Minimalism seems to be at the heart of a lot of unconventional ways of living. Take the people who live in Tiny Houses or RVs as an example. When your home is designed to move down the highways you have a very finite space to keep stuff. After all, if your house fits in a garage, you hardy have a garage for your excess. There are people who travel full time without an RV or Tiny House who are so minimalistic that some monks would be proud of them. Reading their pack lists (packing lists seem to be popular among a certain breed of backpackers) makes me feel like a pack mule with my comparatively massive backpack.
In fact, there’s a whole movement called the 100 Thing Challenge where people have reduced the entirety of their belongings to a list of 100 items. I’ve followed multiple people online who have taken this path and all seem quite happy with their minimal lifestyle not focused on American Consumerism.
I think this is a category where I have to admit to being a wannabee. I spent the last few years of home-ownership going through spurts of down-sizing my stuff. I would go through boxes of stuff that I had accumulated in various phases of my life. A great deal of it would either be unrecognizable or if I did remember why I’d saved an article, the strong memories attached to it were dead. So, away went boxes of stuff to various charities where possible.
I also started digitizing where possible. I had a set of shelves in my living room that were nothing but CDs and DVDs. And the shelves were literally full to bursting. The first to go were the CDs. All ripped to my computer and an iPod (I am not tied to Apple for life but I tried other models and ultimately that was the one that worked for me). The CD cases were given away but I kept the booklets/art and put the CDs in an album. Three or so shelves of CDs literally became 6 inches of space. A caveat on digitizing music. I know a lot of people sell their CDs after. My understanding is technically when you sell the CD, you sell your ‘license’ to own that music. Besides in my mind, as long as I have a CD drive, those are my back-ups in a calamity.
I’ll save further comment on my DVD solution. It’s technically okay under the same ‘fair use’ doctrine that allows you to make a copy of a CD for your own use but illegal to circumvent the copy protection that is on virtually any DVD purchased. I will say in the end all my DVDs are also stored in a couple of small DVD storage boxes. Goodbye to an entire shelf! Happy Days!
This ended up being pretty much the end of the road for my minimizing lifestyle, though. I might have gained more ground but this came to the point that I decided to sell my house. I could have gone two ways here, truly dumped it all or, the one I went, found a decently priced climate control near my parents and put all my stuff away. Well, the few times I’ve been to retrieve things I ended up needing, I have actually taken stuff out and given it away, but it’s sort of out of sight out of mind. Sure I have the monthly cost of keeping it there, but it’s low and unless I want to get rid of it all, it won’t get any cheaper to keep it (i.e. no smaller options).
With the exception of a few pieces of family furnishings that I inherited, I could give up the furniture happily enough, but that leaves me with boxes and boxes of books (I am a book hoarder no doubt) and my one big addiction that has followed me through life, toys and comics. Yep, I’m an adult toy and comic collector (yes, I watch the Big Bang Theory and get all the jokes). And while I have managed to pretty much not buy anything new in ages, there is still a strong attachment to the things I own. So, this is where the wannabee minimalst comes in. If, perish the thought, it all burst into flames tomorrow, I’d never look back and probably replace little if any of it. But that’s pretty much what it would take at this phase to shave my life down to a 100 Things. It’s funny and sad all at once!
Now, there are lots of things I disposed of in the past few years that I never thought I would, so there’s always the possibility that I will one day decide I want to join the ranks of the über minimalist people out there. Maybe it’s all a series of baby steps for me to get there rather than a need for being tossed into the deep end of the pool by a sudden fire. I’m dubious about that.
Still, I understand the heart of the minimalist movement. I have certainly as a result been much more aware of the things I buy these days since even sampling minimalism on the edges. When you start adding up the cost of all those DVDs and the music you buy (even now that they take little or no space), the money that was behind them was not so small! So, maybe it’s at least helped me appreciate not being a slave to things either by the need to house them or by the money they cost to begin with. I’ve no doubt I’ll continue to explore but I’m also happy if the end product is still longer than a list I could put on notebook paper!
So, where do you stand on minimalism? Do people who have minimised to 100 things scare you or inspire you? Or are you already there?