Saturday, June 16, 2018

Stuffocation and the case for stuff

Hello! I'm back with more thoughts from James Wallman's STUFFOCATION. I came to the part of the book that talks about the five key questions to work out if minimalism is going to catch on. I will not repeat all the questions here. It seems there are no problem with the first three, it starts to falter at question 4, and according to the author, it falls flat at the last question: Compared to the way we live now, is minimalism better?

It's here Wallman tries to make a case for stuff. That stuff is good and for that I agree with him. There are six reasons why stuff is good. To me, the important distinction here is getting rid of your EXCESS stuff vs. getting rid of most of your stuff.

#1 Stuff includes the tool that enable us to do more, go faster, and achieve things far beyond our natural capability. (p.121)

#2 Stuff is good, because physical possessions can give us not only a sense of security, but actual protection from the elements to help us survive. Admittedly, your new 50-inch OLED television may not ensure you make it through the night, but consider the difference between having a home and not having a home, or the coat that keeps you warm in winter. (p.122)

#3 Stuff is good, because it helps us express our identities and beliefs, and display our fitness indicators: [...]. (p.122) To me, this is the part where mostly the display of status comes in; for example, the clothes or jewellery we wear, the cars or bikes we own. And it's not just the brand because it could also be the type; for example, some people choose to own and drive an electric car instead of one that runs on petrol.

#4 And stuff is good, because it connects us to others, to events, and to our own pasts. (p.122) Think about the souvenirs you brought back from your exotic travels, a present your loved one gifted you with.

#5 Stuff is good because it reflects our basic requirement for stimulus. (p.122) Think of a child with a new bike, you with a new phone, me with a new book, that sort of stuff.

#6 And finally, stuff is good because it feels good, because we, as physical creatures, enjoy the sheer physicality of objects [...]. (p.123) This is why I love holding and flipping pages of a physical book...

Generally, I like the middle ground and having just enough. Sometimes I get carried away or was influenced to try something new, so I accumulated stuff that helped me achieve my goal-of-the-moment. Sometimes I made fantastic discoveries and learned; sometimes I made costly mistakes and I'm still making mistakes - no shame in that. All these build good case studies and in the process, I become more aware of what works for me and that includes the stuff I own or plan to buy in the future. I have no plans to stifle my curiosity but I will definitely be more mindful of what I choose to bring into my space.