A Minimalist's Thoughts After a Trip to the Flea
This weekend I went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market for the first time, and while it was meant to be just a day of good fun (which it absolutely was), I also had a lot of mixed feelings throughout the day. Some of my big takeaways, aside from the little one I bought, were:
1. There is just so much stuff on this planet.
The vastness of the flea market is so much bigger than what you can comprehend from the map they give you as you walk in. Everywhere you look there are racks upon racks and table upon table and row upon row of things. So much stuff all in one place out in the open, not separated by buildings or walls, really makes an impression. And when you think this is just a portion of the selection of just a couple (thousand) vendors in this tiny part of the world, then to think of all the stuff that each one of us owns in our own home, and all the stuff that was previously made owned and thrown away! It is enough to make my head spin.
2. I love seeing so many people buying second hand.
Despite being a little overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, it was very exciting to see the prominent and enormous vintage and antique sections of the market. I am a strong believer in "Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle" (and whatever iterations of this phrase), so buying things that already exist instead of increasing demand for new items of the same is excellent whenever possible.
3. I am not my things.
This is what I want to elaborate the most on today...
Probably the biggest feeling I felt throughout the day was that of want. I am not a super minimalist (or spartnaist), I still like to have things around me that inspire me or make my life even just a tad more comfortable or beautiful. But I have gotten pretty good control on my consumerist impulses to buy anything that I like. I am usually very deliberate when I go shopping with precisely what I want or need in mind and will leave empty-handed if I don't find just what it is I came in for. I tell you all of this because yesterday at the flea all of this was thrown out of the window. The excitement of all of the interesting and unique things brought to me a lust I hadn't felt in a long time. I wanted to take home so many things! Fortunately, my rational brain knew I had no space in my life for another basket, rug, denim jacket, or bulb vase and that feeling subsided. But that feeling it again bothered me enough to make me think...
Last year I read Fumio Sasaki's Goodbye Things: The New Japanese Minimalism. There are so many wonderful ideas that Sasaki shares from his own personal experience, but the one I was reminded of yesterday was when he asked himself the question, "Why do we own so many things when we don't need them?" He believes it is our way of conveying our own worth to others, using objects to tell the world who we are. He later shares an example of this in his bookshelves.
"I used to have books piled onto bookcases that took up all of the space in my narrow hallway. Yet I could barely remember reading any of them... It's clear to me now why I kept these books laying around... even though I knew I was never going to read them. I was desperate to convey my worth through these books. They were there to communicate the message: I've read a lot of books to date. As anyone who looks at my bookshelves can see, my interests are diverse, and I'm very inquisitive. I know all about these different topics if only in name... Perhaps I can be described with an intellectual with depth."
When I first read this passage I laughed at loud because I could think of many areas in my life where this must be the subconscious message on repeat. And yesterday I realized that similar dialogue sparked up. "I must have all these beautiful things to show the world how stylish and eclectic my taste is." Again, I am not saying having things to express one's personality is bad. I am just reflecting on my own uncomfortable impulses of yesterday. Then this morning, in my 5 Minute Journal, I found the quote of the day to be a perfect reminder:
"We don't really want things. We want the feelings we thing those things will give us." -Gary Tan
And the beautiful thing about that quote was that I reflect again on the day what stands out most it how much inspiration I got looking at all of the things made by people over the years, how much fun it was exploring with my partner, and how many times we told each other what a great day it had been, and those were the feelings I can hold on to.