Pants and Minimalism


“These are my favorite pants,” I once thought. The black pants from H&M were cheap, multifunctional, and had a good fit. In fact, I liked it so much that I packed it in a neat little bag along with a dress shirt and threw it in my trunk, thinking I’d wear it later that day.

Today, I got cold and remembered that there was this tiny heater unit sitting in my car’s trunk, a vestige of my move to Hollywood several months ago. When I picked up the heater unit, I noticed a blue bag in the corner of my trunk and picked it up. It was the same pair of black pants and dress shirt that I so deemed my “favorites” once before. Now they’re heavily wrinkled due to months of non-use.

Turns out, I didn’t miss them at all. 

Have you ever thought you really liked an item just to find out you didn’t miss it at all? Think about something you found, loaned out, or lost this past year.

This thought experiment proved to myself that sometimes that the material things in our lives actually carry mental weight. In our minds, we attribute value to something and create a fear of loss around that item – in the present. But the moment the object gets lost, it’s pretty much “out of mind, out of sight.” Only upon rediscovery of said item may we choose to realize that we don’t really need it that much.

Now, my mother is somewhat of a hoarder. She’s gotten much better over the years. This is one of the funny interactions we used to have:

I’d clean the house and dump unnecessary items in those big black trash bags. What I’d failed to learn until recent years is to hide my collections from her. So she’d come home, see all this stuff in bags, and ask in an alarmed tone: “what’s all this???”

She’d proceed to inspect everything that I was going to get rid of. “Why are you throwing this away? This can be used later on!” That very day, she’d even wear one of the old articles of clothing to prove to me that they were worth keeping. Invariably, I was only able to donate at most 1/5 of what I collected.

Perception really does drive reality. We burden ourselves with things we have and think we should have. Don’t get me wrong – there’s many useful items that I will miss if I lose them. And it’s hard not to associate material goods as part of our identities. But what I’m getting at is that we sometimes experience a real fear of loss – when in fact, nothing is at loss. The most important thing is that we still have ourselves.

This holiday season, my “favorite” pair of black pants make me question – instead of thinking about what I want, what won’t I miss?

4 thoughts on “Pants and Minimalism”

  1. awesome article. i have always been a little bit of a hoarder myself (i kept my 7th grade math homework up until college because i thought that “i would need it later”). life is already hard enough with the stress of building (or finding) the right career, managing relationships, etc…, i recently realized that i didn’t need all this physical clutter in my personal space to clutter my mental space. coming home to a clean space is one overlooked but great thing you can do for yourself

    1. Haha tell me about it, just 2 weekends ago I was cleaning my old desk at home and found a bunch of old homework. The only ones I kept were a few essays, it’s interesting to see how my own writing has changed. But yeah it was tough to throw 95% of that stuff away. The power of nostalgia.

  2. Great article! Because of the limited space in Hong Kong, I’ve really had to fine tune my perception of “need”. When I was moving over there, I had to choose what would make the cut into my two suitcases and what wouldn’t. Could life possibly continue if I only had 4 pairs of jeans instead of the 10 that were standard in my closet? And how could I possibly live without my 21″ iMac that would take up the large majority of my room over there?

    In the end, it has been enlightening to discover that really the only three things I needed to pack were a positive attitude, open mind and my mega watt smile.

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