Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A convo with a "rational minimalist"

120111_ I love music

I'm not a minimalist... I carry two iPods and use two iPhones, for goodness sake! However, I am intrigued with the concept and after Monday's post about the cost of cluttered space over on we live simply I had an email convo on the subject with JD. It was too good not to post... so JD posted it... and I thought I would too.

Please read this to get the context.


TM: This makes sense but only works if you intend to use the space for something meaningful. Surely not using the space is as bad as using the space incorrectly?

JB: Good point. It's more a question of value I suppose.

For instance, I may not use every square foot of space in my living room for "stuff" but we do use most every space for playing with the boys, lounging on the couch etc. etc. To have tons of empty space in our living room is of HUGE value to me because it means I have more room to play -- and more room when people come over to bring out the folding chairs and allow more people to sit and congregate.

Also, in my garage, we can now park both our vehicles. WOot WOot! But of course they take up a lot of space. And in addition, because we have to get in and out of the vehicles it's far better to have more empty space in our garage than "poorly/incorrectly used space". Otherwise we're forced to back the cars into the driveway before we can readily get in the vehicles and get everyone/everything out of the vehicles and then drive them in when we return.

However, if I clear out all the necessities in my house and realize I have far too much "empty/wasted" space - that could also be a problem. That would signal to me that I'm paying for far more house than I need.. which could be a good thing if I'm able to actually downsize my house to something more reasonable.

Make sense?

TM: Makes perfect sense and would, as such, fall within the idea of "meaningful" space.

I like the point about paying for what we don't need.

Consider the growing trend in external storage. Once used for the in-between time when moving house... people are now storing their stuff offsite. This is crazy nonsense, in my opinion. If you are storing stuff you are not using then this is wasted money - remove this stuff and you won't pay the bills. If your house is of a certain size because of your stuff, that's crazy too.

I guess I am a frugalist rather than a minimalist in that regard. We should be using the space correctly. Using what we have and appreciating what we have.

JB: Totally agree.

"Meaningful space" is a good term to use -- along with "meaningful things."

Buying a bigger house to store our stuff reminds me of the George Carlin bit about our stuff (NSFW without headphones).

While frugality is a good portion of my mindset as well (reuse when possible, don't overspend when you don't have to) I think the "rational minimalist" approach (what I identify more with than just simply "minimalist") is about ensuring you focus on the meaningful/necessary things in life and getting rid of the rest.

Unfortunately, it's far to easy for me to start collecting far to many things if I don't stop and think about what's really meaningful.

Last year when I went through my Fool Month of Purging, I came across a lot of things I had been holding on to for years, thinking they would be important/ meaningful/valuable at some point in the future. Instead, they may have increased in value by a few dollars, but they in the end, after holding on to them for 10+ years, they weren't worth the space they were taking up.

I find that the majority of things I end up holding on to are typically due to 1 of 4 reasons...
  1. Sentimental value
  2. Thinking I'll use it "one day"
  3. Thinking someone else can use it "one day"
  4. Thinking it will increase in value so I can make money on it "one day"
So I store things in drawers, shelves, boxes, etc. etc. and forget about them and they just continue to collect.

I have a box in my office closet with small desktop/shelf type mementos that I keep holding on to thinking one day I'll have the perfect shelf or desk to decorate with them... yet I've also purposely decreased my desk size so I don't take up lots of un-necessary space and I've tried to reduce the number of shelves in my office as well to avoid collecting more clutter. How much sense does that box of stuff make now? :-)

Anyways, I think its a continual battle to be sure we're getting the most value out of our things and the space we keep it in.

Besides, "Things arenít valuable if theyíre not used. So by holding onto things, you are preventing them from actually being used by someone who needs them." - Leo Babauta

TM: Just to be clear, I'd rather have a house that contains the right stuff than nothing at all. That's why minimalism is too extreme for me... I like stuff... but I have learned it needs to fit my needs and be an appropriate and lasting solution.

JB: Thanks for the input and the conversation! Look forward to continuing the journey with you!


In addition to this convo, I shared a great article by Frank Chimero on "Appropriatism". In the article, Frank makes the point:

"Add things until it starts sucking, take things away until it stops getting better."

I think that's a fairly good summary of rational minimalism.

What do you think?


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