Today’s guest post comes from Brandon Zeller, who graduated from Brigham Young University in 2008 with a philosophy degree. He currently studies at Harvard Law School. He enjoys soccer, formal logic, and most varieties of cheese.
What makes us get so much stuff that we don’t need? This post (and the previous) describes a few traps that lead to clutter and why those traps are hard to avoid.
Just In Case…
A third trap that leads to accumulating stuff is that at one time you had a clear need for a certain item. Once that need had been met, you no longer needed the item, but you thought you might again in the future or simply didn’t want to waste it.
Hence, tons of plastic grocery bags, shelves and boxes full of books you may never read again, and the camping gear you haven’t used in years.
I call this the “Just In Case” trap. This trap is tough to avoid because a good way to keep from having to get more stuff is to get the maximum use out of what you already have. “Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is a good maxim for the minimalist, but “Just In Case” may not be as effective.
Why You Fall For It
There’s a deeper reason that the “Just in Case” trap is hard to avoid. If you avoid this trap by throwing stuff away, there’s a risk that someday you’ll actually need some of those things again, and you might have to reacquire some stuff. This takes more time and more money, and it can lead to some mental anguish.
A Minimalist Response
A minimalist would reply that if you build a lifestyle in which you don’t need much stuff, then it will be easier to know what you’ll need again and what you won’t.
You won’t have to reacquire very much stuff because you never need very much stuff—the cost of occasional reacquisition is a lot lower than the cost of constant accumulation.
The danger of not having on hand things you need every once in a while is built into the minimalist lifestyle. A minimalist admits that not having a lot of stuff on hand can slow you down a little. But so can having so much stuff that you can’t find what you need. Besides, having a life that doesn’t move quite so fast isn’t a bad thing.
(Note from Damien: In a previous post, I discussed how the need to save for the future may interfere with our present happiness.)