The Merits of Minimalism

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We did our best to get rid of as much as we could. A very successful tag sale still left us with a truckload of boxes we didn't want to get rid of but had no pressing need to keep available. We moved all that up to our cabin's garage attic. Many, many loads went to the Goodwill. A good deal of paper was incinerated, and lots of things were recycled. We trashed everything else.

But we still have too much. Our attic at our new house is already full.

It is a little crazy.

You Don't Need as Much as You Think

Of course, none of us realized how much we had until we had to move it. I was tasked with sorting out which of my possessions I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of. In the basement, I had six boxes containing things that belonged to me, and after going through all of it, I consolidated it down to just two boxes, which makes me wonder why I even had the rest.

Now that we got everything to the new house, I am reluctant to even unpack the boxes that came out of my office, stuff I was supposedly using regularly. After all, I haven't needed any of it yet.

My parents, of course, owned many, many more things that they collected throughout their years traveling the world. Moving it all was burdensome, not just in terms of the material weight of the objects, but also in terms of the psychological aspect of having so much to worry about. When we moved, we had to worry about losing stuff, breaking stuff, whether to keep or throw stuff away. It was exhausting.

And so much of what we took with us hadn't been used in years.

The Appeal of Minimalism

For the whole week, I fantasized about minimalist living, largely because I was the one carrying most of the heaviest items into the narrow attic. How easy would this past week have been if we'd only owned one truckload of things? How easy would it have been if we didn't own three sets of plates, and four of almost every kitchen gadget? How much freer would we all have felt if moving was simply a matter of occupying a new space, rather than dragging the weight of our junk and accommodating it, even though we knew we'd never use it?

I know: things carry memories, and make up our lives. But maybe part of the problem with this sort of lifestyle is that we believe that things carry our memories, and that material possessions are so integral to happiness and well-being. I think much of the benefit of a minimalist lifestyle comes from the enforced mindset of seeking fulfillment in relationships and experiences instead of things, and of relying on our own memory and ability to recall life.

After all, if you purposefully limit what you can have, you have to seek emotional fulfillment in other ways, and I think finding it in other people and adventures is much healthier.

Minimalism is not about having fewer things. It is about having more relationships and having more experiences. When these things fill up your life, then the material stuff becomes less appealing and less necessary.

Of course, my parents have had a lot of experiences too, so maybe we're just pack rats. One thing I know, however, is that we are all trying to live a lighter life, less burdened by things. This move has taught us that possessions can be more trouble than they are worth.

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