I went through a phase where I just donated anything I thought was a distraction to charity, solved a lot in the short term, was insignificant in the long term. Addressing the fact I was bored with my career and hadn't had a break in years solved a lot more.
Beyond the self though, I think an attachment to not owning is more beneficial to humanity (I use the term broadly). Less consumption is simply more sustainable for our planet. That simple.
I'd just rather see it executed as a rational and dispassionate decision than something motivated by anxiety or internal / social pressure, in those scenarios I often don't feel people can sustain it / they won't substitute with something else.
> Less consumption is simply more sustainable for our planet.
What it does even mean, to be sustainable planet? To keep the status quo adapted for current human civilization and its perception of what's right?
When applying this to human civilization you can end up with sustainable factories for example .
How about just keeping the wild polar bears alive?
If human brings some alien seeds and the new plant starts to dominate the "locals" we see that human as criminal. Would winter or water do the same it's natural then.
We are not the children of nature. We are the part of nature, and the small one. Sure, we have an ability to reflect on our actions and inflict disproportional changes to environment, but still.
Just for some context. Fukushima nuclear disaster: nobody killed, 39 injured.
Japan earthquake and tsunami: more than 15 000 killed, more than 5000 injured, more than 7000 missing. The sentiment is still "get rid of nuclear, save the planet". Who is killing whom? Indian Ocean tsunami? Haiti earthquake?
George got it right: no matter what we do planet is here to stay, it is not going anywhere. We cannot in any way affect the sustainability of it. Only of our own lives.
The earth is undergoing one of the largest mass extinctions in its entire history. And it's largely humans' fault.
The eath is undergoing massive climate change. And it's largely humans' fault.
Humans are polluting their environment on an unprecedented scale. We are causing enormous losses in biodiversity. And this does not even begin to address the devastation that a large-scale nuclear war would cause -- something that's still a very real possibility.
Sure, Earth's geology will survive, as its surface is like the rind on an apple and it doesn't matter much to the Earth's interior what happens on the surface.. and we can barely affect the geology of the surface.
But we can and certainly do affect life on Earth. Sure, humans might have a hard time killing off all life, but we're doing a pretty good job killing off a good fraction of it. And yes, humans are a part of nature, but a particularly destructive part.
What makes you think that they're not doing well?
Currently, some populations are increasing while others are decreasing - the overall trend is slightly up. The latter is a bit of a change - we've had times when the trend was down.
(Let's not give flippant answers to flippant comments, that doesn't bode well for the rest of the conversation.)
It sounds as if you don't think that it is possible to genuinely not need certain things.
If I don't own a TV and never even remember the fact that I don't have a TV, is that 'attachment'?
I'm talking about the two other cases - I must own X to be in state Y, or I must not have X to be in state Y.
People set themselves up all sorts of artificial success milestones with stuff like this that are just as ineffective on either end of the scale.
My own anecdote. I had a TV, I decided it was a distraction and owning it distressed me enough that I gave it away. I now own a TV again, it's dusty and gets used once a month. Nothing inherently different about the TV in this case, I just matured enough to be able to balance and manage my time better, so now there's no particular attachment (in the case of the TV) to having it there or not.
Personally, I find that going through periods of scarcity provides unique benefits because it proves, without a reasonable doubt, that it's possible to do so. Once the possibility has been witnessed, it is easier to say no even when the object is directly in front of you.
I was down to the point of it all fitting in the boot of a sedan but had no rhyme or reason to it at all, I was just acting out against a bunch of other stuff because I figured once I was done, I'd be "ready"
_that_ is an artificial milestone.
If you are compelled to blog about it incessantly and preach it as religion, yes. Otherwise, not really. The blog post is aimed at a certain type of people and mentality that personally drives me up the walls. The "minimalism"/paperless craze is one of the biggest at the moment.
This is summarized in a great atheist joke:
"How do you know someone is an atheist?
They tell you."
I live like the OP. I barely own anything and I avoid distractions like the plague (There are some I still fight to avoid at certain times... HN). The increased focus is liberating.
I would see needing to buy things as trying to fill a hole and ridding yourself of those things as trying to cure the issue. They may be rooted in the same problem, but are they really the same?
The fact of the matter is, you have a TV. Period. Any notion of better-ness you have is a story you're telling yourself. There's no better or worse here. Stop telling yourself the story, or at least learn to recognize it as a story — let the TV be a TV — and you'll be amazed at how much you can simply enjoy watching TV when that's what you want to do, and walk away from it when you don't.
TFA is right in that experiences are what make us happy, but where he gets it wrong is by defining himself in antithesis to things. That's just as much a story, and just as much an external definition of self as, "I'm an awesome person because I have a really nice car," or, "I'm cool because I'm an Apple fanboi," or any other thing or set of things. He's become attached to, and identifies with, the absence of things; he's over-corrected.
Once you get over attachment, you can have things, or not have things, or whatever else you might want to do with them, without having some kind of complex about it — without that external thing somehow becoming definitive of who you are as a person. You realize that they're just things, and like everything else in this life, they're transient.
Now, be careful, and don't make the novice mistake of conflating "attachment" and "liking". I like my TV and my car and my computers and my books and all the rest of the crap I schlep along with me through this life quite a bit; I wouldn't have bought them if I didn't. But if I lost them tomorrow, it wouldn't change my identity — it wouldn't change me — a whit. I'm still exactly and only me, whatever that happens to be. It's life, and my experiences therein, that change me, and that can happen with or without things.
If you're driving a nice car, you worry less about it breaking down at an inconvenient time. You're probably also safer; as an extreme example, I believe one is less likely to be injured in an accident doing 120 in a Ferrari Enzo and wrapping it around a tree than doing the same at half the speed in a budget car. Having a nice AWD car affords you the opportunity to drive up to Tahoe for a snowboarding weekend without worrying about whether you will get stuck in the snow. If you've got a nice home with plenty of extra sleeping space, you have the opportunity to invite a bunch of friends to fly out for a weekend to party and have an awesome time. In all of these cases, the material things serve as tools by opening doors for you to have experiences. And aren't experiences the root of happiness?
Nice things are not better than average things because they are more expensive, they are better because they offer more opportunities for experiences. The ownership of things is not an end in and of itself, but a means to an end.
That said, I totally agree with your thesis: "the problem is attachment". I think the OP's article can be summed up in a sentence: He had unhealthy compulsions resulting from a factor, got rid of that factor, and was happier. That factor, for the author, being material possessions. Broadly presuming that everyone has the same unhealthy relationship to possessions is where his article fell apart for me.
My point is simply this: I read things like this all the time, and it makes me very happy that I don't feel compelled to control my belongings to be able to live a happy life.
In other words, when you're reading how someone improved their life by paring down possessions, it may sound like they define themselves by compulsively purging possessions, but they probably don't. It just seems that way because all you're seeing while reading their writing is one aspect of their life. You are focusing your attention on only one of hundreds, if not thousands, of the author's opinions and life decisions.
One, stuff is a positive number. If your goal is to have less stuff to be happy, you can't get less than zero stuff. It's self-limiting. If your goal is to have more stuff, there is no limit. It's always possible to have more stuff.
Second, the OP seems to indicate that having stuff wasn't actually making him happy, which is an important distinction. Actually being happy is totally distinct from feeling like you will be happy if you buy more things.
If you are actually happy because you own things, then obviously you should stick with what works for you.
Hate to break it to you, Buf, but you didn't have to spend your night like that. You had a choice, and it may make sense for you to restrict your options for future decision making by getting rid of your material things, but it's sort of presumptuous to assume that most people are just as bad at making decisions.
Edit: Maybe I'm in the minority here, how many of you also feel totally and uncontrollably compelled to sit at home and interact with your material possessions when offered a choice between that and an opportunity to go out and interact with friends?
Now I have more stuff, but not so much stuff that it restricts me from hanging out with friends. I think it's more important to not buy stuff that will take away your time, or increase your obligations.
Heh... maybe I better not get a dog after all.
On the other hand, I like inviting people over for drinks, potlucks, etc... So, owning decent cookware and some living room furniture adds a lot to my life. The important thing seems to be to step outside automatic assumptions and actually figure what makes you happier (and what drains your energy).
Yes. The debate between "having things" and "not having things" seems wrong-headed and the OP sounds a bit like a thing-vegan. "I gave up things and now I'm sooo much healthier".
Things are tools. You should own things in order to do something with them, not because merely having them makes you happy (or because not having them makes you look cool (you think)).
Also, you find that good tools are often old tools, because you know them well; since you know their flaws they slow you much less than having to learn the workings of a shiny new version. (Joel Spolsky talks about this somewhere when he says he's still using Corel Draw).
My motorbike is 14 years old. I'd find it hard to live without a motorbike, but I certainly don't need to buy a new one when the current one is still running.
I do however think that minimalism is useful as a tool to get to the right amount of stuff for people who presently have huge amounts of stuff. Get rid of all your stuff and then afterwards buy back what you realize that you need. This will be a much faster way than trying to decide one-by-one which of pieces of stuff you should keep.
What usually happens is that "stuff" accumulates - it doesnt disappear on its own. You have to put in extra effort to get rid of it.
Having old and useless crap around you does distract the mind - a lot. Also you worry about it and there is also the associated guilt of not having taken the time to get rid of it. That is the problem with having too much stuff. It deadens you without you realizing.
I have recently gotten rid of a lot of my stuff for a cross country move. And I basically got rid of anything that I didnt use in the last 2 years. Books were actually the hardest to get rid of.
In the end what I discovered was, that without any stuff, my _real_ problems became abundantly clear. Clear as daylight. And I could focus on solving only them.
For instance, if I need some super-glue, it's there. Should I need a certain color marker, it's there. If I decide to go camping, I'm not going to have to buy all sorts of camping gear (from sleeping bags to tents and everything in between) because I've already got it. Etc..
However, I do admit that owning lots of stuff has some serious disadvantages. In particular, it makes moving from place to place a huge pain in the butt, and makes it that much less likely that you'll move at all.
Without many possessions, you are much more easily able to just pick up and go wherever you feel like going on a moment's notice... and that is a real gift.
Also I'm talking about stuff u haven't used in 2 years.
Like it or not, the world rewards well-dressed, well-manicured people in a pretty absurdly extreme way.
With a little thinking you can mostly fit your life in carry on.
I'm thinking specifically of dates, where you won't be wearing a suit or anything terribly formal, but still want to give off the impression of being successful, stylish, handsome, and hip without being overbearing. I have no intention of actually becoming well-dressed, but I figure it'd be nice to have a couple of outfits that show that I do, in fact, clean up pretty nicely.
That said, if you bought all your clothes from j.crew and maybe some hoodies and t-shirts from american apparel, you'd be covered for 98% of north american dating and office working situations. (losing out on dates with extreme hipsters, goths, gutter punks, fashion plates, ravers, nudists, hell's angels, and the amish)
Bear in mind that like any community it has certain strong personalities that set the tone for everyone else. If your instincts say "following this advice will make me look ridiculous" then you're probably right.
In my experience, having a female friend you can get rapid feedback from is invaluable, too.
A decent clothes store. Most people working there will be more than happy to give you tips and pointers. If you want a more complete package, many stores will let you book a time where one of their stylists will give you their undivided attention and work with you to put together a complete wardrobe.
I think I am pretty familiar with what it means to be badly dressed, but well dressed such that it might induce the opening of doors is hard to pin down.
What I meant to imply was that choosing what to wear is a tedious task. Clothing piles up. If you haven't worn something in 6 months (unless it's seasonal), you probably won't.
I was talking about maintaining a more fashionable wardrobe (and there are many definitions of this, but t-shirt/jeans doesn't qualify under any of them) for everyday life. It doesn't have to be big, or extensive, but spending brain-cycles on dressing yourself is more often than not worth it.
Sometimes all it takes to open a door you never thought would open is well-fitted jeans, a well-cut collared shirt, and a broad smile. Or hell, sometimes opening doors is a flannel shirt, vintage t-shirt, and Converse sneakers. The standard geek ensemble, I've noticed, doesn't do much. Your mode of attire is a form of communication, whether we like it or not.
I got rid of 95% of my stuff, not because it was distracting, but because I never used most of it. I also move a lot and I hate lugging inessentials around from place to place.
To this day, I can basically live out of a duffel bag (minus my desktop computer and guitar). I like to travel a lot, so that works for me. Is it right for everyone? Absolutely not.
One commenter pointed out below that after getting rid of everything he felt "uninteresting". I can relate to that because that's exactly how I felt when I got rid of most of my stuff. However, I now believe the opposite to be true. Personally, I put a lot of who I was into all the cool toys and records I had amassed, but when that is gone, either due to intention or accident (such as a fire), what are you left with? A big gaping hole, that's what. Filling that hole can be difficult, but I've found it to be a very rewarding experience for my own personal growth.
In the end, I kept the things that allow me to create and ditched most of the things I simply consumed. I'm not at all anti-owning-stuff, I just believe that if I buy something it needs to be something I'll use over and over again.
Really, how much you want to own is nothing more than a personal choice based on how you want to live your life and where you want to allocate your resources.
Not that controversial a topic in my opinion.
The main issue is not how much stuff the author has or doesn't have, but rather his spiritual and cultural impoverishment.
He insists that progress in life is driven by unhappiness, and that comfortableness begets complacency. This simplistic argument says a lot about his personal failings and very little about the human psyche in general. Yes, some great things are born of discontent. But this dude is a computer programmer, not Ghandi. It apparently has not occurred to him to nurture a sense of sustained excitement over the creative process, to channel the joy and endless amusement of a life spent problem-solving and pushing intellectual boundaries, or to get happily enthused about developing his own original ideas.
If drooling over video games and giggling at Reddit memes is your default 'comfortable' behaviour, then yes, by all means, take drastic measures to suppress your immaturity. (I'd personally keep very quiet about it.)
Many adults constantly act like children, particularly if they're in the political profession.
I understand selling the TV and all that, but I don't understand why OP would sell a bicycle or see not cooking as an expression of a minimalistic lifestyle. I mean, I suppose that if you rode your bicycle so infrequently that it was actually just sitting around and taking up space, it would be good to sell it, but a bicycle seems like one of those things that isn't really a distraction and sometimes comes in quite handy.
Similarly, I don't understand why I've met and heard about so many people that take this strange sort of pride in not cooking for themselves. Cooking is one of these things like taking regular exercise that it seems important to make time for, because by not knowing how or making time to cook, you are exposing yourself to a waste of money and generally worse nutrition than you would be able to achieve in your own kitchen.
I think my gf might be the only person that has ever been to my apartment. Plenty of friends and acquaintances have chilled at my office, however.
And what's wrong with Hacker News? Through HN I've found TED and KhanAcademy. I'll put Hacker News, TED, and KhanAcademy up against your "decent book" library for comfort and see no reason why someone would discriminate based on that. Interesting criteria you have. I'm highly skeptical of your 30% statistic.
I am skeptical of my 30% statistic myself, otherwise I might have had more sex.
Goethe showed me an elegant green elbow-chair, which he had lately bought at an auction.
"However," said he, "I shall use it but little, or not at all; for all kinds of commodiousness are against my nature. You see in my chamber no sofa; I always sit in my old wooden chair, and never till a few weeks ago have I had a leaning-place put for my head. If surrounded by convenient tasteful furniture, my thoughts are absorbed, and I am placed in an agreeable but passive state. Unless we are accustomed to them from early youth, splendid chambers and elegant furniture are for people who neither have nor can have any thoughts."
That part sounds stupid. Why are you making your home an uncomfortable environment? That's not minimalism, that's self-flagellation. Is he spending all of his time at work?
The trick, I have been learning, is to make sure you don't grow to accept the discomfiture. You can totally get used to things like sleeping on the floor or eating bland food, but really you gain nothing from it, and it's just kind of sad. (spoken as a guy who has done this before)
This goes for home (play vs side projects) and work (fixing my working environment to remove pain points) and pretty much everything I do.
> I don’t have things to hang on the walls. I rarely visit the kitchen. My apartment is a barren place. I dislike spending long hours there.
> I even stand all day to make sure I don’t get too sleepy in my comfortable chair.
> There was this guy at work that loved to talk, and he frequently came by my desk just to chat. I tried everything from asking him to leave to closing the door in his face. The motherfucker simply wouldn’t shut up. The solution was to kill him (explain to him that he’s distracting me). Unrelated note: There’s an opening for a front end engineer at Eventbrite.
It's pretty clear to me that entire thing is a joke (and not only the last thing I quoted).. no one can seriously be that detached from reality... right?
No it's not ... these things you quoted do not seem extreme to me.
I'm living alone now. I have no idea why someone would hang stuff on walls. I wouldn't stand all day, but I don't spend all day at home and my chair is a cheap wooden one from IKEA. Between work, lifting weights/doing martial arts and some extra studies I'm doing, I don't have that much time to spend at home anyway, other than sleeping.
I spend time in the kitchen because I prefer to cook my food, but I only have the most basic stuff and I spend as little time in the kitchen as possible - i.e. cook enough for several days so I don't have to worry about that every day.
And I do hate small useless talk too. Don't get me wrong, it's fine to have a short conversation about the weekend plans or something like that. But, indeed, there are people that just don't know when to stop or don't understand when they go from polite to annoying. I totally understand where the author is coming from.
Of course, when I start living with someone else again that will change, but for now that's how it is.
More recently, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krsna states (paraphrase):
"That which is nectar in the beginning becomes poison in the end/ That which is poison in the beginning becomes nectar in the end"
Your experiences seem to verify this.
I highly recommend it. It takes maybe a couple of hours to read, and it's very dense with good ideas, suggestions and observations about how we interact with distractions. He doesn't go the extreme route of destroying them like this article's author; instead, he acknowledges that distraction can be fun and even a necessity to inspiration, but that we need the tools to quash it when we need to focus.
Losing your attachment to "things" could help you be more amazing too - and how!