Monday, 10 April 2017

100 Essentials

I can't claim to be a minimalist but I like reading about minimalism. It inspires me to get more serious about decluttering, though that mostly translates into doing a modest amount of decluttering rather than none at all. For my latest bit of inspiration I have been reading 100 Essentials by Francine Jay, in which she lists one hundred items which she considers to be her basic essentials - if she owned only these things she would have everything she needed in order to function well. She divides them into three categories: a simple kitchen (35 items), a capsule wardrobe (35 items), and a minimalist home (30 items).

I thought this book would be an interesting read, but in the same way that I might read about trekking in the Amazon or flying to the moon - fascinating to see through someone else's eyes, but not something I could ever personally aspire to achieve. In fact, thanks to her gentle approach I found it much more accessible and relatable than I expected. She does not advocate only owning 100 items; some of the "items" are multiples, so flatware (knife / fork / spoon) is counted as one, as is underwear. She also only looks at her own property as an individual - other family members obviously have their own stuff.

The 100 items are a base, literally "the essentials", to which it is fine to add considered extras. For example, although she only counts a single bath towel, if you often have visitors staying then spare towels would be sensible extras. The aim is not to stray into excess; if you never have more than two visitors staying at once then four spare bath towels would be excess. She defines extras as "an expansion that can wax and wane as you see fit". They may be items relevant to a particular living situation, such as garden tools or a snow shovel, or items that are not strictly necessary but which add significant value to your life, such as books, materials for hobbies, or sports equipment. Anything beyond this, the nondescript and rarely used (or unused) stuff is excess.

The concept of 100 essentials really appeals to my list-loving nature and I think I would find it genuinely useful to come up with a list of my own. When decluttering I have difficulty working out what is important and useful, and what is just "stuff". I read Marie Kondo's Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and was all enthused, but it took only a couple of attempts to realise that the KonMari method is not for me. I was overwhelmed and no joy was sparked. I am hopeful that I would do much better tackling it from the other direction; with a checklist of what I actually need (and value) I would be able to look at the stuff and divide it into essentials, extras and excess. As Francine Jay puts it, "100 Essentials gives us a powerful lens with which to evaluate the material world". I can see in theory that it would. Putting it into practice will be a challenge, but I think it is worth a try.

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