A Theory of Minimalism

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Monday water buffaloes – naturally.

While I was doing a wee bit of de-cluttering in our house yesterday, A train of thought started off that was prompted by our recent sojourn in Shropshire:

The idea of minimalism is all very well, but faced with the thought of throwing out possessions it suddenly becomes really difficult to put into practice. After all, when surrounded by things you have acquired, it seems suddenly very difficult to justify getting rid of them.

But you can get a very different perspective by staying in a holiday let, preferably one that is furnished with the bare minimum needed and with no personal possessions other than those you have taken. Suddenly, all those fripperies seem far less important…

We had a similar experience when we first moved into our present house. For various logistical reasons, nearly all of our furniture and possessions were in storage for the first ten days or so, which meant we were living in our new house with a couple of folding chairs to sit on, sleeping on a couple of camping mats, and our possessions consisted chiefly of a few bags of clothes and a large pile of books.

Oh, and the cats.

And we said to each other then, surely it would be possible to live like this? But of course we didn’t.

If someone were to break into our house and steal a few items, items of no great importance, that is, then creep out again leaving no signs they had ever been there, I wonder how long it would be before we discovered our loss? And when we did, once they had actually gone, whether we would really miss them or bother seeking to replace them?

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58 thoughts on “A Theory of Minimalism

  1. I have a lot of things lying around, things I don’t notice on a day to day, or even month to month, and yes, probably year to year. I wouldn’t notice it gone at once, not at all, I wouldn’t replace them if they were gone. But that’s simply because they’re there out of a sentimentally sake, not anything else. I have a tweety bird candy a friend gave me during our graduation. it expired over a decade ago but I still have it, inside the package, because it reminds me.

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  2. An interesting post, Mick. I believe that (at their best) our possessions help to express/reflect who we are. Obviously I don’t mean objects such as one’s vacuum cleaner although there are, I am sure collectors of vacuum cleaners! – I mean ornaments and particular items of furniture. I have, for example a blue sofa and matching chair which I’ve owned for over 20 years. They are both comfortable and I like having them around so, short of one of them developing a hole, or the springs going, I have no desire to replace them. Familiar objects are reassuring to me at least. Also, I find empty rooms cold and uninviting. Having said that, I have a big store cupboard in the hall full of things which I think I may use one day. The chances are that I wont and where I not to have this cupboard, doubtless some of the junk would be thrown away, given to friends or donated to charity. Best – Kevin

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    1. Lots of the things I try to get rid of are those things that have hanging around for ages ‘just in case they are needed’ some day. Chances are they won’t get used, and I’d rather have the space and have to buy the occasional item that I found I did need at some point.

      Some of this comes from living in a tiny house – we’d never have empty rooms, but a couple of rooms not overflowing would be good!

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      1. I live in a large 2-bed flat, but would like to have more space for braille books (which take up far more room than do print tomes)! I am sure if I got rid of some things I could have more books but, having said that, there are amongst my volumes those which have only been partially read.

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          1. This, in Japan, is known as Tsundoku! I also am surrounded by piles of books. Years ago, we moved from our family home to a much smaller house, and I did some serious de-cluttering. A little later, some friends were collecting clothes for the refugees. I thought I’d just given everything away, but still, i managed to fill TWO suitcases, none of which items I’ve ever missed since. Just goes to show…

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            1. I’ve heard of Tsundoku. In fact, I’ve been accused of it a few times!

              We did the same a couple of years back, in that a charity was collecting locally for refugees in the ‘jungle’ at Calais and although we’d had a clear-out we still managed one or two sacks of clothes!

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    1. It’s not exactly the same thing, Robbie, but someone tried to steal our car a few years ago and just ended up trashing it. Because it was old, the insurance only paid a pittance but we used that as an incentive to do without a car – something we’d wanted to do for ages, from an environmental point of view apart from any other consideration. It was a great move!

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  3. I sometimes thing similar things about the collection of stuff when I have been in the van for a while, then I remember I live at my house for much longer, and I like being able to do things!

    I am really a maximalist rather than a minimalist when all is said and done!

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  4. I have realized that everyone cannot follow minimalist life. By nature, humans were meant to be hoarders. Imagine people living in places like the Himalayas where it is snowbound for many months, people accumulate things for such a scenario in summers. I guess it is also a personal choice.

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    1. No, not for everyone, Arv. But I suspect the people you mention in the Himalaya, for example, focus on what it is actually important to store and keep, which is the point of minimalism, I think.

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  5. As I’ve moved from city to city over the past few years, I’ve gone from needing only two duffel bags, to a hatchback stuffed to the roof, and most recently, to a 15′ truck. I will say, it’s nice to have a desk, and not write on a cutting board balanced on your knees. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This could be our specialist subject Mick as we don’t actually have many possessions at all. It doesn’t work for everyone of course but we just have a couple of backpacks of stuff and that is pretty much it. It’s nice sometimes to housesit a house full of books and nice things and then be able to just walk away. Just like now where we are living in a big country house in Hertfordshire.

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  7. I have to say that when I do throw things out, I have hardly ever actually found I missed them. I think it is the actual “getting rid of stuff” that is hard, not living without them. But that could also just be me!

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    1. I swear it sneaks in under cover of darkness and hides in cupboards and under the bed, and then one day we just throw our hands up in horror and say ‘Good heavens! Where did all this rubbish come from?’

      Thanks for visiting, Joanne.

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  8. Mick. That’s interesting and so true. We do live with far too much but also possessions are memories. I am currently living in a caravan whilst my house is being renovated and I am rather enjoying it. My friends have come over and all announced that really, do we need any more.? It’s true. We lock ourselves into possessions and trinkets and really we are missing so much more

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  9. I’ve always enjoyed the wisdom and flexibility of William Morris’s dictum: “Have nothing in your house which you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Even sentimental objects can sneak in, since they’re useful for stirring memories that are beautiful to contemplate.

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  10. Having moved a number of times in my life (leaving all possessions behind), I can honestly say that I have no attachment to stuff. I live aboard a Narrowboat so not much room to accumulate… Stuff has to go if it is not used. My husband had many times the amount I do. I could easily walk away from it and not miss ‘things.’

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      1. As we live in a world struggling to deal with our human waste, I think we should all stop this quest to follow fashion trends, to self adorn and to not consider other life forms. Everything we do has a consequence. Even women wearing makeup, need to consider the cost of cosmetics. Many incorporate animal products or are tested on animals. Most commercial brands are full of chemicals detrimental to human life (cancer causing). It is estimated that a constant lipstick wearing female can consume (literally swallow) up to 3lbs of lipstick over a lifetime. Even if women don’t eat their cosmetics, the skin does absorb them. Imagine how much happier we would all be, if we stopped this silly (and fulite) approach to attractiveness. How much money we save, if we get off this bandwagon of one-upmanship, can provide the funds for eating well and help the world of biodiversity too. Consumerism is the biggest problem facing society… Demand is the biggest hurdle. Drop the demand and solutions become much easier.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I absolutely agree with all these points. Although, as a man, I’m reluctant to criticise women for wearing make-up (since it is overwhelmingly women who do so, and it has its origins in thinking that men want them to do it to make themselves attractive), it has so many negative consequences. Like so many things, if children were taught that it was unnecessary, perhaps it would begin to fall away.

          And consumerism is indeed the enemy!

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