Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Minimalist versus the utilitarian

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.

All the curves at the all the right places.

All the curves at the all the right places.

Fall semester 2018 begins

Fall semester starts up at work today, and for the first time in three months the campus will be teeming with people, largely wild-eyed freshmen not knowing which building is which. Summer is officially over as far as I'm concerned (suck it, Labor Day) and pretty soon it'll be pitch dark before 6pm. Once the calendar turns over to September, the rest of the year goes by super swiftly.

My own brother is also about to start his final year of undergrad. He is majoring in sociology, which on one hand more knowledge is always great, but on the other what the heck is he going to do for money armed with such a degree? What other paths are there for a sociologist other than remain in academia? Hindsight being what it is, I think my brother chose the wrong major; even he knows it's large useless. 

Children of rich households can afford to study a silly subject for a diploma, but sons and daughters of the poor and lower middle-class haven't got the luxury of a parental safety chute. The purpose of college for people like us is to enhance our ability to attain a well paying job. A big reason why I chose to major in business was because I figure business skills are paramount and applicable to all industries. I would've loved to major in philosophy and have heated discussions about the differences of Platonic and Socratic thought, but like sociology that won't pay any of the bills unless I continued on further and  become a researcher. 

I wonder how many incoming freshmen are cognizant of the monetary utility of the major they selected. Most probably don't care because it's infinitely more fun to think about all the alcohol-fueled sex college is fertile ground for. But student loan debt is at record highs; don't high school counselors have a duty to direct kids to the proper channels so that the debt incurred would be worth the future income?

Some of these kids would be a better served not by a standard four-year institution, but rather an accredited trade school. Despite being maligned and stigmatized by society as low-rung, blue-collar jobs can pay equally well as the office desk. The growth potential can be the same, too: the auto mechanic, can after years of service, open his own shop and reap all the profits. One does not need to wear a white-collar to make six-figures.

I think it'll benefit the university system and society as a whole if some forethought and advice is given to kids beforehand, that college is not the only option to a good career. Because one can always become a Youtuber or Instagram influencer. 

This is the sound of settling...

This is the sound of settling...