I’ve been fascinated with the idea of minimalism for years...ironic, because as my wife reminded me today, I have a tendency to be anally expulsive in every environment I inhabit.
The fact is, I’m a musician who plays a lot of different instruments (and I firmly believe you can NEVER have too many drums) and I like gadgets, and books, and kitchen gear...you get the point.
Part of this fascination with minimalism stems from the experience I had preparing my parents’ house for an estate auction. In 33 years of marriage (before my Mom passed) they accumulated a lot of stuff. As I learned, eventually someone has to deal with all that stuff.
I’m fascinated too with what Thanh from asianefficiency.com calls “the luxury minimalist lifestyle.”
The premise is that you reduce the number of items you own, but the items that you do own are the best you can afford and bring you joy. This cuts out duplicate items of poor quality. Headphones is an example. A luxery minimalist might choose a pair of high quality noise cancelling headphones over multiple sets of cheap, almost disposable headphones.
So with this fascination for me, and me starting to scale down some of my lifestyle with minimalist philosophy in mind, I decided to join some Facebook groups focused on minimalism.
This is where my frustration began...
Yes, I found posts that I expected...soliciting advice about specific methods for scaling down, suggestions about personal challenges of only buying 20 new items (except household needs, food, toiletries, etc.) and getting rid of one item for each new item purchased.
Today I saw a couple of posts that may be the last straw for me. One person was asking opinions about whether or not they should buy a wall clock, or should that be on their “do not buy” list.
Personally, if you can’t decide on your own to buy a clock or not, I think you may have bigger issues than how good you are at minimalism.
The one that really got me was this post:
“What’s more minimalist? Getting a Christmas tree from a lot, or going to a farm and cutting one down?”
Seems to me this question has less to do with minimalism, and more to do with the absolute absurdity that exists in the world today.
I guess my philosophy on things like this echo the words of a chef I once saw at the New Orleans School of Cooking. As he was cooking a meal for a large group of us, he added some piña colada syrup to the bread pudding he was making. He explained that the recipe called for one cup of the syrup, which he poured into the mix without measuring.
Someone in the group interrupted, asking, “How do you know that was one cup?” The chef started pouring the syrup and asked the questioner when to stop at what they thought a cup was. After the questioner said, “stop”, someone else said, “There’s no way that was one cup!”
The chef began to pour again, and the second questioner had the opportunity to decide what one cup was.
By the end of the exchange, with perfect timing, the chef said, “When it comes to cooking, the exact amounts don’t matter. If you like something, put more of it in” as he emptied the entire bottle of syrup into the bread pudding.
So when it comes to clocks or lot Christmas trees vs. farm Christmas trees, I think that wisdom holds true as well...if you want a wall clock, get a wall clock. If you don’t want a wall clock, don’t get one.
Same with the trees. If you want to cut down your own tree, do it. If that’s not an important part of the experience for you, get it from the lot.
When we rigidly adhere to a philosophy, for the sake of the philosophy, and don’t use our own critical thinking skills, we end up with clockless houses, indecisive tree shoppers, and boring bread pudding (not to mention religious extremists, angry vegans, and people walking around with their pants hanging down to their knees).
My advice to those who ridiculously adhere to a philosophy for the sake of the philosophy? Remember that philosophy is a product of the mind. We must balance the mind with the heart. If your philosophical adherence makes you miserable, it’s time to examine your motives.
Remember Polonius in Hamlet...this above all else: to thine own self be true.
Buy the clock, cut down the tree...as long as it is true to yourself and your values.
And put a whole bottle of syrup in your bread pudding if you feel like it.