Mistakes, Regret, and the Desire for Change

One man’s journey from the depths of collecting to a more minimal lifestyle

Words by Steven Crosbie

Where to begin? I suppose it’s been a hard thing to avoid, as the O.C.D. has led me down a path of constant purchasing and collecting with no end in sight. I have been compelled to do this; something is a bit “off” in my brain. No one needs 220 fragrances, yet that’s how many I have. No one needs 220 watches, either, yet my compulsion to match the number of fragrances had to be satisfied. It has just about bankrupted me. Hundreds of architecture and design books and magazines, hundreds of movies on DVD and Blu-ray, hundreds of CDs. The process never stopped. And as soon as I got one, it wasn’t a case of, “now I can relax”; it was a case of, “what’s next on my list?” Stuff has never truly satisfied me, either. As a huge fan of design, I suppose watches were a way to get cool design into my home at an affordable price point. Needless to say, designer furniture pricing is not for the faint of heart! So, over the years, in searching for that one thing which will let me end this nightmare, the collections have grown—multiplied vociferously. I have over 100 toy sci-fi robots (I stopped counting after that). I am fortunate enough to have a small but dedicated home theatre, which is filled to the brim with posters, books, and models, and all kinds of knick-knacks based on my favorite film of all-time, Bladerunner, the 1982 Harrison Ford flick. It seems like I just went from collecting one thing to collecting another thing to another.

I am at the point now where I am too old to care about all this stuff anymore while also yearning to become as minimalist as possible. For me, that’s not quite “John Pawson” pared back, but it is vastly different from my current home. Don’t get me wrong, while I have tons of stuff, my house doesn’t look “cluttered,” probably because as a modernist at heart, I try to keep it in a “ready for a magazine shoot” state. My home is tidy for the most part, but hidden under the shadows, there are huge volumes of stuff. I feel like I am at my wits end these days. I am trying hard to not just go to my list of must-buys and pick the next thing. I am fed up, to be honest. It seems like all this consumerism has just been a life-long issue. You only have to turn on the tv for a few minutes to find yourself inundated with commercials for stuff to buy. Force-feeding us products to consume. Keeping up with the Joneses is too costly these days.

I truly wish there was a company that would buy all my stuff at a fair price, remove it to sell at a profit, and allow me to start fresh. From scratch. And man, would it be a different home. The idea is to have less quantity, more quality. I think of it like the way we think of the French. They don’t have chocolate bars the way we do here in North America: milky and tasteless, full of sugar, etc. They have a glass of wine and a square of dark chocolate. Quality over quantity. More with less. Better, though smaller. The European way is about being rich in quality so that you do not need as much. Like having “the best of the best,” so to speak. And that is what I yearn for these days. All this stuff seems to be eating away at me every moment of every day, and I feel overwhelmed and desperate for change. There is a nagging torment at the base of my skull telling me constantly how dumb I have been, making stuff instead of memories. Buying things instead of travelling and meeting people and experiencing life and all she has to offer. I would give up my stuff to get as close to that as possible these days. I wish for—no, deeply desire—change. Less is more, as Ludwig stated. I once read that all you need is less. Less, but better.

So I am at the very beginning of transformation now. I have researched for years leading up to this and have been desiring change for a while but was unsure how to do so. Change is overdue and nipping at me daily. I have a vision of a simpler, better lifestyle. One free of material goods. One with quality products that bring me the most joy, and the visual eye-clutter gone. For good. I would rather have one real chair than four knock-off ones. I need to sell 150 fragrances, and 150 watches, to go down to having around 52 of each, one a week for a year without repeating it. That works for me, and while no one needs 52 watches, it sure as hell beats 220 gathering dust on my shelving units. It’s a great start, at least. Getting that fire in your belly to make change happen is tough. There will be “I don’t want to lose this, let me just store it for now” moments. Letting go will be a major challenge. I am game for it, however. And even though I am late in life to attempting this reboot, It is entirely possible. We need to just focus on the one thing at a time and work through it until it’s complete. I will not quit this project half-way through, but instead remember why I started it in the first place. Start small, let the big things take care of themselves. Put the energy and hard graft into it. Focus on the end game. Little by little. Slowly, but surely.

And that brings me to getting ready to start my journey, my rebirth, as it were. I have made the plans, set the goals, gotten a timeline worked out. I now have a list of needs. I just need the drive to succeed and to implement the changes I know I must make in order to feel at peace and remove what feels like a hundred pounds of weight around my neck. Constant pressure has to be let go before I get any worse and move on to ignoring the stuff I have and adding some new collection into the works. Determination is the name of the game. The only way to turn this around and leave this world of stuff behind and begin anew is to have a laser-sharp focus on what needs to get done and the desire to bring it to fruition. I need to put my mind into the goal, what I put into getting the stuff in the first place. That’s the key, right there. My remaining years on this planet need to be stressless, pared back, and simple. Modern, yet minimal. As a focus, I just started a Facebook page “Modern Minimalist,” where I am putting inspirational pictures, quotes, etc., so I have something to focus on when I need it. Something that will help me just breathe and relax a little. Cool imagery to remind me where my focus should be. These are trying times. We are all fed up with being locked up for a year with COVID around the globe. We could all use a breath of fresh air. I think a more minimalist style is a huge step in that direction, and I hope to have made a huge dent towards becoming what I feel in my head these days: relaxed, happier, more content. Freer. Lighter. More focused. The opposite of the collecting bug I have lived with for decades, because that is unsustainable and unnecessary. Unwanted, now, also.

For anyone beginning this journey like me, make a plan little by little, day to day. Stay focused and don’t quit. remember why you started in the first place. Learn the art of letting go, I guess. Research online; there are all kinds of videos on minimal lifestyles. A wealth of information awaits you. You are not alone. Maybe this pandemic has shown us we can get by without needing to shop at the mall every week. This is a good thing. Sell, give things away, keep as desired. The best of the best, the things that give you the most pleasure, are the items worth keeping. The rest? well, that’s just stuff, and we can all do with having less of it clouding our brains and our homes. Best of luck!

Steven Crosbie

Steve is just a man on a mission, dealing with O.C.D. issues and the need to collect while desperate for change and a more minimal take on life. Most of his career has been in office management, and his constant searching for a simpler life over the last few years finally has him on the way forward.

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