Why the 'maximinimalist'?

Until 2022, I wrote a blog called ukfountainpens.com. I wrote it for five years and about 500 posts. Sitting down to write a post was easy, in one sense: I was practiced at the process, of course, but also I knew exactly what my remit was and what my (many) readers expected from me. I wrote reviews of products. In a very real sense, my ‘job’ was to buy and sell fountain pens, hunting the very best.

What ultimately drove me to give up the blog was the same thing that has driven me to deactivate my Facebook account and remove Instagram from my phone, again: the endless temptations of consumerism.

If I boil it down, my life and all my hobbies have always been about buying stuff.

When I was a kid I piled up Transformers and Micro Machines, Warhammer miniatures that I never played with, books that I never read, computer games that I didn't complete.

In my 20s I was a motorcyclist, and while I racked up miles and did my own maintenance, I also spent every weekend browsing gear and accessories.

I've dallied in wristwatches, buying and selling first budget Japanese then more expensive Swiss watches (although thankfully I've kept this under control).

I still can't resist vinyl or headphones, even though I rarely have time to sit and listen.

I’m a committed EDCer, with a tray of pocket knives, torches (flashlights) and tools, and a cupboard full of bags of all shapes and sizes.

Last year I bought a Brompton bicycle, and before I even racked up 50 miles on it I had spent rather a lot of money upgrading almost every component on it.

And, of course, the hundreds of fountain pens and thousands of inks I bought from 2016 to now.

This shopping addiction is not unusual, of course. Lots of people enjoy the thrill of buying, the anticipation of researching, the pride of collecting and owning nice things. I might take it a little further than most people, though.

That’s the maximalist.

And this urge battles another inside me: the minimalist urge.

One-bag travel, five-watch collections, one-tray pen collections, tiny houses, camper vans, ultralight camping, folding bicycles, capsule hotels, capsule wardrobes... these are the kinds of things that appeal to me.

I love the idea of self-sufficiency, small spaces, versatile objects that are buy-it-for-life. I crave the simplicity of having just a few, excellent things. Weniger aber besser, in the words of Dieter Rams.

So although I’ve bought more than 300 fountain pens, my collection today has been refined, and refined, and refined again to razor sharpness. Today I own around 15 fountain pens, which means 95% of the pens I’ve bought I have sold. (If you think 15 is a lot of fountain pens, oh boy, you need to meet some fountain pen collectors…)

My inner minimalist-maximalist conflict leads, inevitably, to a binge and purge cycle. I buy new things, enjoy them, and they either make the cut or don’t. In the end I can’t handle the excess any longer, and I purge.

The side effect of this endless and concerted binge and purge across so many categories of products has been a degree of refinement in the products I own. I originally planned this blog to be called ‘definitive designs’, reviews of timeless excellent products, like the HDS Rotary flashlight. And that’s still my intention here: to share the products that, for me, have beaten the binge and purge cycle and become permanent companions.

So: I don’t plan this blog to be a commercial affair. This is not an excuse to get back on the treadmill of new products. Quite the opposite. This is my way of celebrating the survivors. Thanks for joining me on the journey.