This means so many different things to so many different people. Minimalism where? In ingredient lists? Number of products? Number of products used for any given task or issue? Number of products per day? A wider philosophy of living, even? I won’t bore you with any further rhetorical questions; these sorts of things are personal and have endless variations. If all of your random little tchotchkes and half-finished beauty products give you joy, who’s to say that’s not your minimalism?
Personally, I try and be disciplined about waste. As long as an item isn’t actually breaking me out or causing irritation, I will not replace it until it is finished, even if I’m underwhelmed. I once saw a cute e-card thing which went along the lines of ‘I won’t purchase another product until I finish the one I’m currently using – said no woman ever’. Well, I am that woman. I have a similar approach to my wardrobe. I tend to have a one-in-one-out philosophy and have seasonal clear-outs for autumn/winter and spring/summer, donating items and then consciously purchasing others to fill any perceived gaps. I don’t think anyone could legitimately describe me as minimalist though. Especially not compared to the (albeit beautiful) extremes seen on some Instagram feeds.
There was a piece in the Guardian on this recently and it brought a political dimension to the discussion and the idea of minimalism as an achievable and desirable way of life. Essentially, their argument goes, only those who can afford to pare their lives down (i.e., those who had a bunch of stuff in the first place) can even engage in the idea. Sort of a trendy kind of a status symbol Asceticism. I can see why the eye-roll of an article was written. Rich, trendy people will (usually) revamp themselves and their surroundings in the latest trends – as it was, so shall it ever be. I think it’s a little unfair though to boil down the whole minimalism zeitgeist to ‘only the rich are capable of this ridiculousness’. Credit where it’s due, there is a beauty and calmness to aesthetic minimalism, and the artistry and ingenuity of the designers and architects that often go into creating spaces which can house minimalist lifestyles should not be poo-pooed as just another frivolity only the rich can indulge in. It takes huge skill. But it is true that very often it takes serious dosh to have the sort of space necessary to conceal the detritus of real life – like, where do these people keep their suitcases when not in use?! (I’m nosy too, so, in case you’re wondering, ours are stored between the wall and the wardrobe in my kid’s room). BUT, minimalism isn’t solely about money and it doesn’t take huge wealth to endeavour to live minimally.
I think it is helpful to approach the philosophy as another way to engage in a mindful existence. For me it doesn’t mean empty bookcases, polished concrete floors (though I do love a polished concrete floor…) and white on white on white. Rightly or wrongly, we’re human beings and we create emotional attachments to things or, shock horror, desire things. Making a moral judgement about a trait which is so human (and understandable) seems a bit like self-flagellation: weird. If you have read previous pieces of mine, you will have begun to pick up on a recurrent theme of sustainability and balance. ‘Practicing’ minimalism is no different. Consider what you need, consider what you want, allow yourself things you desire without letting it consume you. If this is more or less than another person’s, that’s okay. This isn’t to say that there is no problem with mindless consumerism and overconsumption, or straight-up-bonafide-cray-cray hoarding. It is my belief, however, that if we become more mindful about our consumption a healthy, sustainable, every day minimalism can be achieved and is quite natural – whatever your budget or vision.
I usually try to include some nice shots of my beauty products, but I feel like this article deserves a real, in situ photo. This is what my dressing table looks like when I sit down at it every morning and every evening. There are absolutely improvements to be made which would make me feel better about the space I inhabit but, honestly, I often lack the time and energy. A bit tritely, Spring is always my favourite time to tackle these things though, and I have already begun my bi-annual wardrobe clear-out and will be moving onto beauty products (free samples I will never use, I’m looking at you) and random papers around the flat in the coming weeks and I can already feel a weight lifting just thinking about it.
A great, non-judgmental, not-at-all-preachy page I follow on Instagram is @theminimalists. I think they’re worth checking out both for inspiration and practical guidance which can be adapted to suit your particular idea of minimalism.
What does minimalism look like to you?