Minimalism: It’s Not Just About Your Stuff

We recently had to replace our coffeemaker for the third time in 18 months. Our former coffeemaker – not even two months old – went into the closet, prompting a bit of a discussion.

“Are we keeping that or giving it to Goodwill?” Angie asked.

“Keeping it for now,” I replied.

CoffeeMaker 3
The newest new coffeemaker

Angie looked confused and with good reason. We generally have an in-and-out policy when it comes to purchasing anything new. Buy a new shirt, get rid of an old one…you get the picture. It’s how we manage clutter and stay true to our view of minimalism. But every good rule has its exceptions.

The old coffeemaker is a simple machine that still works perfectly. We replaced it as a matter of preference. We purchased it without doing our proper research and ended up with an appliance that no matter how much coffee you put in it or what quality of water, it makes a weak pot every time. That’s weak by our standards…but perfect for our moms. I made the decision to keep the coffeemaker for two reasons. First because we’d never get back the $30 we spent on it and second so that our moms could have their own pot to use when they visit.

But as a minimalist, should I even have back-up items? Aren’t they essentially useless and just taking up space? Perhaps.

In catching up on my blog reading this weekend, I came across this quote:

The great irony of minimalism is that while it purports to free you from a focus on stuff, it still makes stuff the focus of your life! The materialist concentrates on how to accumulate things, while the minimalist concentrates on how to get rid of those things…ultimately they’re both centering their thoughts on stuff.”

The author of this article is right about one thing – the first thing most folks think of when they hear the word minimalism is decluttering. Reducing clutter makes living a minimalist lifestyle easier, there’s no question about that. Fewer possessions mean fewer responsibilities but the management of stuff is only a small part of minimalism and to me, definitely not the most important part.

I have stuff. I have essential stuff, decorative stuff, sentimental stuff, and a few pieces of back-up stuff. I have just enough stuff to live comfortably and not so much stuff that I couldn’t pack it all up in less than a day. I’m proud that I live with few possessions but I’m more proud that I live life at my own pace.

Swapping rampant consumerism for compulsive decluttering is not minimalism. Its obsession and obsession is unhealthy in any form. If you’re new to minimalism I encourage you to explore the mindset behind the movement before you start cleaning out your closet. Knowing what you want from a minimalist lifestyle – be it to work less, spend more time with family, or simply reduce stress – is more important that trying to decide what items to keep or discard. You may find that there’s more value in freeing yourself from useless time-wasting activities than in freeing yourself from an extra coffeemaker.

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