Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Minimalism

I have been reading The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide. That sort of book is a dime a dozen, certainly--they basically tell you what you already know, which is that you need to throw out some or most of the things you are perpetually tripping over every day. Very good.

What I find myself questioning is how minimalism and luxury intersect, about which not enough is said. Because as I pare down my belongings, I find that what remains are usually the finest and most luxurious items. I have always thought that the minimalists would get further if they said, "All right, throw out those seventeen sets of stained sheets and go buy two sets of really high thread-count sheets." Or simply, "Half of what you own is ugly: get rid of it and buy two or three really nice things."

Surely the best thing about minimalism is that the nice things you do own or can lay your grubby paws on then don't get swallowed by all the crud that you own? Maybe the real tool to minimalism is buying one really beautiful piece for each room and seeing how cheap it makes everything else look--you'll be a minimalist in no time, doubtless!

I'm interested in the trope in minimalist texts that refers to having to "curate" items. That is, that you, as the owner of different items, then have to curate them in some way. Am I the curator of my Cuisinart? Perhaps. I know it's meant to give you an a-ha moment, but for me, it doesn't, precisely. It's clearer if you say I am the storer, washer, and mover of my Cuisinart. Then it all becomes perfectly clear.

This is all highly relevant for me as I face a large move without most of my belongings. The few I will bring are all highly utilitarian, though not, I must confess, in the main luxurious. Suddenly, my coffee press has become precious, as has my stalled knitting project. I'm sorting everything from books to cat toys to see what's worth packing away and what is, very simply, trash.


  1. This really strikes a chord right now since we're bogged down in The Project of organizing all of our crap, extracting my grandmother's things, deciding which of Grandma's things to keep and which to sell or donate, and then trying to coordinate a garage sale with my folks.

    Things are so exhausting.

  2. I think it's nicest when you think of it as trying to decide what to keep rather than what to get rid of--that's one of the luxuries that moving has given me. It's sort of like shopping in your own stuff. But, yes, exhausting.