Bullies Suck

Life teaches me a lesson every day. I figure out what each day’s lesson is and then I share it with you… so life teaches us both lessons every day!

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I would like to tell you about a terrible business I dealt with recently but I can’t. In parting ways, I agreed to sign a gag-order which detailed that I could not talk about them, or disparage them on social media, or acknowledge that they bullied me into signing something that essentially said I could not bully them back.

I do not think it violates the terms of the gag order, though, to tell you I moved recently, and I will just leave it at that.

I struggled (a LOT) with whether I was going to sign it or tear it up in front of them and fight it all the way. When I say I struggled, I mean, there were late nights and tears involved, and it took a lot of time to swallow enough pride to do something I feel violates my own moral code (not to mention my First Amendment right).

I hate bullies. I can not help but stand up to people who think they have the right to push others around. Even worse, I hate businesses that do the same. If I lose a customer, I want to know if I can save them. If I can’t, I want to know if I could have, and when. I want to know what I could have done differently.

What I don’t do is make my customers sign something that says they can’t tell anybody I am a shithead. I understand there are people who I am not a great flavor for. There are people who talk bad about me. There is probably somebody doing it now. But that’s okay. They have a right to feel however they feel and they can tell whoever they want about it. My actions, integrity, and character speak for themselves and when they don’t, other people will step in to defend me if they feel I am being attacked unfairly.

I have as much right to defend myself as anyone has to attack me. In the end, though, I realized two things… and I signed the paper (though still heavy-hearted about it).

  • A year from now, it won’t even matter. I will be living somewhere happily and the experience would have just been a bad day I barely remember.
  • A business that needs gag orders is already doing a better job of destroying their business than I can.

 

The great thing about bullies is that they are their own worst enemy.

 

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Before You Move to Tampa

Today’s Lesson: Come prepared.

*****

Tony Robbins called Tampa “America’s best secret” and I think he is right. Moving here from Michigan is one of the best things Nicole and I ever did. On the other hand, there were a few things no one prepared me for and I did not find ahead of time on the interwebs. If you are considering a move from the North to the Tampa Bay area (which is a great move!), these tips might help you plan ahead (or at least decide how far you should plan ahead).

Here are 10 things I would have found helpful to know before we moved to Tampa:

1. When shopping for apartments, “luxury” is just part of the name, not a description. Nearly every apartment we looked at was called “luxury” and some were, but most of them just use the word as a place holder. “Luxury Apartments” is the same in Tampa as saying, “Apartment Homes”. On that note, even if it costs an extra trip to Tampa before you move, do NOT buy any apartment home based on the website or reviews. The diversity of apartments here is insane. Take a weekend and hit as many as you can. Every one is completely different.

2. Get a water filter. Maybe we were spoiled by the super clean water of the Great Lakes, but the tap water in Tampa tastes the way I imagine licking my cat’s butt would taste (but my cat seems to like licking her butt so, I don’t know, maybe cat butt tastes like cheesecake–if you try it, let us know). The city tap is not quite hard-water like from a well, but it is definitely not soft water. We bought a big Berkey. It was expensive (about $250) but worth every single penny–a necessity. I recommend this one. It is more than enough for a family of three or four and easy to maintain. Just pour the cat-butt tap water in and perfect water comes out. Additionally, you will want a $25 water filter for each shower head. Your skin will thank you for it. (Don’t get me wrong, by the way, the water is clean here, and drinkable, but it just tastes bad and stains all your glasses and dishes–too much iron maybe?)

3. Life is cheaper. Goods are more expensive. It is cheaper to live here–no city or state taxes, for example, but goods are priced higher. Our average grocery bill in Grand Rapids (for two yuppie vegans) went from about $100 per week to about $200 per week–yikes! You would think produce would be surprisingly cheap here since it does not have to travel far to get here, but you would be wrong. When you first move here, though, there are some crazy fees. Plan to have a few grand to cover outrageous license transfer fees (at $400+ each!), endless toll fees (buy a Sun Pass as soon as you get here), and other goofy fees (State parks, apartment pet fees, application fees, etc.).

4. Save up now for your new hobbies. It’s Tampa! You are coming here for the beaches and endless summer, and all the rumors and fantasies are true. It is amazing! Of course, that means you will pick up some new hobbies. No matter what they are, they will run you about $5,000 (for two). 2 decent Stand-Up Paddleboards with paddles, gear, and transport? $5,000. 2 Kayaks and all the needed accessories? $5,000. Scuba gear for 2? $5,000. A decent jet ski? $5,000. An entry-level sailboat? $55,000! Come on, $5,000? You wish. But you get the idea.

5. Everything is 40 minutes away. No matter where you live in the Tampa area, it will take you 40 minutes in regular traffic to get anywhere, even across the street. It is some weird effect or Relativity or something, but whether it is 5 miles away or 35 miles away, it will take you 40 minutes to get there.

6. Google Maps is wrong. Everything is 40 minutes away. Whatever Google Maps tells you, there is no algorithm to account for Tampa traffic (because of that Relativity thing, I think). In Michigan, if Google Maps says you will arrive at your destination in 25 minutes, you know exactly where you will be in 25 minutes. In Tampa, if Google Maps says you will arrive at your destination in 25 minutes, it is a filthy liar. Add 15 minutes to any time it gives you. Everything is 40 minutes away.

7. Get used to showering, like, a lot. Tampa requires two showers per day. Your usual shower and the one after sweating for the next 13 hours. If you happen to stay in air conditioning a lot, still plan for two showers. You will need your normal one and the one after the beach, anyway. Be sure to get that shower head water filter!

8. There are no “bad” areas to live. Maybe this is a relic from growing up near Detroit, but there are really no bad areas in the Tampa Bay area if you are apartment shopping. Stay within a 15-mile radius of Downtown and you will be good. We live in the “Westchase” area. I work in Brandon, Nicole works in Oldsmar, our favorite restaurants are in St. Pete, our favorite walking path is downtown Tampa, our favorite coffee shop is in Ybor City, and our favorite beach is Honeymoon Island, so we get around quite a bit. It is all nice. The one piece of advice I would warn you about, though, is to look up the hurricane evacuation zones for whatever county you are planning to move to. If you are too close to the beach, you might find yourself having to find a back-up place to stay for a few nights now and then (we are barely outside of it in Westchase).

9. Fuel efficiency matters. Remember, everything is 40 minutes away in regular traffic and when it is tourist season and you are headed to the beach, you can easily double that. Regardless, you will spend a LOT of time in traffic. We shelled out a lot of money for each of us to have a Prius but by the time the cars are paid off, we will have saved half the cost in what we estimated we would pay in gas (if gas prices never went up, which of course, they do).

10. You have to move here to work here. When we decided to move here, we job-hunted for nearly 6 months (which was fine, we were building up savings during that time anyway) but we heard over and over, “This is Tampa. Everybody outside of the state says they want to move here. No employer will take you seriously or pony up the money to bring you here when they can literally pick anybody. If you want a job here, you must have a local address no matter what.” We took a big risk and Nicole moved ahead of me with 6 months of savings, hoping she would find a job in that time. Once she had a local address, she was employed in less than 3 weeks and I was following her down here way sooner than expected!

 

If you are thinking about making the move, I hope that helps. If you happen to be vegan, be sure to look me up on FaceBook (or whatever social media you use) and Nicole and I will tell you where the best food is!

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No Pressure

Today’s Lesson: Stress is relative but my life is not relative to yours.

*****

Over the last few months Nicole and I have uprooted our lives, leaving everything behind in Grand Rapids, MI and moving to Tampa, FL.

It has been an amazing adventure so far but not without obstacles and remarkable stress. In some ways, we are not even the same people who started the journey. We have a new home with new furniture and new surroundings, new jobs with new work commutes, new cities to navigate, new weather, new sleep patterns, even new clothes. Everything is different and presents new challenges.

The funny thing is, when I feel the pressure mounting I am also reminded we are living with much less stress than many, if not most, other couples. Many of our stresses are temporary and will subside over time (we will grow used to the city, our new work teams, our clothes, etc.). Not to mention we basically live on Vacation (meaning we live where most people go to get away from it all), with sunny weather almost every day, palm trees, and beaches at hand. We don’t have kids, or a mortgage, or even car payments to worry about (yet… we will probably upgrade our cars this year).

The point is, from the outside looking in, I suspect it looks like we moved to Paradise but we still find ways to stress out. There are people with much better social position under much greater stress.

I have learned stress is part of life, every life, and it is relative to the life being led. The trick, I think, is to remember it is all temporary, including the life being led.

Recognizing all things must pass, including both the moments on the beach and the moments wishing for the beach, means recognizing it is all part of the adventure and we should cherish the challenges as much as the beaches.

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10 (Possibly True) Things I Have Learned About Tampa

As follow-up to my post, 10 (Possibly Crazy) Things I Believe About Tampa, I thought it might be fun to compare to what I have actually learned so far…

*****

We have been living in Tampa for a few weeks now and it is a little different from what I thought it might be like. Here are a few surprising things I did not know about the area but have learned so far through observation and experience…

 

1. The birds are nuts. I am dumbfounded by the diversity of wildlife here, especially birds. It probably makes sense being right off the ocean but I find myself gawking almost everywhere I drive. There is a crazy array of goofy-looking birds. There are real flamingos, pelicans, and brightly colored… somethings… everywhere! They are brave, too. We watched a bird steal an old lady’s sandwich on the beach (she did not react at all so she might have been dead, but still). The vultures here are BIG. Oh, and there are actual vultures here. They are big. I assume they get that way by stealing babies. If I see an empty stroller, my first thought is there must be a fat vulture nearby.

2. You will die of old age waiting for traffic lights to change. You can seriously walk back to your house, shave, shower, make coffee, check your email, and walk back to your car while waiting to turn left here. The traffic is insane and I am certain it is because the guy who controls the lights has narcolepsy. However, he is not as bad as the guy with sleep apnea who was in charge of road signs.

3. Road names randomly change. I am 100 percent serious about this one. Follow me on this. I turned right onto Gunn Highway, drove a quarter-mile, then turned left onto Gunn Highway, drove another half mile and turned right onto Gunn Highway, and then hung a right on Gunn Highway a mile later. I do not even know how to get to the mall which is less than five miles from our apartment, but I have been there at least ten times (in all fairness, six of those times were by accident). What bipolar wannabe comedian named the roads here?!? I don’t even know who I am anymore.

4. Tampa is prepared for the zombie apocalypse. There are elaborate, large screened in yards everywhere here. Imagine an entire yard, from the ground to the second story of the house caged in giant mesh screen, including the roof. It’s like your yard and roof are made of window screens. It is weird. They call them “lanais” (I don’t know how to pronounce it either) but in reality these steel mesh cages exist so senior citizens can sip sweet tea and watch zombies mope outside their steel caged yards. We are not going to miss a day of sunshine because of a little zombie apocalypse. More suga’, Ethel?

5.  We are weird about hot water. True story. The shower water here is only lukewarm. Nicole called maintenance because she thought the water heater was broken but the complex explained it was fine. They just keep the temperature low for our safety. We actually had to sign a rent addendum saying we are responsible for any burns or scalds caused by our inability to operate a faucet if we ask the apartment to raise the water temperature (not joking–seriously had to sign it before they would do it). I don’t know if this is a legal thing or because many residents are too dumb to turn the nozzle back the other way if the water gets too hot. My understanding is if you want drive-thru coffee from McDonald’s, you have to prove you have a fire extinguisher in your glove compartment. It’s just a Florida thing, I guess.

6. The weather is amazing. It’s for real. I think when you live in Michigan for a long time, you forget the rest of the world looks different in the winter. During winter in Michigan, you can start the hot water for your shower and then go plow your driveway while you wait for it to warm up. In Tampa, I turn on the water and it is already warm. It actually took me several showers to figure this out because I would just turn the water on and then brush my teeth and make tea, being surprised each time the water was already warm when I came back. It creates a bit of scheduling havoc. I have to be certain I am actually ready to get in the shower before I do now.

7. No one believes you live here. Obtaining proof of residency here was like winning an Olympic medal. After you change your address, you have 30 calendar days to prove you are a resident. To be a resident, you have to show proof of bills being sent to your new address (which would happen after the first 30 days, of course), you must provide your Social Security Card, W-2, Passport, DNA swab, have at least 3 friends vouch that you are an “okay guy”, and demonstrate you are within at least 3 degrees of Kevin Bacon. Lucky for me, I bumped into Will Smith coming out of Cliff Bells in Detroit one time and he was in After Earth with Zoe Kravitz who appeared in X-Men First Class with Kevin Bacon… so, it was close but I made the cut.

8. Vegans here think it is 1974. This is a strange nether-world for vegan living. There are no less than 3 Whole Foods within a 20 minute drive from our apartment and they all have the typical vegan options Nicole and I would hope to find at a Whole Foods. We like to eat out, though. Exploring vegan (or at least vegan-friendly) restaurants is one of our favorite pastimes. The vegan restaurants here, though, are basically manufacturing cardboard. The food is straight-up old school hippie vegan with grains and nuts in everything. The other day, after being served the wrong item three times by a 74-year old long-haired waiter in shorts and wearing a headband, I finally accepted the oat-wheat sandwich with sprouts he was pushing. After the first bite, I considered using the bun as a weapon to hold the place up and find out where they were hiding the Daiya cheese. Luckily, Chipotle has Sofritas–a little reminder that vegans can eat like normies anywhere.

9. Florida thinks it has potholes. I drove by a road crew and observed them filling a dinner-plate sized dent in the road. At first, I thought this was just a way to waste taxpayer money and maybe the State was trying to justify union jobs or something. Or maybe there was a small amount of toxic leakage they were cleaning up. Then, after three more separate incidents, I realized they actually thought those little dents were potholes! In Michigan, potholes are where you might find trapped miners, possible alien abductees, smaller cities, and your cousin Jamal who left to put gas in his Iroc-Z 8 months ago. When Nicole and I drive by a pothole in Tampa, we treat it with the same awe and excitement as seeing a puppy. “Awe, look at that little baby pothole. You’re so cute, yes you are!”

10. The lizards are faster than your lizard brain. Some of the only animals that don’t gross us out (lizards are cute, they eat bugs, and they have no inclination to crawl in your mouth at night) still find a way to freak us out. They are literally everywhere. Yes, even there. Literally. The thing is, you can tell the tourists and new Tampa transplants by the sheer fear we have of stepping on one of the cute little buggers. However, lizards are frighteningly fast. You can not step on one. They move like little street magicians doing sleight of hand tricks with every step. And they wear top hats but it is tough to see them because they are so fast and politely take them off before getting out of your way. (I know… where do they keep the top hats, right? I don’t know. They are little street magicians!)

 

So that’s it. Those are the first 10 (almost certainly) true things I have learned about Tampa so far. I should add one note about snakes. I am trying to think of them as “footless lizards” so they don’t terrify me as much… but I still check the toilet before I use it. Footless lizard or not, a person needs a place of sanctuary.

 

Today’s Lesson: Florida traffic lights have never met traffic lights from other states. Tampa is prepared for zombies. Google Maps works as effectively as a Magic 8-ball here. This is the insane asylum for birds too crazy-looking to be in the rest of society. Vegans think “raw oats” is its own food group and exclusively what you feed to other vegans. Instead of “potholes”, Tampa has “pot-dips”. The water is warm, the weather is amazing, and lizards wear top hats (but politely remove them before you see them). Oh, and snakes–I mean, footless lizards–are still creepy, even in Tampa.  

 

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It’s Better Than You Think

Don’t get so caught up in the running that you forget to do the breathing…

*****

It has been a stressful week. Uprooting our lives and leaving everything behind to make a dramatic (but well-planned) move to Tampa from Grand Rapids was not easy. Despite the welcome change in climate, there is still the pressure of building a new home, of me finding new work, of Rainee (our cat) settling in, and of Nicole and I not having much time to spend together (she has a new job with long hours right now).

Of course, buying all new stuff means having to shop for, and agree on, all new stuff and presently home does not yet feel like “home”. On top of that, Nicole’s had a death in the family last week, causing an impromptu un-budgeted trip back to Michigan. Needless to say, tension is understandably high and finding common ground is not always easy during transitions like this (for anyone).

The funny thing is, I can turn all of this right around and see it for the amazing things in it. There is a great love story here, for one… how many couples have (or take) the chance to say, “What are we doing here? Let’s go somewhere we both want to be and live in Paradise together!”? How many of us have the fantasy of just leaving everything behind and starting over? We totally did that!

I am in a place filled with sunshine, with an incredibly lovely and loving partner, living a life we chose instead of one we accepted. Every morning when I wake up, I open my eyes to a beautiful sunrise and for probably the first time in my life I have an opportunity to be picky about the next move on my career path (a rare choice for anyone, really). I am in great health, surrounded by great friends, in a great environment. In short, stress or no stress, it is hard to imagine life being any better!

Regardless of how good you have it, sometimes you have to be willing to open your eyes to see it.

 

Today’s Lesson:  There is no guarantee life will never have bad days but I see no reason to have to accept more than one at a time. After all, even on the worst day, life, as far as I know, is a lot better than the alternative…

 

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Family First

The world is growing bigger and smaller simultaneously. Choose your life strategically.

*****

Moving across the country is daunting, to be sure, but there were several factors involved in choosing where we wanted to live. One of them was proximity to family.

Nicole and I narrowed down our list of places we wanted to pursue a life together to three main cities, and then eventually to one: Tampa, Florida. When we compared it to one of the other top two contenders (Austin and San Diego), I recognized two things fairly early:

1. There are no cheap flights to those cities and if everything went wrong, it would be very difficult to return to Michigan.

2. Though they both fit some aspects of our lifestyle better, one place they did not synchronize was with family. Most of our family are not vegan hipsters or music and technology lovers. Austin and San Diego are not at the top of their wish lists for places to visit repeatedly.

That meant we would have less access to the people who look out for us and less visits from our loved ones. Flights to Florida from Michigan are not always super cheap, but they are generally affordable and you can drive there in less than a day.

That helped make it easy to choose where our next adventure will begin.

Today’s Lesson: It’s okay to venture away from the nest… but be sure you know how to get back home.

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10 (Possibly Crazy) Things I believe About Tampa

I’m pretty sure these are at least 80% accurate.

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In just a few days, Nicole and I will be living in Tampa together. We spent three days in Tampa once and after talking to the locals and looking stuff up online, I am both excited and terrified to live there! I thought it would be fun to share some of the things that go through my head when I imagine what life will be like near the beach…

 

1. Snakes. Everywhere, snakes. I saw one sitting on top of a bush when we visited and everyone who lives there tells me they rarely see snakes but I think they are just used to them. My guess is there is probably a snake in every house, slinking behind the walls or sleeping in the toilet, just waiting for the right moment to scare the sh*t out of somebody. I hate snakes.

2. Alligators. Everywhere, alligators. If I ever find myself playing catch with a friend and I miss the ball and it rolls into a thicket… there is no way I am going after it in Tampa. My assumption is there is a hungry alligator hiding behind every bush, which is filled with snakes. When we were searching for apartments, if there was not a unit available on the top floor (furthest away from alligators and snakes), I ruled it out immediately.

3. The ocean wants to eat you. I am not afraid to go swimming in the ocean but I have a healthy respect for it and generally avoid it. The way I see it is that the ocean has no size limit. There are fish, like blue whales, that are literally as big as your house. That is insane. There are poisonous creatures that disguise themselves as rocks. There are weird things that look like kites with teeth that sort of swim and sort of fly through the water. The ocean has tentacles and fangs and tidal waves and things that pull you under. I am glad the ocean is not under my bed. I would rather fight a monster. I saw Jaws 1, 2, and 3 in 3-D. I know what the real deal is. The ocean is hungry… for human flesh.

4. The cockroaches are big enough to mistake for Chihuahuas. They do not even call them cockroaches in Florida. They are called Godzilla Bugs! Or maybe it is Palmetto Bugs. Whatever. They are so big, you might accidentally try to pet one thinking it is somebody’s dog and then it is going to freak out and fly right at your face and you are going to be stuck with a face-hugging cockroach alien parasite that wants to drag you to the ocean. That’s some scary stuff right there. I won’t shower or poop before doing a full bathroom corners and toilet inspection. Just saying.

5. People are nice. What? It’s not all terrifying. Everywhere we went, people called me sir. They were really friendly and surprisingly, there were not that many old people. Which brings me to number 6…

6. Tampa is full of old people. Well, okay, I know that is not really true but maybe I just caught them on a tourist-filled weekend. Maybe the day we left, the blue-hairs started crawling out of sewers and lurching out of alleyways, croaking like zombies in search of fiber. “Graaainnnsss…”

7. Driving is impossible. I tell people I am super excited because the place we will be living is only 20 minutes from the beach, and they are like, “Oh, that’s cool! It will only be like a 2-hour drive for you then…” What?!? Why don’t I just rent a camel or throw a saddle on a Palmetto bug to get there faster?

8. Night hisses at you. You see palm trees in pictures and you associate them with warm and beautiful visions. Palm trees have heavy, brittle leaves that rub together and hiss, though. During the day, you don’t notice it because it blends in with the ocean and you are looking at all the great sights. When you hear palm trees blowing in the wind at night, however, you are instantly paralyzed by fear because it sounds like you stepped into a freaking snake convention. I hate snakes.

9. Hurricanes happen, like, every week. I have no idea how often hurricanes or tropical storms hit Tampa, but in my mind it is probably every other day. I imagine we will need kayaks as much for a back-up form of transportation as for recreational stuff, like paddling away from alligators (I am also convinced that is why many people are fit there… you have to be able to swim faster than your friends if you want to live).

10. In July and August, the temperature is a million degrees. I am not exaggerating. I imagine driving is such a pain there because rubber tires probably start melting at a few hundred thousand degrees and we are talking a million degrees. In truth, I kind of suspect this is a story locals tell tourists so the tourists won’t want to move to there, but I imagine summer in Tampa is so hot, skinny dehydrated hippies spontaneously combust while in search of Starbucks. I mean, seriously, there are not a lot of hipster coffee shops there. Coincidence? Nope. Spontaneous combustion. I can not think of another explanation and I did see the first 3 Jaws movies, so I feel like I would know.

 

Well, there you have it. I didn’t even get to the unbelievable lizard population. I think it actually rains lizards in Tampa. There are enough of them to sway elections if they vote (I mean, how else would you explain Jeb Bush?). Anyway, although I am sure I nailed what life will be like in Tampa, I will be happy to share what it actually turns out to be like when we settle in.

 

Today’s Lesson: Did you read the part about fish as big as houses? I mean, holy crap! Swimmers legs probably look like a little parade of Vienna sausages under the water. What fish doesn’t love Vienna sausages?

(…Oh, and probably, you can’t have adventure without a little fear and wonder…) 

 

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10 Moving Decisions I Hope Are Smart

Life is best when you court adventure and learning together.

*****

Moving from Grand Rapids to Tampa is a big change, but because Nicole and I value living an experimental life, we are also taking advantage of the experience to try a few crazy things. I am not sure if it will all work out for the best, but we will definitely learn from our little experiments and be able to apply the lessons to other areas of our lives.

A couple of the decisions listed we already know worked out well (or did not work out well) but I included them because we had no idea if they would when we tried them. So, here are 10 decisions we made before moving across the country that we hope turn out to be smart decisions.

1.  Get a local address. This was definitely risky. We sent Nicole down there with six months of savings. She found a roommate who was willing to rent half an apartment on a month-to-month basis. Although all signs pointed to her being a good roommate, we did not know until Nicole actually arrived there. However, within two weeks of job searching with a local address, Nicole landed a great job.

2. Leave (almost) everything behind. Because we try to live simply, we do not own a lot of furniture, trinkets, or items full of sentimental value. Nonetheless, when we did the math on the cost to move all of our stuff, it was nearly the same or more than it would be to buy everything again. So we fit what we could in her car and mine and nearly everything else is being given away or tossed out.

3.  Buy all new stuff. Most of our furniture was nice looking but relatively cheap, Ikea-style stuff. The cost of replacing most of it is the less than the cost to take it all. The best part, though, is we do not need to replace all of it.

4.  Replace only what you miss. Of course, we do not have to buy one-for-one replacements for every item we leave behind. We might end up actually saving considerable money by only replacing what it turns out we really need or miss.

5.  You mail instead of U-Haul. What I can not fit in my car, I am shipping to us via UPS, FedEx, or postal mail. I am taking the heaviest stuff in my car and the light stuff will probably arrive a day or two after I do (about 10 boxes of varying sizes total). Even if the shipping costs $500 ($50 per box and most will cost less than that) it will still be a significant savings over moving everything (which ranged from $3,000 to $4,500)!

6. Taking my cat. Rainee, my one-eyed furry friend who I have taken care of for roughly 14 years now, hates cars. I mean, like, REALLY hates cars. She is terrified to leave our apartment and usually releases all of her bodily fluids and solids on me when I attempt to take her to the vet (she is even worse if I put her in a carrier). I am choosing to take her with me, not sedated, in the car. I could ship her, but she would not have the comfort of my presence, which is at least some comfort to her. I could give her away but we have been companions for too long and she is my responsibility (plus, she is really cute… sometimes). So we are just going to tough it out and I have no doubt it will build character for both of us.

7.  Donation over profit. We are giving nearly everything we own away, not selling it. I am ambivalent toward most charities so this is not an altruistic decision for me. I am happy, though, to offer something that was of value to me, to someone else in hopes they will find value in it, too. The other reason is simply because I hope it will expedite the move. I do not want to spend days watching eBay bidding or waiting for people to show up and browse my life’s belongings.

8.  Renting a luxury apartment. In our new home city, we are choosing to pay double the rent we are paying in Grand Rapids. This means, of course, less going out and being a little more budget conscious but (and I know this sounds cheesy) our favorite place is with each other, curled up in bed or enjoying a nice walk. It makes more sense to have more luxury at home and less outside of it.

9.  Upgrading everything new. As I mentioned, we do not have to replace everything we leave behind. That means we will need fewer things so we might be willing to spend a little more for better, fewer things. The idea, for us, is to have more space and fewer things, but the things we will have will be stuff we really want, not just stuff to fill the space for now.

10.  Living closer to work. We chose our new city strategically. We know the traffic in Tampa is ten times worse than traffic in Grand Rapids. We deliberated quite a bit over whether it would be better to live closer to the things we love to do (like the beach), or closer to where we go the most (like work), or closer to where we shop the most (wherever we can find a great vegan selection). In the end, we leaned toward being closer to Nicole’s work (because she landed a job first) but still within 20-30 minutes of everything else we think we will love.

 

So there you have it. If you are considering moving, maybe that list will help you. If not, I think there is still value in some of those decisions. I’ll let you know in future posts what panned out and what ended up being a bad idea.

 

Today’s Lesson: You can’t know the future but you can certainly plan for having one. Might as well set it up to be a great one!

 

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Space For Living

When in doubt, throw it out!

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Part of simplifying my life means ridding myself of non-essential things I carry around that do not contribute value to my life.

I tossed out my old journals along with a lot of bad poetry I have held onto since I was a kid. I did keep one or two good(-ish) pieces, though. Maybe I will tidy them up and share them later.

I also went through my library of books, which I already pared to my 50 or so “essentials”. Still, there were a lot of books I have not read for years. Some of them I have not read at all. I have been saving them for when I have time to pick them up. Of course, when I do make time to read, I choose other books anyway. I have merely been saving them for the sake of saving them, it seems. Same for audio books and music CD’s.

I can buy new books or buy again the old ones I meant to read but never have (and probably never will) and it will be cheaper than storing them for decades and lugging them around wherever I move. With CD’s, outside of a few rare singles, local artists, or hard-to-find albums, most of my music is available online (which means it does not have to take up space in my apartment–less cleaning, storing, and clutter to move around).

If I do actually miss anything, I can always buy it again, but I usually find I do not miss things that much. There is so much new music, new books, and new gizmos and gadgets produced that there is no need to hold onto things for the sake of holding onto them.

Today’s Lesson: The less clutter you keep, the more space you create for living. That’s why we call it “living space” instead of “clutter space”.

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Indisposable Income

When everything is virtually free, what is actually valuable?

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Giving nearly everything I own away has been an interesting experiment so far. It turns out much of the things I thought I valued are actually not that valuable to me or anyone else.

Being a practicing minimalist (-ish), I have fewer possessions than most people I know, but like most people, that is still a lot of things. Cleaning supplies, for example, unopened groceries, cooking utensils, kitchen appliances, silverware and dinnerware, which is to say nothing for the many pieces of furniture in the apartment (tables, chairs, desks, dressers, bookcases, etc. for two).

It has been difficult to give most of it away for free.

When I was just starting out in my first flat, I needed everything. I was happy to have any give-away decorations, furniture, eating utensils, and even unused groceries people were generous enough to give up. I think the world is a lot different now, though. Most do-it-yourself furniture is cheap. People do not need hand-me-downs when they can have brand new items at a decent price.

Walmart, Target, Ikea, and other big box stores have made most home needs accessible and affordable–a testament to Capitalist ingenuity. On the other hand, it seems the whole world is racing to zero. Google has nearly single-handedly transformed the world’s economy by trading services for personal privacy. For most people (including me), that seems like a fair trade (though it probably is not). Nonetheless, economies of scale and offering services without requiring payment directly from end-users has created a largely disposable world.

There are three ways to manage living in this new, bizarre economy, as I see it. The first, and most destructive, is ambivalence. Accept the world for what it is, buy whatever entices you and throw out the absurd amount of packaging provided with every item. When something breaks, do not fix it. Instead, toss it and buy a new one, which is probably cheaper and better anyway.

The second way to manage a disposable society is to decry it. Hold onto traditional values. Buy, and store, goods and services indefinitely. Fight an endless war of subtlety, trying to reduce, reuse, and recycle anything and everything. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable, glass instead of plastic, and never accept plastic shopping bags. This is a noble route, but it is also the most arduous.

Finally, we can embrace the new culture. Mark a line in the sand, toss out or give away everything you do not absolutely need and then, only accumulate things you need with few exceptions. For me, this is the best of all worlds. It allows the convenience of living as a modern citizen (albeit probably while stereotyped as a “hipster”) but still asks for responsibility for what you contribute (or do not contribute) to the rest of the world. This also ensures, while living in a disposable world, you are only burning your indisposable income, freeing your disposable income to focus on enjoying the experience of living rather than the products of living today.

 

Today’s Lesson: Since you can’t take it with you when you go, try not to accumulate it in the first place.

 

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