A lot has been written in the last couple of years about simplifying your life. I try to live a simple life and pay as I go. I feel a kinship with the advocates of simplicity like Leonardo da Vinci who thought that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Over the past year or so I’ve noticed a trend amongst the simplicty bloggers. Some people are trying to pare down to 100 items or less. Some of the writers have more realistically clarified their lists as “Personal items,” a list of stuff only they own and use, like three pairs of shoes or 10 pairs of underwear and so on.
It seems to me that the more important “attitude towards stuff” is lost when the focus becomes reducing stuff to an arbitrary number of things. It can become a competition, a sort of race to the bottom. If you’re able to reduce your personal items to just a jockstrap and a bowie knife, and you don’t live alone in the remote bush, you’re likely using more items than you think.
Say you decide to forego owning a car and own a bike instead. Can a bike be counted as one item? I don’t know any cyclists, who along with their bicycle, don’t also have a few simple, minimalist tools for taking care of their bike. If you ride daily, you need a pump, oil, and a couple of tools. To paraphrase Mark Twain, everything is hitched to everything else.
It’s great to reduce the amount of stuff you have. However, why get rid of something you don’t strictly need if it increases your quality of life? If you like to play the guitar and do play it, don’t delete it. If you have a guitar and don’t play it get rid of it. Even with the mundane, I don’t need both a toothbrush and an electric toothbrush, but together my teeth are healthier and so my quality of life is increased.
It’s like tracking your spending to find where you spend money since most people don’t really know where their money goes. After tracking, you might find you’re spending $60 a month on cappuccinos. That’d be a great place to save money every month. But after thinking about it, you feel you get more than $60 worth of satisfaction from your daily ritual. You should keep doing it if you can afford it.
Paring down is good because there’s less to store, maintain, think about, and pay for. But if something brings more to your life than you have to incur to keep it, don’t nix it to reach an arbitrary number.
It’s ironic that I need 445 words to write about 100 things.