Month One: It’s Complicated 

I am not a minimalist. 

One of the first resolutions I half-heartedly made in December was that I wouldn’t buy any new books until everything in my to-be-read pile was finished. 

 Less than two months into the new year, my to-be-read pile has only grown—partly due to a bookshelf purge (turned reorganization) that highlighted missing texts from my collection (“WHERE IS MY PLATO’S REPUBLIC?!”) and partly due to political panic (“I HAVE TO READ THE FEDERALIST PAPERS NOW!”). 

I also love browsing used bookstores and have a hard time leaving a brilliant piece of work behind when it’s been marked down to $5. I’ll convince myself that this is the book that will make me give up Netflix forever. I’ll read more, tap into my intellect, focus on what’s important—I’m a reader, damnit!

And this is where things become conflated with identity

Not to mention, it’s hard to focus on decluttering when there are big issues happening in world. How much time can I spend reading and writing about what number of candles are appropriate and the best storage solutions for small spaces when there’s so much work to be done as a citizen. Weekends are often spent deciding what protest to attend and what letters to write vs. what laundry to do and what closet to clean. And after a week of long days at work, and teaching, and  volunteering, and attempting to pay attention in class, downtime on the couch often takes precedence over cleaning out the kitchen. 

(I don’t mean to complain, but rather recognize that pursuing minimalism simply for an aesthetic seems trite. However, I am interested in critically thinking about compulsive consumerism. If a good aesthetic follows, that’s a welcomed bonus!)

This is all to say that my minimalism efforts have been lackluster, so far. Looking forward, I intend to focus on finding some balance: Netflix vs. reading, self-care vs. activism, personal vs. political, things vs. identity, figuring it all out vs. letting it all go.

Here’s to finding some clarity in the chaos. 

The Minimalist Experiment

I like stuff. Show me a soft, snarky tee or luxe stationery, and I’m swooning all the way to that boutique register—singing the praises of supporting local business.

I also read Thoreau’s Walden and books about Buddhism revering the ways of non-attachment. And those words—the idea of impermanence, that things shouldn’t define us—speak to me profoundly.

Bring in my affinity with a “damn the man” mentality (an adolescent phase that has blossomed into a lifestyle of sorts), and my relationship with belongings, marketing, and consumerism becomes complicated.

While I’m learning to embrace Whitman’s comfort with contradictions and containing multitudes, the first Monday of a new year has me hungry to explore stuff and things and this so-called trend toward minimalism.

In the coming months, I’m looking to wax philosophical (quality vs. quantity, cultivating beauty, the power of symbolism, and identity curation), while also waning in the details (tackling the miscellaneous drawer, finding a laundry system that works, figuring out the wily ways of the illustrious capsule wardrobe, and donation etiquette). I’ve been wanting to write more outside of work, and framing the minimalist-in-training adventure as an experiment feels like a good fit. I can’t promise any answers, but I can share what I learn from wading through what’s online, and found in various philosophies, about the art of living more with less.

I’m also looking to function with fewer piles. This one was my breaking point.

So, here’s to finding balance (and saving to buy a home in a ridiculously expensive city). My focus for 2017 will be figuring out privilege, priorities, and paring down. In the words of dear Thoreau, “simplify, simplify.”