Cleaning House

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Let me start this off by admitting that I can be sorely annoying sometimes. More so, when I found a topic that fascinates me. I tend to then bring it up in conversations. A lot.

Often have I wondered why I do this, mainly because I know how irritating it can be. You could say it’s natural, I guess, but it is more my mind coming to terms with new concepts or ideas. It’s like I am literally thinking out loud.

The latest of my “crazes” is the topic of minimalism (as a lifestyle). I have to admit that I might have bored quite a few friends and family with it. I get it. Most people don’t find it interesting, and some people have a gut rejection of it. A lot of people have never even heard of it. It is a topic stepping up more and more into the spotlight, though, as I am personally convinced most industrialised societies will have to adapt to this idea of living eventually.

Let me summarise the idea shortly.

A minimalistic lifestyle strifes to cut away unnecessary objects and things from our lives. It attempts to consume less while thinking through any new purchase and evaluating if we really need it. Another aspect would be to repair broken items rather than replacing them. Prioritising function over form again. Downsising. One might say it is “anti-consumerism” in a new guise, and you are not wrong. To me, it is the combination of reducing consumption with more mindful and informed purchases.

This idea has gathered quite some steam recently and found notoriety in the form of various hypes in the mainstream media. The most famous one would be, without a doubt Marie Kondo and her KonMari method. However, other iterations of this principle are like tiny houses or the 33 pieces of clothing challenge.

(Sidenote: Marie Kondo has come under a bit of scrutiny recently as there seems to be a notable drive to sell (overpriced) knick-knacks to people on her website which rightfully raises the suspicion that we were supposed to free our closet space to simply fill it with new shit. I personally see this as fair criticism. However, it does not dismiss the initial idea.)

You can find a lot more information about this on the internet. Feel free to further educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. You should never trust a random person on their website. That applies to all topics.

My initiation to the topic was a Netflix documentary called “Minimalism”. It serves as a compelling starting point into the subject. Even though the whole idea ultimately wasn’t new to me, this cemented the concept in my brain. One scene, in particular, struck a chord. Somewhere in the middle, one of the two main protagonists explains his revelation moment. And I don’t know if the sequence is a spoken word piece or just delivered very intentional (which would make it a spoken word piece). He describes his mother’s death and his divorce while spiralling into a monotonous list of items he needs to buy for his new flat. For some reason, even though my mum is well, and I haven’t even married someone yet, I could identify with the whole notion. I knew I wanted to get started on becoming a minimalist too.

However, as I stated in the beginning, my brain still needed time to process. Even though my mind concluded this is the way forward relatively easy, something was stalling me. It took me a while thinking about it, and the best idea I have so far is the notion that you cannot unlearn an attitude that has been drilled into you at every turn in your life since you were a kid. It is also all too easy to find excuses. In my case, I stopped myself with two observations which aren’t totally wrong but served as a veritable shield from actual change.

For one, I convinced myself that I wasn’t buying that many unuseful things. This isn’t entirely untrue, because I consider myself in the lower third of most ways to measure wealth. (note: I apply 1st world standards here!) I was brought up as a solid middle-class kid, but all my working life (+ the years as a university student) I was on the lower end of the income structure. I use the term “white-collar working class” to describe this. I don’t know if I came up with this or heard it somewhere, but I always found it a fitting description. And hey, if you don’t have that much money to spend then for sure I am not buying useless stuff, right?

Secondly, I always thought that all my belongings combined are probably not worth much. I still stand by that, as I firmly believe that were I to sell ALL of my earthly possessions the monetary gain would be a couple thousand Euros at the most. The longer I ponder this, the more I am convinced here lies the issue. See, it turns out I was wrong.

I OWN SO MUCH SHIT!

And it is mind-bogglingly idiotic to realise that most of my stuff is neither worth a lot to the world, NOR to me. Wouldn’t that make you sick? All these things without any real value and yet it is here. Resources went into manufacturing, resources went into shipping worldwide. Here it is. A massive pile of waste. Practically useless. Imagine you smoke three packs of cigarettes a week, and after fifty years someone would present to you two stacks: one of all the fags you ever had and one of all the money you spend on them. It would be maddening, right? Especially considering every sane person knows that smoking kills.

Well, I am looking at a literally STACK of HDMI cables. And I will now confess that I honestly do not know or understand why I FOUR-FUCKING-TEEN of them! FOURTEEN! I only have two working monitors! I genuinely despair the longer I think about it.

But then, this is the kick up the arse I needed, and I think I am making progress.

Although, I still have one demon waiting for me to try and tackle it. Straight across the room. There they are. Four record racks filled with my CD collection. See, it is astonishingly easy to admit they have to go. I have not picked up a record from its space for more than three years now, and even if I wanted to – I do not own any apparatus that could actually play them. My brain knows that throwing them out is undeniably logical. And yet, I will need a lot of strength to go about this. (By the way, I looked into selling them… they are literally worth cents. I would not get more than 20€ selling all of them. To think about how much money I spent. I shudder.)

During all of these cleaning up, categorising and weighing the actual worth of my possessions, I also was struck by the notion that my online life needed the same trim. As I explained in the very first post of this blog, I finally watched “The Social Dilemma” and knew that I should not half-arse things. The mass exodus of social media in my life is what gave birth to this blog, after all. However, after scrubbing my hard drive, clearing my bookmarks, sorting out books and stuff and stuff and stuff and stuff, I came across a thought that, frankly, terrifies me.

Getting rid of stuff the way I did creates space and a considerable amount of free time. Free time I have to spend with myself. Free time I don’t know yet how to use. It leaves space for me, and I cannot help but feel that a lot of me has stopped growing these last few years. If you think about it that makes sense. There was simply no space to grow into. Now there is. A lot of room to fill with meaningful things. People, emotions, experiences.

A lot of space too for all the things I hate about myself.

Fears. Anger. Negativity. Pessimism and Darkness.

It’s going to be wild.

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