Back in my early twenties there was a time I was quite fascinated with minimalism. Growing up my family was decidedly poor so it wasn’t like I had a lot of stuff anyways, but the idea of having as little worldly possessions as possible appealed greatly to me then. Computer technology have allowed us to digitize practically everything; items that would otherwise take up massive amounts of space like books and CD collections can now all be stored on our devices.
The iconic image of Steve Jobs sitting in his living room with nothing but the bare essentials, an utter lack of furniture save for an extraordinarily ornate lamp. That picture was the primary inspiration back then for me to begin decluttering my life: physical books were tossed out in favor of digital, old CDs and cassettes got converted to MP3s (wish I had kept those, honestly), and reams of accumulated car magazines put into the recycling bin.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) it never got beyond that - I love material things far too much. The brief flirtation with minimalism was merely a motivation to basically clean up my room, which in hindsight I don’t suppose it’s a negative. Indeed I do tend to accumulate a myriad of items and knickknacks over time, figurines and ornaments that provide inspiration for my artistic endeavors. For example up on my shelves are a few vinyl albums on display, even though I don’t have a record player. Physical books, too, have returned in my favors in recent years, and those simply pile up after having read them, and aren’t likely to be read again.
A year ago I performed the KonMari Method of cleaning to all my belongings, and 10 full-size trash bags later my living space was renewed and refreshed. Fast-forward to the present and the accumulation creep has returned. I’ve done well to not purchase any new clothing, but the amount of books have increased exponentially, and various souvenirs from trips have materialized on the shelves. It’s all maintained neat and tidy, though from a perspective of utility it’s highly wanting.
Rather than minimalist, my philosophy when it comes to things material is centered on utility: does it serve a purpose, and will I use it regularly. That ethos helps greatly limit my frivolous spending, though conversely I use it somewhat dubiously as justification for always upgrading to the latest and greatest iPhone. It’s a device I most frequently use, therefore it’s worth the relatively extravagant sum to get it.
So with that in mind, can I then for example force myself to donate away books I’ve already read, instead of them lining up my shelves? After all their utilitarian purpose is served and gone, and the reclaimed space would be quite lovely.
That’s going to be tough.