Doing Without?

Composition No. 10 by Piet Mondrian. An excellent example of minimalist art

There is a minimalist living thread on Talking Time that I occasionally read. A poster recently linked to a post on mnmlist which is a blog on minimalism (not the art style but the way of living.)  The post asks what you could live without accompanied with a list of examples. After thinking about it some I came to some conclusions, here they are:

  • Cable TV – living without it now. Not for miminalist reasons but because it’s a horrendous waste of money and time.
  • A smart phone – Nope. This thing in large part is replacing my computer for many things.
  • Any kind of cell phone – We don’t have a land line a cell phone is the only way for me to stay in touch with friends and family.
  • Any kind of TV –
  • An Internet connection –
  • A couch – We could get rid of the couch but I don’t know where guests would sit when we have them over for dinner/parties.
  • More than one pair of shoes – I probably do have too many pairs of shoes. I could cut down to three pairs: work, exercise, and regular.
  • More than a few shirts, or pants – Another area where I could cut down, somewhat. My work though requires a lot of formal wear.
  • A microwave – For a while we didn’t have a microwave and got along fine, it is convenient though and makes cooking/baking easier at times.
  • A car – fixing mine up to sell now.
  • Sweets – I don’t understand why you’d want to get rid of this? Food is one of the best, and simplest pleasures in life.
  • More than a handful of books (at a time) – I try to only keep books that I go back to again and again. This is a slow process of removal. I’ve made a lot of progress in the past year or so having donated/recycled more than ten boxes of books.
  • Makeup – don’t wear any.
  • Hair – How is getting rid of your hair minimalist? I honestly do not understand this one
  • Mementos – Outside of photographs, not really.

I’m sure some people “score” better than I do and some worse. I understand that the author’s point wasn’t to judge or imply that use/possession of items on the list above is wrong or bad, but rather to consciously think about the stuff we buy/have. Some of it though makes little to no sense, “hair” being the best example. I have a hard time seeing how having hair could distract you from the goal of conscious living, even people who take time to do their hair aren’t letting it control their life, if they are “stuff” isn’t the problem they should be focusing on… “Sweets” is another example, what does that mean? Candy bars, sugar, fruit? Why remove those things from your life? They are simple pleasures that can help us escape from a bad day.

I think my real gripe with aspects of minimalism is the focus on necessity. Again, from the mnmlist blog post: “just as [sic recte ask] yourself the questions. Is it really necessary? Can you live without it?” This is not the question we should be asking ourselves! Why? Because it leads down a destructive path. The fact of the matter is that humans can live without everything but water, food, and some form of shelter (and not even that depending on climate.) The human experience is not a race to the bottom. In fact by our very nature we collect and by collecting we can create and through creation humanity has bettered its state over and over again. Do modern people have a problem with consumerism? Yes. Can people become a slave to the things they own? Yes. The answer though is not to throw all that away. The answer is rather to live consciously, be aware of what you have, why you have it, and the costs associated with it. If you do that then you’ll be fine and you won’t have to live like a cave hermit.

And why would you? Those guys smell!


Author: Jonathon

Would rather be out swimming, running, or camping. Works in state government. Spent a youth reading genre-fiction; today, he is making up for it by reading large quantities of non-fiction literature. The fact that truth, in every way, is more fascinating than fiction still tickles him.

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