Minimalism, Austerity, and My Emotional Support Unicorn

If you follow me on Instagram, you have witnessed my small collection of gel pens, Stabilo Boss markers, and Washi tape. You’ve seen my quest to find my emotional support unicorn, Vito. This has led some folks to ask if I’ve abandoned minimalism as a philosophy. It’s a fair question. It’s also an opportunity to address misconceptions about what minimalism actually is.

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Color is a Thing That Exists

Hey, look, I know that there are some famous minimalist gurus who do everything in black and white. Others seem to go monochromatic, or use a lot of white space. As a symbolic gesture or a way to establish a style for your brand, it works. That doesn’t mean that your life has to be drab. Getting rid of stuff you don’t need or want to make space for the things you do means just that. It’s one area where I agree with the nice Japanese lady; if a thing makes you happy, it’s a valid reason to hang onto it.

As I’ve stated before, my bullet journal is not an arts-and-craft project that doubles as a productivity system. It’s a productivity system that leverage with color-coding. I also tend to doodle while I think. Pens, highlighters, and tapes fit in with that. But I also live in a country where it’s dark and depressing for a good part of the year. Do you know what helps with that, psychologically? Bright, happy colors. I own useful things, and they happen to be pretty. That’s all within the rules.

How Much Constitutes Enough is Subjective

Yes, I am aware that there are minimalists who only own 100 things. Or 50. Or some other completely subjective number. There are various reasons people do this, some of which are valid. I follow a couple of minimalist who travel the world. They need to keep the number of bags they take with them, and the weight of those bags, down to the most practical lower limit. Some people live in tiny homes, or can only afford ridiculously small apartments. There are some, like me, who know that their housing situation is ultimately temporary and they’ll have to move at some point; I have moving, so the less I own, the less annoying it will be.

I think that there is an objective amount of stuff that constitutes “too much”. If you can’t walk through a room, you probably have an excessive amount of stuff. A vast collection of broken and useless objects is likely unnecessary. Things you haven’t used or looked at in years would qualify. Beyond that, though, it really is subjective. Oh no, I own 9 rolls of Washi tape! Well, yeah. It takes up virtually no space and I probably dropped a whole €8 on it, if that much. I rarely spend money on myself. It also gets used, and it adds some non-austere visual interest to the journal I live out of every single day. I don’t think I’ve lost the plot here.

My Emotional Support Unicorn

Let’s go back to that part above where I mentioned moving. We’re in this apartment until Katie finishes graduate school. After that, I have no idea where we’ll end up. If I had a choice, it would be here in Finland, in this city. It could be another city, though.  We could even land in another country. Moving is inevitable. I’ve been living in this state of temporariness, this holding pattern of sorts, for four years. I am ready to have a permanent based of operations again. Not necessarily so I can spread out, but to maybe be able to buy some things — large things, heavy things, expensive things — that I know I’ll be able to hold onto, and not have to sell off because they’d be too expensive to ship to wherever we end up.

My world comes down to Katie, my laptop, and my journal. Everything else is replaceable. Furniture, cookware, bedding, it’s all just stuff. I can probably get all of my clothes into one suitcase. The pens, tape, and other foofawraw that goes with journaling can get thrown into the backpack I use as a laptop bag. So why can’t I have a few objects, like my teddy bears and my emotional support unicorn, as the anchors that identify the space I occupy as “home”?

The bottom line is that the things that I have are not only useful, but especially meaningful to me. That’s because I do have so few things. I’ve loosened up a bit lately, for the sake of mental health and self-care, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve fallen entirely off the minimalist wagon. All I’ve done is adjust my own definitions of what I want, and what I’m willing to make space for, to accommodate my own changing needs.

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