What Is Digital Is Also Real and Material

Many people contrast the internet / online things with ‘the real world’ or ‘in real life’. This implies that the internet / online things are not ‘real’. I chose not to use this language because, to me, the internet is included in ‘the real world/real life’. If I want to clearly state that something is not on the internet, I usually use the word ‘offline’.

And it’s not just the internet – there is a broad cultural tendency to treat digital media in general, even if it’s offline, as if it has no real or material existence. But that is not true. Take this blog, for example. It’s a form of digital media, but all of the data on this blog is stored on physical memory drives of some sort somewhere (and it would be a good idea for me to make another backup of this blog soon – I need to remind myself). I use physical devices to write this blog and send the information to the WordPress servers, and as far as I know, everyone who reads this blog does it through some sort of device that exists in a material sense, and uses material resources (metal, plastic, electricity, and so forth).

(If you, the reader, are a disembodied intelligence who exists in a purely spiritual plane and has found a way to read this blog without any use of material resources, I’m sorry that I’m leaving you out, I am merely unaware of your existence.)
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I poke at the essay “The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism”

I am on a weekly blogging schedule, and the essay “The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism” seems like just the kind of thing I’ll enjoy poking.

Yes, I disagree with the main premise – that the KonMari Method or that ‘minimalism’ offers empty promises, especially since I think going through the KonMari method in my own home delivered everything that Marie Kondo promised. Yes, I am going to be very critical. Yet I am going to be critical with smiles and giggles, not with screaming and raging.

First of all, I agree with the hosts of the Spark Joy podcast that “Konmari equals minimalism/minimalism is KonMari” is a myth. KonMari and minimalism can definitely complement each other, but I have found many examples of minimalists who have broken some or even all of the core tenets of Marie Kondo’s philosophy, and there are people who faithfully follow all of the steps of the Konmari method who aren’t minimalists. Heck, I have a blog post about one of the philosophical differences between the Konmari method and minimalism. There is also this discussion of how they are different. It’s not just KonMari fans who say KonMari isn’t the same a minimalism; there are also many minimalists who say that KonMari isn’t minimalism (example). This essay in the Guardian, on the other hand, tends to conflate the Konmari method and minimalism. To mean, that weakens its arguments.

As I said in that previous blog post, I neither claim to be a minimalist nor claim to be a non-minimalist. You, my dear readers, may decide whether or not I am a minimalist; I’ll accept your judgement.
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Historical Cycles of Collecting & Minimizing (If Walls Could Talk Series)

This is part of the If Walls Could Talk series

One of the many things I’ve learned from the book If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley is that, at least in the English-speaking world, there have already been a few cycles of a fad for collecting various material stuff followed by a fad for clearing out the ‘clutter’ to make the home simple and beautiful.

According to Worsley, in medieval England, anyone who could afford to have a lot of material goods had a very mobile lifestyle, and thus needed stuff that was easy to carry around. The king had to constantly travel from place to place within his kingdom, and powerful nobles had multiple manors and needed to travel between them in order to manage their domain. That meant that their stuff was both easy to assemble/dissemble and pack, and there was a practical limit to just how much stuff they had. “This was medieval life for the grand,” the book says “the temporary occupation of an endless succession of draughty castles, each furnished quickly but luxuriously for the occasion. It’s almost like camping: each night the whole set-up could be recreated somewhere new.”

There was another reason, however, that the powerful people in medieval times (and their servants) moved from place to place every few weeks. Worsley says “The difficulty of cleaning up after a huge household was one of the things that kept medieval noblemen on the move, trekking from residence to residence every few weeks. [Describing an incident when Queen Mary’s household was stuck at the same palace for a long time] …The squalor grew; the garderobes [equivalents of toilets] overflowed into the moat. The conditions grew so foul that tension between the English courtiers and the Spanish supporters of Mary’s husband Philip reached boiling point.” Continue reading

Emphasizing Decluttering/Purging Material Stuff Is Also Materialistic

In the past few months, I’ve been reading essays, books, and watching videos about ‘Minimalism’. A common theme is that experiences matter more than material stuff. This is how I often react when this point comes up:

Minimalist: Minimalists choose to value experiences more than stuff.
Me: Okay, I’m like that too.
Minimalist: So that is why we declutter and purge stuff!
Me: Huh?

I think I’ve always valued experiences more than material stuff, not because I think it is a ‘superior’ position in any moral sense, but simply because I just care more about experiences than stuff. And that is why it took me so long to become interested in decluttering/organizing/tidying. I felt that experiences were more important than stuff, so why bother dealing with getting the stuff in my home in order when I could spend my time instead on cool experiences? Choosing what to keep, and then getting what I don’t want to keep out of my home takes time and energy. Time and energy I could spend on something else, like writing a blog post.

It seems a lot of minimalists assume that people are holding onto a lot of material items because they highly value material stuff. That is certainly true in some cases, but in my case, I was holding onto as much as I was not because I valued material stuff so highly, but because I did not consider putting my stuff in order to be worth my time and energy. Continue reading