Minimalism — and what it means to me.
Let us begin where it all began.
A couple years ago, I started to donate and sell a lot of things in my apartment (think: small paintings, chairs, clothes, shoes). This wasn’t a calculated move at first - it was driven by the fact that I was moving apartments, and doing so on my own. The idea crept into my mind to figure out and live by the essentials of what I needed: one umbrella, two coats, a set of clothes for work and for play, and shoes and jewelry and candles and plants that I truly wanted and loved. I monitored what I had, and adjusted accordingly as time went on.
Minimalism wasn’t a fresh page for me, or a time when I started anew. It was about limiting the amount of time, money, and honestly, thought, that I put into things that I didn’t really care about, in order to be able to refocus on other facets of my life.
This grew into a lifestyle, and one that I took more seriously as I began to learn about the backstory of where and how clothing and consumer products are made, as well as what tends to happen to things as we get rid of them (hint: landfills). And before we get to that, I wanted to give you a bit of insight into what minimalism means to me, and how I define it in my life.
Minimalism is about feeling good about what we already have.
Minimalism is about finding comfort in what we already own. It’s not about limitations and numbers, creating austere capsule closets or investing in things we do not need — though for some, that may be their minimalism of choice. In my view, it isn’t about tossing everything aside in lieu of linen pants and cashmere tops in the same black, ivory, taupe, green colors as everyone else. And no matter what we see online, it certainly isn’t about repainting our homes white, throwing plants in various corners, buying a DSLR and preaching about how this lifestyle is the only lifestyle — because it isn’t. It’s more dynamic than that. Minimalism is finding a sense of joy in what we already have in our hands, and in our lives, and finding contentment with what we choose to surround ourselves with.
It’s about refocusing.
I have a friend who has maybe four or five combinations of clothing that she wears all year, but bookcases that will make any library jealous. She spends her money relentlessly on novels she picks up while traveling or when she errs in visiting a local bookstore, and her apartment is a harbinger of all dust-related allergies out there. She’s one of the most minimal people that I know (in material, in words, and in behavior), and yet has more books of any genre you can imagine because that is what makes sense to her.
By its modern definition, having too much of something defeats the purpose of minimalism. Let’s counter that. Living minimally is lessening the time and space that we spend on certain things to refocus in areas we truly care about. If that means traveling or shopping less often to invest in more books, so be it. Minimalism is a personal choice that is defined by you, and structured by the priorities that you set.
Anyone can be “minimal.”
From what I can tell, minimal style in the modern age can seem to be limited by the idea that it is attainable by a certain socioeconomic status, by a person of certain race or income level or taste. We see this in a myriad of ways — clothing of the same muted tones; a boxy, loose aesthetic on slim models and bloggers; the stay-at-home or photographer or entrepreneur modeling the latest trend in sustainable fashion; or capsule closet competitions on clothing worth hundreds of dollars. There seems to be a certain matrix to entering a sustainably-made lifestyle, and though that has its time and place to discuss, it isn’t the threshold we should hold ourselves to.
Anyone can live a more minimal life by simply wanting less, and by investing in one’s self in greater proportions than in any material object. Whether you shop at Zara, or MM.LaFleur, or Givenchy or Goodwill, chasing minimalism (or, letting it happen to you) shouldn’t be limited to who and where you are in life.
Do better by those who have less.
It is no secret that the fashion industry creates some questionable practices around fair pay and safe working conditions for thousands of workers worldwide. The foundations of fast fashion are the people who create and sew and struggle in working conditions that are so far below that of which we should accept. Aside from that, only a small percentage of clothing is actually recycled, creating an environmental impact with items in landfills that will never biodegrade. Seeking a more sustainable lifestyle by investing in clothing that can be washed and re-worn, and then in clothing created by brands that are dedicated to the lives and wages of the workers behind them, is paramount to changing the industry from what it is right now.
And, lastly —
If it isn’t a hell yes, it’s a hell no.
There’s no better statement that will help us through anything we face in life.
Consumption (of anything) drives demand (of anything). Minimalism isn’t about changing the world by tossing all we have to the wayside and starting anew. Think it through as changing ourselves — little by little, habit by habit, as the days go by and we learn to focus on what it is in life that truly matters to us.