mind over matter,

Find the balance in minimalism

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Minimalism has become something of a craze recently. Countless books have been written about this topic, and the word minimalism evokes a dreamy sense of freedom: minimize belongings and maximize joy. Live untethered.

The dreamy sense of freedom is precisely that — a dream.

Real-life is more complicated.

But let’s talk about printers for a second. They seem to be anathema to minimalists. They take up space, cost money, and seem to have endless problems. You can always go to FedEx to print, so why buy a damn printer, right?

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo advises people to throw away everything that doesn’t bring joy. A printer, for me, certainly doesn’t bring joy.

But there are times when it is nice to have a printer. On a Sunday night, for whatever reason, you need to print a document. What do you do? Perhaps the document has your SSN on it — should you print it at FedEx the next day? Is that safe?

Here is a popular definition of Minimalism:

Like I mentioned before, minimalism is intentionally living with only the things I really need—those items that support my purpose. I am removing the distraction of excess possessions so I can focus more on those things that matter most.

Imagine what happened to those who had intentionally set themselves up with a tiny home when the pandemic hit and had to work from home.

So if you think I am not recommending minimalism, am I recommending hoarding as many things as possible? Of course not! Let’s strike a balance.

Think in terms of utility

Think of this from a utility point of view. Things have utility. But you have to pay a cost to maintain things, which is negative of utility.

So, on the one hand, not having things reduces the overall utility, while having too many things also tends to lower the utility because things will break and you have to spend time to fix them; they take space and whatnot.

If you are rich, you could hire people to take care of your stuff, in which case, the maxima will be pushed out to the right quite a bit.

Think in terms of optionality

Optionality is when you have the ability to choose from different options. If you are super-rich, you can maintain multiple homes, and that gives you optionality.

Taleb in Antifragile talks quite a bit about this concept.

Obviously, too much optionality can be bad. That is, to some extent, the gripe we all have with maximalism. Think again in terms of utility point of view. Think of the potential upside vs. the downside when considering whether to accumulate something or not.