Minimalism Is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy

I think it’s probably no secret by now that I hate minimalism. I hate it as the incredibly-tedious piece of personal performance art it has come to be in our society, but I also hate it as an aesthetic: your white-on-white-on-white life and meticulously-crafted wardrobe of only the most wispy products Everlane and Aritzia have to offer are, frankly, a saltine cracker’s idea of what a Cool Girl would wear. In terms of its visual merits, or as a capital-S Style, the hyper-curated minimalism really only conveys one thing: “I wanted to take the very safest route to chic, cut away every possible misstep or risk. I saw the French Girl Chic articles and I was like… that’s pretty damn homogenous, but smoking tests poorly in focus groups and those occasional striped shirts are too bold. Time to reduce my look even further until literally every item I purchase tells people ‘I could get something more interesting, but I have enough money to choose not to.'”

Because let’s be clear about what the minimalist aesthetic, at least as a personal style choice, actually is: It’s a way of aping the connotations of simplicity and even, to a degree, asceticism, without actually having to give up those sweet, sweet class signifiers. Being minimalist in this way — “Stop wasting money on all that IKEA nonsense! With this $4,000 dining table hand-whittled by a failed novelist in Scandinavia, you will never need another piece of furniture!” — really just means having enough up-front disposable money to “invest” in your wardrobe and surroundings. Reducing a wardrobe down to a few painfully-elegant cashmere-cotton blend tops is only really possible if you can put down at least $1,000 in one go for the creation of your “capsule wardrobe.” The visual cues and undercurrents of moral superiority it apes, the “no-makeup makeup” because you’ve bought $250 worth of nigh-invisible Glossier products, the vaguely Japanese home decor because we assume literally anything that isn’t crowded with color and pattern is somehow automatically Japanese — it’s all about spending an incredible amount of time and attention to look as if you hadn’t thought about it at all.

And these are all fine things! You are allowed to enjoy having precisely 10 sweaters in slightly different shades of taupe, or meticulously keeping your all-white dining set on white open shelves, despite the fact that that CLEARLY implies at least once-weekly dusting of your entire kitchen, but what is hashtag problematic about it is pretending that this is somehow a noble or morally-positive way to spend your money. It is just another form of conspicuous consumption, a way of saying to the world, “Look at me! Look at all of the things I have refused to buy, and the incredibly-expensive, sparse items I have deemed worthy instead!”

And we are entitled to buy whatever we like, but to pretend that the intentional and costly up-front implications of a minimalist-chic life are anything but privileged posturing is ridiculous. But I believe that we feel these things because the minimalism-as-luxury-good phenomenon is extremely caught up with the minimalism-as-faux-spiritualism phenomenon, which is its own can of farm-to-table, artisanal worms.

Long story short, the past ten years or so has sold us one of the most oddly-logical, yet no less cloying, answers to our hyper-consumerist late capitalism: minimalism as a secular kind of religion, an add-on to the cultures of yoga and green juices and general living well by putting together a tapas platter of cultural and spiritual practices without ever fully committing to one. The premise of minimalism in this way is very vague, and ever-shifting to accommodate the tastes and stomach for consistency of the individual practitioner, but the overall theory is the same: By paring your life down as actively as possible, you are almost guaranteed to appreciate what remains more, and are likely to pick up some ~serious wisdom~ in the process, which usually makes for excellent self-serious Medium content down the road. There are a million variations — fitting all your belongings into a single box, small-house or van living, radical de-cluttering, extreme purges of technology or social activity, etc — but they all hold the same vague, usually-unspoken level of superiority.

They all imply that they are in some way a moral upgrade from the life of “mindless consumerism,” and as a bonus, allow you to take on some of the desirable aesthetics and morality of poverty without ever having to be poor. You’re not homeless, you’re on the road, doing some chic van-living and following the good weather! You’re not unable to afford basic home goods, you’re choosing to pare everything down to a single cardboard box! If life were a video game — and there are some scientists who seem to believe it may be — minimalist spirituality is a great way to get all the gold coins of poverty without ever having to be one of those icky poor people.

The implication of this kind of minimalism is obvious, and yet it somehow never seems to get addressed: the only people who can “practice” minimalism in any meaningful way are people upon whom it isn’t forced by financial or logistical circumstances. You cannot choose to “declutter” if you are already living in a sparse home you cannot afford to furnish. You cannot “reduce” the food you consume if you are already only able to put one good meal on the table per day. And when nearly half of Americans would be unable to pay their bills if they missed a single check, this “forced minimalism” is much, much more common than we would like to imagine. We cannot pretend that performative reduction in consumption, or choosing to only consume in certain ways, is not one of the most gratuitous displays of privilege out there, and to frame it as in any way a moral choice is more than a little offensive.

But the truth is that, as with so many other social phenomena that insufferable white dudes have co-opted, this spiritual minimalism has essentially become yet another competition for who can be the best at whatever you’ve chosen, even if that “whatever” is literally “having less shit.” Even ignoring the class angles, this idea that any “decluttering” in your life is automatically a positive thing is simply an aesthetic choice being reframed as a moral one because, let’s be honest, it’s really easy to look at a lot of what (mostly) women own as being totally frivolous. Makeup, more-elaborate wardrobes, cozy home decor, art, supplies for hobbies, nice home goods — it’s not a coincidence that most of the stuff we’re being told to flush away from our lives happens to be stuff that women mostly accumulate.

And, yes, there is a very strong capitalist-critical argument to be made about buying in more intentional and ethical ways, but color me fucking shocked that very few of these minimalist troubadors ever really take things to an economic or class-based argument. It’s about reducing for personal enlightenment and pompous blog posts, it’s not about arguing for a more equitable society in which people consume proportionate to their needs. (If you need a perfect example of this, note the fetishization of the curated ‘simplicity’ of the ultra-rich: their clean loft spaces, their designer capsule wardrobes, their elaborately-reduced diets. These people are still conspicuously consuming in mind-boggling ways, they’re just filtering it through the convenient prism of simplicity, and that allows their million-dollar wardrobes to somehow be aspirational for someone advocating for ‘minimalism.’) The point is, the points being made by the minimalism crew are neither truly spiritual nor truly socioeconomic. They’re another style, as superficial as anything else that might come down the runway at Fashion Week, just with an added layer of condescension. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t kid ourselves: this kind of “minimalism” is just another boring product that wealthy people can buy.

Image via Pexels

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  • conni boykins

    print this on my headstone

  • Anon

    To be fair, I think there is a case for thinking of minimalism as having some moral value if it means you’re willing to spend extra money on goods produced in humane conditions. If only owning 10 cashmere sweaters means you’re not buying from H&M or Zara or Walmart then, yes, I think there is some moral significance and value to that choice. The real problem is that buying ethically is often a luxury.

    Rampant mass consumption is unsustainable. It would be better if a lot of upper middle class and wealthy people bought less. It would be even better if we could change structural inequality in such a way that everyone has the desire and ability to shop more mindfully.

    • Tori Dunlap

      I talk about this issue with friends all the time. We have the power to make our purchases mean something (not supporting companies that don’t pay a livable wage, or outsource their jobs, or have a horrible environmental impact, etc.) but only if we have the money to pay for it. We wonder why there is a huge obesity problem in America: it is because unhealthy food is cheap. Produce (especially organic, non-GMO, etc.) is expensive. Clothes are the same way — H&M is cheap, Nordstrom’s is not. It’s hard to be able to make sustainable choices when you’re strapped for cash.

    • Jackie Onorato

      I think I would categorize that type of purchase as “sustainable” rather than “minimalist.” I think minimalism has taken a turn away from sustainability and moved towards aesthetics only. They are no longer one in the same, if they ever were.

      • Anon

        To be honest, I’ve never met a minimalist in real life so I can’t really judge. I’m half convinced this whole trend only exists on instagram. In theory, sustainability has to motivate some of the people who adopt minimalism, right? I think that’s why it’s grating, honestly – there’s a level on which I, at least, can’t help but think that they’re right that we all own too much shit and it’s destroying the planet. It’s not really about the moral benefits of living without clutter, at least to me. Clutter wouldn’t be a moral issue if it weren’t produced on the backs of third world countries at the expense of our environment.

        • Jackie Onorato

          It’s like there’s two kinds of minimalism: one where people try to live a more sustainable lifestyle and one where people swap their laminate counter tops for marble.

    • lunanoire

      Sustainable fashion is out of the budged of many, but as a person with a moderate income, I’ve made more of an effort to buy second hand clothes to prolong the life cycle of a garment and save money. However, this is easier for people who do not have uncommon measurements and have a lot of time to search and wait.

      • Anon

        Yup. And/or can afford tailoring. I buy most of my clothing second-hand but I also prioritize paying for a tailor, which often means it isn’t much cheaper than new, just better quality and better fitting than I could otherwise afford.

  • Alyssa

    Not all minimalism fits this description and it doesn’t always demonstrate the same white-on-white aesthetic or high-end yet sparse wardrobe. Sometimes it simply means just removing unwanted household clutter and whittling down to the (not always bland) clothes you actually wear instead of things that make you feel like crap. I personally don’t like owning a bunch of stuff because it’s such a burden to move, but what I do own serves a purpose in that it’s either beautiful, sentimental or practical. And yes Target and Ikea are involved as well as West Elm. 🙂

  • Sierra Clayson

    I love this so much! I always joke that I would love to be a minimalist, but I can’t afford it. It really is mind boggling how certain bloggers and Youtube personalities promote minimalism and subtly (or not so subtly) shame those who don’t practice their same lifestyle. I would love to live in a chic minimalist loft with expensive furniture that’s both functional and decorative, with a closet of luxurious neutral apparel. However, my priorities paying off debt and building up savings. For now I’ll continue reusing my unaesthetic Cool Whip containers as tupperware and shopping the sales at Ikea and Marshall’s.

    • laura

      Yes! I’m all for people living how they want to live, but the implicit shaming is where minimalism gets – as Chelsea calls it – hashtag problematic. It’s awesome that you can throw away all your stuff and invest in quality items, but a lot of people don’t have that option, and the constant evangelizing about minimalist lifestyles kinda overlooks those people.

    • Ronja Brown

      Hi Sierra! There is no price tag on minimalism! It’s just about being considerate to your wallet and the environment. There’s no need to throw away all your useful stuff only to replace it more expensive fancy versions. For me it’s all about really thinking purchases through – do I REALLY need this? – and it has helped my finances so much – I have for the first time in my life managed to save up for a house deposit 🙂 Also not all minimalists have to be extreme – you do what works for you! There’s no one size fits all. 🙂

  • APS

    I have definitely been caught up in the whirlwind of “living my best minimalist life,” and the terrible cycle of shame that comes whenever I keep something not because it brings me joy, but because it’s economical. As a graduate student on a limited budget (and a career that involves some pretty steep upfront expenses, including moving almost every year) however, I do find the concept of living with less to be very enticing on precisely that capitalist-critical level that you hint at. For example, while I would love to have a wardrobe full of responsibly-produced Stella McCartney, it’s worse for both the environment and my wallet to throw out all of my clothes, so I’ll just keep wearing my J.Crew trousers that I’ve had for three years (despite their dubious origins) till they fall apart because they fit well and I already own them. But I’d be interested to hear whether you’d like to write a piece on “minimal” living for a lower-income or budget-strapped situation, perhaps cutting through all the preachy bullsh*t in favor of real, practical advice for living sustainably and responsibly with dignity.

  • Jackie Onorato

    Don’t even talk to me about open shelving.

    • jdub

      #1 fave comment ever

      • chelseafagan


    • lunanoire

      I cringe when seeing some lifestyle/home decorating people’s decisions in the media because the home is in California and the choices are a bad idea in earthquake country.

    • Julie Garbutt


  • Tori Dunlap

    Chelsea has quite the unpopular opinion, but I completely get it. While I think minimalism works for people who do need to scale back their lives and for people who are focused too much on material goods, it also insults those who cannot even fathom the concept of having 3+ cars, or dozens of shoes, or multiple magazine subscriptions. If you’re choosing to live a minimalist lifestyle, you must understand the choice is coming from a place of privilege.

    • C Hawk

      Unless, like me you have a house bursting at the seams because you were so broke for so long you took every free thing offered. What if I need this thing? What if I’m too broke to buy it?And before you know it your home is not a home… Its a heap of stuff.

  • Okay… so what if a “minimalist” rather than being condescending was choosing a simpler lifestyle because they want to be more aware of the who around them instead of the what? It seems to me you’re simply lumping anyone who embraces the concept of minimalism in the same category of being a privileged asshole who wants society to praise them for “having less shit,” which is really not logical at all. I’ve chosen to embrace some minimalist concepts in my life because I believe that a great many people (myself included) ARE privileged. And rather than taking that privilege of being able to spend our money on whatever the heck we want and doing just that, we’d rather save it (a major concept on this blog), give back (another theme of this blog), or buy higher quality goods (yet another concept spoken about on this blog.) Is that really an issue? I’m not about to press my “superior” beliefs on someone because i’ve chosen to live my life a certain way, that’s silly. What i’m going to attempt to press on you, however, is that there is a silent majority of minimalists who aren’t shouting about it to everyone we meet at our yoga classes or in line to get our green juice or… anyone else for that matter. We are people with varied lives, and while minimalism bores you, it’s a legitimate concept that brings comfort (and yes, perhaps superiority) to a great many people. But when something works in your life and does bring a modicum of value along with it, aren’t you anxious to share it with people? Not to be superior, but simply because it’s exciting when that happens? I don’t know, maybe i’m too privileged to see past my nose, but at least i’m not gonna trip over random shit in my apartment because i *hairflip* don’t have random shit in my apartment.

  • Summer

    Going to play devil’s advocate here for a moment, as while I’m usually nodding along in agreement with most of your ~controversial~ calling-out-the-bullshit-of-society posts, this one sort of left me raising a metaphorical eyebrow. I find it difficult to side with the concept that people deliberately use minimalism to flaunt their wealth or privilege enough to actually get worked up about it. I agree that paring down a wardrobe to a specific number of key items CAN be expensive if someone wishes for those items to be of a fine quality, but the goal of owning no more or less than 30 versatiles can also be accomplished with the likes of H&M and Promod (ethical issues of fast-fashion aside). The same goes with furniture, makeup, travel plans, dining habits—anything, really. One can have less without necessarily spending more or making it some sort of anti-consumerism moral journey from which plebe onlookers should gain inspiration. My first inclination was to steer this toward a quality vs. quantity debate, but the two are not always mutually exclusive. Some folks legitimately do not like having a bunch of shit laying around the house or cluttering up their closets, and it doesn’t mean that because they’ve reduced their tangible number of items owned, they feel some sense of superiority or are out to make a mockery of those who literally have no financial choice but to only own a few things.

    If we’re going to argue that choosing a path that others sometimes follow because they have no other choice is a heinous form of assholery, where do we draw the line? Is it shitty to post pictures of a beautiful, home-cooked dish, knowing that not everyone has the know-how or the financial means to execute the recipe we’ve just prepared; or is it worse to tweet a photo of the store-brand, boxed mac & cheese we picked up on what may be a nostalgic whim for us but is, in fact, someone else’s reality of an honest meal? If we tweet about opting out of an invite for a weekend away with friends because we’d rather stay on the couch with netflix, are we being insensitive to those who wouldn’t have even been able to consider two nights in a hotel in the first place? I may be digging a little too deep here, but when one [objectively broad] concept is slapped with a “FOR PRIVILEGED KIND ONLY – NO POORS” label, I just have to wonder at what point we ALL become a bunch of dicks for expressing personal preference or sharing favorable glimpses into our lives.

    • chelseafagan

      I think that it all comes down to the moral power we imbue these things with: I tried to be as explicit as possible that minimalism as spiritual choice or concentrated fashion aesthetic is positioning itself as, in many ways, superior to the way “average people” live their lives. I think *most* people do not like having a bunch of shit “laying around their house or cluttering up their closets,” including myself, and I don’t think that that is or should be considered “minimalism.” I think when one chooses to pursue a kind of faux-ascetic lifestyle that is really just a more curated form of consumption, and styles it as a vaguely spiritual choice, THEN the question of “am I choosing something that many people do not have access to?” is more relevant. Posting a photo of a dinner or talking about watching Netflix is not some kind of a personal moral argument, at least not any one that I can understand — many “hardcore” minimalist arguments *do* have that distinctly moral tinge. And again, I would not put “people who like a less-cluttered apartment” into the same categories I am addressing in this article.

      • Wendi Schwinler-Wagner

        real minimalism .. as in a lifestyle choice is very different … certainly in the beginning we do the number of items .. later on thought we focus on what is important to us as individuals and live accordingly … unless you have embraced it you don’t realize the relief of not buying into the consumerism mindset

        • nhr215

          I will bet any amount of money that this is self-delusions and in reality you have simply chosen a different flavor of consumerism that involves few but much more expensive items and therefore by definition MORE consumption.

      • Sarah Egolf

        For me, it would be more useful to hear exactly which minimalists you are criticizing. I have been reading Courtney Carvery’s blog, which is fantastic, and is about her journey after being diagnosed with MS. It’s definitely not about privilege or condescension, but I would say she is spiritual about it… I understand that it may sound “privileged” to have enough stuff that you can declutter, but many people I know in poverty have a TON of stuff (not homeless, obviously, for them it’s harder to keep things, but not impossible).

    • Bee

      H&M has a Sustainability range. I dunno if it’s available in the States, if that’s where you are, but certainly in the UK.

      • Summer

        I’m in Germany, and we have it here too! I do believe it is also in the US.

  • So I’ve got some mixed thoughts on this post, but an additional thing that I think it’s important to note in the privilege vs. minimalism nexus is that de-cluttering assumes that you have the means to replace the smaller “life” things on an ad-hoc basis, which usually means at full price. I have boxes and bins of “clutter” that I hold on to because I don’t have the excess cash to toss and replace these things for no reason, and I need to stock up on sale items when the price is reduced. This means that I hold onto spare gift bags, bottles of shampoo and soaps, thread, buttons, lots of random and assorted items because they miiight be useful at some point in the future. They usually are eventually.

    • lunanoire

      Yes, I remember feeling so lucky to have had an extra tube of toothpaste when unemployed. Also, a lack of urgency really helps. As a person who is tall, it took me 2 years to replace a navy pair of pants that had stretched out with a second-hand replacement, and 2 years when trying to replace a ripped pair of white pants.

      • I stock up on toothpaste at the dollar store! The thought of paying $6 for a tube at CVS makes me cringe when I know if I just go a little out of my way I can get it for a fraction of the cost.

  • Moira

    I recently moved to a postage stamp of an apartment and, because I’m not dropping half of what I’m saving on rent on a storage unit, subsequently had to, very reluctantly, give away or sell A LOT of my stuff. I tweeted a few pictures of my new place when all was said and done and gotten rid of (the last point not being something I disclosed) and almost every comment was about how chic and minimalist/ #onbrand #aesthetic my new place was. Which is to say: this is spot on.

  • Monica

    I get what Chelsea is saying here and it’s true on so many fronts. I remember reading an article about creating a capsule wardrobe and thinking, “the point is to do more with less but why is asking me to spend more money??”. It just felt wrong. It’s just funny how minimalism has become about design and aesthetic. Well, I guess minimalism has always been about that so I guess what’s funnier is that how simpler, more basic, more essential items in terms of design and utility has become pricier.
    Personally, I love the whole minimalist aesthetic especially when it comes to clothing because I feel like I could get more mileage from basic pieces (thus save money) and let’s be honest, it’s classy af, however, with these specific articles of clothing being more expensive, I’d rather look like a 90’s mash up with some money to spare than an IG #ootd queen who’s broke.

    • jdub

      Yes. 100%. I don’t like having shit strewn about my house/random piles of knick-knacks, but I’m not about to go spend $3000 on a ~minimalist~ shelving unit to hold my piles of nothing. I’ll just get rid of my excess stuff regularly and clean out my closet every few months to get rid of stuff I don’t need.

  • I love when you drop these truth bombs. This honestly speaks to my SOUL. This is precisely why I’ve always taken issue with coding morality onto consumerism because at every level (whether it’s fast fashion or fast food) you necessarily convey immorality onto people who very literally cannot afford to make more “ethical” choices. You blame people for economic situations they can’t control without any recognition of the initial investment needed to be able to consume more thoughtfully. When you’re poor, things like buying in bulk to save money are no longer options for you because the $5 extra it takes to get the big pack of toilet paper can me the difference between 3 lunches a week and 5. I think of all the times twitter shares those memes of Mark Zuckerberg in his grey t-shirts shaming people for spending on brand name clothing. Mark’s “uniform” might be simple, but his specially made shirts for the week likely costs more that most monthly paychecks. The simplicity doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive or morally better. It just means he can afford to spend more on simpler things.

    I’m reminded too of an interview Trevor Noah did with NPR. In it he talked about how after moving into Jon’s old office when he started The Daily Show there was this wall he hated. It was “exposed brick” and it was supposed to be this stylish aesthetic choice. But he hated it because he grew up poor in South Africa. “Exposed brick” wasn’t a choice to him, it was a signifier of the extreme poverty he’d escaped, and here it was in an office in Manhattan being used as ~miNiMAliSt~ decoration. He found it offensive and made them come in and paint the thing properly. I think you really touched on something else that rarely gets said: how we fetishize the poor as somehow morally better and more “humble” but also shame them for not being “smart enough” to be richer. So instead of oh, I dunno, improving social safety nets, we just dress up as poor people using rich people alternatives.

    • Kdlaf

      Woah I never heard that Trevor Noah interview/quote. A truth bomb indeed.

    • jasilee

      He found an exposed brick wall offensive? So he “had” people come in to paint it properly?

      • Bee

        That’s what I thought!

  • I can see where you are coming from, I know this type of minimalism exists and I also don’t agree with it (though I don’t see it as such a big problem). However, as I see it, minimalism is a way of living which seeks to avoid unnecessary consumption and accumulation of stuff in order to have more resources and time for things that truly matter to you. It doesn’t have anything to do with the “all-white aesthetic”, how much money you have or what brands you buy from. It doesn’t even require making any sort of investment. If anything, it can be a wonderful way of saving money (less spending and you can sell stuff you don’t use). And there is a ton of people of very different tastes, diets, backgrounds, income, etc. following this lifestyle to some degree or another.
    I would suggest changing the types of minimalists you follow on social media. Some that come to mind that really do not fit your description are The Minimalist Ninja and Haley Carolina on youtube.

    • Amelia Wasserman

      I totally agree with this, Irene. Well said.

    • Was just about to comment to say the same thing! Minimalism, at its core, is about getting rid of the stuff/responsibilities/relationships you don’t need in your life to make room for the things that matter.

    • TJ

      I would also like to add Cait Flanders, whose articles have been published on this site. She used minimalism to get out of debt quickly. Her definition was only earning 28 pieces of clothing and a 3 year shopping ban, both articles which were re-published by TFD.

  • EdwardJamesAlmost

    How is minimalism different from #NeutralLife?

    • chelseafagan

      There are definitely similarities, but to be fair to me it is also something I did three years ago and have since to a degree moved away from for various reasons. And I think, even in my excitement over it at the time, I tried my best not to frame it as a moral choice and (mostly) as a money-saving one, because I had always been someone who wasted money on clothes because I couldn’t coherently put them together. But frankly, my flirtations with the aesthetic have only increased my frustration with it: having done it myself, I can attest that even a light version of “radically overhauling one’s consumption” requires a good amount of money up-front.

      • “It’s OK for me to have a tool that helped my life but it’s not OK for other people to have a tool that helps with theirs if I don’t agree with it.”

        Minimalism isn’t something you’re into? Fine, but don’t hate on something with vitriol just because you’re not into it. There are areas of minimalism that makes me uncomfortable and should be questioned, but you didn’t address any of them. Instead you took the approach of saying “it’s basic and boring and a privilege and I hate it.”

  • Johanna

    A financial website arguing against minimalism is… confusing. You’re thinking of the 1% of people who have nice blogs with performative aesthetics, and not the reality of minimalism, which is not to buy anything more than you need. Have you watched the documentary The Minimalists? I think you would find that people who actually practice it are incredibly down to Earth, and that it’s a very healthy thing for anyone to adopt.

    • Maz

      After reading this I had the same exact thought. I find minimalism, at its core, to be a tool to help someone build a lifestyle that works for them. I mean sure, just like any other accept of our society, it does have a bit of a cult-sect to it, but I don’t think that mindset needs to be adapted by everyone who wants to live a minimal lifestyle. I am not a minimalist but have been reading more about it lately, and actually find that it can allow people to consume less and at least be deliberate about where they choose to consume.

      I think a lot of people do have a lot of “stuff” in their lives that they just don’t need. And that doesn’t have to be products or furniture or anything tangible, it can also be plans, and career decisions, and the way we think about ourselves and our lives. Like yea, we can focus on one specific example of I guess what Chelsea calls “aesthetic minimalism” and I’d agree with the points she has presented to an extent, although I don’t want to label that as minimalism because I just don’t think it is. I guess I just don’t find that productive; if we’re going to be analytical and critical of consumerism and the various lifestyle choices people make in our society, I feel like we should better represent them?

      Part of this is an on-going frustration I have of the need to be hyper critical of how people want to live. I just don’t see how that helps anyone in anyway, maybe I’m missing point.

    • bextannya

      I replied to this comment yesterday, but my comment doesn’t appear to have gotten approved by the moderators? *sad face*. I wanted to contribute to this conversation..!

      • bextannya

        Basically, I agree that the documentary is very interesting, even for people who do not live a minimalist lifestyle (or incorporate some variation of it). I also believe that what appears to upset Chelsea about the lifestyle is solely the “surface” of what minimalism is and means to a lot of us. I think many of us can agree that IG, certain blogs and other social media platforms tend to showcase the “picture friendly” aspect of minimalism, which is not many people’s reality. That’s what social media is all about though!
        Just because there is an eco-local-bio-sustainable piece of furniture that pops up on our IG feed, doesn’t mean that a) it represents what minimalism means to *us* personally, and b) that we should feel pressured to buy it?
        At the end of the day, I understand Chelsea’s point, but as we say in French, il faut en prendre et en laisser. While minimalism (and what that word means to you) may not be for you, it doesn’t mean that it’s a load of croc at the end of the day.

        • lunanoire

          Green capitalism is still capitalism. It’s a greener choice to keep your current furniture than to buy a sustainable piece of furniture. “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.”

    • Vanessa

      Johanna said exactly what I was thinking. Don’t condemned Minimalism just because snob rich people decided to reinterpret it into their own posh vision of life. I give away my material possessions and also the money I would have spent in something, that I on second thought decided not to buy. Minimalism can be good, like everything in life, it can be whatever you want it to be.

    • lunanoire

      I agree, but as a regular person, it’s frustrating to hear about enlightened minimalists/yoga teachers/etc. who were former high earners, realized that there are things more important than money, and used their savings to a less extravagant life and possibly career change. I am less interested in hearing about the choices of former high earners than from those who have always had moderate budgets.

    • Ronja Brown

      Johanna – I know Maz already said this below, but yes extremely confusing that the Financial Diet would argue against minimalism (or essentialism) which encourages people to purchase thoughtfully…isn’t that what TFD is always preaching? thank you for pointing that out.

      Also Chelsea, minimalism isn’t really associated with any particular style (white open shelves etc). It is about being sustainable, having things you love and need in your life, when making purchases being considerate to your wallet & the environment. If someone decides that their minimalism entails expensive goods, that is their choice. I personally still shop at the exact same places as before, but probably 70% less now thanks to minimalism.

    • MakeMeister (chip)

      Despite at least one of the reference images being used was from a “design on a budget”-type site, I think the argument is against the way minimalist design has entered into the realm of high-end; a $7,000 table, almost indistinguishable from one at Ikea, sold for $89, etc.

    • Neo-Seul

      I agree with your comment ~ the article is way too general and while it has some truthful things it does not apply to the majority of the minimalists I know~

  • Monica

    Long time reader but I almost never comment. I actually read this piece in your voice after having watched a few of your videos, and that actually made it quite entertaining.

    However, I think you are focusing on a specific type of minimalism. I’m with you that it can be used by people to be condescending and only a few people can afford the two coats that are worth over a $1000 each because they’re great quality, but that’s not the only type of minimalism. I’ve been reading about this topic for a couple of years and have come across a lot of bloggers and youtubers who call themselves minimalists but they don’t all fall under your description. I’ve also adopted my own form of minimalism by trying to buy less, buy better quality and be generally thoughtful and intentional with my money. I am not rich, I work for a nonprofit, and I have a lot of credit card and student loan debt. My brand of minimalism helps me focus on being intentional with my money and paying off my debt as quickly as possible. That means buying one pair of more expensive sandals from Nisolo that have lasted me two years and going strong rather than buying five pairs of sandals from Target each summer that last me three months. Do I wish I can afford to upgrade everything? Sure. But as others already commented, it’s wasteful to get rid of everything you have now if you can use it to buy a whole new wardrobe with a “minimalist” aesthetic. There was one youtuber I watched who did that and I was completely baffled. It’s one thing to sell or donate your clothes because you don’t wear them, but it’s another to just get rid of things to have one color palette. Anyway, I digress. My point is that minimalism is not a one size fits all concept, and should not be treated as such.

  • Amanda Quinn
  • lateshift

    Holy insecure projection, Batman!
    This essay has a clear message. I do not think it is the message the author intended…but it IS a worthy entry in the “This aspirational lifestyle makes me feel inadequate for some reason, and is not my personal preference anyway, therefore it is obviously a bad choice, and the people who prefer it are not as smart/enlightened/ethical as myself” genre, along with the Medium posts that insist skinny women aren’t “real” women, or that more education makes a person a less qualified leader, for some reason. 👏

    • Mj D’Arco

      I got the same vibe…

    • 👏👏👏

  • Amelia Wasserman

    Hi Chelsea,
    Thank you for expressing your opinion. I think posting anything online for the whole world to see is a practice of vulnerability. I really appreciate your contribution to this awesome blog and I think it is totally cool if we see Minimalism from different angles.
    Something important to remember here is that Minimalism, like most things, is a lifestyle choice that is not immune to the natural human tendencies of exploitation for profit and vanity. And just like any lifestyle choice privilege and empathy must be taken into consideration. Just because you find value in one way of living does not mean everyone has to live that way or someone is dumb or evil for not living that way.
    Minimalism has a lot to offer people all over the economic spectrum, and I am sorry you have been seeing a lot of the negative sides of it like unacknowledged privilege.
    All my Best,

    • lateshift

      This is a fantastic point…. so good, I’m going to quote it one more time (cc the author of this essay, because…well. I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin): “*****Just because you find value in one way of living does not mean everyone has to live that way or someone is dumb or evil for not living that way.*****” Ahem.

      • Amelia Wasserman

        Thank you, Lateshift! I am glad you found value in my post.

    • Ronja Brown

      Great comment!

  • Haley S


  • Squiderous

    This essay touched a lot on the financial side of ~minimalist~ privileges, but there’s also a time component. It takes so much more time to “source” the perfect minimalist umbrella (actual post from a instagram that I finally had to unfollow) than to grab the colorful polka dot one from Target. Who has time for that crap other than uber privileged?

  • Geeka

    Ok, so I read this at lunch and have been ruminating over it since then. Here’s the thing: minimalism and the minimalism aesthetic are 2 different things. I too, hate the white on white, $400 coffee mug because it’s the only one you own thing, but that’s totally different from actual minimalism.

    I call myself a minimalist not because I curate a look, but because I realize that every time you buy something you’re implicitly voting for it with the money you are giving to the company/person that makes it, and there are plenty of reasons I have for not giving money to things I don’t believe in. One of those is the rampant consumerism that goes on. Another is every dollar I give to someone else, is one I’m not saving for a house.

    So, yes, I only own 5 pairs of pants. I don’t think I paid more than $10 for any of them. I’m currently wearing a sweatshirt I bought 15 years ago (it doesn’t have holes and it’s warm). The assumption is that everything that lasts forever is $$$. It’s not. That 6 quart Le Crueset I have? It was on sale for $30 at a flea market.

    I used to save everything under the idea that I’d need it and that I’d have to pay to replace it. A couple of summers ago I decided that this logic was faulty because the jar of nails in the basement, I have never once found the one I needed for a project. Paint had dried up. That plant stand that I can’t actually use because cats are asshole: gone. And I like not having to waste the mental energy thinking about these things, or the time reorganizing them.

    Maybe this falls more under conscious consumerism than minimalism, but I don’t think either one is out of reach for someone without a lot of money (and I’ve lived most of my life without any disposable income)

    • I feel as though we have very similar ways of applying minimalism in our lives! It’s so strange how throwing out the extra nails and getting rid of faulty furniture gives you some clarity to notice other things that may not belong. And again, I also agree with having more freed up mental space. It’s a god send quite honestly. Thanks for your comment.

  • Sonrisa Andersen

    I know quite a few Minimalists, and you’re pretty far off the mark. As someone who had a significant amount of debt and became debt free after becoming a Minimalist, I can tell you that this lifestyle is pretty well suited for middle to lower class earners. I had grown up so poor, I wanted so badly to have all the nice things that other people are supposed to have, and so I spent money I didn’t have to have that life that so many of us want. Minimalism taught me that we should place more value in the things we own, and to be happy with myself, just the way I am. A lot of my clothes need to be mended a few times a year. They obviously aren’t expensive clothes. They are what I already owned when I decided to become a Minimalist over a year ago. When I replace something, I will opt for something that maybe costs a little more and will last longer. But guess what? I will have to save up for it. I really don’t understand who you are talking about. It’s mind boggling that you could trash a way of living that has impacted so many people in such a positive way. I will chalk it up to ignorance.

  • jasilee

    Bored wealth has always appropriated nearly any cultural phenomenon they can manage to fit into their schedules. While they desperately (and it does appear desperate to me, as well) attempt to feign awareness and authenticity while shamelessly displaying status, they do not resemble the great many people whose lives are improved by editing out that which advertising and media tells us is the stuff of a happy life. People of all economic and cultural backgrounds can benefit from taking a time-out from consumerism, but that is not to say that anyone should think Minimalism is a one-size-fits-all solution.

    To give you some insight on other sorts of minimalists; I began a more minimal lifestyle very young watching both of my parents burn themselves out to acquire more things. Left alone, it was my “job” to take care of the things, dust and clean around collections, light housekeeping chores children have. I also struggled at school with focus and attention. Streamlining the things in my possession helped a lot and created an environment that was much easier to study in. It’s been my lifestyle since and has required no down-payment, no upfront expense. I just bought less stuff, filled less space.

  • Sally

    While I agree with most of this (I can’t bare to be part of minimalist groups because so many conversations seem to be about ‘minimising’ by buying new stuff to replace old stuff), I disagree that minimalism is not something that people living in poverty can practise meaningfully. I am a single mom living below the poverty line, and changing to a minimalist lifestyle not only resulted in me donating a lot of stuff I don’t use (even poor people can have clutter y’know), but has also made me far more satisfied with life. I am less stressed, my kids are healthier, both I and they no longer feel inferior due to not being able to afford an apartment with actual bedrooms or the latest fashions and gadgets, because by living an intentional life we can realise that those things aren’t important. Minimalism isn’t about spending a fortune on ‘the minimalist aesthetic’, it is about being conscious about what you bring into and keep in your life, and living ya life in line with your values for the betterment of both yourself and others. This can be just as meaningful for someone living in poverty as for someone with more cash than they know what to do with.

  • Nikki
  • sarah sherman

    Why does every sentence in this article have to be a paragraph long?!

    • Cindy Peters

      Only rich people can afford an economy of words. hahaha

  • Cindy Peters

    I think the author is only speaking about the minimalism as it appears in a Google image search or on Instagram or the Urban Outfitters catalog. Living in a consumption driven economy like the U.S., with an overload of choices for everything, there is something calming about coming home to find just the things you need and some things you love and nothing else. For instance, the idea of a smaller wardrobe means less stress and anxiety in deciding what to wear, or knowing where things are in a drawer rather than having to rifle through everything is calming…none of these things cost money to do. I am by no means (no means) wealthy, but I am now better off because minimalism for me also means living within my means and not drowning myself in credit card debt, which I had done in my earlier years.

  • Marfa

    Yes, there are people that take everything to extremes, this article is an example of extremism. There are all kinds of people living their version of minimalism. I’m not rich, I can’t afford all those brands that you mentioned, and I wouldn’t buy them even if I could. I have a 3 bedroom home in a middle class neighborhood for my family and friends, I just don’t have clutter everywhere. Yes, I do yoga, because that’s the only exercise that i can do. It is better than nothing. Yes, I have a small wardrobe, but I wear everything in it. I used to have a large wardrobe, full of things that were too big, too small, too old, stained… and a few things that i did wear all the time. Not all people living a version of a minimalist lifestyle live I’ve a white house, with a table from IKEA, a couple of leaves as decoration, eating sea algae and buying their capsule wardrobe at Fendi, Chanel, or whoever is the “latest and greatest designer” happens to be.

  • Kay

    I love TFD, I read it every day, but I have to disagree with this article.

    My thinking on this issue is that minimalism as a whole is a positive movement that is especially critical in these times of over-consumption and environmental ignorance.

    Not to base my argument on a 1979 Rupert Holmes song, but people nowadays are adopting many positive lifestyle choices (including minimalism) that used to be considered strange (From The Pina Colada Song: “If you’re not into yoga. . . I’m not much into health food”). I think it’s great that more people are taking better care of their minds, bodies, and wallets than in the past , and if there’s a certain level of moral superiority that comes into play as the result of this positive cultural shift, I don’t mind. People are morally superior about lots of things, and I’d rather they be superior about something as sustainable as minimalism rather than what people are traditionally superior about: owning/using/buying/wasting the most/biggest/newest stuff.

  • Wendi Schwinler-Wagner

    you really don’t understand the movement

  • Kate Marie

    Thank you for this article. I consider myself an aspiring minimalist. So it is nice to get a good healthy reality check once in awhole. I understand what this article is saying. And yes, the wealthy minimalist can appear very pretentious. However, I would say the majority of people adopting this lifestyle are doing it for other, less snooty reasons. I am in my late 20’s and in loads of debt. I have adopted this lifestyle as a way to minimize my consumption for the sake of my pocketbook and also the environment as overconsumption of cheap goods is incredibly harmful to the planet. I don’t have a perfect scandi inspired decor scheme. I admit it is apealing but, like you said, that is just another product for people to buy. I get where you are coming from though.

  • Phoebe Prentice Terry

    I’m not entirely sure I agree with this, although you communicated your point very well. My mother taught me to have a small, good quality wardrobe from the time I was a little girl and she was cleaning hotel rooms in the morning to support us and do her degree. Sometimes minimalism isn’t another product wealthy people can buy, sometimes your small, good quality ‘capsule’ wardrobe is your armour so the other girls at school don’t know you and your mother live on a thirty dollar grocery budget.

  • mitchT

    Minimalism: there’s really not much to it, is there?

  • Carli

    someone sounds bitter.

  • Ashley

    You’ve perfectly given voice to everything that has always rubbed me the wrong way about the minimalist aesthetic. Really great piece, thanks!

  • Momo

    I like that authors on The Financial Diet aren’t afraid to be bold. It’s important to put out conflicting view points. What irks me is that your interpretation of minimalism seems to be based upon the minimalism lifestyle being sold to us by places like IKEA. Whilst you’re entitled to this interpretation of minimalism, you have cherry picked one aspect of minimalism. The argument that minimalism is only for rich people is based on the same interpretation. A lot of people have taken on minimalism as a way to take stock of their resources and put them to better use than they were before. It’s true that there are minimalism blogs out there talking about the ideal white piece of furniture at $1,000 that will mean you never have to buy another piece of furniture again, but this is what you’re criticising – not minimalism itself. The Minimalists, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, who recently released a film, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, both grew up in poor households with parents on low incomes embroiled in domestic abuse and drugs. Each made the assumption that if they were just to make ‘more’ money than their parents that they would be better off. Low and behold they stepped on to the hedonic treadmill where ‘more’ was focused on more than ‘enough’. They found themselves miserable as they lived a life of obligatory consumption. By trying out minimalism living, they quit their jobs, started writing and started using their profits to build orphanages. By stating that minimalism is for rich people, you sound as though you’re making an excuse for why minimalism isn’t for you. I’d highly recommend that you listen to their podcast to gain a further understanding of how minimalism has changed people’s lives for the better: http://www.theminimalists.com/podcast/

    If there’s a more productive way of defining minimalism it would be asking yourself: How might my life be better with less?

  • Marian Daniells

    I think you’re targeting a very specific definition of minimalism. You see it because it’s practitioners are more “out there,” but there are some of us that prefer simplicity and aren’t quite as preachy about it. I’d argue this is similar to hating vegans because they try to tell you you’re an animal/environmental murderer. As a side note, really interesting contrast between the comments here, and those on your reprint on Guardian.

  • Ak Violette

    Fake folk movement

  • James P

    Here’s some minimalism for you: Drivel

  • James Escobar

    Although I found it unpleasant, I forced myself to read your article. I did this because I couldn’t understand how something that has brought me so much happiness could fill someone else with so much anger and disgust. After reading your article on your hatred for minimalism and minimalist​, two things seem very clear to me. One, you don’t really seem to understand or maybe do not care to understand the core of the movement, and the very real and positive effect it has on some of our lives. Many people such as myself, experience substantially less stress and a heightened level of fulfillment from narrowing our focus on the people, and things that matter most. In short, our lives are made better through some very simple lifestyle changes. You should never feel angry at anyone for wanting or enabling a better life for themselves. Two, from your words, you seem to be a very angry and unhappy person. Maybe because you know you have very little control over your life, you are forced to give so much of yourself to all the people and things around you. Everything is constantly pulling or taking from you financially, emotionally and spiritually, and maybe you’re tired. Maybe all you really want is to be you and to share this very real and original self with the world around you, but it’s hard to do that when you are forced to give so much of yourself. When so much of who you are is obligated to the people places and things around you. It is so hard to hold on to who you are today, with the constant bombardment of opinions and ideas through social media, it is easy to become misguided, to feel confused, or in most cases angry. For a time, I felt this way, and thanks to minimalism, I and many others don’t have to feel this way anymore. This process and idea works for me, I am only sorry it doesn’t work for you, but that’s ok. If you have it all sorted out and none of this applies then Godspeed, but if you are struggling then please don’t waste time being angry and hating on ideas and the people that embrace them, because eventually you will find one that works for you and hating you for that or the idea is that last think I would do. Good luck with your search. Oh and just want to clear it up, you don’t have to be over privileged or pretentious to appreciate minimalism. I grew up 1 of 7 children and at one point shared a room with my brothers that had a oval rug covering a dirt floor. Although, I am not the person I was 15 or 20 years ago, I still understand that sometimes less is more.

  • Reginald

    ” It’s about reducing for personal enlightenment and pompous blog posts, it’s not about arguing for a more equitable society in which people consume proportionate to their needs. ” – Key point of argument, maybe should have been stated sooner but I agree with this wholeheartedly.

  • Not sure I have too much more to add to all of these great comments. I agree that she should clarify the type of minimalism she is talking about. I agree that we shouldn’t purchase a minimalist lifestyle by throwing out all of our stuff and replacing with high-end, white and black stuff instead. I prefer the term essentialist, but both minimalism and essentialism, at their heart, should enable people to focus on what matters most to them. Just my two cents. Don’t condemn the movement, as many have said here, because a handful of wealthy white people have perverted its meaning.

  • I dunno. Isn’t there room for normal, middle of the road people who aren’t buying $4,000 tables whittled in Sweden, cashmere sweaters, and artesanal olive oil? You know, the boring people who just want to simplify their lives a bit and aren’t blogging about it. I think there are a lot of us who are paring down possessions, digitizing CDs and movies and giving them away, subscribing to fewer blogs and other subscriptions, consciously monitoring screen time, and freeing up the calendar. It’s a natural response to the glut of stuff, physical and digital, that defines modern life. Sure, some are ostentatious about it. But lots of us are quietly enjoying a quieter life 🙂

  • Joan Mielke Yost

    Thank you. What gets conveniently ignored is that when the minimalist owner gets bored (as humans do), he or she can simply purchase an entirely new minimalist look. And feel generous by donating barely used items to the less fortunate. (Or quietly sell them on eBay.)

  • Alex

    This is one of the most pretentious articles I have read. Too much pseudo sociology with a judgmental fart.

  • Sérgio L Tavares Filho

    I just read your text about minimalism. It’s a shame that people now publish articles without the basic research done. You don’t get minimalism, that’s just it. You didn’t consider even that Scandinavia — one of minimalism’ birth place — simply needs the light and the space of less furnished rooms. Or that it’s more sustainable to buy one table from a sustainable supply chain than ten from just anywhere. Or that design furniture in some cultures have the status of objects of art. Or that nowadays, in the current world, were looking more into experiences than into things. And frankly — sorry — saying that minimalism is misogynistic is a joke, because it’s you who’s making a statement that women clutter homes. Knitting and other artifacts are always welcome to a properly designed environment. However, to use an elegance you didn’t, if one wants to clutter their home they are entirely entitled to. But it’s not nice to be judgmental as your poor text was.

  • MakeMeister (chip)

    As a designer, who loves minimalism… I feel like I can relate to an extent.

    I may be wrong, but It seems like the reaction here is less toward minimalism and more toward the rapidly spreading caricature of minimalism —at least that’s one thing I commonly feel when I see folks “going for the minimalist look.”

    To me, this often feels like hearing someone philosophize over things they’ve fooled themselves into believing they’ve mastered, or using relevant flowery jargon; a reckless flinging of words from the languange of design.

    Personally, I feel like minimalism is wonderful, but has begun to lose some of its soul, thanks to a redefinition ushered in by trendiness and folks who just try too damn hard (and habitually spend too damn much 😜),

  • NThompson

    It sounds like you are probably young and possibly bitter about class differences or lack of access. I used to have these notions about the world, too. I’d encourage you to travel more, and also take some academic classes on art history and design. Most are free at museums. There is much to learn.

  • Alyssa Tobolski

    Congratulations, you have officially stereotyped minimalism and have NO idea what it means. Living a more simple life was a big idea published by the transendentalists of the 1800s, mainly being Thoreau, Whitman, and Emerson. It’s about saving your money financially and living a life not overcrowded by obligations. It’s not just about rich people who buy expensive furniture and gadgets for their white house. It’s more than just a trend, it has been here since Buddha. I feel if you met a real actual minimalist you would know that, but also find that we are very humble and thoughtful people. We, the real thing, believe in freedom from the constant need to manage bigger and bigger houses, the bedrooms the bathrooms the pools the promotions to the big jobs the two cars the bills the insurance to keep all the stuff the garages full of crap and the stacks of magazines books gadgets phones stuff stuff stuff the suffocation the prison of the hamster wheel where we all want everything we see we must have it!… (whew). You don’t NEED all of it and it WASTES time. That is what real minimalism is about. Stop judging people you didn’t take the time to research, and if you would like to learn more you can contact me or any other friendly minimalist. I think you are a great writer, but you stereotyped a whole group of people you just don’t know.

  • Benjamin Valmont

    “there is a very strong capitalist-critical argument to be made about buying in more intentional and ethical ways, but color me shocked that very few of these minimalist troubadours ever really take things to an economic or class-based argument.”

    As long as they look critically at their consumerism and are voting with their wallet for ethical consumer goods, let them have their Instagram pictures. Even if they don’t care about consumerism and are doing it for aesthetics, it shows people that you can think different about your consumption habits.

  • jakob

    I think you’re looking at minimalism in a shortsighted way. It’s not an aesthetic, it’s a lifestyle that’s been around for decades.

  • Guesty McGuesterson

    To the extent that people derive a sense of superiority from the idea of minimalism, I’ll grant the author that she makes a good point. I still like the minimalism though, and I think of it in terms of frugality.

    Like most humans I can be tempted by expensive things; things that would stretch my budget and keep me on a treadmill of little or no savings. Minimalism (when not understood as collecting few but *really expensive* things) offers a sort of antidote to that temptation. I can get what I need, it can look nice, and then I can stop accumulating.

    Also, it helps me to think in terms of keeping cost-of-living low. I’m doing fine now but suppose I lose my job next year? If I had a large house, a long commute, a big car, and other things that add to my monthly expenses, then a drop in income is going to hurt. But if I’ve thought of things like this ahead of time, finding a situation where I get to work without a car, have a one-bedroom apartment, and have already figured out the few things I need, then what remains is housing expenses and groceries.

    I did lose a job a few years ago, and it took me several months to find a new one. This kind of minimal lifestyle, and saves I had before losing the job, meant that I spent those months in a relatively good mood, able to spend time reading things I’d wanted to read and work on things I’d wanted to work on, even as the savings was starting to dry up. Yes, I was more fortunate than most. But the minimalism part, far from being about aesthetics, spirituality, or some sort of showing off, was very helpful to me.

  • Whisperman

    Isn’t complaining about minimalism, seriously complaining that other people aren’t buying enough things, something only people who don’t have to worry about money can do?

    Either way you got me to click:)

  • SB

    I agree and disagree.
    Agree that sometimes misunderstanding of highly individual concept is out there, this article is a proof. You have “hate” for some kind of generalized idea behind minimalist living of a group of individuals that use lifestyle as a means of social status elevation or just use wealth to make themselves feel better. And somehow it is also got to be named minimalism. It is nothing but a regular consumerist behaviour based on the latest trend.
    What you are talking about is not minimalism that is pursued consciously. Lifestyle minimalism is about time! Time to do things that you love and valuing experiences over staff. Everything else is optional, you don’t have to stop buying things, give away your favourite tea set or have “clean spaces, designer capsule wardrobes, elaborately-reduced diets”. Some people do get rid of things or move to a small apartment, but only if that benefits them. Sometimes it is because you are poor or debt destroyed and try to get best out of situation, sometimes it is because you have too much and don’t know what is important anymore. There is no rules, there is no moral codex (though its good to have one), no number of things you can own or brands that you must have. The point is to get more time to do what is important and to live life fully. That is minimalism. Very misguiding article, one sided.

  • Sarah Russell

    i suppose if you’re choosing minimalism as a hipster status symbol, the cynicism is earned. but honestly, everything is a choice. whether or not it’s a “rich person”‘s choice is a non-sequitur. some of us choose minimalism because we want to show off our “refined taste” and some of us, frankly, don’t want to waste brain-space or money on design or fashion. i’m just as un-affluent as most americans, and i choose minimalism because it saves me money and tedium. my favorite explanation of minimalism goes like this: “own your stuff, don’t let it own you.” and i had a step mother who once told me “if you aren’t genuinely in love with an item, you don’t want it.” i’ve used both of those ideas to help me make purchasing decisions and kinda just found that i’m not genuinely in love with almost anything i could have purchased in my life and to purchase it anyway would mean i’d have to spend my precious life-minutes making money to pay for the space to house it and taking time to clean it and keep it…. tedious and kind of financially stupid. and as for the lack of color in minimalism… that’s a skandinavian taste preference that happens to be popular at the moment but there’s nothing that says you can’t have color and be a minimalist. as with everything in life, if you don’t like the direction something is going, you have the choice to let it go, turn a corner and choose a different form of happiness (without being derisive – which is a happiness killer).

  • nhr215

    Spot on! The current minimalism trend has handily been co-opted and packaged by corporate consumerism. It is just the latest self-satisfied bourgeoisie signifier of being morally superior and wealthier as only an enlightened and wealthy person would choose it. In reality it is a crass form of spiritual materialism and another trend involving a bunch of new products you need to buy and therefore just your another flavor of consumerism.

    The best example of this is the new documentary on minimalism which purports to be a story of how two successful but unhappy corporate drones left the capitalist consumer lifestyle to find meaning in minimalism, when in reality they spend the entire documentary selling their products and those of other “approved” minimalist vendors (i.e. incredibly expensive tiny houses, and $500 sweaters).

    Gotta lover consumer capitalism! It can alchemically take anything, no matter how ostensibly noble, and find away to commercialize it.

  • impishacid

    Another thing I’ve seen pointed out – the whole ‘decluttering’ side of minimalism is absolutely rooted in the idea that you don’t need to hold on to anything at all, *because if you ever need it again, you can just go buy a replacement right away.* Saving things for later becomes a sin. Have extra pens? Throw all but one away, then re-buy them individually later! That’s the way to… NOT be wasteful and consumerist?

    In a way, it’s all very Thoreau. Specifically, it’s like when he berates a poor man for not living as he does – that is, rent-free on the vast tracts of unused land held by his extremely wealthy friend, while his mother actually cooks and cleans and washes his clothes for him.

  • Maria

    Interesting article. Fantastically written – I really enjoyed reading it and hearing another perspective on this topic. Personally, I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist. However, I do see at least some aspects of it beneficial. In my experience, I find that our over-commercialised society often leads to us buying a whole heap of crap that we don’t really need or use, which just leads to a whole heap of clutter – something that for me makes it difficult to concentrate and to enjoy the people and things I truly value. I think there is definitely something to be said for being more intentional in our purchases for financial reasons and simply to cut down on the regret so many of us feel when reflecting on how much money we’ve spent on things that aren’t useful and don’t improve our life in any way. I agree that, as with many other trends, minimalism is something that has been adopted and flaunted as a mark of superiority by the upper echelons of society, but I don’t think it has to be that way. I think that people can adopt the aspects of it that suit themselves and their lives and use it to live more intentionally, save money and boost their overall health. Of course, not everyone can or would want to do so and that’s also okay. 🙂

  • chanceofrainne

    Thank you for accurately articulating my hatred for the “tiny house” trend better than I ever could.

  • Brian Bailey

    during the witch hunt for pretentiousness, we can become the thing we
    hate. Claiming that minimalism is a form of cultural appropriation may
    be true in some cases, particularly if you live in an area overrun by
    aspirational hipsters, but it’s a broad generalization and a fundamental
    attribution error that exposes insecurity on the part of the author.

    “…but they all hold the same vague, usually-unspoken level of superiority…” There are few things I hate more than someone reacting to something they themselves describe as vague and unspoken. If someone really wants to make such a statement of superiority, force them to communicate it clearly. Lay all the cards on the table and tell me you’re better than me in English (or another language if I have WiFi and can connect to google translate). I’m not going to pretend to hear you otherwise, because chances are I’ll misinterpret what you intended to say. But also chances are I don’t give a **** in the first place.

  • Marta

    I think the views shown in this article are needlessly accusing. I mean, my place is pretty minimalistic, but i would hardly say it’s because i’m wealthy- i just don’t like spendidng money on anything and feel that buying new things makes you pay attention to them and waste time on them. I also can’t see anything despicable in people who notice one day “wow, I have 20 violet sweaters, maybe i should stop buying clothes whenever I feel like it and pay attention what I’m doing with my money”.

  • Jocelyn

    I do believe there are people trying minimalism out just because of its aesthetics. To some it has become another form of mindless consumerism. But that is not the true meaning of minimalism. Minimalism is about simplifying your life from physical objects that weigh you down, from people that weigh you down, from thoughts and memories that weigh you down, among other things. These are topics that you talk about in some of your other articles. To say that minimalism is only about its expensive aesthetic is just wrong. You know where the clothes for my capsule wardrobe come from? The thrift store and sometimes ethical brands; not from the expensive brands you mentioned in your article. Also, I am not a rich white dude, but minimalism has brought so many benefits to my life. I stopped supporting fast fashion, I’ve made it a priority to eat healthy, I’ve greatly reduced the impulse purchases that I used to make in a heartbeat and I now know the difference between my wants and needs. People can truly benefit of minimalism. I think that before writing this article, you needed to educate yourself more on what minimalism really is and I ask you to look at all sides of it before refuting it the way you did here.

  • Sara

    If you’ve only heard of minimalism that’s this superficial, I don’t think you’ve done much research. The minimalist idea and aesthetic and completely separate for many, it not most, people. And there’s no way of being middle class that lessens the amount of privilege you have. Even if you donated all money to charity someone could argue you did it partially for self-serving reasons. Heaven forbid someone try to be more mindful with their choices.

  • Christina TinaBeanz Saxton

    I’m poor and I love minimalism. I don’t think you really understand the concept of minimalism. Maybe read up on it instead of just following rich minimalists on Instagram. Just saying.