Metro, Featured Column

Not Finding Minimalism

Located just between the Uniqulo and Urban Outfitters on Newbury Street lies the epitome of minimalism. Much to the delight of Bostonians, it opened its doors to the public just this weekend—but the throngs of shoppers that flooded the store did nothing to detract from the overwhelming aura of order.

Products ranging from simply cut shirts and basic socks, to diffusers emitting bursts of peppermint and citrus into the air, were arranged in stacks of almost surreal neatness. Shoppers, enchanted even by the toothbrushes (if a toothbrush could be chic and minimalist these certainly were), moved through the aisles with mouths agape as they grabbed items and delicately placed them into their basket.

By some miracle, everything remained in order despite the crowds. The leucite desk organizers remained in their carefully built pyramids, and glittered in the overhead fluorescent lights. Each shirt was meticulously folded, and even the socks were arranged just so. The pen display, which essentially has its own overhead spotlight, was a sight to behold, with each pen categorically organized by type, color, and tip size. Many shoppers continuously tested new pens as they circled around the display, performing a strange dance along to the delicate violin music that floated from the overhead speakers.

At points, I was even hesitant to touch anything. After working in retail over the summer and struggling to understand how my coworkers could fold an article of clothing with such precision, unfolding even an undershirt was out of the question. I knew that I would completely mess it up, and could just see some poor employee having to rush over and painstakingly clean up my mess as I apologized profusely in the background.

The store embodies everything that I want to be—it is almost supernaturally organized, perpetually calm, and it smells strongly (but not too strongly) of citrus. Unfortunately, in almost every setting and situation, I am nothing like this store.

I happen to be one of those people who accumulates stuff. I am not a minimalist, just ask my roommate. I asked her—to make sure that I wasn’t oblivious to one of my personality traits—and she laughed before asking, “Who called you that?”

“No one,” I said. “No one has ever called me that.”

Try as hard as I might, I cannot help holding onto my clothes, my shoes, my notebooks, and other random trinkets. I stuff everything into my desk drawers and my closet, creating nightmares of precarious piles and doors that will only open if they’re in the mood.

My overstuffed closet isn’t filled with clean lines or monochromatic colors, nor is it pared down to the essentials. I gravitate toward colors and ruffles and sequins and textures. Sleek outfits are rarely ones that I even attempt to pull together, as I always feel like there’s something missing in the end.

When it comes to stuff, I am a maximalist, and I’m not at all sure that this is a positive character trait. It seems closely tied to materialism and over-sentimentality, not always the most pleasant features in a person. Sometimes, I attach so much meaning to stuff that the whole thing seems ridiculous.

Take the collection of plastic wind-up ghosts that I currently have displayed on my desk. And just to clarify, this is my dorm room desk, a small space where every possible inch should be occupied by books and papers that will help me get along with my work—it really shouldn’t be a repository for trinkets. But there the ghosts sit, making faces at me as I struggle to concentrate on my reading. Why do I have these? Because my mom sent them to me as part of a Halloween care package freshman year, and every time I see them I think of home. They are just one example of an object that I have randomly assigned meaning to, just another thing that I have accumulated.

So, I will never be like the miraculous store, I just don’t think I have it in me to pare my life down like that. But maybe I can start small, just with a pen, and think about what I actually need to have in my life.

I am still keeping the ghosts though.

Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor

February 1, 2017