Let me explain a little more about this minimalism thing.

Essentially, my interest in minimalism was piqued due to my gradual and growing disillusionment with consumerism. Well, I’d had some issues for a while with a system that says more more more, but never enough. Because my experiences of having more didn’t mean better (in fact, the times when I’d had more tended to coincide far more frequently with the times that were worse. It’s a personal anecdote, but personally, it was all I had to go on. Since personal experience is how we make decisions and view the world, here I am.

My had believed for quite some time that consumerism’s promises of happiness, contended-ness and fulfillment were actually lies. And then I realised that I, like most people, given the opportunity and means, would spend and accumulate as much as the next person, even in spite of this knowledge. This led me to the conclusion that consumerism, as much as it is a way of life, is also, and perhaps even more strongly, a mindset. One that I held, even as I rejected it. Thanks, Society.

But it was only through having plenty that I was able to see how little I actually needed to be happy. The things I personally need to be happy? Not a lot, although obviously like everyone, I have basic needs like food, shelter (all the stuff that Maslow talked about) — and more importantly, I believe that the things we are told we do need (by advertising etc) are there to mask our inner insecurities about our own personal value. We live in an economy that measures our value as our buying power, and we’ve managed to layer some other abstractions on top of it; i.e. if I own this I will be beautiful, this will make people like me, that thing will get me respect. Is this really the world we live in? And maybe more importantly, is this the world we want to live in?

So, I started to realise that I wasn’t quite living my life in alignment with my own value systems, and if I wanted to live in the way that I believed more ideal, I would have to start living in a way that was perhaps sometimes at odds with the way society says we should live, or do things in a slightly different way that is predicated on a personal understanding of the things that actually make me happy, alongside reducing my waste and consumption. Stop buying so much goddam stuff, stop wasting things, start reconnecting with activities that give me joy.

It’s tricky — I’m surprised how often the suggested solution to a problem is to buy something, even when it doesn’t exactly make sense. Here’s an amusing example; I’ve started running about a month ago (not huge runs, just around 5km every second day, building to longer runs), something I was doing barefoot until recently, when my mum bought me some running shoes (yes, I know this is completely cheating, but I was also increasingly aware that running barefoot in summer is an entirely different beast to winter barefoot running, and winter is approaching, somewhere beyond this insane drought we’re in).

So anyway, I injured my ankle last week, because the ground was so hard in the Wairarapa due to the aforementioned drought (I’ve been visiting family). Not badly, I can still run (in fact, when I’m running is one of the few times it’s definitely not uncomfortable), but it’s a bit of a twinge that doesn’t quite seem to be going anywhere. Anyway, the advice of my brother-in-law as to how to deal with this? Buy new shoes. Yes, this was five days after I just got some. Not, go to a doctor, but buy new shoes. Weird. (In fact, if it keeps up, I will see a doctor. I live in hope it’ll go away — along with us getting some rain.)

Here are the things (aside from running shoes, which I sort of think was a necessary expense, what do you think?) that I foresee being problems in my whole ‘not-buying-things’ plan:

  • Yarn for knitting. Yes I’m a knitter. This is okay at present as I’m using up some old yarn I had. But when I run out of that I’m not sure what I’ll do. And knitting is about the act of creating as much as it is producing a garment, so I feel like it sits in a grey area.
  • Paint. I kind of wanted to get back into making some art, something I used to do a lot. I’d like to use paint, but I don’t have any. My plan is to start out sketching and drawing, and I do have oil pastels, and paper (and my ex-flatmate, an architect, left me some huge design poster-type-things she had that I plan to use the backs of), and then maybe I can get into this whole painting thing again. However, I’m not sure paint is something I can buy second hand. I’m not sure where things like this fit in to the minimalist’s world …

So there’s a few things to figure out still. I guess it’s partially about negotiating a different path. If the main reason I’m doing this is to I think about my actions more, then I suppose we can consider this a success?