All My Earthly Possessions Fit Into These 2 Bags
I have mixed feelings about it.
This is a guest post from me, Chris.
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While seeking guest-post opportunities, I came across Spencer Scott Pugh's Newsletter, and I thought it was a good fit because it was a Substack about minimalism, and it just so happens that I don’t own any possessions.
My minimalist lifestyle has developed organically over the years — I have never so much as watched a YouTube video about minimalism. I think the first time I ever even really became aware of “minimalism” as a movement was a few years ago when Marie Kondo became famous.
Since Kondo’s rapid ascendancy it seems an entire cottage industry has sprung up; minimalism blogs... minimalism YouTube… minimalism podcasts.. minimalism books… minimalism videos… minimalism Instagram… minimalism influencers… minimalism gurus. There’s even a thriving minimalism TikTok scene.
This inane video, for example, has 1.1 million views:
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It’s all a little much, and makes me feel like the “brand” of minimalism has been tarnished by hipsters who substitute “minimalism” for a personality. Which makes me the ultimate hipster, I guess — because I was into minimalism before it was cool.
Perhaps this is why, when I think about it, in my head, I think of my lifestyle as ascetic or spartan rather than minimalist. The words “spartan” and “ascetic” evoke images of an enlightened wandering badass warrior poet monk, whereas “minimalism” evokes images of bored housewife who wants her counters to be clean and tidy.
I am sure this is a very wrong, crude, elementary, layman view of minimalism. I am sure minimalism experts reading this minimalism blog are pissed off — “that’s not us at all! He’s got a skewed perspective of us! Read the literature!” Sure. Don’t expect this to be expert analysis, again, because I have never bothered to pay attention to your movement once. This is the image you have built for yourself; this is how you are perceived to me, a layman.
I tried to psychoanalyze myself to figure out why I naturally gravitated towards an ascetic lifestyle, and after some serious self-reflection, I think my main motivating factor can be summed up in this tweet:
Really what it comes down to is that I hate being responsible for material possessions.
I don’t own a car, for example, because between gas, insurance, tires, tags, taxes, repairs, maintenance… it’s just such a drag on my mental energy. I have poor executive functioning skills. These things are so mentally draining, it fills me with frustration just thinking about it. I hate having to plan my life around possessions.
Even worse is what happens when I park the car, and go about my life — I am now responsible for it being parked in the street overnight. It’s always in the back of my mind. Is the car okay? I hope the car’s okay! It’s a huge buzzkill.
Now extend this buzzkill to every physical possession. Possessions are a buzzkill. Possessions sap my energy, they sap my sanity, they sap my focus. I find it is impossible for someone to truly “live in the moment” if their mind is split in so many different directions. Possessions are a distraction.
Maybe I am just an incompetent man-child who can’t handle even a modicum of responsibility — fine, then at least I am a self-aware incompetent man-child. I accept myself for who I am.
My Two Bags
The least bourgeoisie thing about me is that all my possessions fit into these 2 bags.
The most bourgeoisie thing about me is that this is matching designer luggage.
I don’t know how much these bags cost — I received them as a Christmas gift from my parents almost a decade ago — but I am sure they are expensive.
At first I was a little dismayed at this Christmas gift.
The last thing I wanted was to be a guy rolling through the airport or train station ostentatiously flaunting his matching designer luggage. Over time, though, I have nothing but glowing things to say about these bags. I have grown very sentimentally attached to them. These are great quality bags, you get what you pay for, I guess. I have been rough on them and they have faithfully served me well in various cities (Ottawa —> London —> Montreal —> Halifax) as well as several international trips.
What’s inside them? That’s personal! I’m not going to enumerate all my stuff for you. Some clothes, some shoes, and a laptop. The laptop is my single most expensive possession, it costs $1,000.
I Bought a Couch Once — Big Mistake!
This tweet was me dipping my toe into owning possessions:
I hated owning this couch. It made me feel like I was suffocating, like I was tied down by extravagant earthly luxuries. I bought it for $1,600 and 5 months later I sold it for $1,000, so, I paid $600 for the privilege of sitting on this couch for a few months. No use getting hung up on sunk costs — it was the right decision to sell. Getting rid of this couch was a huge weight lifted off my chest.
The Biggest Downside of Minimalism
Owning a cat or a dog is the ultimate possession — the ultimate responsibility. If I can’t be responsible enough to own possessions, I am definitely not responsible enough to own a cat.
Maybe one day.
The Biggest Upside
I travel light.
Whenever I travel, I can pack in 5 minutes and zip all my possessions into my trusty green luggage and walk with my entire life in one self-contained bag. I use that privilege to nomadically travel the world.
In a couple of weeks from now, I will provide an update on this “Where Should I move” article, I will be holed up on a tropical beach somewhere, learning Spanish, grinding away and pumping out Karlstacks.
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