By: Victoria Vela
Perhaps it was the ridiculous amount of clothes on my bed, or the mountain of papers on my desk, but a few weeks ago I realized that I wanted to educate myself on minimalism. I decided to sit down with my pet rabbit and put on a documentary recommended by a friend. The film, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” follows the journey of two upper-middle-class white men and their ultimate goal of a minimalist lifestyle. After watching the doc, I decided that while I agreed with many of the main concepts, I thought the film lacked a lot of the nuances that surround minimalism. It isn’t necessarily revolutionary to be minimalist; people in poverty have lived without possessions all their lives. It also isn’t okay to shame others for taking value in their things, when it can be difficult to afford them in the first place.
I believe there is a conversation to be held about what we buy and how much of it we actually need. In my case, I knew my excessive amount of clothing was an issue; it is one of my guilty pleasures to spend hours thrifting and shopping. I started to think of ways to combine minimalism, sustainability and my own anti-capitalist beliefs into my wardrobe. This led to my conversation with Farai Harreld, an active blogger on minimalist, eco-friendliness, motherhood and life. Her blog “The Hillbilly African” aims to make space for people of color to learn about minimalism while also providing her insight on creating your own minimalist and eco-friendly lifestyle.
So what got you into minimalism and sustainability/eco-friendliness?
I got into minimalism because at 25, I found myself pregnant with my first child. I was still in college, working full time and trying to balance my life. I was trying to make space for my daughter in my life, but I had no room for her. Every room in my house was full of stuff – my closets full of clothes and my paychecks barely covered my lifestyle. I started to research effective organization and money saving methods before I stumbled upon minimalism on youtube. I rented the famous “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and I was hooked. I invited my friends for moral support and went through all my possessions. The eco-friendliness part was more organic. I've always been an advocate for sustainable living; minimalism made it much more easier for me identify just what I could do in my community.
What resources did you use to help you get started, both in minimalist thought and practice?
Youtube, books, Facebook groups and just some general soul searching were all really helpful. After I de-cluttered for the first time, I felt amazing. My anxiety was reduced because my physical environment was much neater, which reduced my stress levels. Cleaning my space became a fun activity that took less time because I wasn't avoiding it. After I figured this out, I was hooked. To me, minimalism didn't look like only having 52 items and living in my car or a tiny home, but instead it looked like being conscious about the items that were in my space. It was about finding that worked for me. That’s what made minimalism stick for me.
Who are some other minimalist bloggers or youtubers that you follow and recommend to those who are just getting started?
Brown Kids, Black Minimalists, Yolanda Acree, The Girl Gone Green, The Minimalists are a few of my favorites off the top of my head. Like I mentioned before, minimalism looks different for everyone so looking for inspiration is important, but finding out what you want for your life is the key to finding your minimalist roots.
Personally, I tend to have the most trouble with buying too many clothes. How do you incorporate minimalism into your wardrobe?
Clothing is huge. I can go to the mall, hit the clearance aisle from any of these fast fashion shops and buy several cute outfits. My problem was that even though the stuff was cute, I hardly wore most of it after the first few times and the novelty had worn off. Minimalism made me ask myself if I really needed the cute outfit. The answer was always no. I learned to avoid going shopping unless an item was really needed, because needs are different from wants. Even though I truly feel that you should ‘treat yo self,’ I wanted financial security. I wanted to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and I wanted items that I truly loved, that fit good, that would last and that were made well. I also looked more into the #whomademyclothes movement and watch the “True Cost” movie, which tackles the effect that fast fashion has on our planet. Shopping for me now looks like shopping second hand at thrift stores, shopping from ethical brands who pay fair wages to their employees and doing clothing swaps with my friends.
From my research, I noticed that many popular minimalists are financially privileged, white dudes and gals. How do you think we can get more people of color into minimalism and sustainability?
You're right: content creators surrounding minimalism and eco-friendliness are mainly rich white folks. I couldn't relate, which is what made me start my own blog. I think the best way to get people of color involved is to live by example. To provide safe spaces for them to have these conversations. Our grannies were mending their clothes and reusing plastic bags and bottles before it was cool. They did it to save money and be economical, but it turns out it's what our planet needs. We need to talk about minimalism as a liberation from capitalism which has people of color under its thumb with unlivable wages and the school to prison pipeline system. Private prisons use labor to make some of the goods and clothes we buy today.
What basic rules or concepts of minimalism do you personally stick by?
For my home I love the Will Morris quote: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." For my life I love the quote from The Minimalists, "Love people, Use things," and for my spirit, "bloom where planted." My house and my life are far from Pinterest perfect, but I am happy with where I am and I have a vision of where I want to go. Minimalism helps me clear away the clutter and work towards my goals, but I have to enjoy my journey on my way to those goals.