An honest reality of minimalism is that the majority of average day working people can’t afford to part with the majority of their possessions.
A lot of us, especially those of us with established lives, can’t just sweep the house clean and start pristine and new. In order for a minimalist to really feel like a minimalist today, there’s a certain visual standard that has to be met.
What we visualize when we think “minimalism” is pristine, white walls. Spacious rooms occupied by a few quaint pieces of furniture. Clean, barren floors. Vine-y plants in monochromic pots. Probably lots of natural light. And just a sprinkle of perfectly placed, intricately modest decor.
Is minimalism for the rich?
In real life we have to deal with partners with their own wants and needs, kids that make messes, financial barriers, lack of time, homes that aren’t pristine.
When we can’t meet these expectations our status as a minimalist is challenged. Certain minimalist requirements automatically exclude people who can’t afford to or have hurdles too big to meet them. This begs the question: is minimalism an upper class thing?
It surely sends that signal. The templates of minimalism we absorb are fancy at the least, exuding luxury at their best.
If you look up minimalism, you’ll be flooded with images of spotless glass shower enclosures, plush couches with matching pillow and throw blanket, huge windows that allow plenty of natural light, king beds dawning unassuming bed sets, simple yet intricate small dining room sets, designer light fixtures—“necessities” that scream wealth.
Everything implies that it was designed professionally, nothing looks out of place. Let’s be honest, minimalism looks like money. So is minimalism even meant for everyday people?
Minimalism: An Aesthetic Choice for the Wealthy
Minimalism is always a choice. For some though (say, wealthy people) it is more obviously a choice than for the average person.
There’s definitely disparities between how minimalism is viewed when upper class people do it and when middle to lower class people do it. There’s also a noticeable difference in how it physically manifests between the two groups .
On the flip side, when average people engage in minimalism there are unsavory assumptions that can be made about them.
Others can assume that you’re getting rid of your stuff because of a poor financial situation, toxic relationship, or unstable living situation. When rich people do it, none of those assumptions seem to apply to them.
It’s automatically “ooh”-ed and “aww”-ed when people of status decide to live with less. They’re praised for their choice to live humbly despite their great abundance.
Even though it’s not what most people would define as “humbly”, it’s humble by their means. We can go even farther and say that luxury minimalism is essentially a gratifying humble brag. It oozes “I’m so rich that I can choose to act like I’m not”.
When you can readily have anything or already have had everything, it doesn’t hurt to say you don’t want it. Later, if you decide you do want it, you can get it. They have this choice factor that the majority of people don’t necessarily have.
Wealthy people can really do it up too—have their walls repainted, swap out their furniture, purchase coordinating decor and rugs, and invest in all the organizers and storage bins they need in order to achieve the look.
Even better, they can hire someone to do it all for them. They’re almost guaranteed to nail it. They can discard things knowing they’ll have no issue replacing it. They can wear simple, monochromatic outfits every day because they’re designer pieces and it’ll look good on them anyway.
It’s unrealistic to expect anyone who isn’t single, privileged, and independent to seamlessly pull off a comprehensive minimalist lifestyle. For people with full houses, it literally can be impossible to have less things.
Naturally, people on a fixed income have more to lose by pursuing minimalism and are more prone to hanging onto things. Not to mention that the economic climate of 2022 has required so many people to stay focused just to put food on the table. You can’t think about having less things when you’re already working tirelessly for the things you do have.
Minimalism can definitely come off as a privilege and quirky design choice that’s reserved for those who can afford to do it and do it well. But before you make this conclusion, there are several key things about minimalism that are important to remember.
Minimalism: A Lifestyle Choice for Everyone
Minimalism simply will not look the same for everyone but that doesn’t make your minimalist journey any less valid than anyone else’s.
Money makes it look better but it’s no secret that money has the power to make anything look better.
If you get caught up on this then you’re still feeding into your attachment to things and you’re still comparing yourself to others, which is counterproductive. Minimalism is all about breaking out of those self-conscious feelings related to possessions and lifestyle.
There are no concrete minimalist protocols or guidelines. It’s not a situation where if your home doesn’t look like this, you can’t be a minimalist. It’s not always going to look poised, perfect, and put together.
Living minimally can manifest as having a large couch with just enough seats to fit your family. It could be having a packed closet because you have several different obligations that demand different dress codes.
It could mean not “decluttering” that two-foot high ceramic vase because your partner likes it there. Everyone’s situation is unique and shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing a life outside of material things.
Plus, no one said minimalism had to be expensive. On the contrary, minimalism is a tool to save you money and help you spend less. So if you find yourself spending more, maybe you’ll want to reevaluate your strategy.
Even if you are remodeling for that signature minimalist look, you can (and are encouraged to) do it affordably. Consignment shops, online marketplaces, discount stores, and even a little DIY are inexpensive routes to the aesthetic you desire.
One of the biggest rewards of minimalism is how much it cuts down on your living expenses. So really, minimalism is perfect for our lovely people on a tight budget or fixed income.
It would probably be nice to be able to scrap everything you have and start anew but it’s not feasible to do. Here’s the good news though: you don’t have to. Decluttering is about ridding yourself of what is not conducive to a healthy and productive life.
Take small steps, starting with the things you can afford to part with that aren’t serving any purpose. Those crutches from when you broke your ankle three years ago—toss them.
While you’re there, also part with things that don’t make you feel good; you don’t need those things around to bring your energy down and pollute your personal space.
Minimalism is a self-improvement. A visually satisfying backdrop is the icing on the cake, but the actual cake is the perpetual feelings of gratitude and fulfillment that come with finding value in the world outside our materials.
This isn’t just a physical transformation because once your surroundings and goals change, your mind will change as well.
If we keep in mind that minimalism is a personal journey and that results will vary for everyone, we can see past edited photos of perfectly simplistic dining room sets back to what brought us here in the first place.
Unless the look is what brought you here in the first place! If achieving that trademark minimalist style is indeed your primary goal then you might be an aesthetic minimalist!
The Aesthetic Minimalist
Aesthetic minimalists are here to be simple and be seen! They want to achieve that sleek, pleasing look of “just a little”. Their homes are the most like those you’d see on your favorite minimalist Instagram page, complete with perfectly coordinated furniture and boho decor.
Their outfits are frill-, rhinestone-, and tassel-less, and consist of a few staple pieces with sparse or small accessories. Their tattoos are also concise, small, and unembellished, usually only consisting of just a few lines.
Meanwhile, they might not actually adhere to other minimalist principles like decluttering or disconnecting from material possessions.
The images you see on social media are mostly just aesthetic minimalists doing their thing; take it with a pinch of salt. That doesn’t mean they’re doing it right, or wrong, or any better than you.
Your goals and motivations are likely completely different. Minimalism doesn’t have to look like those pictures and should be custom-tailored to your circumstances. As long as you’re choosing to live with less for your benefit and to get closer to your goals then you’re taking steps in the right direction.
A lot of us don’t have the means for an entire minimal-home-life makeover. However, minimalism is absolutely free. It doesn’t cost anything to start moving and thinking like a minimalist, and anyone can make a list of things to throw away.
At the beginning, identify your goals: establish why you’re pursuing minimalism and what you want to gain from the experience. Then take steps to get to where you want to be. And keep in mind that luxury and aesthetic minimalists simply have a different set of goals than you.
In conclusion, minimalism is not a concept that’s only accessible to well-to-do people. Minimalism has no definite shape and can be molded around most any lifestyle. A minimalist interior and fashion design is a dreamy destiny that a lot of us pine for (you can’t deny, it’s satisfying to look at).
With a keen eye and some patience, you can attain that feel without breaking the bank. The end will justify the means—and if you utilize minimalist techniques to help you save and grow your money then you might just skyrocket to luxury minimalist in no time!