Finding joy in fewer things | Pakistan Today

Finding joy in fewer things

  • Why do you need a drawing room?
A drawing room has the dual property of being not only the most expensive room in your house, but also the most inefficient. It is a hassle to decorate, agony to maintain, and adds very little value to your life. Our family and informal guests find the informal TV lounge more than enough. We rarely receive guests formal enough to warrant the unsealing of this tomb-like ‘special’ room. It is a space so infrequently tread upon by members of your household, that if a homeless family of four were to secretly move in, you likely wouldn’t find out about them before a week when you walk in with a vacuum cleaner.
Your home is a place for you. Your drawing room is not a place for you, nor is it a place for your children and pets. It exists to impress and that one aunty who comes from Canada once every three years. Its popularity is tied directly to the colonial values we inherited from the class-conscious British over a period of a century and a half. A drawing room is the heart of an honour-based, propriety-obsessed, ‘log kiya kahen ge’ social structure that holds vanity over one’s personal comfort or even need.
Space like the drawing room and the store room represent an additional problem: waste begets waste. Needless spaces fill up with unwanted items simply because there’s room available for them to accumulate. In addition to being expensive, a cluttered room frustrates our senses, becomes harder to clean, and quadruples the risk of fire or infestation.
Dr Joseph Ferrari – a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago – studied the effects of clutter on people. His research team questioned groups of adults about clutter and life satisfaction: college students; young adults in their 20s and 30s; and older adults, most in their 50s.
The authors assessed volunteers’ tendency to procrastinate, asking them to respond to statements like “I pay bills on time” using a five-point scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Procrastination is closely tied to clutter, because sorting through and tossing items is a task that many people find unpleasant and avoid. It takes time to file away important papers or sort through a dining room table buried under books.
Contrary to how it may appear, minimalism is not about absolute material detachment. It’s not about living like a monk 
The study, published in Current Psychology, found a substantial link between procrastination and clutter problems in all the age groups. Frustration with clutter tended to increase with age. Among older adults, clutter problems were also associated with life dissatisfaction. It is known to be responsible for over-secretion of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Our tendency to acquire larger spaces filled with a lot of unnecessary items, isn’t built into human nature. We are constantly bombarded by product advertisements that challenge our contentment with how we live. Are you happy? How can you possibly be happy without this new stereo-headset which, speaking realistically, you won’t have time to use more than four times a year?
We are encouraged to buy, waste, and replace materials faster than we can actually use them. Much of what we hoard has less to do with our personal comforts, and far more to do with socioeconomic signaling; an act of announcing one’s membership to a higher class. An old-fashioned coats has lost nothing in terms of material value; it is cheaper simply because it has lost its social value and has ceased to impress others.
Take a look around your room. Every item in your room adds responsibility to your life. In addition to the cost of its purchase, you have assumed responsibility of its maintenance and safekeeping. Every electronic device you add, is another battery life for you to keep track of. Each piece of clothing adds to your effort in washing, drying, and sorting it. Much of the responsibility we assume through material ownership, does not add equivalent amount of comfort to our lives. It only offers false comfort of knowing that the item is available if ever needed, which it rarely is.
Contrary to how it may appear, minimalism is not about absolute material detachment. It’s not about living like a monk in a small, empty apartment, but a lifestyle in which quality is valued over than quantity. It’s about an honest re-evaluation of our desires and needs, to focus our spendings on fewer things that truly bring joy to our lives. It’s about re-conditioning ourselves to resist consumerist culture that makes us feel less for not owning the latest model of an iPhone, or a second dining table that we’ll barely ever use. We may be able to afford it for personal use, but does it add equivalent value to our lives?
Minimalism, at its heart, is about consuming responsibly. It’s about acknowledging not only the harmless effects of cluttering up our physical spaces, but the human and environmental costs of these materials that do not usually show up on the price tags.
Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat is a medical doctor from Rawalpindi and an ardent traveller who writes frequently about science, social politics and international relations.