I have read quite a few minimalist blogs over the past year or so. One of the common themes between them all seems to be that practicing a minimalist lifestyle will prevent global warming and preserve the environment. This does not fly with me.
I don’t like clutter. I don’t like messes. For as long as I can remember, every new toy, gadget, or gizmo I’ve ever gotten, I’ve kept it in pristine condition – as well as I possibly could, at least. I bought a Sony PSP once. I thought I would use it a lot, but I ended up only using it for music, yet I already had an iPod. I didn’t want two devices that I used for the same thing. Paradox of choice, party of one? So I decided to get rid of my PSP. You know what I used as the primary selling point of the thing on Ebay? Its shiny-ness. There wasn’t a scratch to be seen on that device, and it was shinier than John Locke’s head after a vigorous run through the jungle.
The “keep things looking brand new” trend continues to this day, with everything I own. I’ve recently received compliments on my car. One person even asked me if it was less than 2 years old. It’s a 2000 Volvo. The current year is 2010. That’s the result of my crazy OCD and a penchant for all things pristine.
When I started reading about minimalism, my obsession for order kicked into high gear. I didn’t necessarily want to trash all of my belongings, but the thought of getting rid of all the junk I didn’t need or use really resonated with me. There were many medals, shirts, pairs of shoes, and random things that I didn’t even know I had any more. They were simply taking up space. Why was I holding onto all of those things?
For a few years before I really delved into minimalism, I did a bi-yearly purge of “stuff”. Old birthday cards, school journals, etc… It lightened my load, but it didn’t get fix my problem completely. It wasn’t until I made a list of everything I owned that I really knew what I needed to get rid of. That’s right, I made a spreadsheet of every single thing I owned. Every pair of socks, every pair of underwear – everything.
Looking through the list, I realized that in addition to all the things I totally didn’t need, I also had “prep items.” I call them “prep items” because they were things I held onto so that I could be “prepared” for any scenario. Cables to hook my laptop up to a TV, headphone splitters, and the like. I had only used them maybe once in the past two years, so there wasn’t really a pressing need for them.
Once I began really de-cluttering, my purpose was to be more aware of the things in my life. If my dwelling were to be immolated in my absence, it would be comforting to know exactly what was lost. It’s easier to replace things that way. The bigger point here, though, is that I would most likely only remember the important things. So why even have the unimportant things?
I also want to use my car less. That’s a discussion for another time, but to put it in a nutshell, I don’t want to own a car. I want to rely on a bicycle, public transportation, rental cars, and friends for transportation. It’s extremely expensive to own a car, and I would rather spend that money on something exciting – like travel! – rather than maintaining the vehicle I use to get to work… to make money to pay for the vehicle. That’s what computer nerds call an infinite loop. It kind of defeats the purpose, in my view. So I want to get rid of my car.
The point I want to make here is that I want to do these things not to save the planet, to prevent global warming, or to emit less greenhouse gases. I choose to do these things to enrich my own life and the lives of those around me. I choose to live with less so that my mind can focus on my passions, rather than my things. I choose to get rid of my vehicle so that I can spend my money on things I love, rather than things I am dependent on. My motivation has nothing whatsoever to do with global warming.
I don’t want people to think that every bike-riding hippie living in a small space is a crazy liberal who spends all their waking hours in a Starbucks. Quite the contrary. I choose to live with less, yet the majority of my political views are extremely conservative. I believe in capitalism. I believe that every person in the United States has the right and the potential to become extremely wealthy – and they should! I believe everyone should have the right to own a gun. Every person has the right to choose how to live their lives. I don’t force my views on anyone. How people live is a personal decision that must be made on a personal level.
I also believe that everyone should be held to a high standard of responsibility. That’s what’s lacking in the world today. I don’t think people should be minimalist so that we can prevent global warming (which I think is complete bogus, if you haven’t caught on yet), but I do think that people should be less wasteful. I think people should be more financially responsible. I think people should care more about the consequences of their actions. No one has to live in a small house or get rid of all their belongings – it would just be quite nice if more people would become more cognizant of their decisions.
Minimalism is good for me because I am using it as a tool to achieve my personal goals. I’m not doing it to make a statement, to force others into it, or to save the planet. I’m living a minimal lifestyle to ensure that I always focus on what really matters.