A few months ago during a Netflix binge, Michelle, a striking woman working toward her MSW full time and working as a server part-time watched the documentary, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” which follows two successful young white men turned green lifestyle activist as they tour their book by a similarly entitled name (Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life) around the US. Michelle’s review of the flick went something like this: “I felt like they were preaching to the choir not only because pairing down is important to me, but because there was a cult-like way they seem to be recruiting viewers. Come to our side, hide your money, buy less stuff except for this book, be happy, because we know what happiness is and the world still revolves around our standards.” What she also noticed, the lack of people of color or even people for whom the choice to down size or reject consumerism did not exist. The counterculture of the 1960s was a wake-up call to activists of all manner and calling around the world. While the same movement gave rise to the likes of non-conformers, Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones (the coquettish Mick Jagger displaying an early form of swagger), it showed the world another trend: minimalism. Did Mick, like the Minimalist duo miss an equally important point about less is more beyond their personal bliss? Fast forward to 2019 and while it may look like we are having similar conversations; we are initiating these dialogues with social justice and equity at the center of what we hope is just not another trend
In a slow moving awakening, people, back in the day were getting increasingly wary of how our culture of greed was violating our planet. That era of enlightenment followed the baby-boomer generation and was followed by the end of the Cold War.
Increasingly, the world became aware of three aspects:
Here are 4 reasons why minimalism is luxurious in theory and often in practice:
1. Giving away my stuff doesn't mean I am immune to a consumption fix: Consumerism is a war of attrition. It has the power to corrupt absolutely, just like absolute power. The hipster generation who believed minimalism was cool and the neo-hipsters who reject stuff, are nonetheless addicted to another aspect of consumerism - social credit and the commodification of ideas. Modern minimalism focuses on an equation of less stuff equals more happiness and more happiness plus creating a tribe of like-minded folk equals a movement that can be bought into. A sale is still being made and something is still being collected. While minimalism has been paired with radical (well. not really so radical, just equitable) mindsets that promote mindful and efficient use and distribution of resources, self-sufficiency and sovereignty, the rejection of consumerism and materialism often manifests in different kinds of all-consuming habits; moral or political exclusion and elitism.
2. Minimalism is not poverty
No sensible person would advise the people of Venezuela to practise minimalism, would they? No, because the world knows how Venezuela is suffering at the hands of murderous hyperinflation, estimated to have grown by 80,000% in 2018. People in this Latin American country are being forced to eat less and live rough. It is not a choice but an obligation. Again, minimalism implies choice and equates inner happiness and glee. While most impoverished folk are quite savvy with their resourcefulness, the inherent stress of perpetually having to “figure how to buy basic consumables” does not ring true to the inner peace tossing your West Elm furniture out might bring. Even for those whom poverty is something new, think US gov shutdown workers, the bumpy ebb and flow of economics affects minimalism directly as people are forced to downsize. And no one likes to be forced to do anything. Despite marginalized women increasingly becoming even more well-educated, the current wage gap states women earn 78 cents on the dollar and Black women earn even less, 64 cents on the dollar. The distinction between minimalism and being financially challenged is in choice or a lack thereof.
3. Race, color and biases:
Like a lot of subsections of the green movement, people of color, particularly urban Black women are invested in ways to increase overall wellness and vitality and minimize the financial and even social trappings of a consumer-heavy culture. Despite the paradox that of African-Americans being the biggest spenders but the lowest earners, shortening purse strings, be it by choice or necessity, may be more prevalent than the minimalist culture might have you think. Instagramers, Roe and Erin take that view into the next level of practice. Roe shares, “For me, minimalism is not about a set number of things that we have. For me, minimalism is about financial freedom,”. Whether it’s financial freedom or an experiment in a la Marie Kondo, the outlets and opportunities for marginalized folk to thrive in this movement is still well minimal. Minimalism is a popular way of life in many RV and tiny home communities. However, increasing numbers of retirees and cheap gas cannot replace security. Stories in the The New York Times and The Washington Post have showcased how women from minority races or of color often face lack of security in such minimal living communities. That is a major drawback that prevents more people from adopting this lifestyle in practical ways.
What Readers + Donors Are Saying
"A soulful resource!" - Charlotte, San Fransisco
When you support The Homesteadista, you support all women and girls committed to transforming their cities.
© THE HOMESTEADISTA, INC - a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.