About a month ago I bought a bag. This bag, specifically. I needed a backpack that I could use to carry a laptop and my gym gear at the same time. It didn’t hurt that the one I landed on could also act as one-bag travel luggage for me. It’s basically a bag that does the job of three different bags. It’s a great bag. It also cost almost as much as the co-op fee for our condo for one month. It’s easily the most expensive bag I have ever owned. Including all of my actual luggage.
Throughout this year, I’ve been doing a slow purge of all the extra stuff we’ve accumulated through the years and earlier in the year, I absolutely did throw out or give away several bags that together could have taken the place could have taken the place of this one. I didn’t necessarily need another carry-on bag. It’s nice to have a bag that is designed to carry a laptop as well as all my stuff, but I could have taken care of those needs with two separate bags. The fact that I had the disposable money to put into a bag that can do all the things that I need a bag for at once is a massive privilege.
Public housing and cost per use
I spent my pre-teen and teenage years in public housing. We never had any money to buy the things we needed, let alone things that cost more just for the pleasure of them being able to cover several functions at once. I got my first leather jacket from a garbage man my mother dated for a while, who, in turn, found it in the dump or from his route. We never threw anything away until it was beyond hope of salvage. It’s taken me twenty years to learn to donate or recycle the things I’m never going to use again. I’ve held on to clothing that has long since gone out of style, that I never fit into all that well and haven’t been able to fit into at all for over a decade just in case. Just because, once upon a time, I liked the thing.
It has taken me fifteen years of steady, proportionately large income to get over the idea that I have to hold on to everything, wear everything until it’s in tatters, and never, ever buy anything that is beyond a certain threshold. I still get a bit of a panic whenever I buy anything that is over 100€. But the thing is, the things I buy, mostly last a lot longer now. I don’t necessarily need five pairs of shoes to make sure that my feet stay dry, because those ones have holes in the bottom but there’s still good dry weather use in them, so why would I throw them away? I’ve got boots that are sturdy enough that they can be resoled and the resoling doesn’t cost more than the original pair did.
In the documentary Minimalism there’s a woman talking how she fell in love with the idea of tiny houses. How, if she hates it, she and her partner could always upsize. To me, the idea of putting 80.000 moneys into something that I would probably hate feels beyond strange. The same documentary features a couple talking about how they hate single-use clothing like a neat black dress they could wear at a funeral so much that they would rather buy a new dress to go to a funeral and then put it back out into the world than keep a clothing item that they don’t use more than once a year at most.
I can’t help but think that these are people who have never lacked for anything. It doesn’t even seem to occur to them that they might not be in a situation where they couldn’t throw down possibly hundreds or thousands of dollars in order to get anything they should want for.
The idea of minimalism sounds good. Fast fashion is bad for everyone, so why not get rid of it? Being able to do with less stuff and thus with less of an income sounds amazing. Hell, I’m already preparing my own escape. But that escape? It won’t be possible without a fully paid off mortgage, whether that’s in the current apartment or a smaller one. And given how much I love our apartment, it’s unlikely to be anywhere else. I’ve lived in small apartments and I always felt huge in comparison, even when I was under my ideal weight. Being in tiny apartments now immediately brings me back to those times when I never had enough. When I wasn’t sure if I would be able to feed myself until I got paid again.
But I can definitely live with less than I do now.