Reducing Our Footprint and Maintaining Minimalism

For the last few years Alan and I have been trying to reduce our footprint. We decided to adopt a minimalist lifestyle that would work well with our retirement plan of living abroad. Our apartment here is furnished and we only needed few “essential” items, some of which we can leave here when we go. Essential like a corkscrew, which is totally essential in France!

We started in August of 2011 while in our 1500 sq. ft., 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with a 2 car garage and sizable backyard while getting it ready to sell. In November of 2011 we moved to a 735 sq. ft. apartment in Sparks where we stayed until March 31 of 2013 when we moved into our current apartment in Carcassonne, France which is approximately 550 sq. ft.

The first step when we began minimizing the house in Sparks was to identify the items we would bring with us to the apartment after the house sold. They included the dining room set, the wine cabinets, a small bookcase, our clothing, computers, cameras, a few dozen travel books, about six language books and a few books on crochet and knitting, and a sizable library of DVDs (about 150) and CDs (about 90), some of the paintings, a flat screen tv, and five Rubbermaid tubs full of photos. We kept some of the kitchen items, the newest set of dishes, a couple of favorite coffee mugs and soup bowls. Our living room furniture wouldn’t fit through the door of the apartment, so that was gifted to my sister. Along with nearly all our serving ware and kitchen appliances. Some of the other furniture and wall decor were re-homed with kids and other family.

In all, it took two 6 cubic yard dumpsters, a 14 cubic yard dumpster and a 10′ U-haul to rid ourselves of the rest of the “stuff” we had stockpiled.

For the apartment in Sparks we ended up purchasing a full-sized bed, mattress, and bedding, a couch and entertainment center, two end tables and two coffee tables, a second flat screen tv, tv stand, two night stands, a cane/umbrella stand, new cookware, flatware, water and wine glasses, toaster, blender, and two cutting boards . . . all of which we purchased at IKEA with the exception of the couch which we bought in Reno at a furniture discounter. All of this to make the apartment livable for the 17 months we would be in it.

The last three months in the Sparks apartment were used to minimize for our relocation to France. We took a hard look at what we felt was essential for our move to France. Camera and computer equipment, definitely a must. We both have cameras, I prefer Nikon while Alan favors Olympus. We upgraded Alan’s camera, both picked up a second camera, smaller and waterproof, and selected camera bags that fit our individual preferences. Extra batteries and larger SD cards were purchased for both of us as well.

We both have Macbooks, I also have a basic Kindle reader, iPad, iPod Touch, and iPod shuffle, Alan, in addition to his Macbook, has a netbook, Kindle Fire, iTouch, and iPhone. Essential for me as well was a small graphic tablet. We both purchased cable cases to handle the overflow of cabling that comes with having so many devices. In addition, each of us has a 500 GB backup for personal files and a 1 TB backup for our individual photos and design stuff. These also have cases and cables.

All books were scanned to PDF using our Doxie Go. All 12,000 hard copy family photos were scanned and saved. The photos were then separated and distributed to the kids. The PDF books work great on our Kindles and the digital copies of the photos are now stored on a 500 GB backup drive.  Our CD collection was integrated into our personal iTunes libraries. The DVD collection was run through a DVD Ripper software and is now housed on a second 500 GB backup drive. There is room on both the Photo and Movie/Music backups to add more if it is needed.

For clothing we decided on eight outfits each, tennis shoes, socks and stuff, and a jacket, Alan brought a rain coat, lightweight jacket and a pair of dress shoes as things that fit someone who is 6’4″ tall are not always as easy to find. I brought a few pieces of jewelry, a small framed wallet-sized photo of my Mom and Dad and one of our dog, Max.

By the time we stepped onto the plane for France we had gone from a 3 bedroom house full of “stuff” to one 29″ upright, one 28″ upright, two wheeled carry-ons, and two personal carry-on items – under 200 lbs. of “stuff.”

We’ve been in France over a year now and have not missed any of our old “stuff.” Our furnished apartment has nearly everything we need, including a hair dryer. We have picked up a few things –like the corkscrew — a small printer, a couple of drawer organizers, a few hangers, three fleece blankets, a French press and mortar and pestle. Well, and the gear we purchased for our Camino trip. The backpacks have become in very handy for other travels as well as shopping day.

We now recycle as much as possible, France is a very green country and everyone here recycles. You bring your own bags to the store, market, bread store and we have a few of those now as well. There are 3 trash bins at the end of our block, one for glass, one for plastic and one for other trash. They empty into large underground bins which are emptied twice a week. The bins are free to use, unlike recycling in our old neighborhood, and we often see people walking the extra distance to use them. Even folks from our neighborhood restaurants can be seen carrying boxes full of empty wine bottles to the recycle bin.

In Sparks we used to fill up a 30 gallon trash bag three times a week – mostly take-out containers. Here in France we will fill a 20 liter bag once a week, mostly vegetable waste from cooking and newspaper from housebreaking the dog.

As you can see, it’s a work in progress. With each move we strive to “need” less things and these days seriously discuss our need vs. want tendencies before making a purchase. We don’t miss the “stuff” of our pre-retirement life. It’s been an eye-opening realization that we can live without the things we used to think were essential to happiness and just concentrate on being happy instead.

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The last of our “stuff” from our Sparks apartment, being re-homed to our son
compter screen
Digitizing all 12,000 of our hard copy photos
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Our lives minimized to the essentials when leaving Reno
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