The Minimalists is a Netflix documentary. It is what I watched last night whilst trying not to cry about the cats.
I remember reading some time ago that people as they get older tend to stop wanting to read fiction and instead turn to autobiographies. I understand that, although it is hard as in my experience a lot of autobiographies aren’t that well written, or else the best and only really good bit in it was the bit that was read out on the radio that got me to buy it.
That said, even if there’s one good bit in a book, if the bit is really good, it’s worth it. Chris Packham’s bit about suicide in his book Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, about all the wonders that he’s seen, which encouraged him, and then about his dogs, which stopped him. Guy Martin’s description of the big crash, that was the bit that was read out on the radio. But the bit I really liked was him walking home after a hard day’s work mending trucks and seeing all the houses with people sitting around a big screen tv and him saying: You don’t get that time back at the end you know. I love, love love that, and I say it to myself regularly.
Anyway, maybe the visual equivalent is getting into watching documentaries on Netflix rather than watching films.
My husband said that maybe everyone has to experience capitalism and materialism before they can begin to reject it, and so it is fitting that this documentary is American and the movement is being started by super successful people. These people are smartly dressed, ex high powered career people. They are not scruffy unwashed hippies.
Oh, and to go off topic for a moment, their teeth! How do Americans have such incredible teeth (or why do us Brits have such bad ones? What is the American situation with fluoride? We have it in our water and in most toothpaste, but some people think it blocks your third eye.) My teeth are considered good by British standards, but they are not white like kitchen paper, or white like a thick blanket of freshly fallen snow. It is one of the few things that annoys me about the Walking Dead, although it’s not unique to that show. Their teeth are still perfect, wouldn’t they be stained and worse, have some missing either from decay or having been knocked out in battle? Are they all still flossing? Have all the dentists survived? I have to suspend my disbelief about the teeth, I complained to my husband. What, that’s the only thing you have to suspend your disbelief about?! my husband said.
So back to the message of the Minimalists. I agreed with everything. It was just what I needed. If anyone thinks what I am doing is weird, I can feel reassured. I could even say, ‘I’m a minimalist, there’s a film about it on Netflix’. I love Netflix.
The people in the documentary had fewer clothes, but they loved them all, and they tended to be better quality, thus showing how we should be both less and more materialistic: really value and take care of the things we have.
Obviously this would be terrible, but I used to say that I’d like to lose everything in a house fire, so that I could just start again. This shows what a gloom merchant I was, but my husband is saying he isn’t going to keep any of his clothes (aside from ones he’s taking travelling) and I’m seriously considering doing the same. I was going to keep work clothes and warm clothes. But if I’m not intending to do the kind of work that entails shapeless black trousers and modest frumpy tops (a lot of the patients I work with are sex offenders), and my warm clothes are all either poor quality/worn out, isn’t this my golden opportunity to fulfil my long held dream and get rid of everything and start again, with a few well chosen quality items from Cotswold Outdoor? Alongside my more recent dream of getting rid of everything and just being left with a backpack? (Plus duvets, pillows, blankets and a few essential crockery items left in someone’s loft or garage for our return.)
It’s not just stuff, it’s ideas I’m realising might be superfluous distractions and worth shedding: my step grandma picks up litter everywhere she goes, with no gloves, then eats cake at the cafe. No wet wipes, no alcohol gel. I’ve never heard of her being sick. Spending time with her also made me wonder whether all this concern about nutrition is really worth it. She eats a cereal bar for breakfast, then goes out to the cafe for coffee and cake, followed by a good walk. As far as I can tell she doesn’t eat lunch, I know she never cooks at all anyway. She grazes on custard creams and chocolate chip cookies and in the evening she has white sliced bread with organic lettuce and tomatoes.
I’ve been wrapping my mind around letting go of my career, and what that means, prompted by interactions with three separate people on the subject. At work, one of the admin staff told me to ask the admin people for help. We’re not here to have a career, she said, so we just want to be busy, it helps the day go quicker. She is a smart, interesting person, with whom I had a good chat about Christmas and minimalism. We’re not here for a career, rang in my ears. For so long, I have been all about the career, but what if I could just become the kind of person who wasn’t bothered about all that?
Then there was this blog about changing attitudes to work and different ways of working, and our happy little exchange in the comments section. Lastly, me and my husband working out that if we lowered our overheads by living on a boat and sharing a car, maybe we’d only need to work an average of 2-3 days per week each. We bounced around ideas, cleaning houses for letting agents, especially really filthy houses. Neither of us is bothered about cleaning up shit.
Just think, he said, if you weren’t bothered about it being a career, then you’d be free to just do anything that came along. It made me think that the whole career thing is a trap, you think you’re getting something special and even feel superior sometimes, I am very sorry to say, but really, by letting go of all that, I’m free to make my life, rather than my career, the centre of my life. And that is what The Minimalists are trying to teach us.