Listening to Silence

Yea, that’s a contradiction, which can’t really exist but, what I mean is that there’s never silence if you listen.

I’ve been slammed the last two days. Yesterday was the pack up day and I’m amazed and ashamed at once that two people can accumulate so much crap in a loft; a space designed to be high, but not so much surface area. Jesus.

Today was the move. And it’s really disgusting what a place you’ve lived in looks like when you move shit out of the way. It almost makes me question the whole notion of living in a fixed space — though I readily admit I sure can’t think of a better alternative. But maybe there’s something to the old "spring cleaning" custom where, as I gather, you essentially move everything out of the house, clean top to bottom and wall to wall, then move everything back in.

Years ago we bought an old house that had wall to wall carpeting — installed over beautiful 5/8" tongue & groove white oak hardwood flooring. There’s still hundreds of thousands, if not millions of homes in such a sad state of affairs — testament to the power of marketing and general stupidity. Yea, I ripped the carpet out on day one. I’d never thought a lot about the insanity of WtoW carpet before then — I just wanted at the wood — but this was in 1999 and I’ve vowed since then never to have it. Have you ever torn up carpet and seen what’s underneath?

And some balk at me not using soap or shampoo?

But here I sit after a long day, new, old place. Don’t know how old the house is, but the floor is 100% hardwood, except for tile in the appropriate places. Really cool large  backyard that the doggies love. We’re in the quaint Los Gatos area of the Bay. Just had grassfed beef in a local restaurant — big surprise — and I’ll see how the iPhone pics turned out later.

The place is still in shambles, of course — the bare essentials barely in place — but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a new living space where I didn’t stay up and just listen for the silence. You can’t find it; it’s not silence at all, but it’s a different "silence" than the "silence" you knew before, in your old place.

Too obtuse? OK, I’m fascinated by the noises the house makes. Virtually all spaces give off some noises, but tonight is interesting. I spent a good amount of time listening to this house over the weekend whilst installing ceiling fans, a doggie door, pot rack and so on. But now it’s quite active.

I guess it’s getting used to holding a few tons of gear it wasn’t holding before. Beatrice and I were talking tonight about how ridiculous it is to have so much stuff; and trust me, it’s modest by most standards. So, we’re going through every box the movers packed, together, and we’re going to be vicious. My general rule of thumb for clothes will apply: if I haven’t worn it in the last year, it goes, no matter what. Applied to the general, anything we haven’t used in at least a year, goes. No exceptions.

So for those of you always admonishing me to lighten up, there you have it.

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  1. mango genocide on September 9, 2010 at 23:31

    Time to revisit, maybe:

  2. Organic Gabe on September 10, 2010 at 06:58

    Right on. For some reason, too many of us own way more than we really need.
    I know I am one of them, so you just inspired me to look at what will be dispensed with.

  3. johnmc on September 9, 2010 at 23:33

    Los Gatos is fucking gorgeous. Which restaurant was it?

  4. Jim Arkus on September 10, 2010 at 05:15

    Great post, Richard. I moved into my place last April, and I’m amazed at the amount of crap I’ve accumulated already. So I’ve been going through and doing the same thing as you for the past couple of weeks. You cringe a little at first – but then you realize that all that shit you “needed” but got rid of you haven’t given a second thought to.

  5. patrick on September 10, 2010 at 06:17

    I hear you man, I just got out of the military and moved to a new city. I couldn’t believe how much sh*t my wife and I own. I’m now temporarily in a 2 bed townhouse with a surfboard, 13 ft kayak and an 8×8 storage shed among other things. Can’t wait to do it again in 6 months…..NOT.

  6. John Nugent on September 10, 2010 at 07:44

    Nice post Richard. I have 2 houses – my main home in London and a second place in France. The main house is full of things we don’t need and don’t use. I have clothes and shoes in my wardrobe I haven’t worn in a long, long time. Your post is a great prompt to throw out all the old gear and clean the place up a bit. I hope you, your wife and your dogs have a great life in the new place and learn to love the silence.

  7. anonymous chris on September 10, 2010 at 08:04

    We lived in LG for 9 years. Walking distance to Black Watch. Is Bourbon paleo?

  8. Athena on September 10, 2010 at 08:36

    Love this post. I really like the whole “listen to the silence/noise of the house”. I do this a lot. I just dont think many people really turn off all the sounds they put around them to enjoy the sounds of little things.

    On the spring cleaning note, I REALLY need to do this, this weekend. Its so refreshing to get rid of stuff you dont need!

  9. Joseph on September 10, 2010 at 09:25

    I have always thought that (physical, individual) obesity was just a symptom of a larger problem with civilization generally: people hoard stuff, and “civilized” people hoard stuff without really worrying too much about what happens to it (or to them) in storage. Just like our metabolism(s), our societies go through cycles of boom and bust (economic, educational, whatever) driven by (1) accumulation (capital and information are recognized and sought out by everyone), (2) storage (people store their accumulated capital and info with banks, religious and political “think-tanks”), and (3) putrefaction (people lose their capital/info owing to junk bonds/leverage gone wrong, over-generalized application of specific info/bullshit masquerading under some innocuous pseudonym: “science, God’s truth”). I need to think this through a little more carefully, but I think there is something there, something that resonates with the Paleo approach to nutrition (expanding it into a kind of treatment for complex, interactive systems generally).

  10. JoshL on September 10, 2010 at 10:36

    Hey Richard, welcome to LG. I have yet to hit Forbes Mill but now that I know they have grass fed beef, I’m going to have to make a point of eating there soon. Also, Main Street Burger is another good one. They use Niman Ranch which is not 100% grass fed, but better than what you get at most burger joints. They’ll do a lettuce wrap if you ask and they have sweet potato fries so I usually hit them up for my PWO meals.

  11. Helen on September 10, 2010 at 12:54

    In paleo times, didn’t people need stuff around to barter/trade? And weren’t the earliest societies gift cultures? That might mean its in our genes to accumulate stuff. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it ;)

    Gotta agree on that wall to wall carpet thing…bleh! We tore out the stuff that was in our place before we moved in, and Yikes!…what a bunch of crap was under that rug from the rotten padding, old dirt that had worked its way down into the rug, ancient dog piss spots…you name it.

  12. Jeff on September 10, 2010 at 14:06

    We moved three years ago this time of year. We had a bunch of fights about what to keep and what to throw out. I’m all for a light load and she wants to keep everything that she might EVER need at some point in the future. For the most part I won and our load is lighter, but of course, we’ve started loading back up on “stuff” over these three years…..the American way.


  13. Bill Strahan on September 10, 2010 at 14:26

    Woman’s definition of “moved in” : All the pictures are hung, the knick-knacks are positioned, the appropriate stuff is on the mantle.

    Man’s definition: All of your belongings are indoors.

    Good luck on the move! Sounds like you’re moved in by my standards…probably not by your wife’s. :)

  14. Blair on September 11, 2010 at 05:48

    I compose music for a living and never stop listening to not only my house’s sounds but the vibrating world in general. Silence, as you correctly state (you and the great American composer John Cage are soul mates, it seems!) does not exist and cannot exist. Your attention to acute listening thus links the ”paleo aesthetic” with composers and the arts community in general. This connection strikes me as worth exploring because the beauty of living a ”paleo” life ought to be based on the acceptance of unpredictable relations between people and things in a wild, wild world.

  15. Erin on September 12, 2010 at 19:44

    I’m a little bit obsessed with the “100-thing challenge”:

    • Primal Toad on September 13, 2010 at 18:03

      Ever since I read “Less is More” I have believed in the concept. When you have less you are able to focus more on what you have and actually enjoy what you have.

      A quick example for me is books. I have countless books that I have yet to read and also have a long list of books to buy. But, this has me rushing through the book I am currently reading instead of enjoying it and thus understand more of what I read.

      Clothes is another big one. I have so many clothes that I never wear. I just might go through all my clothes this week and throw out anything I have not worn over the past year…

      • Richard Nikoley on September 13, 2010 at 18:31


        A navy Officer who was very GQ taught me the one year principle back in ’84. I’ve maintained a small but stylish wardrobe ever since. Buy an article, toss an article.

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