A couple of people shared this article about minimalism and tidying on Facebook recently.
I was quite interested in the topic because I am feeling a mad impulse to throw stuff out just now. No cleaning urges for me, but I get irrationally annoyed at things in cupboards. We got the newborn clothes out of the storage the other day, we’d bought a new chest of drawers which fit exactly one of the four giant boxes we had stashed away. I wanted to give stuff away straight away, but Dave managed to persuade me that another few months isn’t going to make any difference. I know with my brain that this chucking things out thing is just a phase and actually thinking about it for writing this has persuaded me that I’m just going preggers crazy.
I’ve written about minimalism before, and when I think about it rationally my position is exactly the same. I’m fascinated by capsule wardrobes and people who live minimalist lives, and I’m not at all in favour of buying stuff all the time, or keeping so much crap that cleaning becomes impossible, but at the end of the day I love stuff because it says something about people. I think the ‘after’ picture in that guardian article is the most depressing looking flat ever. It looks like she’s just moved in, or is about to move out and some of the stuff is already gone. There is no personality, no signs of a life being lived. I know that there are plenty of people who move into those beige new built flats, and then don’t do anything to them. No painted walls, no interesting furniture, hardly any pictures (maybe some generic ikea ones though). And I know that not everyone is into interiors the way Dave and I are, or at all. But I do find it strange when I go into a place like that.
Another interesting thing raised in the comments of that article that I hadn’t really thought properly about before is how connected ideas of minimalism and consumerism are. The idea that you should chuck things you’re not constantly using out takes it for granted that if you do ever need one of the things you’ve chucked, you just go and buy a new one. Which assumes that you have enough money to do that, and that you have access to shops that will actually let you do that. And it ignores the environmental cost of replacing things when you need them and then getting rid of it*. It also normalises the tiny size and minimal storage of so many of today’s new builts. Clutter wouldn’t be clutter if you have enough space to store it properly.
The consumption link becomes particularly apparent when it comes to clothes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read bloggers embarking on some capsule wardrobe challenge that is also described as a ethical fashion project. The first thing people do is to chuck out all their existing fast fashion buys and I just find that so confusing. The resource has already been spent, so shouldn’t you get the most out of it? I mean fair enough if you want to start from a clean slate and assemble some highly thought through capsule wardrobe, but that (1) is expensive (2) wasteful. Please don’t call it ethical. I often feel like the whole thing is just an excuse to go shopping. Like the aim is to only have a limited number of things, but not necessary for those things to be the same ones all the time. Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean sustainability I guess.
* and yes I know people often donate. But people wildly overestimate the desirability of their cast offs. Plenty donated stuff never even makes it into charity shops before it gets moved to Africa where it swamps local markets, or just plain ends up in landfill.
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