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    The New Yorker | Jia Tolentino | 1/27/20 | 16 min
    10 reads16 comments
    7.8
    The New Yorker
    10 reads
    7.8
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    • deephdave
      Top reader this weekReading streakScout
      2 months ago

      Millburn and Nicodemus write about the joy that comes from choosing to earn less money, even if they avoid discussing the more common situation of having your wages kept low against your will. But they also assure their audience that “capitalism is not broken”—we are. They insist that there’s “nothing wrong with earning a shedload of money—it’s just that the money doesn’t matter if you’re not happy with who you’ve become in the process.” Even these sincere prophets of anti-consumerism are hesitant to conclude that the excessive purchasing of stuff may be a symptom of larger structural problems, or that a life built around maximum accumulation may be not only insufficiently conducive to happiness but actually, morally bad.

    • jeff
      Top reader this weekReading streakScribe
      7 months ago

      True minimalism, Chayka insists, is “not about consuming the right things or throwing out the wrong; it’s about challenging your deepest beliefs in an attempt to engage with things as they are, to not shy away from reality or its lack of answers.”

      That's a great quote, but is that really minimalism? Sounds more like great advice for anyone irrespective of any ideology.

      Maybe the real pitfall of minimalism is that it is an "-ism."

      • bill
        Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
        7 months ago

        Ha! Just finished. And, coincidentally, this is the exact quote I copied to bring to the discussion:

        True minimalism, Chayka insists, is “not about consuming the right things or throwing out the wrong; it’s about challenging your deepest beliefs in an attempt to engage with things as they are, to not shy away from reality or its lack of answers.”

        (So, jinks!)

        And yes, I too think it’s great advice! And also that we maybe need a new word here. I’ve been purging “stuff” for years. Im pretty sure my mom got me on Kondo’s first book in, like, 2017. In 2019, when I started living nomadically, it all ramped up. I have very few things now. It’s not about the stuff. Its about getting “thin” enough on objects/tools/supplies that you see how these things play a role in our lives. Namely, they don’t. Like happens around and between things.

        1. Update (1/29/2020):

          Example: I only have 1 fork. It’s a camping “spork,” actually. A few days ago, I made dinner for someone, and we shared the spork, lol. So, next time I see one in a thrift store (maybe today, maybe in a month) I’ll prob get one single fork and one simple metal tablespoon. I’m not a minimalist because I have no silverware and you have tons of it. I’m a minimalist because I devote little chunks of my life to thinking about this stuff.

        2. Update (1/29/2020):

          Just realized a small typo: LIFE (not “like”) happens around and between things.

        • jeff
          Top reader this weekReading streakScribe
          7 months ago

          Its about getting “thin” enough on objects/tools/supplies that you see how these things play a role in our lives. Namely, they don’t.

          Objects, tools and supplies don't play roles in our lives? I have a feeling I'd completely disagree with this if I could make any sense of it.

          I’m a minimalist because I devote little chunks of my life to thinking about this stuff.

          I don't think you're thinking about it deeply enough. While you're thinking about the number of physical objects that you have in your immediate vicinity, I'd argue that what actually matters are your dependencies. You might have one fork, but you're still driving around in a truck and working on a laptop that are both products of global supply chains and the collective work of hundreds of millions, or even billions, of people.

          This is why I think minimalism might be a completely bullshit concept for anyone who isn't living like an animal out in the jungle. Anyone who isn't thinking about the objects they own has a recognized pathological condition called compulsive hoarding. Minimalism is just a form of virtue signaling.

          • Alexa
            Scout
            7 months ago

            This is why I think minimalism might be a completely bullshit concept for anyone who isn't living like an animal out in the jungle. Anyone who isn't thinking about the objects they own has a recognized pathological condition called compulsive hoarding. Minimalism is just a form of virtue signaling.

            I'm a bit in love with this. Short of going full grizzly Adams, whats the middle ground? I got the sense there is SO much virtue signaling, especially the Kim Kardashian scene & the instagram ready Airbnb. gag.

            What's the middle ground? Just not being a shit human? Sustainable living? Just being a good human and having a healthy relationship with your belongings without needing to name it and shout it from the rooftops (in the same vein as fans of crossfit, veganism etc)?

            • jeff
              Top reader this weekReading streakScribe
              7 months ago

              Just not being a shit human?

              Ha! I swear to god that's exactly what was running through my head as I read this article. Bill has already called me out for my completely predicable comments on every article but I really feel like that's basically it.

              My hypothesis is that a fad like minimalism gains traction because it simply gets people moving. Literally, in the physical sense. It feels good to clean and organize. These are things that should be a regular part of a balanced, disciplined lifestyle, but it's actually easier to procrastinate and then go all out in the exact opposite direction. Declare yourself a minimalist, throw out all your shit and be sure to tell everyone about it. Write books about it! I actually see minimalism as a form of excess.

          • bill
            Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
            7 months ago

            I'd argue that what actually matters are your dependencies.

            Yes yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. I feel like I “graduated” from counting all my shit, elaborate purging exercises, and even really using “minimalist” as a term to describe myself. Now I enjoy considering all of those dependencies, deeply, and living accordingly. It doesn’t take any extra time. It saves a ton. In addition to laptop, gas-guzzling vehicle, I also have seriously superfluous stuff, for example: about 20 pieces of driftwood in three milk crates, random art supplies, my Alphasmart NEO.

            Objects, tools and supplies don't play roles in our lives? I have a feeling I'd completely disagree with this if I could make any sense of it.

            Lol. Let me try a different angle: In the moment before I die, I won’t be thinking about “Objects, tools or supplies.” I don’t know exactly what I’ll be thinking about, but it won’t be anything that can be bought or held, anything that can gather dust. It will be people, experiences, moments, stuff like that. That’s all I’m saying. “Minimalism” (in quotes) shifts you away from objects/tools/supplies and toward people/experiences/moments/the now

            • jeff
              Top reader this weekReading streakScribe
              7 months ago

              I dunno, seems like you still spend a lot of time thinking about that fork. I think about it a lot, too: Every time I'm slicing up an avocado I picture you using its handle to mutilate one. Perhaps that's what I'll be thinking about on my deathbed!

              Seriously though, I don't think I buy that people, experiences and moments can be uncoupled from our objects, tools and supplies. A new TV won't necessarily make you happy, but it won't necessarily not make you happy. Would your journey have been the same if you were traveling in a brand new truck/camper combo?

              Imagine you happened to win one in a raffle right before you bought the one you have now. Would the trip have been better or worse? I'm sure some things would have been easier at least, but that doesn't really matter for the point I'm trying to make. I'm just arguing that many of the experiences we have are inextricably linked to the objects we own, and that that isn't at bad thing at all.

              • bill
                Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
                7 months ago

                OK. Yes. Can't argue with that. You're right that we can't be "uncoupled" from our Os Ts and Ss. In other words: Yes, we are what we have.

                Dependencies. You said it before. That's really what this is about. I consider myself a "Chaykian" Minimalist (even though I haven't even read his book yet, lol) for the following reasons:

                • Because it's not about the objects
                • Because I seriously know my dependencies, at least a lot more than I did a year ago, and a year before that
                • Because -- sometimes, not always -- I resist comfort and convenience for something that resembles empty space (both physical and time) and is both primal and spiritual

                Attention is the concept that connects minimalism to reading. Fewer objects means more time paying attention to the ones you have. If you're bouncing from text to text, everything gets shallow, partial attention.

                • Alexa
                  Scout
                  7 months ago

                  Aggggh I love this discussion. I think Jeff has a really good point about the minimalist being an -ism, and the need to consider dependencies. I went through a huge phase with Kondo & The Minimalists around 2013/2014. It felt too numerical and never stuck, a focus on the number of belongings (like Courtney Carver) or the feeling (Kondo), or just the lack of (The Minimalists). So many of them try to fix the stuff problem without fixing what's behind why we collect it.

                  I think pointing to the attention piece is savvy. I've set the bar now at values-based consumption. If something helps me live a richer, more full life...ok, it might fit in my life.

                  Many of the minimalist thought leaders seemed to glorify avoiding material pleasure to get more pleasure out of other parts of life, but getting rid of objects never did that for me. I first had to change how I consume and think of objects--much harder than a closet purge.

                  And maybe again, that's back to attention. I had to pay attention to how I use the stuff in my life, and why, to get more out of it.

                  My laptop & all the books develop me as a person in a way new shoes never could, and I think that is where my line has been drawn. The difference this year has been not buying books but focusing on getting them from the library. It lets me be a maximalist for ideas, without needing as much space.

                  I can't wait to read this book next, since I felt so drawn by the ideas of the minimalist movement but felt in the end... very let down by the promises of reduced mental clutter by reduced clutter around me.

                  I grew up in the age of mcMansions and retail therapy (highschool in the early 2000s boom, heyo), so I have a lot to unpack before I can retrain myself out of flexing status with objects, even being aware of it now. Will report back on how I feel after I read the book!

                  • bill
                    Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
                    7 months ago

                    "very let down by the promises of reduced mental clutter by reduced clutter around me."

                    YES. I experienced that EXACT same thing when I first "hit the road" with my minimalist lifestyle. Like, literally: on a mountain, no stuff, no obligations, few dependencies... the world is mine... but... I'm still me. And kinda fidgety. And no f*ckin' clue about the meaning of life...

                    I grew up in the age of mcMansions and retail therapy (highschool in the early 2000s boom, heyo), so I have a lot to unpack before I can retrain myself out of flexing status with objects, even being aware of it now.

                    You and me. And everyone we know. Different timing maybe - but we all have "a lot to unpack" on this topic.

                    • Alexa
                      Scout
                      7 months ago

                      so true, there were a few decades that trained a lot of us humans in some really messed up habits, I think we may be on the early side of that adoption curve too in the quest to unpack those "boxes" full of mental clutter and weird consumer habits.

    • Alexa
      Scout
      7 months ago

      I remember first getting into Minimalism and Kondo. Feels like a good time for a book that pokes at the blind spots of the minimalist movement & absurdly spartan home decor style, and encourages an eye on why we consume.

      Snorted out loud at this:

      Also, he points out, the glass walls in Apple’s headquarters were marked with Post-it notes to keep employees from smacking into them, like birds

      1. Update (1/28/2020):

        I completely forgot I had put a hold on "The Longing For Less" at the library. I just picked it up today, what perfect timing after this article, perhaps this will finally settle the tension in me between my maximalist nature (just look at my bookshelves to confirm this) and my minimalist aspirations.

      • bill
        Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
        7 months ago

        Wow. So much convergence. So many different ideas that somehow all connect! I’m emailing Chayka today. Ironically, he’s the reason I know about Oyler’s epic Jia takedown, “Ha ha! Ha ha!”

        You MUST let me know about that book.

        I need to write an essay about book hoarding and RV life. Basically, I’m a freak on a truck with nothing but a hundred books. But it makes sense. I need them all.

        • Alexa
          Scout
          7 months ago

          Agh so cool!!

          I feel you on the books, they are my holdout every time. I have a romance with ideas that I can't quit, and some books I go back to again and again. I am doing better now, having promised I would read books from the library first and buy them only if I couldn't put the ideas to rest and wanted to refer to them again and again. It's January and I've already found one that may make the cut ha.

          There is an interesting interplay with this, as minimalism toys with both luxury and voluntary rejection of the trappings of life. I wonder if this is the cultural pendulum swinging away from the endless consumption we have been trained into as "good citizens". (with the caveat that I always think I'm in a bubble for that kind of thinking given my interests & work)

          I just finished that book by Yancey Strickler This Could Be Our Future about rejecting profit maximization and it all feels very related. Questioning how we do things, why, the stuff we hoard (from books to cash) and how that impacts the world. I haven't solidified what the connecting thread is yet, but its on my mind a lot.

          • bill
            Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
            7 months ago

            I wonder if this is the cultural pendulum swinging away from the endless consumption we have been trained into as "good citizens"

            Yes! Well said! I think it is!

            And yes, Yancey Strickler is definitely in the club. Pretty much anyone who thinks about the future with imagination is in the club.