Last week, my t’other half John sent me a link to a quite old article by a guy who has pared down his possessions to just “15 things”.
(John came across the article on a geeky news-sharing site and the discussion on there is more interesting than the comments on the blog itself – albeit a lot more longwinded/bitchy now than when I first looked at it last week.)
There are a few people pointing out that he’s not got 15 things – one thing is a “toiletry kit” and he also says he has “couple things not on the list – like socks and underwear – that [he] can easily replace and could not resell for any value” but the exact number is unimportant really because the main point is that, as he says, he’s gone from an overconsumer to a extreme minimalist, who spends his days “traveling, living a pretty simple life”.
What stood out from his list of things (as it stood in May last year) is how nearly everything is listed by brand: from his “Arc’teryx Miura 30 backpack” and “NAU shirt” to his “iPhone 3GS” and “Macbook Air”. Perhaps he’s making a point about having few good quality items (I don’t know if that backpack and shirt are good quality but the backpack costs £120 and the cotton shirts £75+) and just because you’re minimalist doesn’t mean you have to be frugal, but it smacks to me of brand fetishism. (He posted an update last week after the new round of attention and now has 39 things – his phone has been upgraded, we know the make of his new laptop bag and the £75+ shirt is no more.)
Other people on geeky discussion board point out that by while he doesn’t own as much stuff – like pans & cutlery, furniture or bedsheets – as most of us do, he’s using his money and/or goodwill to temporarily rent those things (at restaurants or hotels) – or outsourcing the renting/ownership of those things to friends he’s staying with. A few years ago, a friend of ours was living in a fully furnished rented flat – which included everything from his bed to the cutlery in the kitchen drawers: he didn’t technically own that stuff but he was able to make full use of it, much like this guy making full use of his friends’ sofas and household appliances. I’m also reminded about our friend of a friend who throws his change in the bin — he also used to buy CDs, rip them to his laptop then throw them in the bin too: he still “owned” the music just not the physical medium.
There are obviously lots of definition arguments too about what is minimalism & what is a simple life and I guess I do have to give the guy some props for actually changing his life around, but it seems to me that his life still seems as defined by “stuff” as it was back in the day. It also reminds me of what I’ve said before about people going extreme to compensate for previous behaviour – the hair shirt to atone for your sins – which I personally don’t think is a good idea.
Oh I didn’t mean to spend so much time waffling and being negative! I just wanted to introduce the article to you guys, to see what you thought about it. I know a lot of people who read this blog are frugal, just-in-case hoarders but also have a lot of stuff to allow off-grid/”self-sufficient” activities (even just less extreme stuff like making our own food from scratch), so in many ways, we’re the opposite of Mr 15 Things while still living “pretty simple lives” — and that’s why I’m especially interested in what you have to say!
Have you heard about this guy or anyone else living an “extreme minimalist” lifestyle? What do you think about it? Do you think they serve as inspiring examples for the rest of us clutterers?