Sunday, 22 January 2017

Why I Could Never Be A Minimalist

Recently, I watched a video by Ariel Bissett that discussed the idea of minimalism, and she asked herself if she could ever be a real minimalist whilst owning so many books. It's a great question, and in her video she pulls apart the very definition of minimalism and wonders how far one has to go with the concept in order to identify themselves as such. She brings up some great points, and so I'll leave the video down below so you can watch it for yourself and form your own thoughts.

But it also made me realise something quite important - I could never be a minimalist. As she talked through the video I felt myself looking around at the room I was sitting in. My bedroom; every wall is plastered with postcards, posters, and magazine cuttings. Ornaments sit on every single free surface available. My books spill off the ends of the shelves and find homes stacked up at the back of my best. Everywhere I look there are clusters of things. There is nothing minimalist about it.

After this I watched The Minimalists documentary which you can find on Netflix. It examines our consumer culture, our obsession with owning things and having possessions, thinking that it is going to fill some void in our life and make us happy when really, it isn't. The two men in the documentary decide to give up all of the things they don't need, and live on the bare minimum. The whole documentary, honestly, made me extremely uncomfortable for a lot of reasons, but I'll get on to those later.

Like Ariel, I looked at the definition of 'minimalism' and tried to figure out what it meant to me. As The Minimalists define it on their website:

"Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

I started seriously panicking. Does having so much stuff make me just a slave to consumer culture? Am I brainwashed, and is that why I buy so many books? Do I own all of those stuff because it creates an illusion of happiness for me? I thought about the amount of Beatles' t-shirts I have, the ones I bought during my discovering of sixties music as a teenager. The amount of times I've bought a book twice because I love it so much. My collection of Buddha statues that reminds me of my spirituality every time I look over at it. None of that, none of those feelings, are things I had to be ashamed of. They are all part of who I am, and my identity.

I love to obsess over things, whether that be people, books, art movements, ideas, movies, cities. All my life I have loved devoting myself 100% to every interest I have. It's part of my perfectionist nature - I either go big or go home, I don't partake in moderation, and that's a part of me that is never going to change. To be minimalist, I'd have to be content with balance, and that goes against every fibre of my being. In the documentary, one of the men interviewed said that we've begun to define ourselves through what we own rather than what we do. But are they really so separate for me? I bought myself a Wall-E mug with my birthday money for the simple reason that I want to express my love for that film.

And that's what it all comes down to - love. I have so much love for the things in my life, and owning them is my way of honoring them. I want to have my Rolling Stones poster, but I also want my Moby Dick poster, and I also want my Star Wars poster. Yes, I don't need three posters, but to me they aren't paper and ink stuck to a wall. They are my emotional connection to the things that have changed and moulded me as a person. It's not like I've substituted their pictures for the music, or the words, or the films, but every time I wake up and see them on my wall I can experience that euphoria of them simply being in my life, and knowing they have framed the decisions I make every day. Owning things like this is how I keep what I love close to me. People can walk into my bedroom and can instantly see my passion for books, my passion for art, and my passion for music.

So it brings me back to the definition of minimalism. I can't rid myself of life's excess, because I live for that excess. My personality is the most devoted and excessive that I know of, and getting rid of this would not help be achieve happiness, fulfillment or freedom. I would feel lost. I would feel like a blank slate. Of course, if I threw my Smiths t-shirt in the bin it doesn't stop me listening to them, but it part of me feels like if they meant that much to me, why would I be willing to give up something that represents what they do and make me feel? Minimalism would never be a match for my need to attach emotion to objects, for all things to become part of me and part of my world. My possessions and my excess is how I show my devotion, my passion, and most of all my love.

This isn't about consumerism. This isn't about needing the newest model of iPhone, needing the most expensive car or the most amount of dresses. It's about that collection of pebbles I picked up off the beach I used to go to as a ten-year-old, and keeping it. It's about those pictures my friend Sarah drew for me I keep up on my wall. It's about the cards that my friends have handwritten to me and sent to me over the years. It's about keeping framed all of the photos you took on your trip to Barcelona. It's about buying three copies of a book that you read because it changed your whole life forever, and you adore it so much. It's about the time my friend Jessica bought me coaster with Richard III's face on it because it made her think of me. It's about the abstract and the emotion behind the possessions, not the value. Not the money. Sometimes it's not even about buying. It's not about trying to use objects as a replacement for happiness, but using them as a reminder of the happiness that people have given you in your life. It's about sentimentality.

Art movements are a different thing entirely - I like studying minimalist art. It's just another example of something else I'm interested in. I never understood it before, but now I like to envision how a multitude of thoughts, messages or ideas can be portrayed on what seems like such a limited canvas. Minimalist art is just one other thing I add to the collage of my head, even though my mind doesn't partake in the motions itself.

Above is a minimalist piece my famous artist Mondrian. This painting used to be on the wall in my primary school and I would walk past it every day, wondering what it was trying to be. I'm not much closer to understand it, but I'm so glad I took the time to closer understand myself. It's quite funny now, thinking how this picture also brings back memories and emotions from my time as a child. There's so much so say about minimalism in general, and I honestly have nothing against the movement and think it's criticisms of Wall Street wolves and material goods are spot on. I just think you can't have stuff so black and white. Things can never be that minimal.

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