Everything That Remains: My Thoughts on The Minimalists Memoir
"What if everything you ever wanted isn't what you actually want?"
I watched The Minimalists documentary about a year back and was instantly uplifted by it. The stories of people who had found happiness in reducing the items they consume seemed like a utopian idea. I watched passively, ending the film and going back to my consumerist lifestyle. It wasn't until I went travelling and discovered a great feeling of unrest in returning to my life back in the UK that I really understood what they were talking about. I revisited the film with my partner and we discussed at length how this idea of minimalism really interested both of us. We began on our minimalist journey before we had even returned home.
If your house burned down tonight, destroying all your belongings, except maybe 5 things, what would you want them to be? Most likely things like furniture or clothing, tvs, cosmetics and kitchenware wouldn't be on that list. We surround ourselves with endless belongings that we don't really care about and leave very little space for the things in our lives that truly matter like family, friends, travel, new experiences.
The society we live in places so much value on material items. You must work hard, so hard you're exhausted, to make money to buy clothes to impress people. so you can get promoted. You get promoted to work even harder, for more money, so you can owe money to the bank to live in a house that you must fill with stuff. You fill the house with stuff but soon you're bored of that stuff, or that stuff goes out of style so you must buy more stuff... The cycle is endless and boring.
But what if you gave up on all that stuff, the stuff that's weighing you down? That is minimalism.
But why do it? If anything you'll be a little better off financially when you stop endlessly consuming, you'll have fewer things to clean and tidy up, you'll have more time to do things when you have less stuff to tidy up.
When I returned from my 6 months of travelling I knew I had to move into my partner's house, and not just his house but his room. His room, filled with his stuff, piled high with clothes and toys and books and stuff he had accumulated throughout his life. So we started minimising his stuff, to make room for me. We started with clothes, he only ever wears the same things over and over so that wasn't too hard. Games he's completed were gone, old school books shredded, gadgets garbaged and the room was reorganised. From there we went back to my house. Every item of clothing I owned was scrutinised (I'm a clothes person, I love clothes, but most of them don't even fit, are old, uncomfortable or have been worn only a handful of times) from 8 70L bags down to 1. I donated everything I knew I no longer needed and moved the rest back to my new wardrobe.
So now we exist in this one room, one wardrobe, all our belongings and yet, there's still too much. We plod on, things not worn for 3 months or more are going. We work towards happiness, away from unease and towards our future.
So I've had a few months now to digest my minimising and I know I'm still not happy. I download 'Everything That Remains' to my kindle and figure I probably already know what it's going to say, I just need a refresh. But I am wrong. Joshua Fields Milburn, the main author (Ryan Nicodemus interjects) tells his story in such a thoughtful way. With minimalist ideas on just about everything, from clothes to relationships, he has worked his way through all of it. Dated through months and years of his journey, each chapter brings new challenges, this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. I feel a new sense of purpose with the book, my need for stuff is challenged at every turn of the page, this brings a sense of unease. I know what he's saying, but I've already gotten rid of so much, how can I lose any more? I'll look a state, I won't get a job, I'll have nothing to do... ahh, that's the point I guess? Challenging my ideas about myself and my need to look or act a certain way is the point of minimalism. I guess I missed this the first time around. So it's not about stuff, it's about ourselves. We minimise stuff to maximise on life. What are we missing by enslaving ourselves to consumerist behaviours, happiness, self fulfilment, a sense of ease.
Rejuvenated I approached my partner. We have work to do.
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