The new minimalist: how far can disownership go?

My twenty-something friends talk about all the various ways of streaming music, movies, series, and books. (Recently I heard that not a single singer in Spain sold more than 90,000 albums in 2016 [article in Spanish]). They also have a belief that they will never earn nearly as much as their parents did (youth unemployment in Spain is higher than 40%). This got me wondering how far a sharing economy based on music-streaming and social media models could take us?

Back when Unclutterer started, PJ Doland had a great series of articles about extreme minimalism, talking about someone who actively rejected ownership on a grand scale. But what if extreme minimalism wasn’t a choice? What if with the steadily shrinking middle class and the rise of the uber-rich, owning things became prohibitive for a large portion of society?

A coworker told me recently about the years she spent in Nicaragua where amongst the poorest levels of society, there isn’t a strong concept of ownership. If one person in the community has something (like a newly drilled well in the case of my coworker), it is considered to be the property of the whole community.

Jacki has talked about office sharing and Jeri wrote about sharing items to reduce clutter. To add to my growing awareness of the disownership trend, I saw an article about co-owning a home with friends and what risks and traps to avoid.

The creative part of my brain has put all these pieces together and has formulated a question that I find myself very curious to explore: What would a non-ownership world look like?

I’m not talking about a Utopian socialist/communist society. I am talking about the next steps of an increasingly corporatocracy that excludes more and more people from belonging to it without the support of friends and family.

That question has prompted me to take a new look at the Extreme Minimalist Monday theme. Occasionally over the next little while, I am going to take a look at the extension of sharing/streaming technology into day-to-day life and how it might affect the level of clutter/organization in the lives of people who participate in it.

Let me give you an example.

Here in Spain, social media Influencers (yes, with a capital “I”) talk about the importance of carving out a unique fashion style and always being on the edge of whatever is coming next. Obviously these Influencers don’t have TARDIS-like closets that are infinitely larger on the inside than the outside, so they have to do something with all the clothes they discard when they move onto the next trend.

And so Chicfy was created (website in Spanish). It’s an app that’s part Instagram and part eBay. Users create their store, put up photos of the clothes they want to sell, (usually relying heavily on the selfie photography style) and gain followers. These followers then buy the clothes and when they tire of them rework them into a different style that will encourage their own followers to buy something.

At some point someone needs to physically buy (or sew) the clothes, but instead of sitting unused in a closet, or ending up in a landfill, they get passed along, the way children’s winter boots used to go from oldest to youngest siblings until the soles wore out.

I personally don’t know anyone who uses the app, and the song that they use to advertise the service is an incredibly irritating earworm that has become a streaming hit. For an extreme minimalist, it could be a good way to opt out of the consumerist society that demands we buy only new, while still staying on the edge of what’s considered fashionable.

Now then, taking this to the next level, will buying new clothes become something only the rich do, while the rest of us buy progressively more worn-out wardrobes along some social-media-created scale of affordability?

Extreme minimalism Monday: Shoes are clutter

I went jogging this past weekend with the extreme minimalist.

He’s been exercising regularly over the past month. He’s actually lost a considerable amount of weight lately, which probably has nothing to do with his new diet.

By now I should really know not to be surprised by any of his newly-acquired eccentricities, but I still did a Danny Thomas spit-take after we met up on the trail and I saw that he wasn’t wearing shoes.

At first I figured I should probably just ignore it. Questioning him about such things only seems to encourage this type of behavior.

Twenty minutes into the run I saw him charge right through some dog shit someone had inconsiderately failed to remove from the trail. I figured this might be a good opportunity to gently remind him of the obvious benefits of footwear. I should have followed my initial instinct, as he began to lecture me on the issue.

  • I learned that Abebe Bikila and Tegla Loroupe set world marathon records without barefoot, so you obviously don’t need expensive sport shoes to be a good runner.
  • I learned that wearing shoes contributes to weakening of the feet.
  • I learned that I’m complicit in Chinese human rights violations by purchasing shoes made there.
  • I learned the I can find out more about going barefoot by visiting the site of the Society for Barefoot Living

After a few minutes I realized he hasn’t just stopped wearing shoes while exercising. He stopped wearing shoes entirely.

I’m worried this might be progressive and he’s going to slowly become a nudist one article of clothing at a time.

Extreme minimalism Monday: Bucket o’ food

The extreme minimalist used to be a vocal advocate of once-a-month cooking. That came to an abrupt end when I let him tag along with me to Costco a few months ago.

We did our shopping separately and agreed to meet up at a specified time and location inside the store. He never showed, so I went looking for him.

I eventually found my friend standing open-mouthed in childlike wonder as he beheld an aisle end cap stacked high with five gallon buckets that held the promise of an even better solution to the “food problem.”

Each bucket contained an emergency food supply with 275 servings inside. At $115 per bucket, my friend realized he could eat for an entire year on less than $500. Tears swelled up in his eyes when I mentioned he could probably also get rid of the refrigerator in his apartment.

I tried to discourage him. I reminded him that people need variety in their diets. He rebuffed me by pointing to the bucket’s list of contents:

  • 30 Servings – Potato Bakon (Note the “k.”)
  • 25 Servings – Corn Chowder
  • 25 Servings – Ala King
  • 25 Servings – Cacciatore
  • 25 Servings – Western Stew
  • 45 Servings – Whey Milk
  • 25 Servings – Blueberry Pancakes
  • 25 Servings – Barley Vegetable

For obvious reasons, my wife and I now make a sport out of coming up with excuses for avoiding his dinner parties.

Extreme minimalism Monday: Rock out

We’ve never really been a fan of the extreme minimalist’s guitar playing. Truth be told, he makes Robert Fripp’s music sound like pop by comparison.

He had been perfectly content playing a headless Steinberger GLB-2S. Recently, however, he came across pictures of a rare Gittler guitar from the 1970s.

It was love at first sight.

He just won’t stop talking about this guitar. For the last two weeks he’s been making phone calls and scouring the Net in a vain attempt to track down a Gittler of his very own.

So if you happen to come across one, please let us know and we’ll pass the info along.

Extreme minimalism Monday: sounds of silence

The extreme minimalist finally broke down last week and bought himself an iPod. He feels a little guilty about the unnecessary material acquisition, but he likes being able to carry around his recordings of John Cage’s 4’33”.

He asked me to share this video with you this week. It’s his favorite recording of the piece, from a televised concert.

The extreme minimalist also uses this piece as the ringtone for his mobile phone, which is probably why we can never seem to reach him.

Extreme Minimalism Monday: look ma! no hands!

Sure, your average proponent of simple-living might ride a bike to work every morning instead of driving a car. That’s not really all that uncommon these days.

But the extreme minimalist believes that mobility devices should be reduced to their essential attributes. That’s why he goes a step further and rides the Ultimate Wheel to his office every morning.

This approach seems perfectly reasonable to us. Honestly, do you really need handlebars, brakes, and a second wheel to get around?

And don’t even get us started on “seats.”

Extreme minimalism Monday: hair is clutter

Eschew the trappings of our vain and materialistic culture by shaving your head. Did you know that you can replace the following items with a single razor and a can of shaving cream?

  1. Combs
  2. Brushes
  3. Shampoo
  4. Conditioner
  5. “Product” (Gels, Mousses, Waxes)
  6. Scrunchies
  7. Barrettes
  8. Hairdryer

It’s a practical and stylish approach that is surprising versatile–it works whether you look like Natalie Portman (pictured) or Telly Savalas. And with all the money you save on haircuts you’ll be able to buy cool white clothing and furniture so you can live out the kind of THX-1138 lifestyle that most minimalists only dream of.

Extreme minimalism Monday: laser beard removal

Would you like to get rid of that razor, can of shaving cream, and bottle of after-shave on your bathroom vanity? Do you spend a small fortune on expensive five-bladed razor refills? Would you like to shave five minutes off your morning routine?

If so, you should consider laser beard removal. Yes, it will hurt. Badly. But honestly, what’s six sessions of excruciating pain paired with the smell of burning hair follicles when weighed against less bathroom clutter and a lifetime of not having to shave?

If you decide to take the plunge, be advised that I won’t be joining you, as I’m waiting for the Chester A. Arthur look to come back into style.

Extreme minimalism Monday: The Penal-Ware® Comby

Do you think stainless steel fixtures are sexy? Is space at a premium in your bathroom? Are you a die-hard fan of HBOs Oz?

If the answer to more than one of these questions is yes, you might want to consider buying the Penal-Ware® Comby from Acorn Engineering. This high-quality prison-grade combination toilet/sink is both stylish and space-saving.

Interior designers should note that the Comby pairs particularly well with Penal-Ware® Suicide Resistant Shower Model 1741.

Extreme minimalism Monday: The spork

Why have the added clutter of forks and spoons in your flatware drawer? Why not make things simpler by replacing both of these unitaskers with a single versatile utensil? SnowPeak makes attractive, lightweight, and durable sporks in titanium.

The truly committed can go a step further and dispense with the added clutter of the knife by ordering the 3-in-1 Light My Fire Spork.

Yes. We’re kidding.

Sort of.