On Minimalism and, er, Maximalism?

But, you know, maximalism in the physical stuff sense and not the ideological sense.

My roommate is a perfect counter example to my life.

His entire goal, his happy place, is acquiring stuff. And I don’t hold that against him or anything — I’m not denouncing that activity as “bad” — but it is an interesting opposite to my minimalism.

Because my entire goal, my happy place, is removing stuff.

And what’s more interesting, is I secretly think we’re both trying to balance the other because we’re afraid of the other.

Like, because he has too much stuff I feel claustrophobic so I find myself trying to remove things even more aggressively.

Because I have so little stuff, I do actually think he tries to find things to buy that he sees as sort of filling my void.

We’re both trying to cure the other of our afflictions.

I will lose, of course.

You can hoard things and they take up space, but it’s incredibly hard for me to hoard emptiness.

You can fill emptiness. He buys things and they sit there. They’re tangible and tactile and physically impregnable.

You can’t fill existing things with emptiness. I can’t move an invisible box of nothing into the basement where it’ll hold its boundaries of emptiness with such force as cardboard or Tupperware does.

So I will lose.

Not to be self righteous, but I do think it’s easier to be a hoarder. It requires no real examination, it barely necessitates taste. You just… collect stuff.

By contrast I see minimalism as elegant. You need to think hard and make difficult cuts with the razor of necessity to arrive at what you truly need. And, if you’re good at it, the perfect amount of what you need in the future.

Actually, I take that back. It’s harder to be a hoarder because it’s harder to be obligated to so much stuff. See, everything you buy and own you pay to maintain. It might not be much, but it stacks up. You’re paying for storage in the form of big, expensive mortgages. You’re paying for organization and you’re paying in time to sort through and repair and clean up and deal with it all every time you interact with it. To replace it when it breaks.

It’s cliche to the highest degree these days to say “the stuff you own eventually owns you” but there’s a tragic and very observable irony to the modern lives of my friends and coworkers where they do genuinely just spend 8+ hours a day in an office to be able to afford the things that sit at home and never get used because they’re spending 8+ hours a day at the office.

And so it’s not even making them happy.

There’s maybe a tiny burble of happiness upon the purchase itself, but that fades quickly. And for the rest of that time you own the object, you’re in mental debt to its existence.

I suspect the happiness of those two things is net negative over the long run.

So my answer was always just to cut the fat. Trim the mental overhead.

I’m debt free, financially. And mentally.

After I finished school and got a job I very aggressively paid down my student loans.

I had two, one from each government, at 6% and 9%.

Over $1k a month went to loans for several years.

And then I got to the end and I realized I didn’t even really need that money. Effectively lived my entire adult working life without it, so I just built my budgets around not needing it.

I don’t feel like I suffered for that at all.

Bought my dream car a few days before I turned 20. Lived alone in a 2 bedroom place that had more than enough space for me. Bought a fancy road bike to commute in the summer. Put something like 4000 km on it that year, which is pretty great considering we only get 3 months of summer.

Crashed my car. $6700 or something in damages. That was the only time I went to minimum payments on my loans, diverted that extra cash towards the repair costs.

The minimum loan repayment schedule was something like 15 years? Crazy.

But the moral of all of this isn’t that I was rich.

I was a kid in my first real job. If anything I was underpaid in that position.

But minimal needs cost a minimal amount.

The real moral is that for most of us middle class types, you can prioritize these things if you want. The choice between debt free and having stuff uses the same resources.

Most people choose having useless stuff, I guess, and I chose freedom.