Lessons on Living with Ants

posted in: Uncategorized | 33

May 24th, 2011

Summer has arrived in Southern California and believe it or not, this means ants. Or at least it does when you live in a warehouse. My living situation is unique. I built a studio/ loft in a 1500 sq foot warehouse in Barrio Logan, east downtown San Diego. Because the place is zoned industrial, the building isn’t exactly made to be insect-proof. And therefore, ants have become my newest neighbors.

I’ve decided to take this opportunity, as I battle with these critters, to consider what living with ants has taught me. So I present:

Five Life Lessons on Living with Ants

1.  Know Where You’re Exposed

Ants may be tiny, but with what they lack in size they sure make up for in creativity. They can sniff out those dropped chocolate chips that you decided would be better left kicked back behind the cabinets and under the ‘fridge. Ants can also find the cracks between your doors and the holes in your walls. So in essence, they force you to consider those spots in your life that you thought no one knew about. Or maybe you didn’t even know about…


2.  Take Out the Trash

Garbage in, garbage out. Ants will remind you to live a cleaner life. They will also remind you that just by living a normal life, you’ll still make trash. It’s no big deal, but just take it out every once in a while. Don’t let the garbage in your life accumulate (read also: negative friends or coworkers, a bad job, that old truck that breaks down all the time, ie trash).

3.  Keep Your Food Fresh

There is something absolutely wonderful about eating less processed junk and focusing on the good stuff. And with buying your food fresh, you consume it sooner so it doesn’t go bad. So you are more conscious of what you’re putting in your body. Keeping your food on a steady rotation ensures you know what you’ve got, and it helps when you keep that food fresh. Also, I won’t let any ants near my delicious organic fruit.


4.  Know What You Own

This morning my girlfriend discovered a bowl of sugar sitting on the microwave. That’s right. As in a cereal bowl full of sugar. Sure it was covered in aluminum foil, but you don’t think that stopped the ants from sneaking in, do you? I should have snapped of photo of the hundreds of ants getting that snack attack. And yet ants have shown me that I need to really take an inventory of what I own. Even consumables can pile up. Knowing what you have and wanting what you’ve got are two important principles to stand by. I still don’t know why there was a cereal bowl full of sugar on the microwave.


5.  You’re Not the Most Important Thing in this World

These tiny little critters are enough to make anyone shudder when they show up in large enough numbers. But watching their tenacity and apparent fearlessness has made me appreciate that I’m not the only one with important plans today. So the next time you’re stuck in traffic and some jerk cuts you off, remember that he is an ant with his own big goals and agenda too. Damn, if anything it makes me realize that even ants are better at working together for a common good than humans can be.  After all, if there really is an eye in the sky, aren’t we all just a bunch of ants too?



33 Responses

  1. David I think this is one of my favorite posts of yours! I don’t know why but it just clicked for me! I love how you took an annoying, bothersome situation (dealing with ants) and reframed it in such a creative way! I don’t think I will look at ants the same again!
    I bet Meg will like your #3! I think my favorites are #2 and #5.
    And how cool you built a loft apartment in a warehouse…I really want a place like that instead of a house that requires a lot of work to maintain…and accumulates stuff. I would even settle for little shack on the water’s edge somewhere…there would probably be ants there too…

    • Yes. #3 is my favorite!! How did you know? 🙂

      and I just want to make note that the bowl of sugar was not mine. I would not leave something out like that. It’s the artist friend who occupies the other portion of the warehouse. 🙂

      • I didn’t mean to imply that the sugar was yours. I know only a crazy old man would do that.

    • Thank you Liane. I am glad to see my thoughts and writing are getting better and better 🙂

      I am sort of eating my words though… I noticed an ant on my desk at work today and thought, dang it I just can’t win. So maybe it’s lesson #6…

      I hope you get that little shack by the water. That sounds wonderful, but remember, you may have mosquitoes to worry about then!

  2. Baker Lawley

    Really nice, David! Like Liane, I also really like #5. I’m gonna remember that “I’m not the only one with important plans today” all day today–thanks!

    I’ve always been curious about your living space in that loft. Sounds cool, even with the ants. And the post shows how living there is part of your awesome bohemian approach to life, the ants being a lesson instead of an annoyance. What role does that living space take in your approach to life? I’d love to hear more posts about it.

    • Thanks Baker! You always have good words of encouragement.

      I think I will have to do a little post about my warehouse set-up since it seems to be along with my ‘almost bohemian’ blog theme.

      The warehouse has certainly been a creative outlet. There is a great feeling about having full creative control over your living space. Do you want a skylight? Build one! Do you want a projector screen and theater seating? Then build it!

      Thanks for the inspiration. I will do a post on it!

  3. So a blanket rule of no lollipops at your house then?

    You could probably throw in something about ants working together to make your kitchen hell, they do a lot better in a team than solo.

    Number 1 struck home for me, nice one David.

    • Hah! Actually, thats just the trouble. Any and all sweets are welcome in the warehouse! If fact, any guests know that I often have raw cookie dough or brownie mix on hand for just the occasion.

  4. David, thanks for the great post. #2 struck home for me as I am trying to reevaluate everything that I own. I want want to develop values with my wife and then only make purchases that match up with those values.

    • I am all for spring cleaning, any time of year! Owning only the things that are actually special to you can make a huge difference! Oh, and I hope you have some room for a few extra vinyls. I cleaned out my San Diego collection and I’ve got some for you!

  5. Great post! I love the analogy with ants and life becasue right now these ants are consuming my kitchen and my life. 🙂 No I will say whatever you did last night really helped. I didn’t notice any ants this morning when I was getting our salads ready. Huge step!

    This was really great. I also really like #5, I think you remind me of this quite frequently when I get frustrated. Example: the people on the other line of my credit card company who can’t quite understand what I am saying. You help remind me that they are just trying to make a living like everyone else. I think this has helped me to be more mindful. I can’t remember the last time I had road rage. I am beginning to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are just having a bad day. We all know we have zoned out on the road before, or at least I have especially when I have good music going on.

    I look forward to looking at “ants” in my life as ways to better my current situation. It’s time to spring clean the warehouse!

    • Thanks Meg 🙂 I’m glad that you can also find the bright side to living with ants.

      It takes a special girl to appreciate such luxuries 🙂

  6. Philipp Knoll

    Its great how you can find the positives side to almost anything – even having tons of roommates!

    To me those small creatures (also the bigger ones like elephants etc. which I have not spotted as roommates yet) set my life into some context. Society believes to be so far above those tiny creatures all helping together to enjoy your sugar. But than compare that to the 9-5 rat race in a crowded office building…

    We are a different species but other than that … not so different after all. All they do is trying to enjoy the sugary side of life!

    – Philipp

    • Philipp, I think you have some good wisdom there with everyone and everything just trying to enjoy the sugary side of life. The more ‘civilized’ we get, the further we move away from everything else. It seems we struggle to see the symbiotic relationships around us. An elephant invasion may be the eye opener we need! 🙂

  7. Todd | Channelingmyself

    Hi David,

    Got to commend you for keeping the positive attitude considering who has invaded your home.

    • Thanks Todd. Though I think you may be giving me too much credit here. The second the ants invade the bed… all bets are off!

  8. I forgot how much of a problem that was in San Diego. I grew up there so I completely understand. It gave me a little bit of the chills just thinking about it. Seems like you have a pretty good handle on it. My friend used to create this molassass ant killer mixture and just stick it in a corner. Something about them eating it and killing the queen ant or something solved all their problems. Hope it isn’t too unbearable. I always figured, as long as they stayed out of my bed, it was ok.


    • It’s good to know it isn’t just me then! I was beginning to wonder why my warehouse was such a haven. I even noticed that my motorcycle shed has ants all over it. Are they eating the wood?!! I may need to investigate this molasses mixture..

      But in the end, I agree… stay out of my clothes, food, and bed, and we can be friends!

  9. Ah, the importance of the tiny, invincible ants. I’m pretty sure that if I could be more ant-like, I could conquer anything. Thanks for a post with legs under it.

    • Haha! Yes, you are probably right. Perhaps we just need to up our dedication to the task at hand and pull our resources for the bigger picture. It makes me wonder if ants want to be more human-like…

  10. Hey David,
    We have our share in Indiana also.
    Ants have taught me some things also.
    1. While in Texas, don’t sit in the grass.
    Lesson: Life can be painful at times. Use caution where necessary.
    2. If you flick an ant off of your hand, it just may stick to the wall. And then, keep walking.
    Lesson: Environments are prone to change quickly. Adapt, and keep on keeping on.
    I enjoyed this post much, my friend.

    • Rob, thanks for this! I particularly enjoyed your second point. Environments can change, but our goals don’t have to. We just have to keep after our own life’s sugars.

      Thanks for the insightful and thoughtful response.

  11. puh-leese. ants?? try cockroaches. ;D j/k

    we don’t have them here, honest.
    some houses are infected with them.
    but i’ve really only seen it twice so far (not bad) in my current dwelling.

    would be interesting to see pictures of your warehouse. sounds neat!! when i used to own a house (yes, shock, gasp), it was 1400sq ft so not a bad size!

    Of course, we have lots of ants. Dead ants float around in the jug of drinking water we have and make me not want to drink it. Love the mindful living and thoughts you have about ants. 🙂

    • Cockroaches may be a bit too much on my patience… My gf had an apartment that came under the cockroach invasion and it was miserable.

      I will throw up a little post about my warehouse set up. I have been working hard on it, so it would be fun for me to share!

  12. I popped over here from the link in Meg’s comments mostly because I’m from SoCal too and like everyone else has noticed the summer ant offensive. I loved #3, #4, and #5. You’ve reminded me to stay fresh, light and mellow.

    • Willow, thanks for the good words. I’m glad you found me! 🙂 Meg is an absolute delight! I hope you’re having better ant-fighting luck than we are… I hope they realize that I live there too!

  13. Hi David,
    I honestly love your ants post! The reason is selfish: It reminds me the time I spent in Thailand few years back in a little hut meditating for 21 days. My only entertainments was watching ants, and I grew to love them.
    The recently in Buenos Aires I lived in a artist’s loft and little ants were marching in the kitchen in long orderly lines…
    I loved them again. I felt both times like we are just part of bigger universe. Just like you. The same thoughts. Isn’t that amazing?

    • Derek, it sounds like you’ve had some good experiences in some exciting places. Thanks for sharing! Keep an eye on the next post. I attribute much of it to you.

  14. […] living is foundational to the (almost) bohemian lifestyle. I previously mentioned that I built a studio and loft inside a warehouse so this is a bit of a follow up for those […]

  15. […] developed this habit of searching for life lessons. It seems to be useful when little nuggets of wisdom can be extracted, but sometimes I grasp and […]

  16. Simonne Macklem

    I found this blog post when I was looking for “how to live with ants in my kitchen”. Like a friend said, “Everything has to eat”. I respect that the ants have lives to live too, so I especially appreciated your comment “I’m not the only one with important plans today…” Thanks for that…

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