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The Minimalist Sect

Years ago, I was fascinated by the rise of Minimalism. I watched the documentary produced by pioneering minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I was equally fascinated by the quiet uptake of my husband of the Kondo method of finding peace by selectively discarding and tidying. And as a result of these movements, I was more mortified than fascinated by the mountains of ‘discarded’ possessions outside our charity stores hastily donated by millions of people seeking solace from their own senseless consumerism. 

They wanted less stuff. 

They wanted more peace.

Okay, sure, I get it. However, I read an article by Elizabeth Okosun called ‘Minimalism is for the Wealthy’ which argued that this obsession people have with ridding themselves of possessions that ‘don’t spark joy’ and only buying ‘quality’ products is elitist. The article rails against the attitude that you can remove things that you don’t use regularly as if you need that something later, you can just buy another one, because it marginalises those who can’t afford to do that.

Can anyone afford to do that?

At my age, I am finding that people who helped raise me are leaving this mortal coil because no one lives forever and, most of time, these lovely oldies are ready to go. I go to funerals and I mourn their passing but what is more distressing is that all of their possessions, things that they have cherished and loved throughout their 80 or 90 years of life, and some of which their own parents loved and cherished, is being added to the landfill heap instead of gratefully received. These much loved family members have left heirlooms to their children and grandchildren only for them to be rejected because these items don’t fit with the ‘minimalist aesthetic’. Their children and grandchildren reject these beautiful pieces that were ‘made to last’ in favour of Swedish flat-packs with chipboard solutions that endure for a season or two rather than decades, let alone centuries.

Can we afford to do that? 

It strikes me that this propensity to discard or reject things that do not ‘spark joy’ in an attempt to have a home, a life, which is free from ‘mess’ is what is making us so unhappy because we are running from what us who we are. We are throwing away our memories, our choices, our mistakes and no one can ever really do that. We need to stop thinking that there is an ‘away’ for these things; there is just somewhere else, somewhere more convenient for us in the short term but less convenient for the rest of the world and, more importantly, less convenient for our children.

How can our children learn to problem solve if we don’t show them how to find and reuse the possessions they already have? How can our children learn how to be creative if we don’t show them how to recycle the possessions they already have? How can we show our children learn how to help with the woes of the environment if we don’t show them how to reduce their consumption by dealing with their personal issues without shopping to add to the possessions they already have? 

As I look around my house which is furnished with a mishmash of furniture from different eras, trinkets from different hearts and paintings from different family members I am buoyed by my mess. I am comforted when I sit in my great grandmother’s chair that she survived two wars and a depression and she could still find joy. I am reminded when I sit in my grandfather’s chair that even when he helped my grandmother with her long battle with dementia that he could still feel love. And when I look up and see the painting my mother did of the night sky cracked with lightning above the city that despite that havoc that storm wrecked, she could still find beauty. This mess, these memories which surround me remind me that I am human and that I just passing through this world. And this gives me more joy, and more peace than a stark room and an over-polluted planet.

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