Hinterland 2018: Party like a Puritan

Hinterland 2018: Party like a Puritan

About a year and a half ago I decided to move out of my modest-yet-endearing apartment with wood floors and gigantic windows and ceilings higher than a kite and into a house in the city with friends. Moving from many years of living alone and into a room that is smaller than any dorm room I’ve ever occupied seemed mostly crazy at first. The next logical move would have been to buy a house, not move back down the adulthood ladder from living independently to living with roommates. Also, I had stuff. It wasn’t wedding present caliber stuff; it was mostly hand-me-downs and thrift store finds, but I had enough stuff to fill multiple apartments for the better part of a decade.

I had some reservations about letting go of all of it—the stuff, the alone time, the controlled environment—but ultimately, I knew that sharing a space resonated more with who I was becoming than a life of independence did. And that ended up being true. What I gave up paled in comparison to what I gained.

At the time, I had a feeling that this decision would be the first domino to collapse rows and rows of similar dominos, little decision blocks just waiting for the momentum of forward progress to topple them over. That ended up being true, too. (Howdy, Hinterland.) I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want in 2018, and almost all of it looks like dominoes in the same line.

I want to have less.

Last week we talked about letting go of proverbial Christmas trees before the new year began. I still think that’s a great idea, but I want to expand that thought process to tangible things, too.

Even after downsizing significantly, I still have a significant number of belongings. I’m not looking to become a minimalist who can number and recite each of their less-than-100 possessions, but I am hoping to become someone who only has what she needs and appreciates every single item.

Case in point: I’m literally wearing a sweatshirt that hasn’t seen the light of day since the moment it rolled into this house a year and a half ago. I found it last night in the back of a storage bin partying with a few of its other forgotten friends. They were singing “We are the Out. Side. Ers!” and getting ready to rally. Good thing I found them before things turned ugly.

I want to be a good steward of the possessions I have, which is basically the opposite of what happened with this sweatshirt. I want to know what I have, where it lives, and why it’s necessary.

I want to spend less.

Remember that one time when I quit my job? Having less of a disposable income was a purposeful decision and, as it turns out, an incredibly helpful way to keep a closer eye on my spending habits. I’ve never been a big spender, but I do often buy things without stopping to think if a) I already have something that could work as a substitute or b) I actually really need that thing. It’s in the same line of dominoes as having less; by knowing what I already have, I can put what I have to better use.

Also, Spending Less has a very attractive cousin named Working Less. They are both directly related to Having More Time. This is a lucrative family tree, because instead of spending more money and working more hours I get to invest time in things like reading a lot, cooking a lot, writing a lot, and spending a lot of time with people. It’s a unique situation that won’t last forever, so I want to make the most of it while it’s here.

I want to waste less.

If there’s a highlighter yellow domino in the crowd, it’s this one, because this one keeps me up at night. I keep envisioning myself at the end of my life standing next to a pile of everything I’ve ever thrown away. It looks like the Grand Canyon of landfills and it makes me wonder how, as just one small-ish person, I’ve been responsible for so much waste.

I want to say no to almost anything that has a life cycle of one use. (Long live the KeepCup.) I want to stop being lazy about knowing what I can and can’t recycle, like candles with a centimeter of wax at the bottom? Do you melt the wax out and recycle the glass? What about the mystery metal lids? Why are there so many questions about this? And for the love of everything, I want to stop the crime cycle of letting good food go bad. I’m making this my own personal culinary challenge because throwing food away feels like the very height of excess. Thus, I’m declaring 2018 The Year of No More Fuzzy Pizza Slices From Two Weeks Ago.

I want to wonder less. 

Dominoes in the line of wanting to wonder less fell on my birthday and the 4th of July and have kept falling ever since. There is a long list of things I’m wondering about, and most of them revolve around how to take Jesus seriously. How do I honor my parents as an adult who lives hundreds of miles away? How do I love my neighbor as myself when my neighbors just a few blocks over are living lives I can’t even kind of understand? How do I share my food with the hungry when I don’t know anyone who is actually, truly hungry? Ditto: giving shelter to the homeless, giving clothes to those who need them?

Also, how do I keep half an avocado fresh if I’m saying no to plastic wrap because it’s just going to go into the Grand Canyon of waste someday?

I want to stop wondering about these things and start figuring out some answers, because perpetual wondering feels like knowing there are dishes in the sink and continuing to ignore them. The anticipation of work is usually so much worse than the actual work, and that anxious, avoidance feeling only looms larger as time goes on.

I want to celebrate everything.

Listen. I realize that a lot of this post sounds very Puritanical, as if there’s a preacher in a black hat with a belt buckle shouting, “Deny thyself and repent, pagan!” It’s been very Massachusetts in 1645 around here, but that’s not at all how it feels.

It feels more like a party. It feels like something to celebrate.

Maybe there’s something in the water in Hinterland, but there’s something exciting about all of this. I’ve been oddly excited about every single holiday since October, and as time goes on, I’m finding myself excited about basically everything: Wildcard Weekend, the Golden Globes, the cozy feeling of winter, cleaning the kitchen sink yesterday after our pipes finally thawed, making oatmeal this morning, sitting here with a candle burning and snow falling, the bright red cardinal at the bird feeder. Yesterday I decided that I want to make a wall-sized viewing calendar for the Olympics. In keeping with this blog’s namesake, it’s literally olive the things. Everything feels exciting and celebratory right now, and I want to embrace that.

I know it’s the time of year to do everything better, and I know I just laid out a whole host of things I’d like to do better, but mostly, I want to keep celebrating. I hope 2018 is known by and remembered for its pure and sincere joy, if nothing else*.

*And maybe also for the hashtag #PartyLikeAPuritan, which we should all probably start using as soon as possible.

P.S. This will be the last post in the weekly Hinterland series. Nothing is changing, and posts will still be weekly (possibly more, but not less). It’s just that Hinterland is where I am and where I imagine myself being for the foreseeable future, so titling each post that way feels redundant. It’s kind of like moving. At some point you stop calling it “my new house” and just start saying “my house.” 

So here we are at my house, with weekly dates and plenty to celebrate. I’m so glad you decided to come over.

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