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Some thoughts on "Minimalism"

So the other day Jezebel ran this article about the Minimalism movement which made the valid point that a lot of the dialogue about it is classist. The commenters seemed to agree and I can't really take any issue with that point directly, especially given the more obnoxious quotes that Tracy Moore found.

I had some thoughts at the time it was published, but wanted to take the time to process them, especially since in a way they were not really directly related to the discussion Tracy's article was having.


I'm not sure if I'm a minimalist. I'm certainly not preachy about any aspects of how people decide to own things. People's circumstances are complicated and far be it from me to judge that which doesn't affect me.

However, I'm pretty mindful of owning too much stuff myself. And that has a lot to do with my personal experience with people who do choose to intentionally buy or keep a lot of things. In particular, my father, who definitely encroaches on what you might call a hoarder.

For example: My father found out about a charitable organization that accepted sets of golf clubs for veterans. He started going around and collecting golf clubs that were listed as free on craigslist or when he spotted them at garage sales. It was a very well intentioned act, however I'm fairly certain he has 5 sets of golf clubs that have been sitting for years in his own garage that have yet to be placed in the hands of any veterans.

He also has copious amounts of fake plants, furniture, bicycles, other goods (books, geeze, a ton). He fills his house with things, all with the intent of keeping them around for a rainy day. Which doesn't really happen. They accumulate, filling rooms, getting dusty, uncleaned. When I go over I have to be careful to bring tissues and allergy meds.


This is in his current house. My mom and he are now separated, but when they were together and lived in my childhood home, I can remember similar tendencies. He would buy 5 of an item on sale, intending to give it out as gifts to people when Birthdays or Holidays came around. We discovered so many items like that, years old, when my mom sold the house and we had to pack things up.

I also, more recently, have very direct personal experience with a friend who is a hoarder. It's intensely painful for her and she works hard (with a therapist) at trying to overcome it. I've personally spent hours with her helping decide on what stuff to get rid of and keep. As a testament to her and therapy, she has gotten much better at working through parting with the objects that saddle her. When she moved out of one apartment years ago, she actually came to tears when I tried to throw away a crumpled up unused napkin. She's come a long way from that, and the last time I visited her in a dehoarding session I barely had to counsel her in the decision making process. I was basically two friendly hands.


Additionally, rightly or wrongly, LeeLoo and I have watched an unhealthy amount of Hoarders in our time, so those images are forever with me.

My point really comes down to that for me, a whole aspect of owning crap is a reaction to the emotional baggage that also comes with owning crap. And I acknowledge I'm being dismissive when I say crap, and I acknowledge I'm pretty economically comfortable so I do have the luxury of not owning certain things because I can buy services or replacements to make up for those items on a whim. Maybe part of me thinks it's cool or hip to have very few things - I can't deny that I'm subject to feelings of comparing myself to others.


However, that whole other dimension that I think motivates me strongly is my personal experience with those in my life on the other extreme of minimalism, and a slightly unreasonable fear that I might go down the same path. Even if I know that I'm pretty unlikely to succumb to those tendencies, when considering what things I own or don't own I can't help but feel all the emotions and memories about those in my life who have had their choices in owning stuff be an issue for them.

So anyway. Like I said at the beginning, I think all of this is sort of tangential to the original discussion, and I'm not trying to prescribe to anyone else what they should do or advocate for some lifestyle. But that post made me think about my decisions in owning stuff and I kind of felt like sharing that perspective.

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