Zeus Ktesios and Minimalism

On my former blog, I started posting about lifestyle minimalism, and part of the subtitle for this new blog includes minimalism and its practices. I’d like to bring my blog out of the tangents of the past few weeks and back into its central purpose.

What I can offer the Hellenic community, and the polytheist community in general, is my identity as a professional librarian who does storytelling, writing, and TTRPGs, who has an obsession with good writing utensils and cursive, and who falls onto the left side of the political spectrum. The broader polytheistic blogosphere is dominated by people who focus primarily on their intense devotional relationships. I’m more interested in cultivating a polytheistic mindset towards my daily activities in which deities are honored at the appropriate times.

And now, enter minimalism.

First, I’m going to define what I mean by lifestyle minimalism. Cait Flanders, a Canadian minimalist, has already done a great job of talking about socioeconomic inequalities and lifestyle minimalism, so I won’t address that to any great extent here. In her piece, she discusses travel and how she could keep cold-weather gear in her car because she could afford to replace it if it were stolen.

As a disclaimer, I am not in that same position. If I lost an entire season’s worth of clothing, I would hyperventilate and probably cry/have a meltdown, but ultimately, I’d locate a Goodwill near a wealthier area, check for bus accessibility because I don’t drive, and (hopefully) try to piece together a winter business casual wardrobe for as little money as possible. My mopping buckets are actually two giant tofu containers that I got for free at a health food store when I asked for them. For me, lifestyle minimalism is a philosophy that goes hand-in-hand with frugality, and it provides a good cognitive buffer against the hundreds of ads I see every single day.

A bit over a year ago, I purchased and read LABRYS’ Hellenic Polytheism: Household Worship. It is an excellent and useful book to have on hand, particularly because I prefer to have reference books in print.

One passage struck me immediately, and I’d like to use this as a starting point for discussing polytheistic minimalism:

During the Classical Era, His altar was commonly found in some storage space of the house (usually an outdoor structure) where mainly libations were poured in His honour. Goods such as food and perhaps items of clothing, material, wool and animal skins, etc, were kept in such storage rooms until recently (in some villages up to the previous generation). These storage areas held the essential goods of the household. They were not contemporary store rooms (especially in cities) teeming with broken and useless items (p. 26).

I bolded the final sentence for emphasis.

I disagree with the assessment that we might want to recuse ourselves from honoring Zeus Ktesios in the storerooms because we keep our broken and useless things there. If we have broken and useless things, we need to dispose of them through recycling or the trash because keeping them does not honor Zeus Ktesios.

Living spaces do need some things that are not frequently used. I have a camping stove and two canisters of fuel that I keep for emergencies, along with some water. I store my winter bedding. I have a few items in a toolbox, and I have an emergency sewing kit. I purchase toilet paper in bulk and keep that in a closet alongside extra sanitary napkins and an inflatable mattress for guests. I store extra bedding in the two drawers of my dresser that aren’t used for clothing.

The living spaces described in the Classical Era contained useful things because that was all that (most) people could afford, and many items — such as furniture and books — were kept across generations. The instinct to keep things was a good one because the costs of these items were up front in the price that one paid. Now, that instinct remains, and the modern advertising industry has convinced people with even a dollar of discretionary income (and, let’s be honest, anyone with credit) to part with their cash, and things just build up in storage areas.

Beyond advertising, individuals want to belong, and a lot of the items people buy are meant to express status in specific subcultures (as seen in the rise of ThinkGeek and other retailers who are milking money out of geeks). While wealth inequalities are increasingly straining the middle class’s ability to even, advertising or the manufacturing of fake needs by triggering feelings of insecurity and consumerism-as-patriotism are eating a lot of the money that might be left over for more important things.

When I first moved to my current city, I started a minimalist journey because I had way too many things left over from childhood, and I needed to move all of my stuff. I didn’t want the move to be expensive. I culled books to under 300 and edited my wardrobe for things that didn’t fit to the best of my ability. I interrogated everything I owned and thought with dissatisfaction about just how much I had carted from my childhood home to undergrad, from undergrad to my mom’s home, and from her home to grad school, and then on to Connecticut. I formally entered minimalism about a year and a half to two years ago.

One of the most exciting things about starting out on my own was that I could take all of the boxes I knew she would never let me discard and actually do it. On 24 & 25 December 2015, I used the Marie Kondō method to go through every item in my apartment, and I purged a lot. Most of these things were useless items: Clothes that never fit, cookbooks that I can’t use anymore because I have Celiac, papers that I had kept for far too long, and magazines that I had no interest in keeping. It was a shock to see everything out in the open at once. I now have 150-175 books, three dresser drawers of clothing, and only a few dozen things on hangers. I got rid of pieces of clothing that no longer fit from middle school.

Most of the minimalist blogs I read for tips on decluttering and streamlining processes are written by Christians or people who have come out of Christianity and still use it (no matter how secular they seem) as a base frame for their worldview. It never stops me from reading them, but I recognize that on certain types of posts, there are sentiments and opinions that I could never share. From a polytheistic perspective, I think that it’s important to argue that homes need to be decluttered, cleaned, and maintained because a home is a place that is sacred to the household gods.

If it doesn’t have a function in our lives and if we don’t care about what’s there enough to ask Zeus Ktesios for protection of our things, what good does it serve being brought into our homes or kept in the first place?

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