Some of the lucky few who follow me everywhere may have noticed my fledgling journey into minimalism. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this isn’t about owning only two pieces of underwear or tearing up my carpet and wallpaper – it was more that something has to give when you end up in the mindset that “my life needs to be simpler. stat!”
So far, it’s working well for me. I’ve made a couple of short posts on my studyblr (a tumblr blog for your studies, as the name suggests) about it, but on here I wanted to write a slightly longer piece in response to the most amazing thing I’ve read recently:
Tumblr user fineliners only owns one pencil.
Not two. Not one at home, one in the pencil case. Not a spare set.
If you’re anything like me, this might send your paranoid, neurotic, control-freak mind into a frenzy, and the frenzy might sound a bit like this: “What?? One?! But what if they lose it?? What if it breaks? What if they forget it somewhere? What if someone else needs to borrow a pencil?”
Upon reading this tidbit, and having the above reaction, I had to quiet my mind, which I’m training out of its former habits.
Notice what all of these thoughts have in common: “what if?” None of these things have actually happened, and none are likely to (though they’re even less likely to with just one pencil, as I’ll discuss in a moment). You’re worrying needlessly, not just about things that haven’t happened yet, but things that may not happen at all. That’s what having more than one pencil IS.
Because think about it: you never write with a pencil in each hand. You only ever use one pencil at a time – so surely one is all you need? There are countless philosophical quotes advising you to live in the present, and reducing the amount you own is a fantastic way to do this. Owning more than you need means living in an uncertain future.
But what if any of those things happened?
We need to step back for a second and stop thinking about each of these as such a disaster. If your pencil breaks, if you lose it, if you forget it – get a new one. It’s that simple. They’re very cheap. If you lose it at a bad time, simply ask to borrow one, or use your pen.
If you’re The Mom Friend, you may always want to have a spare on hand in case anyone else needs it. That’s admirable – more so than having it in case you yourself need it – but you should still consider the fact it’s something else for you to worry about. If you have a friend who constantly forgets a pen or pencil when required, it may be time to have a chat. There’s a line between helping someone out and enabling them.
Would these things actually happen less with just one pencil? I’d actually argue that yes, they would. The spares we keep “just in case” facilitate the sorts of mistakes that necessitate them. If you have two pencils in case you lose one, and you then lose one, it’s no big deal. It was disposable to you anyway, and you can buy a new one.
A huge limb of minimalism is stopping careless spending and hoarding. If you’re careless with your belongings, you’ll buy more than you really need to. And we can all agree that capitalism is bad, right? But that’s another blog post entirely.
If you only have one pencil, you won’t lose it; because you only have one pencil, so you can’t lose it. You’ll be more careful about the one that you have.
I’m a long way from only owning one pencil myself, but it really pays to think critically about why you own the things you own and why you do the things you do. If I ever use up the ones I have, I doubt I’ll be buying myself any more spare pencils.