Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Minimalism: As Black Friday Approaches Here's a Book for the Season, Some Shopping Advice and an Actual Gift Suggestion

            Earlier this year I reviewed some books on frugality, most of which would fall into the “Oh, poor me, I overspent and I’m now paying for it boo hoo hoo” category. This is not one of those books.
            In my last post I mentioned Kanopy, a streaming service offered free from the library. The first thing I watched after signing up for Kanopy was Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, which led me to check out the Minimalist’s book, Everything That Remains, from the library. (The book is available in the Johnson County libraries; the Kansas City library did not have it.)
            The authors, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, grew up in southwestern Ohio. Milburn’s mother left his abusive father who died when Milburn was young. His mother was an alcoholic who was eventually able to get sober. (What is it about that part of Ohio that makes people want to self-medicate?) Milburn got a good job right out of high school and was on the fast track complete with all the toys he thought he was supposed to want when his mother died and his wife left him—both in the same month.
            While he was sorting out his mother’s belongings, which he described as three apartments stuffed into one, he became overwhelmed. His mother retired to Florida but had never gotten rid of her winter clothes. He seesawed between taking her stuff back with him to Ohio or renting a storage unit in Florida. He finally realized he would never need his mother’s belongings, so he donated them. This started him on a journey to minimalism. He eliminated 80% of his stuff, gave up TV, the internet, his cell phone, and finally even his goals. He decided to go back to having internet and a phone, but by giving them up, he realized life would be possible without them. He recommended to his employer that he be laid off and eventually he was. Nicodemus, who worked at the same company was also eventually laid off, though not at his request.
            The minimalists contacted other like-minded people, formed a publishing company (Asymetrical, currently located in Montana) and started putting out books. They are having fun.
            They did a book tour that started small and ended up successful beyond their dreams. So many people showed up to hear them in Toronto they thought they were competing with another act. They wound up having to do more presentations to accommodate everyone. It seems there is a lot of interest in having less stuff and more life. As one of the people who attended their lecture in Toronto said, she was living the life she was supposed to want, but it wasn’t her life; she was living someone else’s dream.
            On a personal note, when I left my job with Company L in 1995, my parents were flabbergasted. Their reaction was basically how could I give up everything they ever wanted. My problem was what they wanted was not what I wanted.
            On yet another personal note, my mother died in 2003; my sister has just this fall let go of our mother’s clothes.
            There is an awful lot to think about in this book, including the astute observation that hoarding and organizing are pretty much the same thing. Hoarding is out in the open, but organizing is essentially well-planned hoarding. I’d add that “organizing” in today’s language usually implies buying containers and other items to contain our excess, so it may well be more expensive than hoarding plus we wind up with all the stuff we bought to hold our stuff.
            The book is independently published (the ISBN is 9781938793189), and it could use some editing, but since I’ve been there, done that, and had my own share of screwups, I’m in no position to criticize. Just read the book and appreciate its message.
            As we’re entering the Season this year, perhaps we could pause our spending for a few minutes and think about the things we buy both for ourselves and as gifts for others. If it’s something useful or needed, great. If it’s neither, well, isn’t it a waste of time, money, and the space it will occupy?
            And on one more personal note, don’t buy something simply because it’s on sale. I’m considering buying an Instant Pot. Walmart has a “Door Buster” ad with a 5-quart Instant Pot for $49. I’m looking for the 8-quart model. I almost fell into the trap of “$49 is a good deal; maybe I can live with the 5-quart model.” But I realized (in time) something you don’t want on sale is not a good deal. I know I’d wind up buying the 8-quart model eventually, so I might as well save the $49 (plus tax) I’d spend on this model and get what I want the first time. 

            One thing you might consider giving, if you still have anyone on your list who has a landline, is MagicJack, which I reviewed in my second post way back in December of last year. (Here’s the link: They’re having a sale. For $29.99 plus tax, you get the MagicJack and a year’s phone service. Please read my review because MagicJack does have some limitations. The link to the special is:

© 2017 Larry Roth

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