Thursday, January 7, 2010

Is Minimalism a Spiritual Pursuit?

On Early Retirement Extreme the other day, Jacob described minimalism and uncluttering as "new-age" practices. (I do occasionally read things other than Early Retirement Extreme. I promise.) At first I thought, my minimalism doesn't work that way. And then I thought, well, maybe it kind of does.

I'm not new age in the slightest. I tend to avoid people who are interested in new-age topics, because I am afraid they will start talking about a) The Law of Attraction, b) "monkey mind" or c) angels. I do not want to hear about your experiences with these things, but neither do I want to tell you my true feelings on these subjects, because you are a friend/coworker/pleasant-seeming stranger and I see no reason to start a conflict about these things when it's unlikely we will ever agree anyhow.

My interest in minimalism is not about "clean" design or ascetism. I simply want to have less stuff. There is a very practical side to my uncluttering--I want to create more space in my house. Plus it just plain feels good to me to have less stuff, to really use and value the things I own.

But there's also a less concrete side, that wants to get rid of the stuff to create mental space. I moved around a lot growing up and I have frequent dreams where I have to pack everything I own in a short period of time or with only a backpack to hold it or without packing supplies. They are very anxious dreams, and the stuff in the dreams is a confused tangle of utter junk and precious treasures, like my diaries. In fact, I had one of these dreams on Saturday night. And part of me thinks that if I minimize to the point that I only have the things that really matter to me, and can pack everything in a short amount of time, those dreams will go away. I have no idea if that's true. But part of me hopes that.

So I keep going. Yesterday I sent my saxophone to my brother in Texas. Today, I'll get rid of a few more papers. A little at a time.


Anonymous said...

I am with you on this one. I am Christian and have no interest in 'new age' things as there is nothing new under the sun. I do however get upset looking at all the 'stuff' I have allowed to come into my space. I recently decided to spend my time getting in shape and eating right rather than getting more 'things'. I love it, I just hope I can stay focused and keep decluttering. I would love ideas on decluttering for moms as kids tend to have a ton...Keep up the articles: )

Early Retirement Extreme said...

I don't know if I would call it a new age practice per se, but minimalism does hold a strong attraction to those who are into spiritual development and decluttering is often pursued almost like a religion---the church of minimalism (there's a church of traveling and a church of careerism as well). The wording on minimalism blogs are typically also reflective of that particular frame of mind: happiness, meaningful, harmony, relaxation, tranquil, oh, and yeah: yoga!

simple in France said...

Rachel--I have the moving and packing nightmares too! This summer DH shook me out of a nightmare where I was muttering "no . . .oh my god, no" I was dreaming of packing up his electronic toys (which he was kind enough to leave for me in our last transatlantic move.) I hate clutter it freaks me out--Maybe it's a kind of phobia, I don't know. But I hardly think that makes me new age--I just like to have room to breath and have a low tolerance for too much stuff and too many things to organize.

As for the new age stuff--I view it as a religion and since I don't really appreciate when other people try to convince me of their religions in conversations, I don't appreciate new age conversations much either. And often times, new age folks seem to think they're exempt from the social norm of not converting others in polite conversation.

FindSavings said...

I watch my parents and grand parents have "so many things" that it overwhelms me. I think what are they going to do with all that stuff. I guess this is why I don't have a lot of stuff.