Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday June 11, 2012

Just the Essentials

Dear Terry,

Once again I am going through my boxes in storage at my parents’ house.  Once again I am getting rid of stuff, further minimizing my footprint in their basement.  They’ve been encouraging me to do this ever since I got back and I can hardly blame them, I’m sure they’d like some more space in their basement.

Normally doing something like this would feel pretty good for me.  Getting rid of the things that I don’t need, cleaning up, and organizing, all of this satisfies something inside of me, especially since I started taking medication to help me with my depression.  And doing something, anything, always helps me manage depression.  Activity beats inactivity any day of the week.

Yet this time I find myself even more melancholy than usual about the process.  I always feel that way, at least a little, as I go through my things and many of them trigger memories.  This time though, I’m feeling it in a very different way.

I don’t have a lot of stuff left.

This shouldn’t be a bad thing.  It’s not a bad thing.  Especially since my most recent episode I have begun to realize just how transient material things are and I more and more feel the need to embrace a philosophy of minimalism

This is what’s happening to me though.  I am slowly being pared down to nothing but the absolute minimum that I cannot bear to part with, both in myself and in my material possessions.

My experience of being depressed has been mentally paring me down.  My experiences in the real world are slowly stripping me of a lifetime of material gains.

I’d like to believe that there is some sort of reason for this to happen, but I don’t.  They say stuff like this is character building, but I think I’d rather be happy and content with life then get any more character.  I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to end up like one of those really old buildings you see scattered around town, everyone always saying that it has delightful character but that they’d never want to live in it.

I would dearly like to believe that there is a reason for all of this.  That there is some purpose being served by all of this.

I’d like to think that in all of this I am just saving the essentials.  I have to admit that I have come to love the feeling of being unburdened by material possessions.  The digital life offers so many opportunities to shrink a person’s footprint in this world and that’s not a bad thing.

Throughout my experience of these episodes my digital e-reader has been one of my best friends.  The power to carry with me an entire library, to never be at a loss for a book, is an absolutely amazing option to have.  I have never had fewer physical books in my possession and yet I have never read more in my life.  Many others lose their ability to enjoy favourite activities but for me, my one refuge has been the worlds of the imagination.

Really though, what do I need with material things when I can carry a hundred thousand worlds in my pocket?

I can see our consumer cycle of bingeing and purging more clearly now and how I was enamoured with it.  How materialistic I used to be.  That’s one of the gifts I’ve received from this experience, putting the world into proper perspective.  We can’t take anything with us when we go and the things that matter the most to us are not the things we own, but the quality of the experiences we have.  The things we do matter so much more than the things we own.

When my Uncle died we were left with an array of his personal possessions, some of them in terrible shape and some of them just old and most of them with no sentimental value.  The clean up effort was, naturally, huge and time-consuming.  I inherited many of his books and a few other small mementos.  That was all.  A whole life time of stuff got boiled down to just a few things.  And while I’m grateful to have these mementos, they don’t matter nearly as much as the memory of having in my life.

I think it really just comes down to fear.  As I get rid of more and more stuff I wonder if I am accidentally throwing away something that does have some value as a memento.  I have come across some things that remind me of you, of Peter, of my Uncle, of the others I’ve lost along the way.  But nothing can take away the memories I have you and all the others either.  No trinket can ever compare to that.

We’re so lock into a consumerist cycle that we become attached to things, as though they are a part of us.  But they’re not.  They’re just things and things are ephemeral.

I don’t know if I can ever embrace a completely minimalist philosophy of life and become a complete ascetic.  But I do think that I’ve learned enough of what’s important and what’s not.   I wish there were easier ways to learn these lessons but I’m grateful nonetheless.  If I can take this whole horrible experience of battling depression and turn into something, something good for myself and something good for others, then maybe it will have been worth it.

All my love,


For my readers one website that I have found that has been really useful for exploring minimalism and the minimalist life style is  It’s written by Leo Babauta, a blogger that I greatly admire for his approaches to simple living.  It’s well worth checking out. 



  1. Native Americans used to burn all the departeds personal belongings with them on the funeral pyre. To be free of materialism and to remember loved ones through story telling and celebrating their life must be a freeing experience. I must declutter soon as well. 🙂

    • I like that idea. Although I think I might feel better about re-cycling than burning!

      • Agreed on the burning. Have a yard sale or donate reusable stuff to charity. One mans trash is another man’s treasure.

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