Friday, February 15, 2019

Reader Question: Balancing Minimalism


A question:
I have a question for the community regarding minimalism and the current craze of Marie Kondo. I know that there is a life span of clothing that starts with wearing to work, then wearing around the house until finally becoming gardening clothes. As a community, when we find really well-made items, we stock up on them for future years, and we have multiple sets of dishes, not to mention a lot of items inherited from family. How do we balance maintaining our heritage while not living in a museum? 
Many thanks.

33 comments:

  1. Minimalists are rarely concerned with maintaining their heritage. It's a very deliberate, very specific lifestyle choice, one which I admire in others but which would be completely impossible for me, for better or for worse.

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    1. I agree, Michael. Oh and I can think of no more pleasant place to be than in a museum.

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    2. Couldn't agree more. My things are representative of the life I am living and have lived so far. Junk is one thing but clothing, art, books, etc. are quite another.

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    3. I would vote for living in a museum.

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  2. Marie Kondo is not a minimalist, no matter how her Netflix show is edited or the memes about her seem. If you read both of her books you'll learn her desire is to help hoarders let go of things they have no use for and keep the things they find useful or beautiful, and then to treat those things with honor by making sure all of those things have a home. She would have no problem keeping things related to your heritage as long as they are really serving you. The thing is to keep only what you really love. If you love having many sets of dishes and you use them, keep them and display them proudly. If you're keeping old gardening clothes and you don't garden, if those clothes don't make you excited to pick up a seed catalog and plan for spring, then they aren't serving you. You're serving them. That's when it's time to think about letting them go.

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    1. That is an excellent explanation of the "KonMari" method.

      Jacqueline

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    2. True. She is about keeping the things that "spark joy," as she says, and in organizing, caring for and cherishing what you keep.

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  3. People garden in old work clothes? What if you are like a pilot? Or a clown? Or a priest? Although, priests probably don't do that much gardening........

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    1. Some of us do! And not in a cassock or a black suit, however well worn ...

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    2. Yes, our Franciscan priest was a well-known rosarian. He hardened in his habit, which was what the well dressed gardener wore in the Middle Ages.

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    3. My dad is an 80 year-old preacher and retired college professor. When he cuts firewood or drives a tractor, he dresses in mended khakis and a long-sleeve white button-down shirt (worn thin). He has an ancient sports coat (pinstripe) which he wears on chilly days working outside. On really cold days, he adds a battered leather jacket from about 1973.

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    4. That is awesome! I grew up in suburban NY, so not a lot of gardens in or around our parish house.

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  4. Q: How do we balance maintaining our heritage while not living in a museum?

    A: Wear, use, and enjoy daily all of those wonderful items!

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  5. The rock/hard place clash between Yankee frugality and family heritage. One set everyday stoneware, one set formal china, becomes quite another thing four, six, ten generations into it, until you can't turn around in your own home. Or, your tools, Dad's tools, Grampa's tools, and on. There's a workbench under there somewhere.

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    1. Dave sums it up nicely. I said “enough” and refuse to accept any more treasures or family heirlooms unless it’s something I will use and enjoy.

      Linens are a big problem for me. I am drowning in napkins and tablecloths. I used cloth napkins at every meal, every day and my drawer are bursting with napkins. I am considering letting go of some of the other ones.

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    2. Fortunately, I have a large enough family that I can give heirlooms to children, nieces, nephews, cousins. If they decide it's too much, they can bear the guilt of getting rid of it.

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  6. I'm in agreement with Michael Rowe and Dave (4:31 pm). I can't forget that Mari Kondo comes from a culture that lives sitting on the floor in teeny tiny dwellings.

    OK, I'm exaggerating a bit, and if her approach works for you, fine. But not for me.

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  7. I've never heard of this woman. From where I sit I am looking at at least six generations of family belongings. Probably can go back another two in other rooms. A scrap book done by an 8 year old ancestor containing the news clippings of the newly crowned Queen Victoria, a set of dishes from which Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft ate when staying with my great great grandparents, a family piece that survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a table cloth purchased on a trip to the south of France with my parents, beloved tea pots used regularly by four different generations.... and on.... Nothing of any monetary value whatsoever, but priceless in keeping the family heritage and history alive for my children. So much better in my book to point at a piece in the house, and be able to tell the history, than saying to my children, "I pointed to page 38 at IKEA and ordered this on line which 10,000 other people have done." And before someone chimes in that it is snobby, you don't have to have eight generations worth of stuff to start building your own family story for the coming generations. It is about respect for your ancestors, your family, and thinking of others rather than the self.

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  8. My New England ancestors valued
    Yankee simplicity.
    It would be called minimalism
    today.

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    1. Amen.

      MaryAnne

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    2. My ancestor did not value frugality or simplicity. He used his personal fortune to start Connecticut as it 's first governor. Amen.

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    3. Anon 9:24 and MaryAnne, I read my comment again here and it comes across as terse which was not my intent. Rather, attempting to show that not all Yankees were, or are, frugal. Kudos to those that are. I just didn't get that gene.

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  9. It's the basic nature of human beings to form attachments -- attachments to our home towns, geographic areas, schools, families, friends, religious and political beliefs, prejudices, sports teams, likes and dislikes, and especially the physical objects we covet for their sentimental, social status, utilitarian, or aesthetic value.

    And it's these object-relationships (which we surround ourselves with on a daily basis) that causes the dilemma of what-to-keep, and what-to-discard. It's a matter of choice.

    I think we should note that billions of people around the globe have no such choice problem as they live in abject poverty where a surplus of physical objects simply doesn't exist. Forced minimalism in the extreme, so to speak.

    Of course, most of us realize that we own too much "stuff," but that fact doesn't make our decisions any easier. We rationalize like crazy when it comes to things:
    "Sure I haven't worn this coat in five years, but then again I may need it sometime in the future."
    So is one to err on the side of Goodwill-it, or hang-on-to-it because you never know. etc.?

    I don't think this quandary will ever be fully solved.

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    1. Attachments to home towns and family heritage objects marks one as quaint and "provincial" these days, contrasted to the "cosmopolitans" who ate my town and consider themselves "citizens of the world." Because they've lived everywhere, all places are the same; after 6 or 8 dwellings, all pale in significance. Literally.

      Their taste is a different kind of "minimalism;" the blindingly sterile, generic Ikea-like monochrome of every single NYC loft, every penthouse, every Hamptons "cottage," every "staged" McMansion in every Douglas Elliman ad in the world--white walls, white rugs, white sofas, and a kitchen that could double as Dr. Evil's lab. You can almost smell the bleach. I could go on . . .

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    2. I did our beach place with icy white walls. It was clinical. When a hurricane forced us to repair, I chose a cream color. I like it much better.

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  10. I'm not able to answer the question the reader asked, but am enjoying the discussion. For me, Marie Kondo's quotes were inspiring and energizing as I reorganized my dresser and laundry room this winter. I found popular quotes as well as clothes folding diagrams through a quick internet search. I can now see every single item in a dresser drawer at once and I think her folding method is more protective of my old wooden drawers. Bravo, Marie! I do notice more wrinkles, however.

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  11. Some of it just has to go. I do not need two sets of china (I never use either), the grandfather clock (hate the sound of it), all the Lenox, Ilardo, Wedgewood, Hummels, art etc. I only keep what is nostalgic to me, like if I was attached to it through my childhood or some other meaning or if I just like it. Otherwise it went to consignment.

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  12. My heritage is my values and traditions, not my stuff.

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  13. A fellow who dated a friend of mine in Virginia (and later married her) used to sing, "Their house is a museum, Where people come to see 'em, They really are a scre-am, The Addams Family". We both grew up with old family pieces but also with interesting rocks, minerals, snake skins, feathers, pottery shards, arrow heads, minnie balls, dispensary bottles, glass insulators, and other treasures of little to no monetary value!

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  14. These community questions are the best to spark a valuable discussion! I find them challenging and informative. Thank you. Marie Kondo presents a youthful, Japanese perspective that introduces a foreign perspective to our American joy in the accumulation of prized possessions that represented to our ancestors
    a perceived success in response to the "American dream of success." We treasure the memory of our ancestors as they acquired these prized possessions as they represented a growing social status. For now, if these collections still spark JOY for us, by all all means treasure them. On the other hand, if they are burdensome, do share them them with a recipient who values them! Thank you SWNE and Marie for bringing us this opportunity to dig into our values!

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  15. I think the anonymous commenter (2.16 at 10:56pm) was spot-on in their analysis. From what I can see, the Marie Kondo phenomena is not necessarily about minimalism as it is ensuring one is happy and not burdened with belongings. I don’t know about the rest of you, but they can have my china, stoneware, books, paintings and prints, clocks and so on when I’m gone, however, I could deal with some Marie Kondo organization of it while here.

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  16. "KonMari" suggests that tidiness as a precursor to happiness, and not true minimalism. Ben Franklin famously shared "tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation" but also advised to "let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time." I'm with Ben.

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