Saturday, December 15, 2012

Yes, I am a Minimalist.

My friends laugh at my “minimalism.” And I do not blame them.

I like things. When I was younger, I aspired to own a Nalgene in every color. I have lost count of how many computers I have. Until recently, teenage girls loved using my bathroom to experiment with all the beauty products. After seeing how much I spent on a pair of (beautiful! white! leather!) gloves, a friend once asked if I was going through some kind of crisis and wanted to talk about it.

Having things has always made me feel safe. You never know when you will run out of shampoo or need to use a second mandolin for julienning a lot of carrots in parallel or get invited to an event where not only do you have to wear a fascinator, but it has to be pink. Better to be ready.

Then three important things happened in 2010. First, substantial amounts of water leaked from our roof through our ceiling over the course of months. Second, I made friends with a minimalist. He lived in Belgium and had only one spoon in his apartment that we all shared to eat speculoos. Third, I moved out of that leaky apartment.

During this year, I learned that not only are many material possessions unnecessary, but they can also be burdensome. And so I developed the goal to actively love and regularly use all of my possessions*. And according to the minimalist blogs, the concept of minimalism has become sufficiently trendy and dilute that this definition is acceptable.

Working towards this goal has involved thinking about how to get more usability out of things. For clothing, for instance, I learned the rule that any new article of clothing should be appropriate for at least three different kinds of occasions. Versatility is the key: a few things can go a long way.

I have also been working on letting go. I acquire many things thinking that I might need them. I have gotten better at giving them away. If I have not used something for a year, I force myself to get rid of it. In the last months, I have gotten rid of multiple travel pillows, a carpeted cat toy, a second sleeping bag, a Zune, bags of clothing, and numerous books.

And, of course, I have been thinking about what is necessary. There are things I want. I want art in my living space. I want self-expression through my clothing and accessories. I want two pillows when I sleep. I want variety to my meals. Perhaps that is all. Perhaps I do not even need these.

I have been making progress. I do not have a TV. I have fewer clothes and books than I used to. I pack for most trips into carry-on luggage. Most of my cooking involves a single knife, pot, and pan.

I would love to one day live in a vast empty apartment with only a few possessions. I may realize that this will not make me happy, but I hope to never again get caught up in the acquisition of more and more things. And this is why I call myself a minimalist.

* I have also been thinking about minimalism with respect to commitments and relationships but I will not include discussion of that in this post.

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