The first time I ever heard of minimalism (outside of those blank canvases with a single red square in the corner) was right after I graduated from high school…during an episode of MTV’s Cribs.
I’ll give you a second to fondly reminisce about your favorite Cribs moment. What was it?
(Don’t say Mariah in the bathtub.)
For me, it was Moby’s episode where they toured his practically empty NYC apartment…an expanse of white walls and light-colored hardwood and huge windows. The only possession of note, outside of a floor bed and some studio equipment, was a drawing of Homer Simpson, done by Matt Groening himself.
(And y’all…I SCOURED the internet for this clip to make sure my memory was indeed correct about all these details, but it seems that this particular episode just didn’t have the same life altering impact on others as it did on me, because as far as my sleuthing can tell…the episode doesn’t exist anywhere online. However! I did find the following things that confirm that this was not some early college, LSD fueled vision of Moby as a minimalist:
- Here you can see Moby (dressed in a child’s rainbow jacket, because why not?) next to the infamous (to apparently only me and the one other commenter who also spotted it…I’ve contacted said commenter and I’m waiting to see if they happen to have a VHS copy of the episode in question) personalized Homer Simpson drawing, complete with the “MG” side hair and ear that mark it as an official Matt Groening original.
- Here’s photos of Moby’s NYC apartment after it sold for $2M confirming that I got the white walls, light hardwoods, and big windows right.
- And the smoking gun that proves my sanity (and my commitment to finding shit out). A diary entry from Moby himself (dated December 19, 2000) talking not only about how he needed to clean his house (bet that only took 5 minutes of quality time with a Swiffer), but also that he’d just hung up the Homer Simpson drawing in anticipation of the episode of MTV’s Crib’s being filmed the following day.
So here’s where the magic happened for me.
This was the first time I ever saw anyone live with so little. On purpose. Someone with gobs of money who could buy all the cars and televisions and bling they ever wanted to, but hadn’t. Way back then, it just struck me as so different and daring and drastic. How could he be content with no stuff?
I loved stuff.
At that point in my life, I was out of my parent’s house for the first time. I was more in control of my spending than I ever had been before, but I wasn’t good at it. At all. After a childhood that I equated with deprivation* and a constant stream of “no” and “we can’t afford” and “why would you want THAT?/you’re so strange, I can’t relate to you at all/why can’t you be more like your sister?**”, I was suddenly flush with a wealth of monetary decisions to make on my own. And oh, did I ever make them. I made them to the tune of being $20k in debt. I made them to fill a hole that was bottomless and miles wide. My online shopping habits were so crazy that I would actually be surprised by whatever it was by the time it got delivered because I couldn’t keep track of all that I had ordered.
But for the love of Target’s seasonal aisle, it never made me feel any better for long. Sometimes that rushing, light-headed euphoric feeling of buying something new!, for me!, because I deserved it!, wouldn’t even last until the parking lot or the confirmation email.
What did give me a longer lasting feeling of peace was getting rid of all that stuff every time I moved, which was often…10 times in 6 years. But it wasn’t sustainable. I’d be right back to whipping out my MasterCard to buy some more stuff so I could decide to get rid of it 6 months later.
And it would take a long, long, loooong time to change.
* Time and maturity altered my understanding of that feeling of deprivation and put it into perspective. It feels less dramatic, less unfair, and less angsty now. I had plenty of “stuff” stuff, just not plenty of the “healthy emotional and mental” stuff. If we were to go with a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs approach here (yes, I know…shaky scientific basis), I had that basic bottom bar covered while the rest was a crumbling mess…far more sandcastle at high tide than rock solid pyramid, ready to stand the centuries.
** Whoa this post went from “fun” to “call a therapist” real fast there, didn’t it? Wheeeee! Gotta keep you guessing here***.
*** Like until Part 2.