Living Small in the Hudson Valley
Biking on the Walkway over the Hudson
As a minimalist, I believe the true value of our possessions is in the service they provide. After all, the majority of the things we own are tools—a means to an end, not an end unto themselves.
That being said, we in the Hudson Valley are uniquely positioned to avoid the clutter that can bog us down in our homes and lives. We have so much available to us without having to take on the expense and maintenance of keeping extra stuff. Let’s consider some common possessions that have eco-friendly, social-friendly and just overall life-friendly alternatives right here in the Hudson Valley.
I often see them when I’m out bicycling in the Poughkeepsie suburbs, yet I rarely see anyone actually using them. When I consider all that goes into maintaining a pool, I can't help but think it's not worth the time, energy and money.
The good news is you don’t have to own a pool to enjoy one. There are plenty of community pools in the Hudson Valley, many of which are free. Taking advantage of facilities like Tallman Beach and Pool Club, Hudson Valley Community Center and Spratt Park is a more efficient alternative.
Also during my frequent bike rides, I see large, well-manicured lawns that are not being used—nobody barbequing, nobody playing sports, nobody even lounging on a hammock. I see lawns being mowed, but not used. Large properties come with a higher mortgage, a higher land tax and the need for maintenance. Yet people still want a yard for the few times a year that they might host a barbeque or a kickball game.
The alternative to this scenario is to take advantage of the scenic parks that can be found all over the Hudson Valley. You can reserve space at many of them for parties, barbeques and such. Even if you have to pay, it’s probably still more cost and time efficient than owning property of your own. Bowdoin Park, Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Fahnestock State Park, James Baird State Park and Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site are just a few of the many beautiful public parks in our area.
How many of us have a weight bench collecting dust in the garage, or a treadmill being used as a coat rack in the living room? There are cheaper and more efficient ways to work up a sweat or build strength. Many of the public parks have running/hiking trails, or you can go for a walk or run on the HV Rail Trail or the Walkway over the Hudson. Too cold outside, or not much of an outdoors person? There are gyms throughout the Hudson Valley, and many offer low monthly rates.
Students, sole proprietors or video game enthusiasts may use their computers daily, but many people use theirs just once or twice a week. While our consumerist mentality has convinced most of us that we need to own a computer and pay for internet, nothing could be further from the truth. One of the biggest untapped resources is our public library system. Nearly all the public libraries in the Hudson Valley have free-to-use computers with full internet access. What's more, library membership is free.
Just think of the benefits: no computer maintenance, no internet fee, less clutter and a more purposeful use of our computer time. Also, since we can handle most digital tasks on our smartphones or tablets, the necessity for actual "sit-down" computers is diminishing. Many businesses and public spaces now offer free Wi-Fi, and as this trend grows, the necessity for home internet service will diminish further.
The practice of lining the walls with bookshelves is getting hard to defend in the digital age. There are many clutter-free alternatives, from borrowing library books to using an e-reader, which can store more literature than most people can fit in their homes. Many e-books are available for free, and you can also get digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines.
Several e-readers have a special display that minimizes eyestrain, and most can sync directly with a smartphone or other mobile device.
Another thing our consumerist mentality tells us is that we must own a vehicle, no matter our transportation needs. Again, nothing could be further from the truth, particularly for people who are retired or work from home.
If you regularly commute more than 15 minutes to work, possessing a vehicle is likely the most viable option for you. I use the word “possessing” rather than “owning” here because leasing a vehicle is often more cost-efficient than owning one. Ownership is highly overrated, especially when it comes to vehicles, which decline in value the moment they’re driven off the dealer’s lot.
If your commute is less than 15 minutes, or if you rarely commute to work at all, there are excellent alternatives for transportation when you do need to travel:
- For short distances, and if you don’t have much cargo, a bicycle or motor scooter will work just fine. Both are fuel efficient, and cycling is better for your health.
- Every county has its own public bus service with multiple routes. All major shopping centers and highly populated residential areas have bus stops. Details can be found online.
- Uber is a great option for those one-offs and is usually more affordable than a taxi (another one-off option). Just download the Uber app to your mobile device and call a ride from there.
We live in a resource-rich community. Before you make any purchase, consider the service you’re really looking for and then see if there’s a more efficient way to get it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
Anthony Foppiano is the author of Living Better Small: A Better Life through Minimalism. To read more from him or to sign up for his mailing list, visit LivingBetterSmall.com.