As part of my journey towards having less clutter in my life, and striving to actually understand what brings me happiness, I have found myself pleasantly bombarded with tons of interesting blogs about traveling around the world with no baggage, living with only 100 total possessions, and how experiences, not things make us happy at large. I like the idea of these things immensely. I thought about doing the whole 100 possessions thing (but I knew it’d have to be like 200), and then I remembered I have probably 100 items in my make-up organizer, and my husband has 100 camera parts and computer widgets, and my kid has 100 books, and my dog has a sweater and a t-shirt.
It occurred to me that most of the extreme minimalists out there are men, without children. Doesn’t this trend seem to perfectly fit with man-culture? Men enjoy being free of obligation and prefer not to be tied down. Men can have freelance occupations because no matter what they do, they get paid more than women. Men are often not required to multi-task.
I have not gone all femi-Nazi on you here. Men play important roles in society. I love my husband mostly because he does not fall into typical man stereotypes, but i don’t for one second deny that I could do everything I get done in a day without his partnership. I just find it fascinating that now our culture has gone from extreme consumerism to extreme frugality, both of which seem to fall neatly in line with the secret desires in many men’s hearts. Men are the hunter, and women are the gatherers.
The fact is, that paisley flannel throw blanket that adorns the back of the couch or your favorite lounge chair may be superfluous, but it is part of what makes a home. It, and many other non-essential items make a house cozy and comfortable. Having a handheld rotating cheese grater means I can spend that 10 minutes with my kid instead of laboriously grating. Bringing a bag with me on my trip means that my daughter can feel safe in strange places because she has her favorite blanket and her 3 monkey plush toys.
Another thought that occurred to me as I talked myself out of minimalism was the fact of heirlooms. There are a lot of things that I keep around, not for me, but for my kids (current and future) for one day when they are older. Things can often times provide a legacy; a sense of personal history and connection to those you love or even never knew. I only have a couple of things from my relatives because my family moved a lot and not much was held onto or survived. There is something special about owning your great-grandmother’s tea pot or earrings, which of course cannot be purchased.
The things worth holding onto are the things that make yourself feel at home and as though you have a history or a connection to someone else. Possession and things are not bad, and people who have a lot of possessions are not terrible people. The danger, like with any extreme, is in ensuring that things do not become the substitute for sustenance. Things in and of themselves do not make you a happy being, but your connection to things and your appreciation of things certainly can. If you don’t believe me, you should watch Wall Street.