Minimalism, by a working class woman

‘Minimalism’ and ‘decluttering’ are probably some of the most-searched terms right now. Partly because we’re drawing to the end of the year, but mainly because the terms are deemed as in-vogue.

Currently, our society – or at least the fragments I see of it on social media – are obsessed with the idea of minimalism. The idea of owning next-to-nothing with a colour scheme of varying shades of grey (not the fifty kind, though) is incredibly appealing, not least for the Instagram photos, and articles about people selling all their possessions and travelling light seem to be popping up on my news feed every couple of days.

The idea of minimalism is a pretty fair deal. Firstly, you get to be rid of things you never use which are taking up room in our teeny tiny city flats. Next, you try not to spend or shop in the way you used to, thus saving money. Of course, what with the many articles about global warming and how we need to reduce our consumption (and thereby produce less waste), minimalism does seem the way to go. It’s also interesting to note that a lot of minimalists are also vegan/vegetarian, and advocate for sustainability and zero-waste through their online outlets (p. those who have blogs or on YouTube).

After moving my things (4-5 vacuum bags of clothes, 4 boxes, 2 suitcases and various bags for life) three time across London this summer, I made the decision to ‘declutter’ and make sure I had way less things when the time came to move next year. So I sat down, switched on my laptop, and started* watching YouTube.
*binge-watching YouTube.

I was hooked on playlists about decluttering and minimalism; I felt so calm watching it and knowing that my life *might* be like that. I began to tidy (I’m still in the process…it’s a long one) and I was doing well, but then I hit a brick wall.

It’s not a new take to say that minimalism can be seen as quite a privileged lifestyle. The act of removing a huge amount of items from your life itself is a huge deal for someone who can’t afford to just ‘nip out and get another one’ if they happen to need it in the future.
As someone who is working class, I totally get that, and I found it incredibly hard to get rid of as much as I wanted. Maybe it was also the drama student in me who just wanted to keep things *just in case* I needed them for costumes. Old jumpers, an astronaut hat, legwarmers.

I didn’t have much money growing up. Shopped in charity shops and at car boot sales, rarely wearing anything ‘trendy’, eating dinners which has yellow reduced stickers on them. That’s not a complaint btw, just some context setting. My sister and mum hoard quite a lot. I shared a room with my sister growing up and whilst I did regular room tidy-ups, she would keep scraps of paper and old toys from five years ago.
So when I went to university and got that first installment of sweet sweet student loan, of course I spent a bit of it on myself and went a little crazy. Hello Primark! Not the most conscious choice, but my eighteen-year-old brain had the mentality of ‘get more for less!!!’. Plus we don’t have a Primark in Lowestoft, so.

I find it quite difficult, even now, to get rid of things I really don’t need anymore. I don’t like the idea of seeming ungrateful, or not getting the full use out of something. I also get worried that I won’t be in the financial position to purchase that thing again – whether that be a coat or some white trainers or some books.
But then I remember how my back ached carrying all those boxes and I feel okay about putting things in a ‘to get rid of’ bag.

I also find that minimalists, though they don’t own a lot, the stuff they tend to earn is quite expensive?? Certain brand of clothes, expensive skincare and make-up, grocery shops that don’t look like they’re from Lidl. Essentially, people who aren’t really like me. Not sure why I’m saying that because it’s probably not true, but just a thing I’ve noticed in the online space.

Obviously, I don’t call myself a minimalist because, frankly, I’m not. I’m not like the other people on YouTube and Instagram who own next to nothing and make their own beauty products and batch cook all the time.
But I do like the idea of it. I like the idea of only owning what I use, and slowly getting rid of things I don’t like/want/need/use.

Apparently, minimalism isn’t about stuff. It’s about the mindset, the intention of the things you own. Quite hard for me to see that when all that are in my recommended list are videos with titles like “MY CAPSULE WARDROBE ONLY 25 ITEMS!!!” or “LIVING LIFE OUT OF ONE BOX”.

Yesterday, I tidied my room. I took out two bags or rubbish, and a carrier bag of clothes to a textiles recycling bin. I cleared out a set of drawers and cleared the floor so that there is space to dance.

That’s good enough for now.

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