On Wanting More
Minimalism has never been for me.
I can see the appeal, I guess, from an academic standpoint. I can understand why simplifying — focusing on a few key things, paring your possessions and your life down to what you really need — is something many people find valuable and praiseworthy.
But I am no minimalist. I have never been good at less — my soul (whatever a soul may be, metaphysical or not) has always reached out for more.
I collect things, often to my husband’s dismay. He wouldn’t mind a little less clutter in our home. I do try to clean things out every so often — find the things I can let go of and let go of them. (If possible, I rehome them with friends or I send them to Goodwill, because it feels like such a tragedy to throw a perfectly good thing in the trash.) I have brief fantasies about doing a massive decluttering sweep, trying to be more minimalist. Would that make me more virtuous? I know humans are filling up the ocean with trash. I know consumer goods aren’t the key to happiness. I know I don’t actually need that sexy Jeff Goldblum with his shirt open Funko Pop. But I want it.
I looked up the KonMari Method back when it seemed like everyone was talking about it. What I found was advice about gathering up your belongings and identifying the things that “spark joy,” because those are the things you should keep. But what if I gather them up and find that they all spark joy? Where do I draw the line? How do I know how much joy something has to spark in order for it to be worth keeping? Is it the amount of joy sparked by a sexy Jeff Goldblum Funko Pop? Or the amount sparked by a dancing Mechagodzilla toy a friend bought for me? Or the amount sparked by a tiny plastic terrarium with Eeyore in it that my little sister made for me when she was about 5 years old?
What if something sparks both joy and pain?
What do I do with the plush pink space jellyfish, sewn for me by my former friend — both a reminder of a friendship and a favorite video game, and a reminder of a person I feel profoundly betrayed by now? Or the enamel pin my boyfriend bought me while he was out of town for a weekend with that former friend/his other girlfriend — a gift that is meaningful because the unspoken message is that he took time to think of me, but a thing that I can’t quite look at without being reminded of who he was with when he bought it.
Perhaps I should do away with those reminders of this particular pain, but again, where do you draw the line? How much pain does it take to negate the joy or meaning that something holds? The collar of our sweet dog Gypsy, draped over the box that holds her ashes, is also a bittersweet reminder of love and grief — I’m not sure that it “sparks joy” per se, but I’m not about to throw it in the trash.
In all fairness, maybe Marie Kondo covers these nuances in her book. I don’t know. I’ve never read it and I'm never going to. I'm glad many people find value in it, but "the life-changing magic of tidying up" just isn't my aesthetic.
And honestly, the clutter is just the physical manifestation of this more doctrine. I am, I admit, an ardent consumer of goods, but I want more than just Funko Pops and enamel pins. I want to love more, to live more, to eat more, to drink more, to read more, to write more, to travel more, to fuck more, to be more...
Call me greedy. Call me a hedonist. You’re not wrong. I am who I am, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’ll never be an ascetic. I’m hella attached to worldly pleasures, and to the world. I suppose I’m probably lucky that I’m not inclined to addiction — but there are too many things I want more of to focus all of my energies on just one substance or one sensation.
I want to love more people, and I want to have more of the people I love. I don’t want to be their exclusive everything, but I want to share in their everything.
I have often said that finding polyamory was like fitting the last missing puzzle piece of my identity into place. I love my husband. I don’t want to live my life without him. But forcing myself to fit into monogamy was like cutting off one of my limbs and then pretending there was nothing missing. And so I’ve chosen the far more cluttered and complicated path of polyamory. It is certainly more.
It’s more love, more support, more chosen family. But what’s the adage about grief being the price of love? It’s more of that, too. It’s more vulnerability. It’s more work. (Oh god, it’s so much work sometimes.) It’s more insecurity and more jealousy than I ever knew I was capable of feeling. It’s more difficult conversations. And some of that is just what poly is, and some of it is because of the specific set of relationships that exist within my little microcosm of poly.
One of the relationships I have is with a person with whom I cannot share his everything. I can only share in parts, because of the other people he has chosen to share his life with and because of the way I have been hurt by those people and those other relationships.
My life would be a great deal easier, and would probably (eventually, though certainly not right away) have less pain in it if I ended things with him. I could choose to share none of his life instead of some parts of it. I very likely might find someone else, someday, with whom I could share their entire life. Of course, I still might do that, even if I stay. In theory, my ability to love more people is infinite. In reality, my time and my emotional bandwidth are very finite.
But this man still sparks so much joy for me, too. How much hardship does it take to negate the value of a relationship and the work you’re both still putting into it? Is love worth only so much grief, and no more?
I am no more a psychological minimalist than I am a material one. I don’t want to wipe my life clean of this difficulty at the expense of this person I love.
I know who I am. I am a creature of desires. I want more. I will always want more of the people and things that I love. I’ve spent years making peace with my own wanting, paradoxical though that seems. Ever reaching for more is part and parcel of my being. Sometimes it's messy and difficult and heartbreaking. But I don’t actually want to want less.