I’ll admit, this post has been simmering in my drafts folder for quite awhile. You see, the internet can be a scary place full of judgement, particularly when you seem to have an unpopular opinion on something. A chat with a friend the other day prompted me to finally hit the publish button on a topic I’ve been bewildered by for quite some time — minimalism.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in the concept of minimalism or living like a minimalist on television, in magazines and beyond. Suddenly it seems that people everywhere are embracing the concept of minimalism, a belief that with less things you live a more intentional life. Everyone from bloggers to celebrities are throwing caution (and all their shit) to the wind and embracing fewer “things” and more life. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix (aptly titled, “Minimalism”) in hopes of grasping a more concrete idea of the concept. While I left feeling semi-inspired (I’m anti-hoarding…it scares me!), I also left with a lot of questions. Namely, if there are so many rushing to find fault in their worldly possessions, is the root of their unhappiness much deeper?
Let me explain…
For starters, I come from a very long line of tradition. I mean, all the women in my family share the same middle name, so that should give you some kind of semblance of how things work around these parts. Holidays are chock full of special foods and traditions and everything from decor to clothing has been passed down from multiple generations…that still get use! So, as you might infer from all of this – I come from a group of people that give “things” sincere value and importance. And had the multiple people before me come along and simply tossed said things out as they went, I wouldn’t have notebooks from relatives that are decades old but steeped in history, serve special meals on the same platter my great grandmother did or share the coming-home-from-the-hospital outfit of my grandmother, mom, her sisters, etc.
So you might wonder – am I against minimalism because I’m also a closet hoarder? Probably not. I’ve moved 6 times in the past 5 years and with each and every move, we have downsized to the point of every single thing Dane and I own being able to fit into one U-Haul. We keep things that are important to us (family heirlooms and treasures), necessities (clothes and kitchen products) and have about 10-15 boxes worth of decor, books, outdoor gear, etc. Now, we don’t have human children, but I imagine if we did, we’d have quite a bit more stuff. Stuff that I would be completely fine with keeping, because having it doesn’t mean I live a less intentional life or my happiness is any less.
[ctt_hbox link=”lz0B3″ via=”yes” ]My amount of material items doesn’t make my happiness any less – why I’m not embracing #Minimalism @ByKaitHanson[/ctt_hbox]
When I buy something, it’s rarely on a whim, particularly if it is more than a certain monetary threshold. I typically buy with intention, so that what I accumulate has purpose and function in both my life and in my home. The proof? I’m still wearing pants I purchased in junior high and one of my favorite pieces in our home is a multi-functional dresser we’ve had for more than ten years. Those are just two examples among many that came easily to me. And if you were wondering, you won’t see me embracing capsule wardrobes either – I love what I buy or it stays at the store. If I get it home and it isn’t sitting quite right or I’m feeling lukewarm about it – it goes back. I don’t have space in my closet, home or life for things that simply take up room or that I don’t absolutely love. (I should note that goes for people too, ha!) We also travel quite a bit, so to get rid of all but 5 shirts, 2 pairs of pants and 1 pair of shoes just isn’t realistic for me.
Call me what you deem fit (if materialistic is the hat you wish for me to wear, so be it), but I also really love shopping, even when I don’t buy anything. I enjoy the process. I would challenge anyone to show me one person who doesn’t find even an ounce of joy in buying something they love, whether it be planner stickers, plane tickets or Prada.
But my greatest question is to those that are going through all their possessions and simply purging – what happens if you need it down the road? I think my largest concern of the movement (as it seems to have become) is that it’s a rich man’s game. What do I mean? Middle to upper class folks getting rid of all their stuff can easily say – sure! Because if down the road they decide they need it again – they can simply buy it. It’s a risk they are willing to take. I love this excerpt from Charlie Lloyd on the topic:
“Wealth is not a number of dollars. It is not a number of material possessions. It’s having options and the ability to take on risk.
If you see someone on the street dressed like a middle-class person (say, in clean jeans and a striped shirt), how do you know whether they’re lower middle class or upper middle class? I think one of the best indicators is how much they’re carrying.
Lately I’ve been mostly on the lower end of middle class (although I’m kind of unusual along a couple axes). I think about this when I have to deal with my backpack, which is considered déclassé in places like art museums. My backpack has my three-year-old laptop. Because it’s three years old, the battery doesn’t last long and I also carry my power supply. It has my paper and pens, in case I want to write or draw, which is rarely. It has a cable to charge my old phone. It has gum and sometimes a snack. Sunscreen and a water bottle in summer. A raincoat and gloves in winter. Maybe a book in case I get bored.
If I were rich, I would carry a MacBook Air, an iPad mini as a reader, and my wallet. My wallet would serve as everything else that’s in my backpack now. Go out on the street and look, and I bet you’ll see that the richer people are carrying less.
As with carrying, so with owning in general. Poor people don’t have clutter because they’re too dumb to see the virtue of living simply; they have it to reduce risk.
When rich people present the idea that they’ve learned to live lightly as a paradoxical insight, they have the idea of wealth backwards. You can only have that kind of lightness through wealth.
If you buy food in bulk, you need a big fridge. If you can’t afford to replace all the appliances in your house, you need several junk drawers. If you can’t afford car repairs, you might need a half-gutted second car of a similar model up on blocks, where certain people will make fun of it and call you trailer trash.
Please, if you are rich, stop explaining the idea of freedom from stuff as if it’s a trick that even you have somehow mastered.
The only way to own very little and be safe is to be rich.”
This is not all to say that I think minimalism is bad entirely – I don’t. I think in moderation (like most things) it can be helpful and beneficial. I think that downsizing is often needed and purging old things that are no longer necessary or bring you happiness can be a good thing. Refreshing, even. It’s just that when I hear people say “I’m moving my family of 4 into a 500 square foot house, so we focus on each other and not our things”, I have to wonder how truly functional that can be. Are you converting to such a life to truly focus on each other, or to combat a social norm with a popular alternative? And what happens when it doesn’t work to plan?
If you’ve never heard of minimalism, I’m sure this was all very confusing for you! I highly recommend the documentary on Netflix or the countless articles that have been published online so you can get a better understanding. If you’re a minimalist reading this, please know this is not an attack, more of a “good for them, not for me” approach to the idea. If you’re open to it, I would love your insight and to start an informative dialog in the comments! What led you to minimalism? How did you decide it was right for you?
What are your thoughts on this lifestyle? Is it for you?