Minimalism and who CBC didn’t mention

It was pouring yesterday as I drove into Vancouver to visit our daughter. Traffic was thick and very slow so I had time to listen to an entire segment of CBC’s “The Current”: a panel on minimalism.

One guest, who rid himself of stuff to travel, said it allowed focus on what matters most. Another’s experience is the title of her book, The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store. A critic declared the pressure of the trendy minimalist lifestyle “oppressive,” even “arrogant.” Between the frantic beat of the windshield wipers I nodded to it all.

What the segment totally missed, however, was an entire swath of people going minimalist by necessity. Sure, many olders stay in their homes for decades and never reduce. But one fine day they or their children have to face the facts of their stuff. Bags and bags of it arrive at thrift stores.

Since we downsized into an apartment from a house and moved across country to boot, we tackled minimizing earlier than many peers. It was exhilarating. Not until objects are gone do you realize their psychic weight. It was also painful. We memorialized some objects in photos. I listed books sold or donated, as if a list could substitute for words on a shelf. I commiserated with my husband in the middle of a lifetime of tools and materials in his workshop, nearly paralyzed it seemed by their impending loss.

The resulting minimalism is neither oppressive nor arrogant, though we felt too virtuous perhaps at sparing our children the work. It is about what matters, but also what’s still possible. It’s freeing but complicated. Instead of trendy, it’s a sobering exit strategy.

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Stuff left behind

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Stuff brought along (to display)

P.S. I’m taking a break from this blog for Christmas. Back in January! Wishing all a blessed holiday and happy new year.

14 thoughts on “Minimalism and who CBC didn’t mention

  1. I heard the same radio broadcast as I was folding laundry and was quite amused by it! Ten years ago we downsized but moved into a house. Time to do it again! GROAN!

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  2. Love your insight and perspective. Many days there is a type of claustrophobia that cancels out any sentimental value of the objects I’m surrounded by. Becoming a minimalist is a dream I hope to achieve soon.

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  3. What a great follow up to the CBC program, to which we also listened. It didt occur to me as we listened, but there would certainly be a whole program’s worth on the topic of downsizing as older people. We are in the beginning stages, and Peter listed our books as part of that, and found listing as a freeing exercise. Advent and Christmas blessings to you.

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    • Thanks Elsie. I’ve been delighted to learn how many others also heard the segment. Thanks also P’s experience of “listing as a freeing exercise”. Reminds me of an interview Eleanor Wachtel did with Laurie Anderson on Writers & Co. Anderson wrote the book “All the Things I Lost in the Flood.” Her basement flooded, her papers and possessions turned to “oatmeal” in the mess, but she discovered, per title of her book, the list was just as good as the basement full of things, i.e. “language is a substitute for things.”

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  4. “Not until objects are gone do you realize their psychic weight.” This was an excellent read and gave me pause. Exhilaration on one hand and pain on the other… A very blessed Christmas season to you and your family. I’ll wait for your return to this blog in January!

    Liked by 1 person

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