Seriously Though, Less Really *Is* More

“Technology millionaires don’t hobnob with celebrities or buy a fancy car. They travel to Thailand, or they fund an incubator. These things are just as expensive, but that’s the classic hacker ethos that prizes the mind, not materials.”

lol, Classic hacker ethos? I’m certainly no talented tech millionaire (yet), but I covet the so-called “classic hacker ethos.”

Over the past year or so, I’ve developed this preoccupation (no, not John Cusack, although there’s that too), but it’s this preoccupation with reducing the amount of personal belongings that I own. After a difficult day at work, I like to come home and take out my frustrations on the objects in my living quarters.

It’s unnervingly satisfying to give up my attachment to these things and see them off to their new lives. They don’t need to stay a part of mine, because I don’t know what I’m doing right now, and I can’t be in charge of things.

Every once in a while, I will get caught in a store and go on a buying binge. I usually hate spending money, but on these occassions, I go in and just do not know where to draw the line. I can’t afford that much, but I dupe myself into thinking it’s OK. And then I go home and feel sick with this incredible urge to purge myself of something else out of shame and guilt. Is there a consumption disorder that exists at the opposite end of the spectrum from hoarding?

I’m becoming a thing-vigilante, and I’m completely serious about it. Constantly evaluating and re-evaluating my possessions for what they are worth and minimizing my stuff (and myself) down to the essentials is pleasurable. My space has been put on a radical diet. I’m overwhelmed in my mind, but I can at least control how overwhelmed I am in my physical space. Yes, part of me does believe that reducing personal possessions is responsible, and what most people should strive to do. But I’m not here to tell anyone how to live their own life, and that’s not really what I’m getting at anyway. The larger percentage of my reasoning for this comes from my constant desire to disappear. I figure, the less objects I have to my name, the less of ‘me’ there is to consider physically, and eventually, the less of me there is to consider at all. That is the crux of it.

Each time I give or throw something away, I’m able to withdraw bits of myself from my environment. I get that you aren’t what you own, but your belongings can act like little extensions of yourself. Little representatives or spokes-things. They reveal things about you to other people when said people come snooping around your space. I don’t want spokes-things. I’m not a corporation. I’m an individual. I need to reel my self-expression back onto 2-dimensional surfaces, and furthermore, back into my head. There’s no reason for me to have representatives. When you die, run away or otherwise vanish, you leave that shit behind and then people sift through it. It reminds them of you and the fact that you were a thing. Eventually, I will get down to a ridiculously small amount of things (clothing included), and it will be like I never even existed. It’s not really a statement against mass consumerism (although I dislike that also), but rather just self-minimizing for therapeutic benefit.

On that note, if you’re one of those people who thinks that we, as relatively privileged world citizens here in Western society, should revel in our ability to consume to excess on the principle that others are forced to live with less, not by choice, but due to economic circumstance, then realize that you are trying to legitimize a set of desires and values that are pretty irrelevant to what I’m talking about. This isn’t some inadvertent making-light of people who struggle on a day-to-day basis to get by with what little things they have. Minimalism may be considered trendy or something, but for fuck’s sake, I’m just sad, not ignorant.

At some point, I expect that all of my misgivings, shortcomings and insecurities will be modestly contained in a single room. I don’t want to let any of that crap unnecessarily seep out into the aether. So here are some books (some spokes-things) to help along the way:

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The Joy of Less by Francine Jay; 2010

In The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide, Francine Jay, also known as ‘Miss Minimalist’, explores the philosophy of possession reduction, offers tips on how to detach yourself from belongings and streamline different types of living and working spaces, how to avoid the desire to accumulate shit, and examines the environmental impact and psychological cost that cluttered living can have (she encourages people to buy the Kindle version of her book. I did not do that).

The book is based on her popular blog, where she chronicles her own journey and efforts to reduce. And blah, blah, blah. She also features ‘Real Life Minimalist’ stories submitted to her by various single, married and/or child-rearing minimalists (some having quite a few children, but still maintaining the lifestyle to the best of their ability). I do like her sensible takes on consumerism, gift-giving, making your things pull their weight, and the alternative decorum ideas she comes up with. The only thing I might object to is how she treats unwanted, clutter-causing things as if they are “intruders.” I suppose I don’t like that because I’m one of those delusional people who still secretly thinks that inanimate objects have legit feelings too. But anyway, it’s all sort of interesting:

The Story of Stuff

Drifting

The 10-Item Wardrobe


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The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno; 2010

A few years ago, Dave Bruno radically reduced his possessions down to 100 things. Then he plopped out a book about it. (He’s similar to that dude who went completely generic, or that other dude whose family radically reduced their carbon footprint to like… almost nothing). It transformed his life or something. What I like about this guy is that he operates his minimalism under the assumption that things themselves aren’t inherently bad. Still, he’s vehemently against consumerism and thinks we’d all be better off if we used more of our brain power toward actual human thoughts, people moments, and productivity, and not so much…ya know, stuff? He’s a little gimmicky about it, but whatever.

I may never make it to 100 things, but I suppose that isn’t the point. Besides, even if I did want to, my Second Life days have primed me for it (no pun intended). When I had an SL apartment on the Manhattan sim, my prim count limit was 250. That was all that I could afford. For those of you unfamiliar with Second Life apartment rentals or prim counts, the amount of Linden dollars you pay your landlord per week determines your allowed number of prims (or objects). Most objects are comprised of more than one prim, but you can find sculpted objects that use up less prims. So if you’re on a budget, you have to be very selective of what you purchase for your place, and as you accumulate more items into your inventory, you have to constantly monitor how many objects you have placed in your space.

It all amounts to vigilance, folks. Don’t be judgmental. Get that shit outta here.

And click on this mystery link.

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