You could say I’m a natural minimalist. If you step into my room, you’d see little; I don’t feel a need to accumulate things, and I regularly throw out or donate things I don’t need anymore. It takes work, but it’s not difficult for me to live a simpler life.
But while I’ve been a natural minimalist my whole life, I’ve only become a conscious minimalist in the last few years. As a natural minimalist, I’ve easily foregone the things in my life. But as a conscious minimalist, I’ve gone back up the other way and come to appreciate the value of things.
There is a ceramic cup in my hand. It reminds me of its creator, who generously let me make her photograph when I visited her store in Seoul. I’ll likely never step into her workshop or see her again, but I remember that moment and my journey when I hold this cup. The cup holds its drink, it also holds a memory.
To be a conscious minimalist, then, cuts both ways.
To believe that the next new possession will make us truly happy, consciously or unconsciously, is to fall into the illusion of “if only,” a trap that forgets how none of our things have ever provided lasting happiness.
To believe that having few enough things will make us truly happy, is simply an inversion of the same trap.
To be conscious, we go deeper. We recognize that the things we own are neither the problem nor the answer; the ballast is in our relationship to these things.
Can we appreciate the things in our life that add to our lives, without becoming entrapped by them? Can we cultivate a gratitude that isn’t dependent on attachment, and a happiness that isn’t conditional on desire?
The cup from Seoul will break one day, either by my hand, or someone else’s. Whether it happens today, or a hundred years from now, one day it will no longer be. Before I bought it, it was not mine, after it breaks, it will not be mine. In the between, was it ever mine at all?