Minimalism

Minimalism

For several reasons, as I run through and do a regular emptying out of cruft I don't need (even working in IT I realistically don't need to keep Tb2 cables around just in case, for a client, anymore), I pondered a bit on the confluence of a couple "new" trends that include minimalism and tiny houses.

For those who've kept up with some of the people I follow, the disdain that many feel for "consoomers" of the next big corporate product and weird bobblehead, the need to buy yet another edition of D&D, or the next call of duty, or the latest computer or gaming console is palpable.

First, a number of the points made by the minimalist crowd are entirely correct. Anything we "own" in a very real way owns us. Taking proper care of it demands our time and attention. If we're going to have a tool, a home, furniture, art, hobbies, we should do so with purpose, and not surround ourselves with clutter if we can avoid it, just to have "stuff".  Clutter does take away from space, attention, beauty. I certainly know enough people who are by no means hoarders who have ended up selling off or donating several carloads of clothes and stuff during garage sale season.  

I also know several people with massive book collections in apparent disarray that will be screaming at me about now. Put a pin in it.

Much like how in the wargaming and RPG space, you don't have to buy yet another edition of Car Wars - the existing deluxe rules and some chits are just fine. You don't have to support Catalyst Game Labs since they decided they hate their audience - buy a used copy of the BT rules or the PDFs of the current ruleset, and don't tie up space with the shiny box sets. You don't have to buy WH40K minis - you can instead find various cool - looking minis and repurpose them as needed for your game, or again, play with chits and markers. Jon Mollison's youtube channel and site is an especially good source for ideas there.

I spent years in submarines, living my life out of what I could fit in the shallow pan under my mattress, and a small locker. I completely understand how little you need to get by.

Where it really raises the hair on the back of my neck is the culty motivational vibe I get from the current round, especially when crossed with the whole tiny house movement, and the recent social push that "you'll own nothing and be happy."

Story after story is told in the best motivational life-coach manner, of how everything in life will be better if you just stop keeping stuff.  And it's this that bothers me.

I get it - you don't need fifty kitchen gadgets - you just need the ones you'll actually use. The rest take up space you could use for the things you use. And your life will improve to the extent you get rid of stuff that doesn't have a purpose in your life. But the way it's pushed it comes across as religiously transformative, with true believers metaphorically speaking in tongues in praise of how much better their lives are.

Let's consider emergency preparedness.

Sure - it's a deliberate choice to dedicate space, and if you're going to keep that generator for hurricane season, you better damn well test it each spring, check the gas, treat the gas, properly run it out at the end of hurricane season, and so on. The same goes for the chainsaw, and so on.

I may never - hopefully - actually use them for their intended purpose, but if you follow at least one of the methods outlined to determine what you "need", the generator and sundry gear would not be a keeper. It certainly doesn't "bring me joy" - until the day that the power is out for a couple days and I don't want the food to spoil. Or my child needs to run a nebulizer for athsma treatments.

Let's return to libraries.

It's not that minimalism doesn't allow you to collect a library. It just seems to utterly discourage it. You've read that book. You've watched that movie. Go watch another one! Stream everything!

Oh, you want to keep a library of books? Music on CD? DVD's? Well, if it's your jam, man. That stack looks untidy, and you haven't watched that movie in years. You can see it on Amazon the next time you want to.  The county has a library. Maybe that one book you've underlined half the paragraphs is a keeper. What, you want a curated personal library on something more durable than hard drives or cloud storage? What kind of paranoid are you? Please ignore that the first book forcibly removed from Amazon Kindles was Orwell's 1984.

This brings me to the second part where alarm bells start going off and I start seeing a pattern in alignment with the infamous "you'll own nothing and be happy."

Aside : predictably, we're being told we misunderstood the plain english, because, "actually," the WEF meant something else they claim is utterly different in jailhouse lawyer hairsplitting  - it's also worth following the link to Alex Macris' substack post on levels of argument.

One recent trend in home improvement shows has been an attempt to push "tiny" homes.

It's one thing to spend a week or few hiking, living out of your backpack. It can be a lifestyle choice to live out of a sailboat with the limited space (and maintenance) involved - the practicalities of a ship mean anything not hideously expensive will be constrained. Ditto living out of an RV or camper. The limited space is a tradeoff for the flexibility offered, the experience of living on the road, or being at sea.

They don't offer permanence, or space. Privacy if living with anyone else is also very limited. All of these things are that people generally want and strive for when they have a chance - and I've had my fill of 10 x 10 9-man bunkrooms.

I rack my brain trying to think of anyone who has a plot of land and wants to put the tiniest possible house on it - even among those into sustainable design they tend toward the compact, if at all, and not tiny. A home and the land it rests on are concrete things that can be worked on, maintained, improved, and passed on. People want space. Space to work out, space for hobbies, space for an office. Space to study. Space to cook. Space to store food. Space to entertain friends.

Further, for all that the people designing and living in these things often make it a point of pride at how few resources they use, and how sustainable they are, it is obvious that considerable craftsmanship, skilled labor, and effort go into these compared to a more normal sized space. They are not cheap homes for the poors, as their construction, custom fitting, components, and cabinetry - heck, you can consider the whole home an oversized custom cabinet in many cases - requires workmanship and non-standard parts that further require some combination of more skilled contractors,  more time, and more expensive non-standard materials.

Again, the issue isn't that some people want a small home, or have clever solutions for efficiently using available room, or want to live in what they consider a cozier or mobile environment, it's that having less and "being more sustainable" is being presented as a virtue, a good in and of itself.  While envy is a bad thing, wanting "less" isn't a virtue either.

I also know I've brought up that some of the points are entirely valid. So? It's completely possible to end up doing horrible and sinful things for the "right reasons." See the Screwtape Letters for examples. There's also a vast gap between being a hoarder and "owning nothing".

In short - we're having a "trend" pushed on us that, on the surface, appears good, but is subtly being sold as a way of life, to accept less, to see having less as an inherent good to achieve, that entirely "coincidentally" aligns with sustainability and other goals of the so-called "elites" that leave us rootless and without a legacy.