around is something to worry about also.

I’m just a minimalist in hell trying to figure out how to block noise by filling up a room. My goal for my house is to empty the upstairs rooms, not fill them up.

I wish people would remember to be human and that there are other humans on this planet too. Some of us are right next door.


Feels like the first time


When was the last time when you did something for the first time? In the hamster wheel of life, many adults tend to lose that childlike joy of discovering something new or trying something they have never done before. Many of life’s biggest moments are “first times:” the first time you drove a car, your first dog/cat/pet, your first job, maybe the first time you went scuba diving, or sky diving, or even the first time you ever went to Disney.

It’s never too late to have a first time. One of the best things about being an adult is that you can make your own choices and do the things you have always wanted to do. When I was growing up and it was time to choose a musical instrument in grade school, I wanted to play the drums. My parents told me that little girls did not play drums. I ended up with a flute, which I played from fourth all the way up until twelfth grade, and still have to this day. A few years ago, I went to the professional music store in town, bought my first pair of sticks, and took drum lessons at the ripe old age of 32. I now go through the house banging on everything, and it is awesome. I like to drum at about 1 am, when I get home from work, am bouncing off the walls, and trying to calm down. I’m sure the neighbors are thrilled. (They haven’t said anything yet, so I’m lucky there.)

Another hobby I have is surfing. It’s been so long since I have had the opportunity to surf, not many people know I have that hobby. Back in the day when I was hitch hiking the west coast in the 90s, I learned to surf on the Pacific Ocean. I bought a board in California, brought it back east, and my surfboard has resided in a friend’s garage on Cape Cod for at least the past decade. Every so often, I get out to Massachusetts to use it, but definitely not as often as I like. I am currently landlocked in Central New York, so it is at least a good 6-7 hour drive to any oceanfront.

Then recently, in the course of using my park pass, I got this bright idea to surf the Great Lakes (okay, so there may have been some wine involved, but it was still a great idea). After doing some research, I have learned that surfing the Great Lakes is possible. Definitely on a completely different level than ocean surfing, the Great Lakes tend to have good wake in the early spring and late fall. Great Lakes surfing is generally not as challenging as ocean surfing, as the waves often lack the power. However, given that many ocean beaches recently had shark week, I’ll take the Great Lakes for now, thanks.

So I bought a short board. Part of the reason why my ocean surfboard has resided in Massachusetts for so long, in addition to ocean proximity, is that I have no way to transport my board back and forth due to length. Long surfboards are good not only for ocean waves, but also for beginners just starting out. Short boards are more challenging to handle, but I figure better for Great Lakes surfing given the smaller waves. I’ve been surfing long enough that I’m up for the challenge of handling a shorter board.

After a three-week wait for my short board from California, it finally arrived. Half the size of my ocean surfboard, I can fit the short board comfortably in my car. I used it for the first time on Great Lake Ontario two weeks ago. The waves on the Great Lakes are getting ready to die down for the summer, but I still had a great time. There is definitely a lot more paddling and floating involved in Great Lakes surfing than there is on the ocean, but the feeling of being on the water is the same, and as equally amazing.

My purpose in this Great Lakes adventure was to create a life in which I did not need to escape. If I can access a Great Lake in 2-3 hours, then I can surf and enjoy the things I love without needing to take a significant amount of time and money to take off someplace else and leave the life I have where I am. In my quest to slow down, I am looking to enjoy where I am and live in the present moment. Why wait for the next big thing when you have something pretty amazing in your own backyard?

For the record, my first time out on Lake Ontario with the short board was not perfect. I forgot to attach my armband, the board got away from me, and then my swimming skills were really put to the test trying to chase it down. The waves may not have been as big, and the board was new. As many times as I have caught a wave on the ocean, surfing the Great Lakes really did make it feel like the first time. It was awesome.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Have you completely given up something you loved to do because life/work/school got in the way? What is preventing you from starting again?

I am so fortunate and blessed to be at a point in my life where I have the luxury and the privilege to not only reclaim things I love but to discover new things as well. What would you do if you could do anything? I don’t know about you, but I have some more waves to ride pretty soon here.