There seems to be a minimalism movement going on at the moment. It’s like we’ve had enough of the race to keep up with those around us, aiming higher, and now we’ve decided to let it all go and turn in the opposite direction. Is this just a sign of defeat? Is it people rebelling? Or is it just a realisation that we don’t need all of these material possessions?
I would like to think that I don’t live in a cluttered environment, maybe more so before my partner moved in. I moved into a small townhouse, I would think it has ample storage most of which was empty or only had a few things in it. I don’t do a great deal with my spare time, but my “clutter” is books, sewing/crochet supplies and kitchenware. Mostly it’s all in the kitchen, I need an overflow cupboard and a bigger pantry but we’ll deal with that another time.
I don’t think I could really “minimise” much further, I have what I need and I don’t really buy too many things I don’t need (other than my tupperware addiction – but in my defence I use all of it). I guess it leads me to thinking about possessions, and what we really need.
We all have needs, to be clothed, to have shelter, food, and to be nurtured and loved. Those requirements provide us with health and safety, but also a sense of security and comfort. Where do we get our sense of security and comfort from, especially if we are “single” or live alone for whatever reason? We buy things with symbolic meaning, things we don’t necessarily need and that we may never use, but we feel justified and fulfilled by having them. These things come in all shapes and sizes depending on who bought them and what they symbolised. Exercise equipment or health foods (meal replacements etc) for people who want to lose weight, pianos for people who want to play or learn to play, souvenirs from places we’ve visited – we don’t really need them but we want a symbol related to those memories. The list goes on and on, we collect things everywhere we go, but what do we really need?
I don’t need all the kitchen appliances in my house, but alot of them make the job easier, they have a practical application. I don’t need the books I have, and a lot of them I haven’t read, but I have all my life to get around to them and maybe decide whether to keep them or not. Photos and souvenirs are just tokens of what we’ve done and where we’ve been. We get so nostalgic about holding on to things that remind us of people who are gone or places we’ve been that we may never go back to, but what we all seem to forget is that those things and people will always be with us. In our memories.
Take a look at the elderly for a moment, what’s the first thing someone will say when describing a grandparent or old relative? The stories they keep repeating? Even through dementia they remember the life they’ve lived, they remember the places they’ve been, and their families. They don’t have many items when they live in a nursing home, it is the greatest act of minimalism I have seen. But, having said that they don’t need it, they are happy to tell you all about their memories for hours, the only possessions they value are photos, because they are a symbol of the most important things they possess.
It’s so simple, but why do we find it so hard? We spend so much time working to own our homes, and buy the things society tells us we need, just so that we can be stripped of them at the end. Would it be better to increase the number and quality of our memories, spending quality time with people and spending our money on experiences instead? Living in a smaller house so you have the money and time to spend with your friends and family, settling for a cheaper phone and care so you can socialise more. We’re in so much debt these days, because we can’t wait to have things and because we think we need the things that don’t even matter.
Is it time to just stop and smell the flowers?