This is the first installment of my "Ides" series. The Ides are a time of bad luck in the middle of a month. So now that we’re near the Ides of January, let’s talk about a common pitfall to look out for.
The Ides of January is about getting caught up on the number of items you own. With the decluttering challenge, the capsule wardrobe discussion, and my core value of simplicity, it’s unsurprising that you may think I was caught up in the sheer number of items I own. This is a common pitfall that many aspiring minimalists fall into. You read an article about how I only have 35 articles of clothing in my wardrobe, or how some other blogger has only 1,000 items in their home. And you begin to think that Minimalism is a numbers game. You begin to think that if you only had less things you’d be happy. This is a trap. Getting too caught up with the exact numbers and focusing on the numbers is a never-ending stressful cycle, that will probably just leave you frustrated.
Everyone is different and everyone’s lifestyle is different. What works for one person may not work for another. Yes, my wardrobe has only 35 items in it, but I consistently add new pieces and remove pieces that I don’t love any more. My wardrobe fluctuates from 30 to 40 items regularly. And that may be too much or too little clothing for you. The same goes for the rest of the items you own. You may need something that I don’t need just based on hobbies, profession, and where you live. For example, I live in California right on the coast. I don’t need a snow shovel, but to someone who lives in Wisconsin, that’s a necessity. The true minimum number of things that you need is purely up to you to work out.
There’s a curve that’s used in economics to theoretically talk about how to optimize taxes, called the Laffer Curve. Basically, as the tax rate goes up government revenue goes up, until the tax rate begins to affect the growth of the economy, and then the revenue starts to go down again. The optimal number of things to own follows this same curve. When you have too many things, your happiness and satisfaction is low, because you can’t find anything and your space is too crowded. As you begin to remove things from your life, your happiness increases as you gain more space and it’s easier to find the things you want. But there is a turning point, where you start to hurt yourself by continuing to get rid of things. You start to get rid of things you need or things that make you happy, because you’re trying to hit an arbitrary number. And your happiness begins to decrease again.
The goal of minimalism isn’t deprivation. It isn’t to live like a monk. It isn’t to have less than “X” number of things. The goal is to live your life around the top of the "Laffer curve", where your happiness and satisfaction is high, where your life is streamlined, and where you have the space to do things. So don’t worry about counting everything you own. You’ll know when you have just the right amount of things, because you’ll have just the right amount of things.