Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Reality of Minimalism (or The Acceptance of Imperfection)


Reading this article from The Art of Manliness was a joy. It states clearly many of the points I’ve thought of addressing myself, and many I have addressed already. But I had a nagging concern which prompted me to write this post.
The one aspect of minimalism not addressed in the piece, is for me the most relevant. That is the spiritual aspect of it. Now, I don’t like the word spiritual because of what it conjures up. I like to hold to practical, solid notions that have tangible effects. By spiritual, I mean the Zen aspect of minimalism, the act of respecting space and objects.





Yes, modern minimalism can be nothing more than a show of wealth, ironically. I think the minimalism in the McKay’s article is the consumerist minimalism, which conjures up lots of white plastic and smooth concrete, glass and untreated wood, which, yes, requires a great deal of wealth. The character depicted in the piece who travels with nothing but a wallet, buying whatever they need as they need it, is far from what I would call a minimalist.

I was raised poor, wearing my sisters' and brother's hand-me-downs and jumble sale clothes. After my husband and I divorced, I lived in a rented two bed house with my daughter and no job. I still had no money. I desperately wanted to move to be closer to friends and family and finally found a small flat, a little white box, open plan, lots of light… It took me six months to pack and sort through the junk of the house and, when I finally moved, I had only the minimum of belongings. I didn’t hang on to things in case I needed it later. I didn’t buy in bulk. We lived an impoverished, minimalist life. I worked on respecting the objects that came into my possession. I cared for things that were worthy of it and discarded things that weren’t.

This is similar to my old flat.


It's an easy mistake to make, to think that minimalism is about high design and newness. A true minimalist, in my opinion, travels with one or two expertly designed and made objects/products/devices, which he cherishes and takes care of, to ensure that no harm comes to them. They last for years and don't need to be replaced or upgraded often, thus the 'purge of the old' isn't necessary. It's not a fashion to be subscribed to or a trend. It's much deeper, more abiding.

The Japanese art of kintsukuroi, 
repairing broken ceramics with gold.

Objects have souls. The idea that one can purchase a thing only to discard it later is the antithesis of true minimalism. The Japanese term Wabi-sabi centres on the acceptance of imperfection.

While the dream for many of us may be to live in one of those superior white environments, the reality of imperfection is much more likely and, in a way, much more rewarding.


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