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Is minimalism for the rich?

Credit: by Behance of Luke Lew

*Special edition in English // Edition spéciale en anglais.

 

This dense topic sparked discussion off the record during a casual phone call with my brother, Luke Lew. After spending the winter holidays with the family together in the States, following my return to France, the concern of keeping too many personal, cluttered, sentimental, or downright absurd possessions at my childhood home caused anxiety and overwhelm.. to which he responded, “Yes, but getting rid of things is easier if you’re rich.” Reflecting on this statement, the richness of this topic peels back the layers of a sporadic unsolicited subject.

 

What are you passionate about, and why is that?

I am passionate about art, animals, and nature. These things bring me joy and make life feel worth living.

 

Given your densely diverse professional background and personal life, what were some “aha moments” in which the prominence of the upper class and lower class was shown, and what were your observations?

  1. In my Master of Business Administration class, I learned that it is common for pharmaceutical, automotive, and other industries to allot a budget for lawsuits on defective products. If it falls in a margin that can still be profitable, they will release the product anyways.
  2. People with a lot of money tend to be very stingy, and those in the middle class are more open to supporting others at their level
  3. The higher up you are in a blue-collar industry, the work is harder with less pay and fewer perks. White collar jobs, on the other hand, are less demanding, with higher pay and more benefits and respect.
  4. Some people will spend hundreds to thousands on one item and not bat an eye in the modeling industry I walked the runway with a small clutch bag worth 3k

 

What are some of the advantages of being a minimalist for you?

You know exactly what you have. I read Sparking Joy by Marie Kondo, and the goal of decluttering is not the goal of getting rid of stuff but to know and appreciate what you do have and rid yourself of the clutter obscuring it. Minimalism is about having a few quality objects versus many poorly made items. Buying something once that will last you versus something cheaper but shorter term. However, having the upfront spending power to buy a $90 pair of shoes that will last 10 years, whereas most people in the lower class can only afford a pair of $20 shoes that will be in the landfill after 2-3 years. In the long-term, this consumerism costs you more money, but the long-term solution is inaccessible to most people living paycheck to paycheck.

 

What are some of the disadvantages of being a minimalist for you?

Lack of options, I follow a lot of tiny-home van-life living influencers on Instagram, and it seems they pride themselves on their lack of items, sure their possessions are versatile, but there is no place to keep things out. Everything has a specific place, and something has to be put away to get something else out, like a game of Tetris. Aside from the moral-high ground egoism that surrounds this culture in mainstream media, I believe in the hedonism of doing what makes you happy. There is no one way to be minimalist and that looks different to everyone; I recently moved to a larger living space, and my stuff to sq footage ratio is different, allowing me to keep more things.

Do you believe that personal possessions impact one’s well-being?

Yes, if I am surrounded by clutter, I am filled with anxiety, stress, and overwhelmed, and the visual clutter is exhausting. When things are tidy, on the other hand, it gives me dopamine to see things just so. It is a hard balance to be with what you need without being without the basic necessities and simple pleasures.

 

How would you explain your relationship with stuff?

It is a love-hate relationship, I gain pleasure from my purchases but guilt from spending. Buying something, I do not use only covers the things I would otherwise be appreciating and using should I remember it exists and excavate it from the pile of clutter.

 

With your stance on both an American and French outlook, what are some remarks on the differences in lifestyle regarding a minimalism aspect?

American minimalist culture is two prongs one side is for the ultra-rich as a status symbol as if they are saying, “look how good my life is. I can afford to be without because I can easily buy whatever I need at the time I need it.” The other side is from the poor population, where it is a delusion of wealth and happiness, but in reality, it is denial and trying to be happy with very little by saying it is an aesthetic choice and not a product of wealth inequality in capitalism.

 

Is Minimalism for the rich?

Yes, minimalism is the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, all the other needs are met, and minimalism is their way of self-actualization. Being able to get rid of items and not holding on to broken or otherwise discarded material items is a financial privilege. When you do not come from an affluent background, you learn to hold on to stuff, you might need it later, or use it later, and free is the most valuable commodity when you don’t have a well of discretionary income to pull from.

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