How I stumbled into a Modern-day Walden in AL

“When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.”-Henry David Thoreau from Walden Chapter One- The Economy


The first week of December 2015, I had already been shopping for Christmas presents since October and was planning an anniversary trip with my husband to Chicago. Money was being spent left and right, and the discord from the holiday season was getting on everyone’s nerves, especially mine.

I clocked out for lunch and browsed where I discovered an article on The Rogue Ginger. Check her out at Her zero-waste blog got the hamster wheels in my head spinning about the grossly consumeristic, wasteful life I was leading!

Onward, my quest for knowledge and research pointed me from zero-waste, to recycling, to minimalism, to the Tiny House Movement. How intriguing! I could downsize by purging all of my family’s items that didn’t “spark joy” a la the Marie Kondo method.

Getting on the right track, my husband Dave and son Sam helped me to apply this lifestyle to our comfortable middle-class existence in The Deep South. Some techniques worked, some made us sick, and others were too extreme.

Then, I caught strep throat the first week of March (and so did my son). Our doctors banned us from returning to work and school for a week until we rid our crud. The penicillin knocked out my strep and sinus infection rather quickly, so I was stuck bored at home getting cabin fever. The word “rest” is not in my vocabulary. I didn’t want to go hiking, biking, or running because I didn’t want my illness to exacerbate, so I stayed in to recover. I cleaned as many closets and drawers as I could, purging items. My son and I did some restorative yoga and binged on Netflix.

When he was napping, I dusted off a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Civil Disobedience and took to it with my highlighter. I could not believe how on point HDT’s writing is to modern times! I read CD first, and laughed at how the scandalous political season America is faced with now via the Election of 2016 parallels to it.

Walden definitely struck a cord in my soul. I found a never-used journal in my craft closet and copied all of my favorite quotes by hand to really let them sink in. I remembered how much I loved studying Walden in 1999 when I was a sophomore in high school. My teacher in American Lit taught me intriguing buzzwords such as “existentialism,” “environmentalism,” and “minimalism.” HDT was hard-core.

Taking breaks from recopying “Walden,” I watched “Tiny House Giant Dreams” on and really became excited about downsizing one day!

My parents went to Lake Guntersville, AL, one weekend for R&R, and they did something amazing. On a lark, they went to an RV sales lot and found one to buy! Then they scouted an RV park to forever hook the large RV up to so we can visit it several times a month. (I guess all of my gushing about tiny houses finally sunk in for them.)

Finally! An opportunity for me to retreat into the woods near a lake pretending it’s a modern-day Walden Pond has landed in my lap. Easter day (3/27/16) will be our inaugural stay at Camp David, so named after my dad, husband, and eldest stepson. (For the record, my mom wants to call the camper The Sea Witch. Oh, well!)

So yes, it’s a daily challenge to apply minimalism to our lives. We consistently find objects to donate to the Salvation Army, who have been making home pickups for me. My husband and I recycle as much as we can. We take reusable cloth bags when we go grocery shopping. I bought bamboo utensils for travel and we have long eschewed plastic straws. (Plastic can be the devil! Look up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch if you don’t believe me.)

Not everything zero-waste has been good for my family. I made my own toothpaste for two months and used cloth napkins with my meals. Somehow, my germs lingered too much and I was sick for a month with bronchitis and pneumonia. My husband had pneumonia too, and luckily recovered. We have since bought toothpaste and used disposable napkins for our food.

We still have miles to go in the lifestyle, and we get to have our first Walden experience this weekend. I’m stoked!!!


My profile here:

My name is Marissa and I live in Alabama with my husband and child; we are trying to assimilate into the minimalist lifestyle, as this blog marks our journey. I work at an office by day, and teach yoga classes at night. But I have always been a writer, keeping my words with me like a warm, fuzzy blanket.

I re-read “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience” recently, having not studied the works of Henry David Thoreau since 1999, my sophomore year of high school. I was blown away by how relevant HDT is today in America, with our society’s problems of crushing personal debt, a broken economy, circus-like politics on every level, over-consumption of materialism, global warming, and a growing disconnect from nature.

After months of researching minimalism, recycling, zero-waste, and the Tiny House Movement, I talked my parents into buying a camper on Lake Guntersville, AL. It mirrors a quaint cabin in the woods near a lake (like Walden Pond) where my thoroughly Thoreau experience is occurring with a modern-day twist!



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