When Minimalism is Too Minimal

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This room is missing something. (source: wisley)

This room is missing something.
(source: wisley)

Minimalism, or Simple Living, can mean a lot of things. For many people, it means minimizing your possessions. If you don’t have a lot of furniture, you don’t need to dust it – simple. If you only have one slow cooker instead of three, you don’t have to decide which to use – simple.

I used to live the opposite of minimalism. I had years of magazines from multiple subscriptions piled up under my desk. I bought a new shirt every few weeks, and stuffed them into my closet. Some things I had just for the sake of having them.

Then, about 5 years ago, I chanced upon the Minimalism movement. Something about it clicked with me, and I wanted the benefits that a simple life could bring. I got rid of 90% of my clothes, from around 100 shirts to about 10. I’d been building up a library of a couple hundred books, but I realized I was never going to read most of them again, so I sold, donated, or gave away nearly all of them. I was able to get rid of a chest of drawers because I no longer had enough things to put in it.

I got the benefits I was seeking. When I traveled, it was now easy to pack only a carry-on suitcase and skip the baggage carousel in airports. When I dressed, it took me just a few seconds to choose what to wear because I hardly had anything. Money easily piled up in my savings account, because buying more things usually didn’t fit in with minimalism.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the books I got rid of. A lot of them helped me see the world in a new way, taught me something interesting, or were simply an excellent story. As my kids get older and want to read more grown-up books, what will I offer them? They won’t be able to read my books as I read my parents’, because I don’t have any. They’ll have to start all over. I discussed it with my wife, who also practices minimalism in possessions, and we’ve decided that we’re going to recall some of our best-loved books and buy them again, so that we can share them with our children and perhaps get something more out of them ourselves. Luckily we both keep lists of the books we’ve read through Goodreads (My listHer list), so we won’t have to rely on our memories for it.

Last week, I went outside to play with my 6 year old nephew. He brought out an orange plastic baseball bat and a plastic baseball. As we played, I gradually recalled that it was the same orange plastic bat I had played with when I was 6 years old. Most people probably would have thrown that bat away years ago – what’s the use in keeping something when there haven’t been any kids to play with it for years? My parents never took up minimalism like I did, though, so they kept it in the garage with a thousand other things that I would’ve called junk. My parents had kept that bat for 21 years, and instead of junk, I realized that it was a bridge between the present and the past for me and my nephew.

The feeling it gave me seeing me nephew playing with the same toys as me when I was his age was indescribable, and unlike most of the time, I’m not even going to attempt describing it. I’ll just say that without that physical object, the feeling would never have been possible, and maybe one man’s trash can turn out to be that same man’s treasure.

One thought on “When Minimalism is Too Minimal

  1. Benjamin

    This added to my tranquility of deep thinking today.
    I just realized I was a manager of all the things I have within my care.
    I haven’t been a very good manager.
    I have been wanting to grow and do bigger things with new people in new places; I really like journeys.
    I have rediscovered myself and refocused yet again.
    I am now on a journey of better managing everything I am over.

    This story was touching, thank you for sharing!


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