In Defense of Minimalism
The minimalist movement has been getting a lot of flak recently for being ultra-elitist. What started as an enlightened way to curb consumption became the exact opposite. Now, critics are saying that it actually promotes more consumption by advocating for few but more expensive stuff.
Consider a plain white table that costs $2,000. It is branded as "the only table you will ever need and fits your minimalist decor to a T."
Apparently, minimalism is yet another vehicle for rich people to show their moral superiority over us common folk by vilifying material possessions that clutter our little abodes. Whereas they can enjoy the luxury of the free spaces within their 3,000 sqf townhouses devoid of any furniture albeit the $7,000 ghost glass chairs designed by some artist. Not only that. Rich folks can boast about getting rid of all their cars, their gadgets, their designer clothes, and their signed books in exchange of being able to live a mobile life moving from country-to-country with just a backpack full of clothes, a laptop, a smart phone, and an American Express Black.
I am not rich. I am just a regular guy working a day job and living in a very small apartment in Jersey City. But I find something liberating in the idea of minimalism. Just to be clear, my idea of minimalism is vastly different from the one that is being hammered by critics all over the world.
My view of this philosophy is more about acquiring less. Mind you, I have a cabinet full of old broken hard drives containing digital memories that I value in the hope of one day these drives will miraculously resurrect from the dead. So I am NOT one fo those minimalists who discard stuff just to provide space for a $3,000 plain black floor lamp. I keep shit of value. And I love keeping them.
But I do make an effort in acquiring less. And believe me it is not a conscious choice. Most of the time, I just don't have the money to buy things so that comes in handy. But let's say, I pass by a Footlocker and spots a nice Jordan sneakers. Now, in all modesty, that is something I can probably use my credit card for just to make my inner fanboy shut up. But then, another voice would come in, this time from the cheap asking: "Do you really need those?"
No I don't. Why? Because the sneakers I bought last year is still in great working order. Imagine if I succumb to temptations like such every time I see a footlocker. I would drown in sneakers and credit card debt for the rest of my life.
Call it frugality, if you may. But I try to control my consumption of things by being mindful of what I really need as opposed to giving in to what I want. Do I need to buy 20 pairs of trousers? I only use 3 of them a week so why bother? What's the reason for buying 4 guitars when all you really need is one? 3 TV sets, really? I don't even have cable.
With regard to clutter, I do appreciate a clutter-free home or office and I try as much as I can to remove unnecessary things that serve no purpose. A closet full of documents from 2014. Off to the shredder. 30 pairs of t-shirts that I haven't worn since 1998. Off to Salvation Army. 4 crates of vinyl records that were given to me as gifts when I don't even have a turntable. I will give it to a friend or family member who can spin and enjoy them.
You see, it is really about what you need, what you can afford, and what has value. Privilege has got nothing to do with it at least for me. I got zero privilege to be brutally honest. All my clothes are plain and simple and I got all of them from discount retailers. They won't even last two years but that is ok. They are within the $9.99-$$39.99 range so they are easy to save up for. In this kind of frugal lifestyle, wearing one color with no prints or patterns goes a long way. For one, it frees me from the confines of worrying about what to wear because I wear practically just one set multiplied by 5. That's it. No bells and whistles. Basic. Because really, nobody cares. So why worry or spend time matching your wardrobe? Nobody will ever stop you in the hallway and go: "Aren't you wearing the same clothes you wore yesterday?" So feel free to go plain black, plain white, plain red, or plain yellow. Knock yourself out. Go for basic and cheap. Nobody will give a shit.
And this is why I think this vitriol against minimalism in general is clearly unfounded. Not all practitioners of this lifestyle are GOOP readers or Silicon Valley moguls. A lot of them are like me. Folks who write blogs hoping that one day, with enough Google Adsense revenue, we could afford to purchase that next pair of Jordans without getting declined by creditors.