Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Path to Simplicity

It wasn't an intended road.  At least now, looking back, it wasn't something I was yearning for at the time.

I was in Puerto Vallarta to restore a home built there in Gringo Gulch in 1955 by the first "white woman", (National Geographic's description), not mine.  Her name was Liz Rubey and she became the Grande Dame of PV for a very long time.  It was a much smaller town then and it was THE place to be.  With all the movie stars and film people hanging out there starting in the 60's.  Ahh, the stories those walls could have told.

Anyway, I went to oversee and handle the updating of the four bedroom house up on a hill overlooking Gringo Gulch.  It was an interesting time.  I arrived with one suitcase, assuming incorrectly that I would be there for a couple of weeks.  There was no electricity or telephone because the bills had not been paid.
I didn't know then what to do and decided I would leave the next day.  A dear neighbor, Laura Cardenas, who subsequently became a lifelong friend, assisted with the utilities, well the electricity, and I was back in business and did not leave.

I ended up there for six weeks with one suitcase, no telephone, no radio and no television. Also, no newspapers!  The year was 1992.  Internet was not even a thought.  Therefore I had no connection with just about anyone, unless they knocked on the door and yelled my name.  The door was down four flights of stairs at the street level.

Whew, talk about adjustment.  IF I needed to call the USA, I walked to a place where I could use a phone to call.  My friend, John Horton came down with remodeling supplies and was there for a few weeks helping and coordinating some things with me.  I now wonder how in the world that job ever was completed.  Oh, and the cost of materials and all new furnishings - a little over $3000.  I'd post photos but for some reason Picasa is goofing up and I can't get them to load to Blogspot right now.

The lesson, though, from that six weeks of living out of a suitcase, without benefit of communication, was that I came home and saw  my world from a whole new perspective.  I was aghast when I looked in the TWO huge full closets of clothes.  I was distressed at the din of noise from the TV, radio, phones ringing and just the constant assault of something that had to be done, "Right now!"

One of my clients even commented about it.  He said that he didn't want me going back to Mexico while their building was being built because I moved at a slower pace!  Really?

Shortly after returning, quite by accident, I read a book where the woman lived on $6000 a year.  She traveled everywhere as an air courier or had her travels paid for as she was a writer of travel stories.  In this book she said she had six changes of clothes. She said that since there were seven days in the week, she needed six outfits and could launder them on the seventh day.  RADICAL.

That book and my experience in Puerto Vallarta was the beginning of turning me from a "Material Girl" to someone who finally had the courage to leave the world of consumerism.

My trip to San Miguel was spontaneous in 1999.  I came with a group of five women who had not been to Mexico previously. I of course had and somehow, without me knowing, had been designated "The Leader".
Suffice to say, at that point it was not a pleasant experience.  The good thing, of course, is that I finally saw
San Miguel.  I didn't fall in love with it at first sight as so many other people do.  In fact, the next time I came back I said I was never coming back as it was February and freezing.

However, a subsequent trip in 2000 for six weeks with a friend was the turning point.  By then I had changed substantially and was ready for a simple life.  Still, I thought I would work til 2005.  Destiny had another idea.

When the opportunity arose for me to sell my firm, I didn't hesitate a second.  Pretty much the same with selling my house.  If I did both of those, why not sell everything - except art and books?  I did.

Regrets, no.  Do I miss any of that stuff?  No. I don't even remember what 90% of it was at the time. Would I do it over again and sell everything?  Indeed.  It was the most free I have ever felt before or since.

The journey to this life has had its ups and downs,  not because of the move or the life of simplicity.  The ups and downs had to do with the loss of those I loved, but Mexico has been a good place for solace, solitude and recovery.

This past couple of weeks, after putting all the Christmas stuff away, I've been looking around and wanting to clean out drawers, the closet and downsize some more.  I feel a giant garage sale coming.  As soon as it warms up.  More folk art, clothes, kitchen stuff.  I don't really need this much any more.

It IS a great feeling!  Maybe I'll downsize to the point that I could live on a boat or in an RV.  Hmm, that's an interesting thought!  Stay tuned.


29 comments:

Shannon said...

I agree that it is really liberating to get rid of most of your possessions. I did that as well, when we moved to Mexico. Now we are contemplating a garage sale again too. Downsizing from Patzcuaro, we still have unopened boxes after 2 years! Ridiculous!

Babs said...

Yup. We all could do well to get rid of stuff. About clothing, if I haven't worn it in a year, I either donate it or sell it.

Let me know when you have a sale! Ha........

sparks_mex said...

Left justified text ... great!

Yep ... been in this house long enough to have too much. Neighbors get stuff I could still use but surprisingly don't miss

Babs said...

Sparks, isn't it amazing, truly, how little we really NEED!

Kay Cox said...

I had a similar experience when I moved to Australia for 6 months with one suitcase of clothes and a trunk full of books and teaching material. I arrived in winter and stayed until summer...nearly froze to death at first as the Aussies in Perth didn't have heat in their homes much like Mexico. No TV, a phone which seldom rang and a clothesline. No microwave...it was great and a big adjustment to come back.

Babs said...

Oh gosh, Kay, I remember when you went to Australia. I was so impressed and envious. The same with when you went to Bali!
It does change the way you see things upon return, doesn't it?

redshoesarebetterthanbacon said...

She who dies with the most toys wins!

I get a real kick out of retrieving something from the closet that's gone untouched for years, sometimes even decades, and wearing or using it again. It's like going shopping without leaving home.

Babs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Babs said...

Jennifer, there IS that! Finding something you saved because you liked it and then finding it again.

I found a bunch of jewelry that I had saved in a plastic tub to turn into embellishments on assemblages yesterday.

It WAS just like having bought something new. Thanks for the comment!

Billie Mercer said...

When we sold the house and all the stuff in Houston, I felt so free. I didn't have to take care of it any more. And while we were back while Ned was sick, we rented an apartment and I furnished it mostly with stuff from resale shops. We were comfortable and didn't miss anything except San Miguel and friends from here.

Babs said...

And Billie, we missed you! I know you did that and said you really were comfortable there.

Christine said...

I would love to hear more about your early years in Mexico. Or have you already blogged about that time in your life?

Christine said...

I meant "read" some more, of course.

wesley mouch said...

Beautiful post. Simplicity in the way of fewer possessions exposes your mind more to God, nature and other people. I have the feeling that this is how one's life should be lived.

Babs said...

Christine, do you mean the 70's and 80's? I don't think I've written much about that. I should dig out photos which would be shocking to people who have just come or only been here for 10 or 15 years......

The rutted highways, the $5 motel next to the stockyard in Guadalajara. I'll see if I can dig that stuff out........

Babs said...

Thanks Wesley - It certainly leaves me time to notice the beautiful things around me - the birds, butterflies, flowers, cloud formations. A lot of what I used to take for granted. In addition, it leaves me time to enhance my life with the things that bring simple joy to me. I agree - it is the right way - at least for me and many others.

Dean Wylo said...

Oh yes. I am in the throes of culling, selling, and giving away 40+ years of collecting - antiques and religious artifacts. How I wish I had half the money I spent! And WHY in the world I ever thought I needed all of it...

But yes. It is so freeing to be rid of it! All these years I've paid to house it, move it, clean it. No more. The more I dispose of the more I want to dispose of.

And the fact it's so much easier to acquire than get rid of...oy vey. A lesson right there.

Love this post. It's all so true.

Barbara

Babs said...

Barbara, don't give up! I not only had a house to empty, but a business to shut down. After selling all my furniture and large accessories to friends, I then had four garage sales while having knee surgery! Oy vey is right. It does have an end, in the end. Good luck.

lauriec said...

thanks Babs for this post- we are in the processing downsizing to a smaller house (also in readiness for our move to SMA) so this post really resonated - as much as we have enjoyed this particular house, home is where my husband, dogs and books are. It is indeed freeing to lighten up - so makes me wonder why we so want to acquire in the first place...

Seconding another poster's request, it would be lovely to hear/read move about the early days of your travels to Mexico - we have some of our own - we recall our first trip to Cozumel and how dogs were sleeping in the streets in Playa where we got the ferry over. So dig up the photos and tell the stories

thanks,

Laurie
Chapel Hill NC now... SMA soon

Tom said...

You are so right! I'm jealous.

Sharon said...

There's something about the saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Thanks, Babs! I'm committed to "bagging it all up" and moving to the next chapter. I had a conversation with a friend last night about "if I haven't worn it in a year" then it goes to Goodwill You post was timely! P.S. Thanks for your contact info.

Sharon
Brrr, Boston

Babs said...

Laurie, I think we acquire because society shows us that having more will bring happiness. So in our 20s,30s and 40s, we acquire. Then our kids leave home and we have all this stuff. Why? We question and realize we don't want or need it all. At least for some of us.....
My philosophy is not for everyone but it sure works for me.....
Look forward to meeting you when you arrive in San Miguel.

Babs said...

Tom, you too can take the path. It's scary at first but so refreshing at the end.

Sharon, I'm glad what I wrote is right on........

Calypso said...

I am selling something before acquiring more - will not add without some subtraction - it works ;-)

Babs said...

Good idea Calypso! I'm hoping to find a few people to rent my house for a month or more, so I can get on a bus and travel more of Mexico....I know I'm giving up the freedom of my car, but c'est la vie.
Hopefully, at some point I'll make it to your "neck of the woods" so I can meet you and Anita....

gringosuelto said...

I totally agree with you, but I'm finding it very hard to get rid of stuff. I took about 50# of clothing to a drop box about a year ago, but my closet doesn't seem to have much more space. Meanwhile, it seems like I have a lot of trivial stuff hanging around that is small and generally quite valueless. Yet they are things people have brought me from their travels, or whatever, and since they're small, I don't feel like getting rid of them gets me much. Meanwhile, large things like snowblowers (which I'd dearly love to not need) are necessary and useful. At least I've gotten much better about not buying more stuff.

Saludos,

Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we often wonder whether our things own us, rather than the reverse.

Babs said...

Kim, I think when the time comes you can get rid of the small stuff, if you want to.
I'm at a different place in my life then you, I think. Where I am might not be where you ever want to be....
Enjoy what you have til you're at the next stage.
Hopefully, some day the first thing you can get rid of is the snow blower! Ewwwww.......of course when I was growing up in Chicago, mumble something years ago, there was no such thing. It was my dad and brother with shovels. Ewwwwww.

Lizzy said...

That was my grandmothers house. Her name was Elizabeth Stuart Rubey and went by Liz or Lizzy and My mothers name was also Elizabeth Stuart as well as my name and my daughters... Yes I could tell some of those stories those walls could tell

Babs said...

Lizzy, how wonderful t ohear from you! The person who asked me to restore your grandmother's house was Casey Rubey who has been a friend of mine since the mid 80's. We were both involved in the Nuerofibromatosis Foundation along with Red McCombs.
I would love to hear more from you.
Thanks so much for writing!