In a New York Times opinion piece, Stephanie Land, makes a power full argument on “The Class Politics of Decluttering”
I must admit that my wife and I have been on the path of minimalism for some time now. We are trying to declutter and have only things with us that we need. We want to use as less resources as possible either be it environmental footprint or financial footprint. It is not easy because the way we live is usually as consumers. And being part of a capitalistic society means we are constantly bombarded with images and messages either directly or subliminally to keep acquiring stuff. It has always been that not acquiring stuff could mean that you don’t have the resources to buy. Maybe minimalism is removing that stigma.
Stephanie makes a powerful case in her article on what being a minimalist might mean to people of different income levels:
But minimalism is a virtue only when it’s a choice, and it’s telling that its fan base is clustered in the well-off middle class. For people who are not so well off, the idea of opting to have even less is not really an option.
In a new documentary about the movement, “bad” consumption is portrayed by masses of people swarming into big box stores on Black Friday, rushing over one another for the best deals. They are, we’re led to understand, slaves to material goods, whereas the people who stay away from mass consumption are independent thinkers, free to enjoy the higher planes of life.
But those people flocking to Walmart and other stores don’t necessarily see things that way. To go out and purchase furniture, or an entertainment set, or a television bigger than an average computer monitor — let alone decide that I can afford to get rid of such things — are all beyond my means. That those major sales bring the unattainable items to a level of affordability is what drives all of those people to line up and storm through doors on Black Friday.
Those aren’t wealthy people who have a house full of expensive items they don’t need. Those are people teetering on or even below the poverty level, desperate for comfort in their homes. To point to them as a reason to start an anti-consumerism movement is just another form of social shaming. Those aren’t the people who would benefit from a minimalist life. They can’t afford to do with less.