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Minimalism: A New Pursuit

by Bennett Dungan


I've never been one to acquire an abundance of things. I still drive the first car I've ever owned, a 1999 Toyota Camry. I've only had 4 phones total and tend to keep them for 4+ years. I play a lot of PC games with friends but I only upgrade my computer about once every 4-6 years. Im currently wearing a shirt I purchased back in 2009 when I used to work at Pac Sun, which says a lot about how much I care for fashion. I guess I have an innate trait to avoid buying things because I personally hate shopping for stuff. Although, I have gone through times where I find myself hoarding too many things which is usually when Im in the midst of a hobby. Even then, I tend to recognize my stupidity and get rid of the unnecessary items soon after.

For the longest time I figured this is how most people view their belongings but I realized Im in a small minority of people who have this sort of outlook. Some might identify this as minimalism, although Im not as disciplined as I'd like to be in that practice. The idea of minimalism has always interested me since I naturally align with some of its concepts. Essentially minimalism states that you should only own the things that bring value into your life. That statement is a little fuzzy because most people can quite easily make up values for almost everything they own which is a trap I fall into myself. For example, I had 3 cameras which all could be used for different purposes. So I said the values that they provided me are different modes and styles of shooting photos. Boom, values have been assigned so I can automatically keep all 3, right? Well, not really because even though I assigned a value to all 3 of those cameras I actually had very weak values and utility from 1 of those in particular. For me, this was pretty easy to see which of the cameras I needed to get rid of but for other people it can be really hard to figure out how to judge what items they should keep and what items they should get rid of.

Another issue I find myself and lots of others dealing with is the 'I might need this some day' trap. Yes there are many things in life you might need one day but the benefits of lugging around boxes full of old kitchen equipment, vintage gaming consoles and your forgotten hobby of crocheting isn't worth it in most cases. Sure, you might catch the bug to knit a nice little sweater for your cat 2 years from now but it isn't worth the mental weight of knowing you have dozens of boxes stuffed with old knick knacks that haven't been touched in years. It goes a little deeper than just keeping boxes of things because a lot of people don't mind storing stuff in their closets and attics since its out of sight, out of mind. The thing is, it actually is weighing on your mind just on a really low frequency. Every time you open your closest and see the pile of boxes, hoards of clothes and racks of shoes you are reminded of all these things. There's something that can't really be described with words until you give yourself that opportunity of freedom from your belongings. Its like taking a weight off your mind that you didn't even know was there, its very much a freeing experience.

It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.

Bertrand Russell

All this got me thinking about ways I could help rid myself of stuff I don't care much for in my own life but also how I can help other people see their belongings in a different light. When I started my recent minimizing practice, I would go through all my stuff and write down on a sheet of paper the things I was on the fence about. I then looked at each item on paper and rated it on a 'happiness' scale between 1 and 10. Once I was done with this I grouped all the items below a 6 and decided that this would be the group of items I was going to get rid of. It was an eye opening experience because I never specifically dedicated much time to deciding how happy or useful an item I owned was using a scale system. This method really helped me hone in on the things that really didn't matter to me which made the minimizing process of my belongings that much easier.

When I realized just how helpful this method was I figured it would be an amazing opportunity to create some new side project that I've been longing for since I got my new job as a developer. I got into programming to help people, thats my purpose with this pursuit, so it clicked almost instantly that this method could easily be translated into a web/mobile app. The general idea is that the application will get users to log items they're unsure of and have them rate each of these items on a scale. The end 'Results' page will present a nice chart of sorts that gives people a visual representation of where all of their items landed on this scale helping them see from a higher level how they view each of those belongings. I love making sense of data so this will allow me to help others view how their belongings affect their lives from a different vantage point. Essentially this article was to state my idea for this new app since this is mostly a blog dedicated to my journey as a programmer. I also love delving into details of modern day materialism so I might be able to squeeze some extra features into this app as I go along with its development.

So this is my public declaration of commitment for building this new application. I've had it in my head for awhile and got the barebones started but its been on the back-burner for a few weeks now. Getting my thoughts down in writing helped streamline the concept so this blog post was super beneficial. I'll be coming out with updates along the way as the development continues.