Extreme Material Simplicity

I have been pursuing a radical course in the past few months, related to my aesthetic preference for minimalism, my upbringing with values of voluntary simplicity, and my philosophical interest in happiness. I have been Getting Rid Of Things. This sortie has been inspired by several assumptions/understandings:

  • Material objects do not bring happiness. In fact, they sometimes impede it.
  • The most aesthetically pleasing interiors for me are those with smooth, bare surfaces. Hard to have those when you have clutter.
  • I would like to spend a significant junk of my young adulthood being itinerant. Heaps of possessions don’t do you much good when you need to pack up and move frequently.
  • Waste sucks, and having things you never use is wasteful, of space, of your energy, and of manufacturing to create those things.
  • It’s easier to clean your space when you have less stuff!
  • To survive, we need little in the way of material objects. Beyond what’s necessary, stuff takes up mental energy.
  • Less stuff allows you to focus on things that make you happy! Like food, and friends, and games, and music!

So! After several months of rejecting objects bit by bit, I finally got to the point where I felt I could inventory all of my belongings. I did this several years ago, perhaps before going abroad. It’s really interesting seeing how much stuff you really have.

Now, the majority of my clothes are out on the line drying, and I grouped some items together (socks, pens, contents of file folders), however:

I have roughly 260 things.

Does having so few things make me happy? No. But it does feel liberating. And liberty feels pretty darn good.

Have you had similar experiences with flushing unnecessary junk out of your life? Are you shocked from disagreement? Do you have other thoughts on this matter? I’d love to hear them!

7 thoughts on “Extreme Material Simplicity

  1. I would love to try this. It is my plan to cut down on junk when I move. Unfortunately, I don’t know when that will be, or where I will be going. The greater the distance, the more junk to be removed from life. Hmm. I should move to Taiwan.

  2. This is incredibly cool. Every couple months, I look around my bedroom & also think–wow–I really want to cut down on the stuff in here. It’s so much nicer to have a small enough number of possessions that you can just kind of glance over them or encompass them all in your head. I guess, however, that the number of books & kitchen supplies I own make what you’ve done completely impossible. But yeah, when I lived abroad, I could fit everything into two suitcases & a bookbag! Anyway… AWESOME, Alex. Awesome.

  3. I agree that simplifying = liberating. It is so easy to get tied down to stuff and all the time the stuff requires or takes up in your life without you even realizing it.

    I have been working intentionally on simplifying my life this year with much more focus and am loving the liberating feeling. This year I’ve pared down things at work to make my job easier. Also, as a parent, I am requiring my 8 year old to work to buy “stuff” that he wants. This has minimized the flow of stuff into the house, and allowed him to focus on the process of making the money instead (which he is really getting a kick out of): doing chores or creating his own weed-whacking business in the neighborhood, for example.

    I love the challenge of finding more and more ways to simplify. It’s spiritually and intellectually rewarding, and it’s fun!

  4. the answer to rampant consumerism is rampant simplicity. this is fascinating! i thought it was just me and a random selection of my friends who are feeling the need to pare down. but, really, when i think about it, it is everywhere, with freecycle, “stores” at the dump, the free box in wendell (an institution by now, i am sure) and books upon books about “decluttering”.

    perhaps what we are all looking for behind this movement of “stuff” really is LIBERATION! perhaps its the same thing we were looking for when we acquired the stuff. I don’t know.

    my method of de-stuffing?

    > move three times in one year
    > have your storage shed burn down
    > move into a place too small for all the stuff you currently have
    > set goals of percentages to “de-stuff” eg. “By the end of 2009, I will get rid of 50% of the stuff I have now.”

    Thanks, Alex.

  5. As someone with A LOT of stuff I can totally see where you’re coming from. A lot of times I feel like I’d be much better off without all of that crap, especially now that I’m starting to move on from college and will have to move all that crap. Gah! I’ll be buried alive!

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