Meditations on minimalism

I've been pondering about minimalism, and trying to implement it into my life for quite some time. However, the idea proved itself to be elusive due to various reasons. While this elusiveness can be partly attributed to the nature of the beast, other parts can be attributed to me.

The idea minimalism puts forward is an enticing one, which can be simplified as "having no excess, but what you need", which brings many promises and possible outcomes with it. Out of these promises, there are two which attract me most:

  • Reduced mental load.
  • Having more time.

Both of these promises stem from the argument that, if you have less possessions, you'll need less energy and time to manage them, and that's correct.

However, while the idea is neat, it involves humans.

I'm a curious, sometimes overly-curious, human being, and lack acquisition filters, partly because even if I don't have time, I have ample storage space to store and organization systems to remember what I want to come back to later. Material, or digital, it doesn't matter. As a result, while I'm a very organized person, I'm a crowded one at the same time.

If I have the space, and the occasional time, what's the problem? Considering digital items don't take any physical space?

The problems are numerous, and they're affecting much more than it looks.

The first problem is the background pressure created by all the items in the back of my head. I already have a lengthy to do list which continues to grow steadily, and I'm not sure I can complete them all in a lifetime.

The second problem is the crowdedness it creates in every living space. Physical and digital. Physical storage space becomes sparse as new gadgets and tools gets acquired, and every drive you open is full of folders. Putting them inside boxes or folders and labeling them "Organize this" doesn't help in any way. It's the same thing with pushing traumas to subconscious mind. They'll take up space in your closet, in your drive and in your mind, with the bonus of brewing at the background like a beer vat without sufficient pressure relief. Since the things you have put in these boxes are now harder to reach, it's possible that you'll re-acquire the same things again, which will further increase the space you use, with no added benefit.

This visual and mental overload will take your energy, time and sanity away, because you'll spend more and more time to maintain something wobbly, trying to keep it upright (people who played World of Goo will understand).

Remedying this requires fundamental shifts in one's mentality of storing, organizing and keeping things.

First off, acquisition filters have the utmost importance, because if you can't stop the influx, reducing what you have will be sustaining the status quo at best. On the other hand, having no influx is not realistic, so preventing the unnecessary from entering is the best way.

Secondly, you need to reduce what you have, right? This is one of the hardest parts of the whole process, because as humans, we tend to bond to things. Giving possessions away or deleting files feels like giving or throwing away parts of ourselves most of the time. As a result, this creates a lot of pain.

However, all is not lost. For myself, I've found ways that work better than others. The simplest term summarizing it is "integration".

Integration means opening the folders and boxes labeled "Organize these", and putting everything where it should be. If you feel that the file or the item shouldn't be there, it means you won't need it most probably. Put it somewhere visible, or the place where it should be nevertheless, and give it away or delete when you feel for it. It's not carefree, but makes the process easier.

For material possessions which are perfectly functioning, throwing away is a huge betrayal for the item, the environment and the society in my view. I prefer donating them. Giving it away to someone I won't be seeing again. When I don't see the item in question, I forget the item after some time.

I'm going slowly, but making progress. As my life changes, space for my belongings is shrinking. Both material and digital. This change is urging me gently, but I'm not panicking.

I'll document my journey and progress here, but I can't promise any regularity.