Is Minimalism a Luxury of the Rich?

July 07, 2018

Owning few items used to be called poverty. But when one is able to purge, declutter, and own only long-lasting, good quality items, is this a luxury limited only to the wealthy?



A friend of mine spent several years teaching English as an additional language to adults; most of her students were new immigrants, and many of them, refugees. She saw a frequent phenomenon: an accumulation of stuff. Like, I'm talking: eight TVs kind of accumulation...

No, these folks aren't greedy, and they aren't individualists who are trying to accommodate each family member's personal show preferences! But, after living in want, in desperation, and in lack for so long, when faced with abundance, the scarcity mindset still rules. How can I give up this opportunity for a free XYZ? What if I never get that chance again?

You hear the same thing about people who lived through WW2 or the Great Depression (though, less frequently as people with memories of that time period age and pass away): these are the grandmas who save pencils down to the nub and have partially used notebooks that are 30 years old, waiting to be completed if needed.

The Minimalists have a phrase: you should purge everything that you could replace (if needed) in 20 minutes for $20 or less. One part of me thinks: sage advice! Keep it simple! The other part of me thinks: what arrogance! It assumes that our situation, wealth, access, etc. will never change.



This article, on the website Becoming Minimalist, has stuck with me for years. Patrick Rhone describes a sea change in his life:

"$18,685.00 is the gross total of what I made. Not the net. Not after taxes. That was it. Between August 2003 and August 2004 that was my gross income for a family of three [him as dad and his two boys].

That’s how I became a minimalist."

Rhone cuts through the BS to illustrate the privilege that many of us take for granted when we "decide" to pursue minimalism.

"To many of us, choosing to “live simply” is to others living in poverty and they may not have a choice. We should be mindful of this when we talk about it to others because, many times, we come off sounding like elitist jerks."

Yep.

It is often experienced that minimalism createswealth (of time, of richness of experience, etc.), but do we acknowledge the implicit financial wealth that allows us to "pursue" minimalism?

Have you pursued any minimalist practices in your life? Has it saved you money or cost you? Do you feel that it has come out of need/poverty, or luxury/abundance?


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