Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Am I a minimalist?

Or, What Do I Really Want and How Much Will Ever Be Enough?

I've been reading lots of blogs and articles written by and for minimalists, and trying to figure out some stuff about myself. I am fortunate enough to be born into a country where I can be, do, and to a large extent have (where "have" means obtain or afford or both) pretty much whatever I want.

I don't know if I'm a real minimalist. I think I have a natural, in-born tendency to say enough is enough ( I would be more likely to phrase it as "Why do we have to have so much crap in this house?"), but I don't feel like I have to be able to fit every last one of my belongings into a backpack or the trunk of my car, or sleep on a mattress on the floor and have bare, white walls, or have only 57 or some other arbitrary number of items that I possess in the whole world. If you have to live by those requirements to be a real minimalist, then I'm not one.

I do have my own evolving list of "rules to live by" about what I have and what I do, and how that reflects who I am and who I am striving to become, and here is a list of some of them in no particular order of importance:
  • I want What I Want to be firmly and squarely contained in the category of What I Need. Mindlessly and thoughtlessly buying, acquiring, and consuming isn't good for me. If I need something I'll get it, but filling up a shopping cart with stuff that I don't need, one little impulse at a time, in order to ease feelings of boredom or dissatisfaction isn't going to make me happy no matter how awesome the stuff is.
  • Good enough is fine for me. I don't have to be constantly searching out and trying to acquire the best of anything. Trying to compete with other people's possessions or comply with their expectations or recommendations is too exhausting and doesn't make me happy.
  • My home is not for show. It is where people live, and although people do need things, the stuff in my house has to be for the keeping of the people, not the other way around. Homes are containers for people and although homes also contain people's stuff, the actual people shouldn't have to be shoe-horned into whatever space is left after the stuff is moved in.
  • A certain degree of sparseness and bareness do give feelings of calmness and serenity for me. My eyes have be able to find a place to rest, and crowded, cluttered surfaces, closets, and floors make me feel claustrophobic and anxious and overwrought.
  • I want my home to be comfortable. I want my family and friends to feel like they can wear their shoes, or not, whichever is more comfortable for them. If you want to cook something, or take a nap, or make a craft, or watch a movie, or read a book, or play a game, you can do that in my house. We're set up for that.
  • When we're ready to do any of those things, I can find what we need. There is sufficient, but not so much that I spend all my available time digging through closets and drawers for supplies and then have a giant mess created by the search that must now be cleaned up.
  • Abundance and excess aren't the same thing.
  • Spending money to solve problems or fill needs when creativity and ingenuity would suffice is kind of lazy.
  • My good Mr. Dub shouldn't have to spend decades of his life working to provide for me things that I don't need and don't, in reality and all honesty, even actually want. He deserves more respect than that.
Decluttering is a big part of a minimalist's life. It's a big part of my life, too. I was reading an article about keeping like things together, and how that makes it possible to make decisions about how much is enough for you. The example that was used is that if you relocate all your pens and pencils into one place in your house, only then will you be able to see that you have 63 ballpoint pens, and are you the kind of person who needs 63 pens?

I immediately thought of my pencil cup. I do have all my pens in the house contained into, well, two pencil cups, (one upstairs on the desk and one downstairs by the phone. A real minimalist would have only one pencil cup and would run up and down the stairs everytime she wanted to write something. An extremely real minimalist might not have a pencil cup at all, but own only one pen.) and they were both too full. At least once per day but usually many times per day I was struggling to jam a pen back into the pencil cup. Why have I mindlessly fought with my pencil cup every single day without ever realizing even one time that I could and should do something about it? It's ridiculous! And that is a big part of what this post is meant to be about: I want to live and breathe and work and do the things that make me myself in my house without a struggle at every turn.

So I decluttered my pencil cup. I picked out a few pens, a couple of pencils, and a pair of scissors, and now there is plenty of room in the cup to take one out and put it back without any sort of hassle at all. The extra pens went into the school/office supply shoebox that lives on a shelf in a kitchen cupboard. I know we will need them eventually - I mean, pens do run out of ink- but I don't have to have to deal with them while I'm waiting to need them.

While I was thinking about the pencil cup, I washed out an empty green bean can (we had green beans with our dinner last night) and spray-painted it. Then I added some cherry blossom stickers that I had on hand. No overwhelming mess was created while searching for spray paint or stickers. It's not the best/prettiest/most awesome pencil cup in the whole world, but it keeps my pencils contained on the counter by my phone. And when I'm tired of looking at it, I'll throw it out. It's a green bean can with some stickers on it, for goodness sake, and we already ate the beans.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is one of my favorite of your blogs, and will work on memorizing many of your very true and very enlightening points. :)