I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m not a minimalist. All it takes is one look at the enormous number of books and DVDs (and knick-knacks and whatnot) I own. You don’t even have to walk more than three feet into my tiny, stuffed-full apartment to see it.
So, I was intrigued when I saw the title of this Lifehacker post from 2010: A Minimalist Lifestyle Does not Make You A Better Person. I’m a fan of critical looks at minimalism and decluttering, largely because I feel kind of defensive about how much stuff I have. Sure, I’m working on decluttering, but I know in my heart I will only take it so far.
I realized a big part of why the minimalist lifestyle isn’t for me is my inherent distrust of electronic copies of things. This paragraph, near the end of the piece, is what did it:
In fact a physical object, to me, is a liability. Something physical can be broken or lost or burned down. Something electronic can be duplicated and backed up on multiple continents.
Now, I’m painfully aware of the risks to physical objects (a house fire is one of my great dreads), but electronic copies always strike me as far less safe than physical ones. I’ve lost plenty of stuff to crashes, partition overwrites, and server meltdowns (I left my first webhost over the latter). Sure, you can back things up, but I always worry about the security of such backups (anything electronic isn’t really secure if it’s on a piece of hardware connected to the internet, after all). All it takes is one employee fuckup and my offsite backup could be toast, or spread far and wide.
Electronic copies are so fragile. They can disappear in an instant, with one or two keystrokes. A magnet or a sudden slam can destroy the hardware they’re held on. A physical print is a lot more resilient than an image file.
This is probably a sign that I’m in that sliver of the genX/genY crossover who didn’t quite grow up with the internet, and this is the equivalent of waving my cane while yelling about how I don’t trust this newfangled technology. But that’s okay. When the nuclear apocalypse comes and the EMP destroys all your cloud backup servers, if you ask nice I might loan you one of my books.