As I mentioned in my first post, minimalism is something I’ve been interested in for some years; I’ve never felt comfortable owning or being surrounded with lots of stuff. Let me state at this point however, I can by no means categorise myself as a practising minimalist. I have a collection of films and a whole host of possessions which I’ve had since I was a bachelor, which remain in the packing boxes they were put in when I first moved in with Sarah in 2010. Yep. They’ve been in there nearly 9 years, unused. Whilst we’re on the subject, my folk’s loft is still full of toys and action figures from my childhood. Think Ghostbusters & Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In Star Trek (this particular franchise will come up a lot in my blog – apologies in advance), when a person transfers to a new post, they usually have just a few possessions in their standard-issue Starfleet duffle bag, maybe a few keepsakes and that’s it. They can replicate whatever they need when they get to their destination. Whilst matter / energy conversion is still science fiction, technology has for the most part reduced the number of things or appliances we might wish to have into a single device. Take your smartphone or tablet (one more or less being a larger version of the other) – in that tiny device is a telephone, a computer, a stereo system, a television, camera, video camera, calculator etc. etc. etc. It can, for the most post, replicate virtually every piece of consumer technology that any child of my generation might wish to own, which also gives us access to virtually every piece of information ever recorded by humankind. And, in real terms, at a fraction of the cost. When my father bought his first digital calculator in the 1970s, it cost him more than a fortnight’s salary. A basic iPad will cost you around £319, reportedly not even a weeks’ average wage in the UK. Hell, a Kindle Fire 7 will cost you £50.
How we consume media has changed too – streaming or buying digital copies of films & music means that the storage units laden with whatever media format is your poison are unnecessary. And with cloud based storage, we can access this media no matter where we are on the planet (wi-fi / cellular reception permitting). I still can’t quite stop buying the physical copies however, and given they’re usually similarly priced to a digital copy, I feel like I’m somehow getting more for my money. Physical copies do have to be manufactured of course however, which has it’s own environmental cost.
Fast fashion has made clothing disposable – you can buy an item from a popular cheap high street store (made in a sweat shop somewhere in Asia, by someone who’s likely paid very little) and then throw it away (or, I hope, donate it to charity) when it’s not cool anymore. Usually after a couple of weeks. I’ve never been cool, and I always prefer quality over quantity. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t find me wearing Prada, Gucci or any other high-fashion label, but I do prefer to spend a little more on things in the hope that they last a good amount of time. I like military inspired clothing and I wear jeans and t-shirts often, which rarely go out of fashion and even if they did, I’d still like & wear them.
There’s a point to this, I promise. Modern technology, coupled with a well curated (capsule?) wardrobe, means that not only do you need less stuff, you’ll need less stuff to store the stuff in. And by extension, a smaller home to house the stuff containing the stuff. See? We’ll all be minimalists in the future; I’ll fit all my clothes, an iPad and my phone in a small(ish, think 50 litre) backpack. I’m very OCD with my things in any event; cosmetic damage really annoys me and so I really do look after them. I take time researching and almost curating my purchases before I make them. I’m obsessive about my car, Mirabeau, and I’d be devastated if she was damaged. My mistake, is treating my belongings as an extension of myself, as if they somehow reflect on me and are integral to my being. To be fair, I’d probably feel better owning much less; fewer things to worry about.
I of course haven’t come up with these ideas myself – this path has been well trodden before I ever came along and I’m not that smart – I’ve simply found value in what I’ve read, watched and listened to, published by others. If you haven’t watched it and have access to Netflix, I readily recommend the documentary “Minimalism – a Documentary about the important things” by film-maker Matt D’Avella. I’ve been reading the books of a number of people featured in the documentary (The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, Colin Wright, Patrick Rhone, Tammy Strobel at al) and watching their YouTube videos – they’re all worth your time. So, although it’s something which has been on my mind for a while, my current midlife crisis is still all their fault.