The other day, I saw someone criticize a minimalist for not being minimal with words, and while I think that is a valid criticism, I immediately wanted to defend the minimalist. I talk about my efforts toward minimalism, but I don’t often call myself a minimalist, perhaps as a defense against criticism like this. Because I think that people make a mistake by being all-or-nothing about minimalism. It is a philosophy that can affect every area of your life, but in my case, that has happened very slowly. It wasn’t a decision I made once, but a decision I keep making over and over.
Friends who know that I have this thing about getting rid of everything I own will often express interest in doing the same thing, but then they get overwhelmed and stuck thinking they have to go from a closet full of clothes down to two outfits. I tend to be somewhat extreme in things like this, and yet it still took me several years to get to a place where I have room to spare in my studio apartment.
Minimalism is also not a science. At least, it hasn’t been for me. It was something I started experimenting with, and I have continued to experiment, testing the limits of what I can live without. (I guess it is a bit like science in that way.) I didn’t donate everything at once; I get rid of things in waves. It took me at least four years to get to the point where I was down to only the things it would be hard to part with, and yet I still find stuff to part with all the time. I just have to look harder for it and take bigger risks.
Most recently, I got rid of my big suitcase. This was a big deal for me, because way after I started getting rid of everything I own, I was still packing for weekend trips like I was going to be gone for a year. The high cost of checking bags finally got to me about a year and a half ago, and I started traveling with only a carry on. I was still holding onto my big suitcase for those longer trips, but when I got through Germany with just what I could fit in my small suitcase, I decided I could live without my big suitcase. As I rolled it away, I declared that the decision to get rid of it was a statement about my dedication to minimalism, because I like to assign way too much meaning to small actions.
My point is that it took me forever to get here. It took me a long time to start thinking about digital minimalism. I have kind of always been a minimalist when it comes to people, because I’m naturally pretty big on boundaries, but I’m just starting to think about how minimalism might apply to other areas of my personal/internet life. Minimalism as it applies to my use of language is still just on the periphery. This is not some show of patience, as I’ve already admitted to being the most impatient person you know, but I really can’t consider everything at the same time, and there are some areas of my life that I didn’t even think minimalism was relevant to until it suddenly was. (And let’s not even talk about my blush and book collections.)
My efforts toward minimalism become more far-reaching all the time, but I figure this is a life-long project. And because this is all kind of fun for me, I’m okay with that. Something I find really interesting is the contrast between the philosophical/emotional aspect of minimalism and the practical aspect of it. It’s both “what is my attachment to these things?” and “what should I do with the iPod Classic that I haven’t used in a year?”
Just an update on this post about getting rid of my car: I have fully transitioned into living without a car, but I still technically have my car. For complicated and boring paperwork reasons, it has been a bit of a hassle to get rid of, but I’m working on it.