Monday, October 17, 2016

Minimalism and privilege

Cait Flanders' post about minimalism being a privilege got me thinking so much today that I wanted to blog about it.

I completely agree that being able to intentionally declutter your stuff, simplify your life and commitments and so on is a privilege that not everyone has. If I need to replace something I've declutter, I can without any great hardship. Unfortunately not everyone can say the same.

There was a time in my life when, had you mentioned privilege to me, I would have immediately gotten defensive and explained how I worked hard, studied, made good, decisions, etc. to get where I am in life. And I did. But since then I have grown to recognize that other factors I had no control over also played a role. Where I grew up, the country of my birth, my family, and so on, helped put me on the path to success. While my family wasn't rich, I was never hungry or cold. I had everything I needed and most everything I wanted growing up. My parents valued education, working hard and getting good grades and taught me to do the same. There was never a question of if I was going to college, only where and what I wanted to study. Without that  upbringing and those expectations, would I still be where I am today? Without my mother's encouragement, and sometimes even well-timed threats, would I have finished college once homesickness sunk in or classes got hard? I don't know, but lucky for me, I didn't have to find out.

So there is absolutely privilege in choosing minimalism and we should all recognize that.

But the part of Cait's post that made me react the most was when she talks about questioning everything she's ever written and no longer wanting to write about "what items to declutter or her minimalist beauty routine." I too am turned off by the one-size-fits-all definition of minimalism, because there isn't one. What's just enough to me might be way too much for you.

But just because we don't all experience the same issues, or don't all have the same privileges, doesn't mean there isn't value in discussing your own experiences. There are a lot of privileged, overconsuming people out there and whatever makes each of us question our own choices is a good thing if you ask me. Maybe a post about decluttering will make someone donate some things that are just gathering dust, but that someone else could use. Or maybe reading about someone's simplified beauty routine will convince someone to stop buying products they don't really need, which will save some resources. Or hearing how someone cut expenses will help someone else do the same. And maybe that will lead to financial security, realizing you have more than enough and donating to others in need. Little steps can still snowball in the right direction.

I can summarize my definition of minimalism in two words: question everything. Experiment and re-examine what you do, buy, keep to make sure it's really important to you and adds value to your life. And then let go of the stuff that doesn't. It's not complicated, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. And share your experiences. Some of it may resonate and some may not, but I think there's more good than bad to be had by sharing and encouraging others to question things for themselves.

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