Minimalism: it’s a style of dress, graphic design, and architecture. But the idea that has caught my attention and remained in my mind for some time is the minimalistic lifestyle. I was purging my bedroom of the crap I’d collected for seven years, trying to make packing for college easier, and watching “college essentials” videos on Youtube for vocal and visual company. In the suggested section beneath one video were several relating to minimalism: “Becoming a Minimalist” and “The Minimalist Packing List” caught my eye. The former was a video of a girl, channel name Ng OS, who had just began de-cluttering her over-stuffed bedroom. The latter, by Danny Dover, turned out to be a more extreme approach to the lifestyle–Danny lives by the 100 item lifestyle. The concept wasn’t new to me. I’d first heard of it years ago from an old Youtube crush of mine, Alex Day, however, I never knew it was a lifestyle other people actually practiced.
It is an inherent belief of many minimalists that you don’t own your possessions, rather your possessions own you. The point is that, by ridding yourself of unnecessary material possessions, you are both physically and mentally letting go of a heavy load. You are less attached to “your” inanimate objects and thus are free to travel and are not as upset for losing your things (e.g. getting robbed, natural disasters, etc.) as badly as someone with a lifetime of material possessions. As much as the challenge intrigues me–I DID take on veganism for nearly six weeks for absolutely no animal-rights reasons–I just cannot wrap my head around this one. You would be giving up a lot of your things. Minimalists live with a tiny wardrobe, very specific electronics, and no collections what-so-ever. This means getting rid of your books, CDs (if anybody else still buys those), accessories, most of your clothing, your childhood blanket…you keep the 100 items you need most in the world. We live in a time where doing this is easier than ever: keep all your books on a Kindle, all your music on your multi-functioning iPhone, and back up all your writing on iCloud through your computer. But what about those of us who still enjoy the experience of a paperback? How about the writers who can only get their thoughts out on paper?
I’m all for regular de-cluttering and avoiding impulse buys, but as a lifestyle choice, I feel this proves too extreme for me. The night I watched those videos, I took an estimate of everything I owned. I thought it was possible that I may own only 500 items. I counted. The number increased. The more I looked around the room, the more things I found to count. It wasn’t just the number of clothes I own, I also needed to include the number of clothes hangers. Each of my electronic items came with a charger, so those had to be counted up as well. Eventually, I reached an estimate of nearly 1000 items–TEN times what a minimalist would live with. Most of these things were not in use on a daily, weekly, or even a monthly basis. The majority of things I have have not been touched since the day I bought them. Books I haven’t had the time to read, but will “someday;” CDs that I obsessively collect, import into my iTunes, and stack up on a table, never to be touched again; clothing that doesn’t currently fit but surely will … someday. I realised I don’t even apply any of the makeup I own. It was a phase that started at 14, but at 17 I’d decided face-painting is both a hassle to apply and a hassle to wipe off. Since my count-up, I’ve continued to rid my room of clutter. I gave away the board games I never play to my siblings, took out several bags of clothes out of my closet, and gave away oodles of accessories along with a large, stackable accessory box (I do prefer to hang them on a jewelry stand: I like visually seeing what I have).
Regardless, I continue to mull over extreme minimalism. It has its merits: by ridding a person of visual clutter he is rid of mental stress. However, it doesn’t cater to the majority of lifestyles. Consider the experimental cook, with his pots and pans and pantry-full of spices; the parents of an ever-growing new born, constantly having to get new developmental toys and bigger clothes; the creative artist, with a multitude of mediums for all her different projects; the collegiate student, with his band T-shirts and endless notebooks and textbooks for each of his classes this semester. For most people, it is impossible to live with 100 items.
As was my conclusion after six weeks of being a vegan, I feel that minimalism is a restrictive lifestyle that doesn’t suit me. Anything that deprives a person of certain joys–such as parmesan on your bolognese pasta or a prized first edition novel–is something I cannot agree to permanently implementing into my life. To a certain extent, it’s all right to allow yourself to be happy with what you have and what you can have, so long as it isn’t damaging to your health or putting you in debt. I like my clothes and I love to accessorize. The order in which my CD pile is stacked is a visual representation of the evolution of my taste in music for the past six years. I like reading a physical book. I like art, whether decorative or of my own making. Perfume is my signature. When I see myself not putting these items in use, I give them away.
I conclude that I am a moderationist.
What I took away from all this
Despite refusing the 100 item minimalism challenge, I do have a newfound understanding of materialism (this is where one of my favourite movies comes in: Fight Club). Don’t keep the things you don’t use–don’t buy them in the first place. Rid yourself of the hoarder’s mentality and empty your closet. If you cannot yet bear to throw something away, put the item(s) in a box and keep it in your closet. After a few months, you’ll find yourself completely disentangled from the emotional attachment to the object. Continue getting rid of things while making use of this “out of sight, out of mind” technique until you are satisfied with the lack of things weighing you down. As Tyler Durden teaches us, owning everything we think we need is not making us any happier.