If you’ve seen any of my blogs, you probably know that I’m a pretty far cry from an extreme minimalist. I prefer a more cosy minimalist approach, focused on what sparks joy and enhances my life as opposed to removing everything I don’t absolutely need. Still, part of the minimalist movement seems to be based on a fundamental detachment from stuff. The focus is to reduce, reduce, reduce, and detach fully from any items that we may possess. I get why this may be appealing to someone who is using their stuff as a way to prove who they are to other people. That’s a lot of pressure, on the person and the stuff. In situations like that, I totally get why someone would want to detach from the feelings and thoughts attached to those items. But, when it comes to me? I still have a lot of stuff that makes me happy.
Recently, my ceramic travel mug broke. I’d acquired it from a friend last year while cleaning out a space, because she didn’t want to deal with cleaning it up but I was ready for the challenge. Last week it came crashing down, and at first, I thought I would just transition to my stainless steel travel mug. It’s smaller, but maintains heat longer, and is very durable. I figured I could just make it work. One less thing to worry about!
Then, my coffee got cold. Metal can’t go in the microwave, so reheating my drink required haphazard pouring it between vessels over the sink. Ugh. That was frustrating, but not a big deal, right?
Then, I remembered what a pain in the neck it is to clean out all the little rubber parts of that travel mug’s lid, and why I usually don’t put drinks with any kind of dairy in there.
Then, I remembered that 8oz of coffee or tea is woefully insufficient.
It was time for a replacement ceramic travel mug. I had forgotten just how much having a microwavable, easy-to-clean, dishwasher-safe, 20oz travel mug had enhanced my life. I picked one up on my way home from physical therapy that was perfect – except, of course, that it wouldn’t fit in my cupholders. Not even the big ones in the two front doors. I decided that a travel mug that couldn’t travel with me when I drove defeated the purpose and returned it, and turned my search to the online world. I found the perfect 20oz ceramic travel mug that was the same brand as my old one, but an upgraded design with a wider lid for easier cleaning and silicon sleeve to protect it from falls like the one where my last version met its fate. Even better, I had a $10 Amazon gift card from a customer research survey and $3 in cash back on a Prime credit card, so it cost me just shy of $3 as opposed to the first that was near $20. Score!
This mug is perfect. It fits on my coasters and in my cupholders, is double walled and holds in heat really well, the lid stays on and prevents spills, the silicon sleeve keeps the corners safe from impact and my hands safe from burns, and it’s an adorable modern grey-and-white design. I’ve used it every day since it arrived for errands, walking Ink, and working in my building’s common room. I’m a little obsessed. I love it, I use it literally every day, it’s cute, it’s functional, and every time I look at it it makes me happy.
This isn’t just limited to my travel mug. Most of my at-home mugs are associated with good memories, and I really enjoy the collection. I have mugs from the last family vacation before my parents divorced, the day I graduated college, the year I accompanied a children’s choir, and my favorite hometown coffeeshop, all of which take me back to happy moments and places. I love my sweater cardigans from Old Navy last winter when my mom had a ton of rewards for free clothes that we got for pennies a piece, the chairs Mitch and I reupholstered when we first got together, the Pseudonymous Bosch book series I read over and over in high school yet that have no signs of wear, the scarf my best friend got me our first Christmas as friends. They are useful, sure, but I don’t need them. They just make me happy.
I think that forcing detachment from stuff is unhealthy. Like so many other problems within minimalism, we’ve seen all the problems that come from the materialistic extreme and gone all the way to the other end of the spectrum. Much like toxic positivity, this doesn’t actually make us better or resolve the issue. We’re just at the other end of the spectrum, with a different unhealthy extreme.
I love living as a minimalist. I love having a home that I actually use every part of, I love going through my stashes and getting welcome open space as a result, I love creating less waste and experimenting with how little is too little, and how little is enough. I can honestly say that I, or someone living with me, get genuine joy and/or consistent use out of every single thing within these four walls. I love that. But, I’m not going to pursue minimalism in a way that leads me to detach, to get rid of my beloved books or clear our my mug collection when those things mean something to me. We need to let go of the extremities, and feeling like we’re always either moving toward one end or the other.
If you’re a fellow minimalist who has felt this kind of pressure to detach, to clear all but the absolutely necessary, here’s your permission. Love your stuff. Savor your teas and snacks. Read and re-read your books. Play your vinyl records. Embrace the luxury and experience of whatever stuff you have that makes you happy. You aren’t a bad minimalist for letting stuff make you happy, and you aren’t a bad minimalist for keeping things you don’t need for the sole reason that they make you happy. Let the joy of it all fully envelop you, without guilt or shame about how much stuff you think you “should” get rid of.