Here’s a secret. I love my stuff. I really do. As Marie Kondo writes in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, your stuff should “spark joy” in your life and my stuff makes my heart do backflips. I will often post this stuff to our Instagram or Twitter accounts when I feel they could help individuals and families have more efficient lives. The response is extremely positive, but occasionally I will receive a message asking how a minimalist could promote material possessions. Isn’t the point of minimalism to have less stuff? I argue that is incorrect. The purpose of minimalism, as I see it, is not necessarily to have less stuff…it is to have better stuff.
Many people first encounter the minimalist approach to living through articles or websites that highlight individuals or families living on a specific number of possessions. The My 100 Thing Challenge, Moving Across the Country with 97 Things, Living with 72 Things, All 51 Things I Own, 50 Thing Challenge, 39 Things…8 Minute Abs!!! These extreme challenges produce great headlines but can make living minimally seem out of reach or even just undesirable for most people. Most people cannot connect these experiences to positive changes in their own lives. You may have a family and children and you may not be looking to move all over the world or across the country with only 3 bags. You may just be looking to make life a little easier and less cluttered.
Do you know how many possessions I own? No…I am genuinely asking because I have no idea. Nor do I have any idea how to count because I look at these lists and see things like “2 workout shirts” or “iPhone/armband/earbuds” listed as one “thing.” I don’t count because having the fewest possessions is not my goal. My goal is to surround myself with beautiful, well-designed, functional objects that help me live the life I want. My favorite objects are those that serve multiple purposes like a little stool that can function as a table, an ottoman, or a chair. I only want kitchen utensils that I actually use and fit my aesthetic look. I want clothes I wear regularly and books I will actually read repeatedly. I focus on everything being beautiful and having a purpose and the rest takes care of itself.
It is similar to a diet or weight loss plan. If you focus only on the foods you cannot eat, you will become jaded and bail on the diet. Instead, focus on the foods you can eat and the positive elements of the diet and you are much more likely to stick to it. So instead of focusing on just purging all your stuff, focus on the stuff you have that is wonderful. I like to think of this as the positive minimalist approach.
So, if your family spends the entire weekend swooshing around a mountain, then by all means own awesome snowboards that make you the happiest. If you love cooking and go crazy whenever you use a well-crafted Japanese knife, by all means go out there and get that beautiful blade. Find the joyous moments in your day and surround yourself with the people and things that allow those moments to be more frequent and incredible.