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A Careful Collection Of Stuff

A lot of talk about minimalism winds up coming back to a handful of core concepts – one of which is stuff.

We talk about our favorite stuff. We talk about our lack of stuff. We discuss our attachment (or lack thereof) to stuff.

Craig over at Simple Black Coffee ran a series of posts a few months back about just that – our favorite stuff. I talked about my Birkenstocks. Lots of other bloggers weighed in with guest posts about their favorite stuff.

One particularly caught my eye though. Dusti Arab claims to have no attachment to stuff.

I Say Baloney

I don’t believe that anybody doesn’t have favorite possessions. Not for a second.

Let’s pretend that you’re the most rockin’ hardcore minimalist and your worldly possessions all fit into a Zippo lighter case. You only have the clothes on your back (literally). I’m betting the clothes you’re wearing were picked because they were your favorite!

I don’t know about you, but I try not to own things I don’t like. Think about it – when was the last time you were at the store and said, “I HATE THIS! Give me two, please”?

The Function Of Stuff

I don’t think I’m overly attached to stuff. Most stuff in my life is there because it does something I want done, and it does it well. Clothes need to be comfortable. Tools need to be useful. Certain things need to be durable.

Let me give an example.

I have a SureFire flashlight. It’s small, relatively lightweight, and produces more light than a huge flashlight that takes 3 or 4 D cells.

I’ve probably had this flashlight for upwards of eight years. When I go to pick it up, it works. There’s no having to shake it, tap it, or otherwise mess with it. I turn it on, it’s on – 99.99% of the time.

On the rare occasions that it doesn’t come on, it’s because the batteries are dead. But since the lithium batteries have a useful shelf life of 10+ years, I don’t ever have to worry about the backup batteries – I know they’re ready to go.

I don’t own this for status. I own it because I owned a number of flashlights before it, and I got thoroughly sick of dead backup batteries, spotty electrical connections, and dim bulbs.

I own one flashlight, and this is it. I have zero attachment to the brand, other than the fact that I know they make great flashlights. I do, however, enjoy the heck out of the fact that the flashlight just works.

Does That Make Me “Attached To My Possessions”?

I don’t know how to even answer that question, because the question almost doesn’t seem to apply.

When you only own one of something, is it possible for it to *not* be your favorite whatever-it-is?

How does one even define “attachment” in this situation? I use the flashlight often enough that If I lost it, I’d go replace it. After all, if it’s something that fulfills a legitimate purpose in your life, is it possible to not have some sort of attachment to it?

Even Dusti admits (in the linked post above) that she’d “be pissed if her laptop got stolen tomorrow”. Is that attachment?

And if it isn’t, what is?

I’d love to know what you think – let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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10 Responses - Add Your Input!

Posted September 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

This is an interesting post Robert. I would say I’m less attached to possessions than most, but there are certainly some things that I would miss greatly if they disappeared.

For example, comfortable sneakers are one of my favorite things in the world. I love to walk outdoors, and having a pair of comfortable sneakers makes a huge difference in how much I can enjoy my daily walks. So I guess that could mean I’m attached to comfortable walking shoes.

I love going for bike rides too. So, I suppose I may be “attached” to my bike as well.

It’s one thing to let a love of “stuff” interfere with our lives by pushing us into debt or taking away time we could be spending on things that matter — like personal relationships. It’s another thing to appreciate the functionality of items that make our lives more enjoyable without holding us back. It’s a delicate balance, I suppose. ;)
Jenny @ Ex-Consumer recently posted..Supersize Your Savings. Cash Giveaway!

Posted September 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

Maybe that’s the real meaning of minimalism – getting rid of what you have no attachment to, and loving and needing the rest. Of course some items are things of necessity – while I might prefer one brand, style, type or color over another, if I didn’t need it I wouldn’t care. I think the people who say they have no attachments to objects are telling the truth – a necessity is acceptable if it serves its need, and the rest doesn’t matter. That’s not me, of course, but I can understand the concept.
Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted..Internet Grocery Shopping Experiment – Groceries Express Fail

Posted September 2, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

I see the comments section of your blog is as dead as mine is at the moment, but it’s nice to see Jenny and Mike here. We can always count on them. I even skipped posting this weekend to see if I could generate a few more comments on Tuesday’s post.

I don’t think I have MUCH attachment to things, but I surprise myself by becoming attached to a favorite shirt or something now and then. There’s nothing wrong with attachment to things; it’s deep attachment that’s the problem. I really like a couple of things, but as long as the people and cats of my life are okay, I’m not all that concerned about the things.

Gip
Gip @ So Much More Life recently posted..Accepting Only High-Quality Experiences

    Robert
    Posted September 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Couldn’t agree more! Thanks for commenting Gip!

Posted September 5, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

I’m attached to whatever provides comfort and utility for day to day living. Aesthetics are a bonus, so I’ve some art work I’m pretty keen on. Sentimentality, which is most associated with “attachment,” is much lower on the list. I would be pissed off losing my laptop or my favorite chef’s knife because of the hassle of replacing them and getting comfortable with the replacements. So the attachment is for ease of day to day living, as opposed, say, to owning something because it’s the cool thing to own or because grammy gave it to me.
Meg recently posted..The Rusty Sword of Shopping

    Robert
    Posted September 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Your viewpoint sounds a lot like mine. Very little has sentimental value to me, but most everything I own has functional value.

    Thanks for commenting Meg!

Anna
Posted September 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

Just read this today, because I’ve been out of town with no internet.
When you are talking about not being attached to things, I think that there is a huge difference between “this is replaceable” and “I can do without it at all.” I definitely have things that I’m attached to or that are my favorite, but none of them are irreplaceable. However, I do appreciate the fact that it makes my life easier.
I think that it’s great that more people are embracing minimalism and moving away from materialism.I don’t think I would have ever looked at things the same way if I hadn’t moved here (to the Congo.) This was brought home recently as I congratulated myself on my light packing for a four day weekend away. I only had my backpack and a large purse. Then I had to stop and realize that I still had more for a short trip than many people here own. That’s humbling!
In the post you linked by Dusti Arab (Please tell me that’s not his real name!) he mentioned he would be upset if his laptop was stolen, but it could easily be replaced. But if he’s not that attached to it, surely he could do without it. :)
Personally, if I had to pick my favorite thing it would be my calendar. It keeps me organized with all that I need to do, and I would miss it if I lost it.
Anna recently posted..At the Market

    Robert
    Posted September 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Dusti Arab is a she, not a he, and yes – that’s her real name.

    To me, the question of attachment is more one of “would you miss it if it was gone”. We all have things like that. I think I’d also say that something disappearing would actively make you angry (as opposed to just wishing you had it), that’s an attachment.

    If stuff (or the lack thereof) has the ability to provoke emotion, that’s attachment in my book.

    Thanks for commenting Anna!

Posted September 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

I have trouble with this attachment thing in minimalism as I find it on the net.
For me, if you are a normal, warm, breathing human, it is a healthy attribute to be able to form attachment and something we encourage in our children’s development. Certainly it’s preferable if a person has good and sincere relationships with other people, but for me, that extends to animals and yes, in part to objects, too. Obviously, an object is on a different scale.
Personally, my understanding of minimalism or simple living is not to accumulate surplus, but only to surround myself by my “favourite” people, pets and things… and I do, trying to avoid more than I need.
It does worry me a little that many minimalists are young 20something males who are proud of being instantly mobile because they don’t own anything. I am curious to see what they will make of life at, say 45, will they marry, have children, find it feasible to pass their arguments on? I think if I were looking for a partner at any time in my life, a guy like this would put me off totally, since his past would show that he is possibly not capable of attachment or partnership and I would be likely not to trust he could change. And I would be even more worried if this was my son.
They say many other minimalists are middle-aged women (like me!). I often find in blogs that these are women disappointed by life and looking for clarity and meaning. I understand the sentiment, but again, how healthy is it then to reject all attachment? Doesn’t sound like good therapy to me and from what I have seen so far in life.
Maybe I didn’t think all this through enough but it’s what comes to mind!
MelD recently posted..Thelwell

    Robert
    Posted September 30, 2011 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    Mel, I must’ve missed this comment when it was originally posted.

    Very well said! I think you’ve thought it through rather well, actually. The question for me is always “if you’re rejecting attachment, what are you rejecting it in favor of?”

    A sheet on the ground in the park will get blown every which way by the wind. Take that same sheet and attach it to a mast on a ship, and it can be used to harness the wind to take you wherever you want to go. I think life is like that – certain attachments have incredible value, and we should seek those.

    Thanks for commenting Mel!

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