Thursday, 8 September 2016

I'll never be a hardcore minimalist

This is NOT the pool of minimalism

I've been dipping my toes in the pool of minimalism* since I started my shopping ban on 1 June. There's a lot I like about it, but other stuff that does not resonate with me AT ALL. I doubt I will ever be a fully committed minimalist - more of a moderate minimalist.

I like decluttering, but I don't feel the need to jettison everything that I don't absolutely need. And then go through my stuff and reduce it by half again. Some things I just like, you know? Some of my stuff I want to keep because I think it's beautiful and I like looking at it, or wearing it.  

The hardcore minimalists even encourage you to get rid of belongings you keep for sentimental reasons. The memory is in you, not in the object, they say. That may be so, but where is the harm in keeping something that brings up fond memories of someone you love or a happy time in your life when you look at it? 

My friend Victoria posted a photo of her bedroom in her new abode on Facebook during the week and on her bed was a teddy that her grandmother had given her when she was born. He has a key in the back and when you wind it, it plays The Wheels on the Bus.  That is just so, so precious. The thought of him being given away wrenches my heart a little (and he's not even mine!). You just don't get rid of that stuff.

Or you shouldn't. I have kept very little from my childhood (not that I had teddy as special as Victoria's) and I really wish I had kept more. I didn't appreciate that knitted teddy bear given to me by my great aunt when I was a kid (especially when my brother - the first born child - had a proper furry teddy bear), but I would love to have it now. 

There's other stuff from my childhood I wish I still had - like my mother's button tin, which ended up who-knows-where when my parents separated when I was 26. You know what I mean? The old tin that contains a random assortment of buttons leftover from years of sewing projects, or rescued from old clothes? Mum's was an antique oval chocolate tin with a lady on the lid and it was full of buttons, lots of little plain ones, but also some big ones, colourful ones and fancy glass and metal ones. I used to love playing with them, and sorting all the matching buttons into little piles. I wish I had thought to get my hands on it back then, but I guess the button tin wasn't exactly at the forefront of my mind at the time. 

I've done better at keeping sentimental things as I've got older. During a wardrobe clear out in the last year or two, I was going to donate the blue faux leather jacket I wore the day I met Luke - I still like it, but it doesn't fit anymore and it's not like it was expensive. But Luke told me I couldn't get rid of it because of its sentimental value (he's way more sentimental than I am, bless him). So I kept it and I don't regret letting it take up a few centimeters of hanging space in my wardrobe one little bit. 

When my Nanna died and we were cleaning out her place, nobody wanted her collection of china cup, saucer and plate sets and although they were very flowery and gilt-edged and not my style at all, I couldn't bear the thought of them going to an op shop, so I took them and I still have them and I love them, even though I don't have a suitable way of displaying them...partly due to lack of space. I also have some of her mixing bowls - she was a cook by trade and continued to bake tasty treats long into retirement - and I think of her every time I use them. 

So, no thank you, minimalist gurus, I won't be getting rid of the stuff I keep for sentimental or aesthetic reasons. If you change your mind about keeping something, that's easily fixed, but there's no way to get back stuff you ditched if you have a change of heart later. What are you going to do - go to the op shop to try to hunt down the woman who bought your old teddy with the intention of wrenching it from her kid's hands?

I think this hardcore approach to decluttering bothers me because it's so unemotional and shows no appreciation for beauty and the pleasure it can bring. For me, an emotional connection to things and the appreciation of beauty outweigh the pleasure of ruthlessly downsizing my possessions to the bare minimum...or at least I suspect so since I haven't done any ruthless downsizing for comparison. 

Another aspect of minimalism that annoys me is the way some minimalists can seem a bit sanctimonious and sneering, as if they think owning less makes you superior to someone with a house full of stuff. As if spending your money on experiences is inherently more worthy than spending it on goods. I can't say I've read anything explicitly stating views along these lines, it's more of a tone I detect...or maybe imagine because I feel as if I'm being judged for owning so many pairs of shoes. 

The question of wardrobe downsizing is one area where I find some minimalists are quite sneery, I guess because caring about fashion or style is so pointless and ditzy and superficial and ridiculous. The man who dies with the tiniest wardrobe wins, apparently. It's like they are engaged in a competition to see who can pare their wardrobe down to only a loincloth and a pair of thongs (the footwear kind). 

I will never be a wardrobe minimalist (as you've no doubt gathered already). Clothes aren't just for keeping warm/cool and covering my rude bits.  I love my clothes and shoes. I enjoy thinking about what to wear and putting together my outfits. I  love that feeling you get when you look in the mirror and know you are rocking that outfit like nobody's business. Many don't feel the same, and that's fine for them, but don't sneer at me or think me superficial because I have a lot of clothes and get pleasure from looking good.

But I'm a total hypocrite because I can be sanctimonious and sneery too, like when I see stuff like this on Pinterest: 
I just think, "What sort of a life is that?" I feel sorry for people who are on this work-consume-work treadmill.  There's so much more to life than working and consuming (this part of minimalism I'm totally on board with). Leaving aside the moral and ethical issues inherent in excess consumption, if they are happy, then I should just STFU. It's their life, their money, and their business.

Ultimately, the minimalist movement is broad and I've only explored a small part of it so far (the hardcore sanctimonious part, it seems).  Perhaps I need to seek my minimalism inspiration and advice elsewhere. I've not read any Marie Kondo, the new doyenne of decluttering, but I suspect her approach might be more my style given she lets you keep things that "spark joy". 

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