So I recently started to make it a point to find time in my schedule for reading. I decided to start with Marie Kondo’s “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” – partially because I am a big fan of non-fiction books as I find them easier to digest in smaller sittings and more forgiving during long periods of absences between reading, and partially because I have been pretty intrigued by the contemporary western collective’s obsession with divorcing the self from the object.
Just looking at the blogging world, instagram, youtube, and even newspapers and magazines, the western world seems to be completely obsessed with the concept of minimalism and the benefits of de-cluttering.
Minimalism and it’s concepts have intrigued me for some time now, and while I am a big fan of youtubers and bloggers who talk about capsule wardrobes and pairing our items down to the bare essentials, I haven’t really talked about minimalism here on LFB because as much as I am a believer in living only a moderately materialistic lifestyle, I am one sentimental mother fucker, tend to collect little tchotchkes, and find that messy bohemian interiors seem to suit my personality better.
Which, I think upon further inspection speaks even deeper about the kind of personality I have. I cannot just do away with things because another person might have deemed them “not useful.” “Essentials” is also such a broad and ambiguous word which most likely means something different to everyone. I know that many minimalists say that the goal is to practice your own form of minimalism and personalize it to your needs, but I have to say this is where Kondo’s concept of only keeping things that “spark joy” seemed to resonate with me better.
It can sound superficial upon first glance when the primary deciding factor for whether or not you decide to keep a blouse or an expensive bag is if it “sparks joy” or not, but in fact it is actually quite deep, visceral and even spiritual. Because “joy” is not defined by a monetary value or even the item in and of itself, but what the item makes you feel, what kind of memories may be tied to it, how it might boost your self confidence, etc. And we aren’t just talking about clothes or accessories, but every. damned. object. in your house.
Now, I am no expert on minimalism and not yet finished with Kondo’s book, but from what I have gathered, at the end of the day, both minimalism and Kondo’s method are aiming to do similar things: change our relationship with objects.
And here is where I think we should now try to push this discussion further. Why is it that in the west (or in other developed countries), where there is so much excess and opportunity, do we seem to be even more dissatisfied with material items than ever? What is it about our modern lifestyles that cause us to constantly want more, but yet never reach any full level of satisfaction?
I think part of that dissatisfaction comes from feeling as if we are weighted down by the things we own – that they control us not the other way around. After coming back from Puerto Rico, I looked around my flat, and thought about how not only objects but places can be like a rope of string tied around our ankle and connected to a heavy rock, preventing us from spreading our metaphorical wings and taking flight. Now I have said plenty of times here on LFB that I am a homebody, and I am so I definitely appreciate having a home base and two beautiful kitties to come home to.
But I cannot say that I do not dream of filling a backpack full of “essentials” (there’s that word again!) and traveling the world without any clear destination in mind. The people I meet when traveling, the things I learn about myself when thrust into new situations and confronted with foreign cultures and languages, the experiences I have when my feet walk across soil, sand or mud that it has never touched before – these things, people, places, are what fulfill me and give me life. Being free to explore all of this without any ties is a blissful experience. I would be nothing without my friends and family but I would be nothing without these experiences and opportunities either.
While I know that I am just a mere human who has been on this earth for less than 3 decades and cannot even begin to scratch the post-modern condition of discontent brought about my a society that has become more materialistic than ever, I do know this: in addition to feeling like slaves to the things we own, they can also tear us down. Marketers try to pull at our heartstrings and our confidence by presenting us with aspirational objects. They tell us that if we own this, wear this, or eat this we too can become as happy and sexy as the women and men we see on television. And to a certain extent, it’s okay to aspire to these things. Being aspirational is on par with ambition. But when material wants (not needs!) cause us to continue to reach for a lifestyle or emotion that can never quite be attained (read: bought!), we are like Sisyphus rolling one hell of a rock up a bloody mountain.
In Puerto Rico I realized that one of the few times I seem not to care least about material items or beauty standards is when the stunning magic of experience is the only thing occupying my mind. Now, I have found for me personally that travel seems to be one of the biggest ways for me to awaken this inner sense of contentment, but I am pretty sure that there is an even bigger lesson to be learned here as well.
When we travel, we view everything with new eyes. Our senses are heightened, and we treat every day of our holiday as the start of an incredible adventure. We return home, elated, but slowly slip back into a routine that leaves us feeling less than satisfied. Now I spoke last week about treating even your every day life as an adventure, and I think that applies here to this post as well. But moreover, in viewing each day as an adventure, as something precious to hold, we are teaching ourselves to have gratitude – the same kind of gratitude that we do not have to work hard to find when waking up on a beach, swimming in a river, tasting a new dish in a faraway land, or confronting a new culture. So do this one little thing for me. Have gratitude for your experiences – all of them. Place them above things and thank your lucky stars that you have oxygen in your lungs, open eyes, and a beating heart which lets you take it all in.
photography by: Papa Tashman
Edited by: Rae Tashman
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