After binge watching and completing six seasons of Shameless on Netflix in less than a month, I figured it was time to watch something that didn’t have a content warning before each episode. You know, something with substance. As a result, I found myself flipping through the documentary section and came across, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.
Prior to watching this documentary I knew nothing about minimalism, and truth be told I was probably the furthest thing from one. Saying I was materialistic was a harsh, yet accurate sentiment. I placed a great deal of value in things and allowed this pursuit of having the ‘latest and greatest’ or most expensive to cloud my judgement of what was really important in life. This documentary served as a wake up call for me. I needed to make a change, and I was confident that adopting minimalism into my life was the route to do so.
After determining that minimalism was that way to go I watched every YouTube video, read every post/blog/study, did 30 day minimalism challenges, involved myself in discussion boards and groups that were about minimalism, and even created my own group chat dedicated to motivating others on their journey to minimalism. I purged my closet, did a capsule wardrobe for the spring, sold, donated and recycled things I no longer used, and stopped shopping for anything that wasn’t a necessity. I wrote a great deal about my experience in adopting minimalism, hoping that I would inspire others to do the same and/or see the value in living with less. (see below)
Yeah, I was convinced that minimalism was making my life better, and while things and perspectives improved for me (such as feeling less cluttered, not recklessly spending money, taking social media breaks, or taking time to pause/reflect), I soon came to learn that minimalism is problematic..
Actually, problematic as hell.
I cringe at how quickly I jumped on this trend, neglecting to consider the deeply rooted privilege that makes up minimalism. This trendy, Instagram-photo-worthy, opting into poverty, way of living vastly neglects that minimalism is for privileged folks with passports and access to goods and services that allow them to comfortably live with less. And I was one of them.
Minimalism is a choice. Minimalism is a choice. Minimalism is a choice.
Poverty is not. Poverty is not. Poverty is not.
It’s so important that we understand the aforementioned statements. For many across the world and hell, even in our own communities, minimalism isn’t a fad that they had a choice to take part in, it’s their reality by default. As minimalists, we choose to purge our closets, boastfully documenting every step of the way as we get down to 20 articles of clothing or less. Meanwhile, some can’t even begin to think of “capsuling a wardrobe”, because all they own is two pairs of pants or a few tops. We proudly ditch our vehicles and turn to public transportation, ride sharing, or even bikes for our transportation needs, neglecting that access to mass transit or moreover the funds to use it, again is a privilege. We share how our bank accounts have grown due to minimalism, and neglect that for some saving money is a dream, as they are struggling just to make ends meet.
Poverty isn’t trendy.
I hope you excuse my tone in this post, but I am really disappointed in myself. I had to check myself, my privilege, and realize that minimalism is a steaming heap wrapped in a bow. If we really want to combat the “system” or take down the hypothetical “man” that makes you feel like you have to partake in a system that leaves you unhappy, spending money in excess, and/or working only to have material possessions, lets focus on structures and institutions of capitalism, rather than making it just about you.
Authors note (07/04/17): After I shared this on social media I received a great deal of comments saying that I only presented one variation of minimalism. Yes, this I know. I intentionally focused on the strand (so to speak) of minimalism that is heavy capitalized on and presented in the media. I don’t think I need to say that I am not speaking to all minimalists, but yet, here I am.
P.S. here are some great blog posts that point out the problems with minimalism
- A Letter to the Rich Minimalists
- Minimalism Another Boring Product that Wealthy People Can Buy
- Why I (Kinda, Sorta, Sometimes) Hate Calling Myself a Minimalist